“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” Review: a Four-Hour Long Saving Grace

–Spoiler-free–

Via Warner Bros.

Let us face it. We all knew Zack Snyder’s 2020 Justice League would be far better than Joss Whedon’s 2017 version; we also knew Zack Snyder’s 2021 Justice League was never going to be perfect. It wasn’t a doomed feeling of DC smashing down on the self-destruct button. But it was always there, seated amongst us, as we watched #THESNYDERCUT trailer with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” crooning in the background as Superman punched Steppenwolf to a pulp: the possibility of this new Snyder cut not living up to our expectations. It surpassed expectations.

Film director, Zack Snyder with Ben Affleck (Batman) and Gal Gadot (Wonderwoman). Via Warner Bros.

Doubtlessly, Justice League is Zack Snyder’s most ambitious film till date. Here, Snyder blends all the trade tools he has curated over his film career. This movie has a dash of 300 in it and the brooding darkness of Watchmen. The place of spectacle in Snyder’s filmography has always been pleasant. The director’s allure towards the theatre, the choric, mythic litany that follows his prominent characters (that follows Aquaman {Jason Momoa} into the sea in the early scenes), the utilitarian arias that served as both transition model and Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) introductory soundtrack. Snyder’s obsession with characters who have the power/importance of gods but live amongst men. All these elements are combined in this movie and, understandably, Zack Snyder needed four hours and six parts to fit them all. It worked. At exactly 15 minutes into the film, it is already better than Joss Whedon’s 2017 version.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is difficult to spoil because it is near impossible to summarize this four-hour long movie. It is sensibly broken into six parts to avoid cacophony, and to control the narration. The story picks up from Superman’s (Henry Cavill) death and proceeds through Batman recruiting a team of superheroes for an enemy he doesn’t know but is sure is imminent. 

A lineup of the superheroes. Via Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) has come to the world of man to redeem himself in the eyes of his master, Darkseid (Ray Porter). He is to gather the Motherboxes and create the unity, then conquer the world of man. Meanwhile, each superhero has a subplot going. It is difficult to summarize. The movie is best watched as it dictates, at a slow pace. But at every corner of the plot, there is a pleasing, knowing moment for comic book fans. 

The sight of Darkseid in battle with the earliest heroes; a Green Lantern fighting alongside men; Desaad and Granny Goodness counselling Darkseid; the Martian Manhunter depicted as the Martian Manhunter being Martha Kent, then being the Martian Manhunter to Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). By the time the film closes, there is already a feast for comic book fans. But this does not mean the movie is without flaws. 

For one, the editing could have utilized faster cuts. A four-hour movie going at its own pace will tire its viewer. The brooding music, the specific playlist, the slow-motion, at some point, one wishes the movie would move faster. However, this is a double-edged blade. Slower cuts mean that we can dwell with each character longer at the end of a scene. And for characters with surprisingly poignant arcs like Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the lengthy scenes fit perfectly.

Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Flash (Ezra Miller). Via Warner Bros.

There are rough edges in different parts of the film; subplots that aren’t seen through—what happens to the lovely Iris (Kiersey Clemons) after The Flash (Ezra Miller) saves her—but it takes little away from the overall experience. After all, that question can be answered in the upcoming 2022 Flash movie. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a solid film that knows what it is meant to do—restitute the faith of the fans back to DC. With a new Batman movie starring Robert Pattinson (to thankfully replace Affleck’s weak Batman) and talks of casting a new actor to replace Henry Cavill as Superman, one feels that whoever is at the wheel of DCEU has a grasp, albeit still slippery, of what is to be done to fortify DC movies. Yet, we all know this is the last four-hour saving grace we will grant the company.

Rating: 7/10

Side Musings:

  • Rip Howard, yet another lab janitor in a superhero movie that suffers a villainous fate.
  • Michael Caine’s Alfred, featured in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, remains the best till date. Jeremy Irons’ comes off as too charismatic, too familiar in an obvious way with Bruce Wayne and his counterparts. The only moment where he shines as Alfred in relation to Batman and his counterparts is when he meets Superman.

Justice League #SnyderCut is currently available on HBO Max.

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