Justice League was a bag of shit.
‘Was’ is the important word here, because the new version, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, tops it in every conceivable way. Love him or loathe him, this film encapsulates everything Snyder in one four-hour event.
A theatrical bomb both critically and financially, Justice League left the DCEU in tatters, and Snyder himself out in the cold following personal tragedy. We thought that was it; the last we’d see of Affleck et al. But the Internet had other ideas.
Willed into existence by a director, cast, a questionable social media campaign, and a streaming platform looking for subscriptions.
I get it. I wanted to see more this world, especially as a fan of the Ultimate Edition of BvS. It’s rare to be so disappointed in the cinema. So, if there’s even a sniff of the ‘true’ version being out there it’s reasonable to wonder if it could ever be. Unfortunately, for any good #ReleasetheSnyderCut did for charity, it leaves a scar of entitlement, rage, and toxicity across social media.
Settling down to watch this new edition, I did so knowing that I’m part of it all too. I’m part of this film’s performance, and I’m partly responsible for helping pave the way to every poor release getting it’s own ‘movement’, with ever increasing levels of toxicity from those who think they can ‘win’.
I called ZSJL an event, and I mean it. It may share the same high-level story as the theatrical version, but it’s an entirely different beast. Granted, it has a low bar to clear, but with bags of heart (mainly from Cyborg), fulfilling arcs, and a much more interesting antagonist, this is no guilty pleasure. Everything from Superman’s resurrection, to the formation of the team, through to smaller moments with Martha and Lois, are so much coherent. No’ thirsty’ comments here. With Man of Steel and Batman v Superman I’ve always felt as though I need to explain my liking of them. In this instance, I admire it unapologetically.
Shots linger with slow motion aplenty, like casting over your eye over a comic panel. Everything is granted a monumentally grandiose and weighty feel as Snyder leans fully into the ‘DC is about Gods trying to be more human’ take. From Superman to Martha, every character is better served by the writing and direction of the man who originally cast them. His singular vision is darker, and there’s the odd swear, and it’s generally more somber. But you don’t come here expecting Marvel’s “action-comedy with heart”.
Now, it’s not perfect. Zach-y Boy does like to indulge himself, so ZSJL could easily have been shorter. There are a couple of stray plot threads, plus if we’re really honest we could have lost the ‘Nightmare’ piece. Still, it never felt like nearly 4 hours, and I know I’ll watch it again. Using Man of Steel, BvS Ultimate, and ZSJL as a trilogy seems like a good idea for the future. Then there’s the occasionally creepy Barry Allen, some small logic farts, and a weird point where several characters decide to walk up a flight of stairs when they all faster means.
I was going to talk about individual actors, but instead I’ll say this. Whatever you think of Snyder, his casting record is excellent. What we see here is the product of that; a cast that understands their characters and bring strong versions to the table.
It’s not just the heroes that get huge boosts. On the baddie front, Steppenwolf is granted massive ‘pointy’ and ‘middle management’ stat buffs to be far more intimidating and grounded. It may look like a CGI artists’ nightmare, but his new design, and viciousness granted by the new ‘R/15’ certificate, ups his impact greatly. He’s now positioned as doing the bidding of his master Darkseid, looking to atone for some previous deed. So he joins the previously lonely Orson Krennic in the ranks of middle management villain who look scary but really are just mega frustrated. Turns out I love this kind of villain!
Batman however, gets his own paragraph. I’ve enjoyed Affleck’s take on the character for years now. From his chin to his wig to his demeanour. A good Batman and a great Bruce Wayne. And now we get to see the natural continuation of his arc from BvS. He pushes on harder and harder, this time not through anger and fear, but from guilt and faith. I’m so happy to see more of him, especially as he’s not dying inside from delivering the crap Whedon gave him. In addition, there’s more Alfred, which leads to one of the best lines in the whole film. I’d love to see more of them.
The method by which Zack Snyder’s Justice League arrived raises many questions. But this is a review of the film, and this film erases the bad taste left by the theatrical version. In fact, this is a thorough and complete replacement. If I refer to Justice League from now on, I’m referring to this, since as far as I’m concerned, this is DCEU canon. If by this point you’re not picking up what Snyder is putting down, you’ll be out of luck here. It’s rightly all that he brings to cinema, passionately so, and might be his best. One man’s vision is absolutely preferable to a committee’s compromise.