Zack Snyder’s Justice League Review: History Rewritten, Wrongs Righted
With the full support of fans and, finally, Warner Bros. director Zack Snyder is able to make the unprecedented possible as his vision for DC’s Justice League completely comes to life.
One day, when we look back on Snyder’s career as a director and the film industry, there’s no doubt in my mind that #ReleasetheSnyderCut will be seen even more as a pivotal turn in film history than it already is. Honestly, the entire story of how the Snyder Cut even came to be is such a strong rise from tragedy story that there’s probably already someone thinking about making a film about it. From him dealing with the loss of his daughter Autumn to truly having his vision for the film be slowly torn down by WB and Joss Whedon when he came on after Snyder had stepped down, the Justice League we saw back in 2017 was a hollow shell of Snyder’s vision.
Honestly, that film is total blur since it’s so forgettable and confused in its direction and although Snyder’s name was attached to the film, anyone who saw that film knows that it wasn’t really his. From this realization came one of the strongest fan movements in recent time as fans, actors from the film, and supporters from across the industry flooded social media with demands and hashtags asking WB to let Snyder’s true vision be seen through. Frankly, this and the demand to see Sonic’s look change in Sonic the Hedgehog will likely go down in history as two of the most unprecedented events ever in film and thankfully, this demand paid off as the Snyder Cut has finally made its way to HBO Max and it lives up to the hype.
While it still maintains the 2017 version’s story of Batman (Ben Affleck) recruiting heroes in the wake of Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death to stop a foe named Steppenwolf (voiced by Cirian Hinds) from harnessing a power to conquer Earth, the Snyder Cut fleshes things out immensely to create a more realized and deeper story. The biggest problem, for me, that both Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League (2017) have is the lack of context and narrative building they have. One of the most criticized elements of BvS is the “Martha” moment and while I don’t hate on it like most others do, it’s easy to see why people don’t like it. It’s random and isn’t built up enough for how big of a role it plays. It misses major potential to be a deep personal turn because it’s not utilizing other story elements, like Robin’s death changing Batman or fleshing out how Luthor is turning these two against each other, to give it depth. The same issues are found in other characters in the Justice League (2017) as The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Steppenwolf are literally given no background or reason for being there.
The Snyder Cut fixes all of this and these characters are much more fleshed out and interesting as a result. The Flash is a little more than just lame comic relief here as his jokes are much stronger and his relationship with his father (Billy Crudup) has a lot more heart and meaning to it. There’s even a great moment where we see him meet Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) for the first time and save her in an amazing slow-motion sequence that rivals Quicksilvers scene in the Fox X-Men movies. Honestly, it’s probably one of the coolest scenes in the entire film and is one of many moments where you realize that Snyder nails a lot of the music choices in the film.
Cyborg and Steppenwolf easily benefit the most as their stories are given a lot of great depth. Cyborg is no longer just a random/thrown in character whose anger is confusing as his origins and fractured relationship with his father (Joe Morton) make him a much more engaging character. The film really takes the time and effort to flesh out why Cyborg is so conflicted about who he is and establish the kind of power he really has. He’s truly the focal point of the film with how him and his father drive the film with their relationship mending and how he must come to terms with his power. Not to mention, Fisher knocks it out of the park with his performance and I’m hoping that other bridges can be mended to see him as the iconic character again in the future.
As for Steppenwolf, the Snyder Cut makes him one of the most interesting DC villains yet with his purpose and mission. I love the idea of him doing everything to get back into Darkseid’s (voiced by Ray Porter) good graces after an unknown betrayal because it makes it motivations so much clearer. It gives him reason and the film does an excellent job building his relationship with Darkseid and his desires to simply be by his side again. All the scenes between him, Darkseid, and Darkseid’s right-hand man DeSaad (voiced by Peter Guinness) are truly epic – especially with the dark and demonic visuals associated with them talking.
The Snyder Cut honestly gives the whole story much more depth and expands on the history of Darkseid, the residual effects of Superman’s death, and the relationships between everyone. The entire sequence of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) delving into Darkseid’s initial trip to Earth and the creation of the Mother Boxes is undeniably epic and incredibly important. It adds a deeper history to DC lore and makes Darkseid coming back to Earth really impactful. Also, it’s just badass to watch that big battle unfold. The opening is far superior as well with how it showcases how impactful Superman’s death really was. Everyone felt it and it plays a pivotal role in Steppenwolf coming to Earth in the first place. Not to mention, hearing everyone talk about how they viewed him and were even inspired by him, especially Flash and Batman, really makes the group trying to resurrect him more meaningful. The relationships between all the character are honestly much better and it’s great how they have connections through what they’ve lost. It makes them slowly coming together something special.
Now, while Snyder doesn’t fall into a lot of the same traps he did in the past, there’re some things that can’t be overlooked. There’re some visuals, mainly when it comes to action and parts of Cyborg’s look here, that simply don’t look that great – although that could be chocked up to budget issues. He definitely overuses slow-motion effects as that report about ten percent of the movie being in slow-motion is sadly true. When it comes to actions sequences, specifically with Flash running and Wonder Woman fighting in a bank, it works well with how it makes their attacks literally turn people in ragdolls with how hard they hit. However, we really don’t need to see just people walking around or moving things in slow-motion. The four-hour runtime really flies by with the great choice in adding in greatly named chapters and the improved pacing, but there definitely could’ve been some minutes shaved off if there wasn’t so much slow motion.
It also feels like Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) was a little under-utilized compared to other characters in the film. I get that unlike most of these other characters he’s had his own film and, to be fair, there are additional scenes that make his distant behavior towards Atlantis more interesting, but he’s definitely the weakest in the film. Once he returns, Superman’s story also doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it should, and I wish this film made me care more about him than I did. Also, I’m still mixed about Snyder’s direction for Batman stuff. The action for Batman just feels off and while it’s cool to see Jared Leto back as Joker for a hot second, it’s just not that great.
A lot of the Snyder Cut’s flaws are easy to overlook though because it delivers exactly what the DCEU needs – a sense of narrative direction and something that fans can look forward to. It’s unclear if Snyder’s universe will really come to a close in the way he wants to, but damn does he make you really want to see more. Just from everything in the epilogue and the idea that Darkseid wants to come back to reclaim what he’s lost, Snyder really shows the deep potential for what his vision can offer and frankly, WB should take note. It creates a lot to be excited about including the introduction to a key Justice League member who’s been hinted at before and looks really cool. There’s a reason that #RestoretheSnyderverse is now trending and hopefully the fans can come out on top again.
The Snyder Cut does so much more than vindicate those that demanded Snyder’s vision be seen. It presents the groundwork for a stronger future for the DCEU that’s actually exciting and ambitious. It rights so many wrongs in terms of characters like Cyborg and Steppenwolf having much more depth, the story being much more compelling, and creating an experience that DC fans will gush over for years to come. Like his works in the DCEU, Snyder doesn’t nail everything, but his vision is truly something to behold and hopefully will be seen again in the future.