In 2017, I was excited to see Justice League on the big screen. The film brought together classic DC characters in a new formula that skipped the individual origin films and started with a spectacle. The film was middling, not good and not bad. There were things to like and things not to. Four years later, we get to see a new take on the film on HBO Max with Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
The film is director Zack Snyder‘s take using some of his original material and some new scenes and reshoots filmed just for this. Snyder was unable to deliver his vision originally due to a family tragedy. And all these years later, we get a sense of what he wanted to do and while it’s very different, it too is rather middling. Like the original take, some things work and some things don’t. It’s not a disaster of a film but also delivers nothing new, in fact, it feels like steps back in the gains comic films have made in the four years since.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League basks in its creator’s vision. That’s drilled into viewers before the first scene rolls, stating that’s the reason the film is in 4:3 ratio. The movie is full with visuals that only work on a big screen (thankfully my tv is large with a solid sound system) and has a glee about it, like a child playing with toys in an ever-escalating adventure. It’s also very basic in its concepts. At no point does it really show that it “gets” its characters beyond their powers in a very surface-level way.
Despite a reported additional $70 million spent, the special fx far too often looks dated. This becomes apparent early on in the opening slow-motion of various Mother Boxes where some look very “off” in a glitchy sort of way. Wonder Woman’s opening scene is another example of this. Her speed was handled in a less jerky/choppy way in her own film. Here, here movements look like a nightmare from 1999’s House on Haunted Hill. Her solo film handled this in a much-improved manner and one that’s more visually appealing. Cyborg, Steppenwolf, far too much looks slightly off in its delivery where lines don’t match up at times or even “collisions” of objects. There’s far too much of a reliance on CGI that hurts the film and distracts.
Slow motion is to Snyder’s vision as lens flair is to J.J. Abrams. It’s overused and a distraction. In Snyder’s case, it also drags out the film, slowing the pace to the point of near boredom at times. The dour mood of the film is enhanced by the overuse and obsession with the technique. It’s so overused that by the time The Flash is introduced (in the third segment) that his powers, which benefits from the technique, no longer feels interesting visually.
At a little over 4 hours, the film delivers more of everything. Each of the characters are given more to do as the movie attempts to deliver the epic fight with evil while acting as an origin story for six characters. It does what it can with that with a jumble of side-quests and tangents as we meet the various pieces of the puzzle. The Flash and Cyborg, play by Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher gain the most out of this and each plays a more pivotal role than just members of the team. Miller especially comes out a star with his different and very likable take on Barry Allen.
There are things that make absolutely no sense in the film beyond style. The battle between the Amazons and Steppenwolf left me with so many questions. Queen Hippolyta pausing to do battle while escaping. The fact they thought sealing a rock building would do anything. And again, the fx that look like they belong in video games like Dragon’s Lair and Revolution X as opposed to a big-budget film in 2021. The movie is filled with WTF moments that feel so stilted and not fleshed out and dialogue that’s childish in creativity at best.
About the only way Snyder’s version improves upon the original release is in the film’s ending. Though there are some issues with it still, the film delivers a more satisfying ending in its key action, again giving The Flash and Cyborg a much bigger role in stopping things. The epilogue too feels like it’s a much better way to send things off.
This is a film though that’s Snyder’s to own. And it’s a depressing one. From the action sequences, to the look, to the color, the film has a dour sense about it. It’s drap, depressing, and lacks joy. The actors (as wonderful as Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, and Henry Cavill are in their roles) feel like it’s all a bit too serious. Beyond Miller’s Flash, everyone feels like a stick is up their asses with a stiffness that sucks the fun from it all. It’s a bit too serious and at four hours, it all drags.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t bad. There’s a lot to enjoy about it. It’s an improvement upon the original in some ways. It’s a step back in others. The enjoyment of it all will be in the eyes of the viewer and whether you enjoy Snyder’s style. It can work, and work well, in a lot of his other films, but here it results in a downer of a film. This is one that should have been an exciting coming together of titans but the end result is a film that takes itself too seriously.
Overall Rating: 6.0
You can view Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max