Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) a (Mildly) Belated Review

By now, most people with a passing interest in this film know the story. Zack Snyder makes Man of Steel (2013) it does good business -despite some controversy regarding the film’s ending- follows it up with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which gets, for the most part, annihilated by critics but which proves to be a far better film than the theatrical cut (imposed by the studio, no doubt) would have you believe when the extended version is released to home video…

Warner Brothers, worried about the critical reaction of BvS and Suicide Squad (the first one), get really nervous. Meanwhile, Snyder is directing -and finishes all principle photography- of Justice League, the third film in his DC arc, but the death by suicide of his adopted daughter causes him to abandon the project. Joss Whedon steps in, reworks the film, and when Justice League is released to theaters, it does weak business while creating a backlash for many who viewed that film as a very inferior work compared to what Snyder was bringing to his DC films previously.

Petitions were made and Warner Brothers was harassed with a “release the Snyder cut” of Justice League campaign. Some scoffed at the notion that there existed such a cut while others, such as myself, felt the film was completed, at least with regard to the main cast’s work, but that to finish the film off properly likely required considerable CGI work and that involved considerable money to be invested.

Would Warner Brothers be willing to spend such cold hard cash?

Truthfully, I wondered. Estimates ranged from the movie needing 50 to a whopping 100 million dollars to be completed, and that seemed like a really tall order for a studio to invest in, given the original film didn’t do all that well to begin with.

But then… opportunity appeared in the form of HBO Max.

Last year studios began their move toward creating their own streaming services and Warners did so with their HBO Max service. The trick with any new service, though, is to get people interested in using/paying for it. Someone at Warners realized they had a very unique opportunity here: They could complete the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League and use that film’s premiere as an HBO Max “exclusive” to get people interested in the service.

Thus, Zack Snyder was able to finish off his version of Justice League and, to boot, was even able to add a couple of minutes of extra new footage at the movie’s end.

The movie was released and, somewhat incredibly considering how negative the critics were to BvS, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was very well received. Audiences too seemed to have far warmer feelings toward this film, though there remained those who felt the movie was long and dull.

As I mentioned in my last post, I switched/updated my TV/cable service and was given HBO Max free for a year. Finally and several months after its original release, I was able to see Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

And I must say… it was quite good.

At four hours long, this is the DC pantheon of heroes by way of King Arthur (those who noticed such things probably saw what was playing in the theater at the beginning of BvSExcalibur!), grand and immersive and allowing viewers a taste of each and every character while building up the threat to Earth, via Steppenwolf and, in the background, his master, the New Gods’ uber-villain Darkseid.

ZSJL is a film that gives viewers a wonderful, in my opinion, view of this world and builds a great amount of suspense while doing so.

Having said that, its not without its flaws. The movie’s climax, in particular, made the (MINOR SPOILS!) returning Superman seems way too powerful when he confronted Steppenwolf and essentially kicked his ass without too much difficulty.

Further, I’ve noted some people say this film, and Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut, feature the same basic plot and that’s all… ho hum.

To this, though, I would say that while the two films feature the same essential plot, its all in the way its told that makes Snyders’ version all that much better. Thus Whedon’s cut was never going to be a complete reworking of Snyder’s Justice League. Instead, what he offered was a simplification of the story with some added humorous bits, some of which worked (Aquaman accidentally sitting on Wonder Woman’s magic lasso) and some of which absolutely did not (Flash falling on Wonder Woman, his hands on her breasts… a grotesque bit of “humor” that should have been dumped well before it was made).

In the end, the only new bit I felt Whedon added to the movie which I miss is the one at the very end of his version of the film, where Superman and the Flash race to see who is quicker. That bit, I felt, was really good.

Otherwise, though, my advice regarding Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League is the same advice I gave regarding the theatrical cut of BvS: Throw it away and forget it ever existed.

Highly recommended.