The very fact that this movie exists is an achievement in it of itself. For years fans of Zack Snyder petitioned and raised money for charity just so they could see the original vision for “Justice League.” This past month, they finally got what they’ve been asking for.
Originally, “Justice League” was a DC superhero movie that was released in 2017. During production the original director, Zack Snyder, after finishing principal photography, had left the project due to a personal tragedy. Warner Brothers, the studio in charge, took the opportunity to hire Joss Whedon as a replacement director in order to make the movie lighthearted, shorter and more akin to a Marvel movie. Whedon reshot most of the movie, while splicing in some of Snyder’s original footage. The resulting movie was a mess, often described as a “Frankenstein’s Monster” as it mashed the styles of two completely opposite directors. Due to overwhelming fan demand, the studio finally went back to Snyder and allowed him to finish the effects for his version of the movie.
To put aside the fascinating circumstances for this movie’s existence, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a pretty good movie on its own. Snyder made a movie rich with characters, mythology and visual style. It’s easily the best DC Extended Universe movie, although that isn’t a high bar.
After the death of Superman in the previous DC movie, “Batman v Superman,” ancient alien devices called “Mother Boxes” activate, signaling an invasion by the villain Steppenwolf. Having seen a threat coming, Batman tries to form a team to defend the world now that Superman is gone.
The movie’s biggest strength is also something that will turn many people off; that being the runtime is four hours. Having a “Lord of the Rings” scale epic out of the formation of the Justice League is conceptually cool. The pacing is good enough that you really don’t feel the immense length. It was a really smart move to break the film up into six chapters, such that viewer doesn’t have to fully commit to a four-hour sitting. It could almost be watched as a six-episode miniseries. While the runtime definitely works to the movie’s advantage, some scenes go on a little too long and a few minutes could have been shaved off this behemoth of a runtime.
The immense length allows the large cast of characters to get fully developed. Characters like the Flash and Cyborg felt like after-thoughts in the 2017 version, but are front and center in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” Every character gets memorable moments and a reason to be there.
Snyder’s distinct visual style makes for many visually impressive scenes. His signature style consists of de-saturated, high contrast colors along with slow motion. While some of the slow-motion shots go on too long, they are very well utilized when it comes to the action scenes. The Flash gets the two most visually stunning scenes in the movie thanks to Snyder’s keen eye for slow motion.
The movie is also surprisingly less grim and dark than Snyder’s previous DC movies. “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” both had a very serious tone, depicting iconic characters in their most flawed and violent portrayals yet. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” however has much more hopeful themes of fatherhood, importance of family and the power of faith. Viewing these movies as a trilogy, one can see how Snyder first deconstructed the characters of Batman and Superman only to build them back up again stronger than before.
When you compare Snyder’s version to the 2017 Whedon cut, it’s night and day. It’s mind-boggling to see just how much was removed for the 2017 theatrical release. The Whedon footage that was added was frankly embarrassing, when you consider what they cut to make room for it. All the work and talent that was almost wasted.
Something like “Zack Snyder Justice League” doesn’t happen often in Hollywood. Big studios are very hesitant to reinvest money into an already failed project. But against all odds, the Zack Snyder cut got released. While the movie certainly is not for everyone, especially if you’re someone who hated the past DC movies, it does work overall and will serve as a milestone in the history of the film industry. Hopefully, the real-life story of the Snyder cut will lead to directors seeing more creative control over their movies in the future.