Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Directed by: Zack Snyder Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Runtime: 4hrs. 2 mins.
Screenplay by: Chris Terrio Story by: Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio and Will Beall
Cast: Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher,
Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons Rated: R
**This movie is LONG! Unpacking it is a chore, so I am breaking my review/commentary on it into two parts. Look for the second half on Monday. Thanks everyone!**
Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League movie was born from the efforts of a devoted fanbase. That is why this movie exists, pure and simple. They are all proud of this, and I might applaud their efforts if most of them weren’t so toxic. That is a conversational beast that doesn’t belong here. My review isn’t for them. They need no convincing to see this film one way or the other.
Once a bell is rung, it cannot be un-rung. In the same way, I cannot un-see a movie already watched. The memory is there, that crucial first impression ingrained. My goal is to review just ‘the Snyder Cut’ without comparing it too much to the 2017 Justice League.
That said, the first scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League shows the audience the end of the fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Except that it’s not. This scene is clearly meant to imply this sequence happened, but it didn’t. Basically, Snyder added it to this film in a show of ego of how he could improve something he didn’t have the foresight to do the first time around. This intro sequence certainly would have improved upon Lex Luthor’s (Jessie Eisenberg) lines said at the end of Dawn of Justice. Cementing the seriousness of what was to come in ‘Justice League.’ That aggravating clarification aside, Snyder does get points for including information in this introduction in a concise, straightforward way that explains how Lex knew certain things in the first place.
Kal-El’s (Cavill) cries are like a supersonic whistle that only three guarded boxes can hear. Pushing aside the 2017 Justice League movie, assuming you, the reader, haven’t seen that film, this introduction works:
- It connects this film better to the previous one.
- It sets the tone.
- It sets up the plot.
All in the first five minutes without one spoken line. Not bad.
This film’s premise is that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) has been warned of a force coming to destroy the Earth in the wake of Superman’s death. With a fresh resolve to make up for his previous notions of Superman before his death, Bruce seeks out metahumans, with Diana/Wonder Woman’s (Gadot) help to protect Earth. Snyder presents this task and journey in the film into seven parts.
Sectioning off the film into parts doesn’t come across as chapters in a narrative as smoothly as they could have been. If anything, they serve to avoid jagged scene transitions. Personally, I find that lazy. Let’s review the film by these parts, not because I’m lazy but because it will act as headers and make it easier to read.
In the 2017 film, I didn’t know who to blame for giving Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) ice-blue eyes, Whedon or Snyder. They both knew a stand-alone Aquaman film was in the works, so why not consult about the character? In the 2017 film, his eyes were better looking than in ‘the Snyder cut’ because there is more color and brightness. Snyder has this depressing, overcast, muted tone thing going on in this movie. It loses the effectiveness of the choice to have his eyes this color the first place. Since then, the Aquaman movie came out and Zack Snyder’s choice to not change Arthur’s eye color to match is ridiculous. When establishing a movie franchise universe with different directors and visions, SOME consulting should be a given! A professional courtesy.
You’re probably thinking I’m just ranting and not reviewing, but I am. This lack of acknowledgment is repeated frequently in this film. When a director and studio allow this to happen, it can damage what is trying to be built. It also can confuse the audience. I’m giving my thoughts without giving anything away. Or trying to, at least.
The introduction and general use of Lois Lane (Adams) are better here. It connects her relationship to Clark, and the loss, in a way that is relatable for anyone who’s lost someone important. She’s not just a last resort plot mechanism.
There is a sequence in a bank where Wonder Woman busts out some unbelievable moves. Diana has impressive reflexes, true, but she’s not faster than the Flash. She’s not faster than (modern-day) speeding bullets either. It’s an example of speeding up a character beyond their established capabilities. It also made me question if children in Europe actually go on field trips to banks? We don’t in America, so it seems like a comic cliche add-on.
A favorite DC setting is brought back, the island of Themyscira. Here we get a look at another aspect of Amazonian responsibility. This is where Steppenwolf, the antagonist of the movie, is introduced. Previously, in the 2017 version, he looked more organic. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he resembles the shiniest, chrome-plated Decepticon ever seen. An expansion of what happens on the island in this version shows what goes down is more than just a short keep-away game. In that, and this is in the trailer, so it’s not a spoiler, think what it would take to destroy part of an island created by a god.
Steppenwolf’s goals and place in the universe are made more evident in this film. The audience gets a sense of it when DeSaad materializes to converse with Steppenwolf about his progress towards redeeming himself to Darkseid. The being Steppenwolf answers to. However, Snyder struggles to effectively elude to his ultimate plot within a plot.
Snyder does give a more intimate, personal introduction to Victor Stone/Cyborg’s (Fisher) storyline than he previously received. Ray Fisher does a wonderful job of portraying Cyborg, which I discuss in my review of the 2017 film.
The scenario where a woman jumps, climbs, or runs in high heels is a personal gripe I have every time it happens on TV or cinema. It’s a great example of men writing women characters poorly. Diana, who’s always in heels, jumps in hers and lands with them intact. Doesn’t break her shoes or ankles. She really is a Wonder Woman.
There are two moments where I question the musical choice for scenes. Like, what kind of mood are you trying to create from the one I was just in. The tone change doesn’t transition well. One is with Aquaman, the other is later with the Flash. Music is a fantastic tool in cinema, and this film’s musical scores did nothing for me. Both ‘Everybody Knows’ by Sigrid and ‘Come Together’ by Gary Clark Jr. & Junkie XL from the 2017 film are removed in the Snyder Cut. The removal of ‘Come Together’ is understandable; its tempo is too energetic for Snyder. Sigrid’s song is great, but there is no place for it in this movie, even one four hours long.
After almost an hour, Vulko (William Dafoe) finally refers to the three boxes as ‘Mother Boxes.’ I still don’t like how the boxes were adapted from how they are utilized in the comics. This scene could have benefited from Aquaman director James Wan and Snyder swapping notes since it messes with what ends up being part of Arthurs origin story.
In part two, Diana explains to Bruce who/what Darkseid is. She recounts the story of when he came to Earth before, and the wording is ambiguous. It’s frustrating because the script is so vague here. The writers hope the audience isn’t paying too close attention to details because they are not concise in their storytelling. They simply lack the imagination to connect this part of the storyline to a future plot point. I could sum it up, but that would involve spoilers. It creates questions for me about Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s original stories. Snyder blows some of that away without a care to the directors who gave fans notable films and storytelling. It’s so professionally fucking rude!
Who needs continuity in a franchise or any story? Right?
The Flash’s intro. In the 2017 version, Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) was the best part of the movie for me. He was a mix of vulnerable, funny, and honest, appreciating and in awe for what he was joining. His reactions were tremendously different from everyone else. He’s what a young Flash should be, too bright for his own good, quick with quips and occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, but in an enduring way. Zack Snyder got rid of that. Pity. In his version, Barry/Flash starts off as an excuse-ridden idiot with attention issues.
His intro sequence involves the introduction to Kiersey Clemons as Iris West. She’ll be in the stand-alone Flash movie for relevance. That said, she’s only in one scene, and frankly, it could have been shortened or cut altogether. The entire sequence does nothing for Barry’s character overall. There is an Easter egg here. This is the other scene when the musical choice makes me feel like I’ve been transported momentarily into a different film.
Victor Stone’s story is fleshed out more and elaborates better on how he became Cyborg. Every time his character’s backstory comes up, the audience sees a well-rounded character in development that you want to follow along with.
Barry meets Bruce, and that’s the same. There wasn’t anything wrong with that whole setup. What is tweaked is how Diana and Victor meet for the first time, but she is still patient and empathetic towards him, and that matters.
Steppenwolf goes to Atlantis, and I think Mera (Heard) is fleshed out a bit more, but not much. As is King Orm, who is only mentioned but gives the audience an idea of who he is before the Aquaman movie. I do wish Mera’s magic was utilized more; it’s an underused attribute of her character. A significant example in this section of the movie contradicts Mera’s character in this film against the Aquaman stand-alone. It’s like Zack Snyder has never bothered to see James Wan’s Aquaman! If you see this movie, can you pick up on it?
**Come back for the second half of this review!**
–a pen lady