Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). The film is distributed by HBO Max streaming service and is part of the continuing DC Extended Universe.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Zack Snyder
  • Cinematography by Fabian Wagner
  • Edited by David Brenner
  • Written by Chris Terrio
  • Music by Tom Holkenborg
  • Produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • DC Films
  • Atlas Entertainment
  • The Stone Quarry

+ Note

During the Production of Justice League (2017), a terrible family tragedy occurred and the director Zack Snyder had to leave the project. Whilst adding the finishing touches to the film, the executives at Warner Bros. decided to hire Joss Whedon (who had prior experience on directing the massive Marvel success The Avengers (2012)) as the replacement for Snyder. But during Post Production, the WB executives became skeptical as to how they would compete and market Synder’s dark vision of Superheroes against a massive conglomerate like Marvel Studios. This led the company to add numerous reshoots, cut down the runtime from 4 hours to 2, rewrite certain scenes, shoot completely new footage and of course, the infamous ‘Moustache-gate’. The film was finally released in 2017, to a critical and commercial disappointment. The film was not the Snyder vision that DCEU fans were accustomed to neither was it the fun, light hearted ‘marvelesque’ superhero film that the WB execs were going for. It was obvious at that point that the DC cinematic Universe was in trouble.

In the coming years, fans started speculating that in the vaults of Warner Bros., lies an uncut Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League. Pretty soon, hashtags like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut were trending on social media and a massive cult following began for the unreleased version. Due to its strong popularity and demand, Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. reached an agreement with the streaming platform HBO Max to exclusively release the Zack Snyder’s version Justice League, as it was originally intended. The project began taking shape in early 2020. The film was then reassembled from ground up, excluding all reshot scenes and dialogue, instead opting for what Snyder had intended the film to be. There were a couple of scenes reshot exclusively for the Snyder Cut but most importantly, Zack Snyder got to revisit and fulfill his vision of Justice League. The film was finally finished and released on March 18 2021, garnering praise from critics and fans alike.

+ Main Cast

  1. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman
  3. Amy Adams as Lois Lane
  4. Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
  5. Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg
  6. Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman
  7. Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash
  8. Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
  9. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
  10. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
  11.  J. K. Simmons as James Gordon
  12. Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf

+ Plot

Superman is dead. And a new world threatening event is on the horizon. Wonder Woman and Batman need to assemble a team of superheroes (calling themselves ‘Justice League’) in order to fight for the very existence of the human race. Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, all ultimately join in to fight against Steppenwolf, the destroyer of civilizations across the universe. Will the Justice League be able to defend the planet or would they need the help of the Man of Steel in order to fight this new wrath of Evil?

+ High Points

i – Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an improvement over the original theatrical cut in every possible way. The narrative flows a lot smoother, each character’s motivations are much better explained and get to bask in their own spotlight. It is truly baffling to me why Warner Bros. decided to chop the film and reshoot scenes which were perfectly good/ serviceable to begin with! And in most cases, better! The Snyder cut is yet another example why Studio execs should only focus on marketing the film rather than making creative choices. After the less than expected Box Office returns for Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Warner Bros. execs panicked and tried their best to emulate the “Marvel Formula”. From badly written quips to light hearted banter, the film ended up resonating with neither the Marvel fans nor the Snyder fans. Thanks to active petition from the fans, we get to see the “behind the scenes” drama of how a creative force gets destroyed in order to have a safe financial return. Now, even Zack Snyder’s Justice League has its own set of flaws (which I will get to later on in the review) but it is safe to assume that the film exceeded my expectations (considering what a mess his last two DCEU films were).

ii – Unlike Whedon’s Justice League, Snyder’s film has a much better explanation of the plot; the three mother boxes, how they got awakened and what consequences it would have once they are all synchronised together. This way, the story has much more stakes going in and keeps the viewer invested throughout the film.

iii – There are two characters that clearly benefited from this recut of Justice League and one of them is Cyborg. His complete backstory was cut out from the original film, left him utterly unrelatable and useless throughout the film. Here, his character (before his transformation) had a lot going for him, gives enough time for the viewer to sympathise with his unfortunate situation and probably, the most emotional backstory of all of the Justice League characters.

iv – The second has to be Barry Allen/ the Flash. In Whedon’s version, Flash was the supposite “comic relief” of the film. But in reality, he was an annoying, bad quip machine that quickly became the least likable character of the Justice League. In Snyder’s version, he is still a comic relief of the film but his personality traits fit much better this time around. Barry Allen’s introduction scene of the film has to be the best, most poetic moment throughout the film. It was simply delightful to watch and was just shaking my head throughout the scene wondering “Why was this scene ever cut from the theatrical release!?”. Not only that, Flash also ends up being pretty integral to the final climactic battle at the end.

v – Less bad jokes. No obnoxious rant on “What is Brunch!?” or awkward Batman dialogue “Guess we’re not getting the Band back together!” or “Do you talk to fish?” or Superman responding to being resurrected from the dead as “Itchy!”. Ugh.

vi – No CGI removal of Superman’s mustache. Funny how a film significantly improves with its exclusion, huh?

vii – One of the most significant improvements that the Snyder cut has is that Justice League really works as a team. They are not overly dependent just on Superman to do the job for them. Each member has their own task to fulfil and in the process, gets to resonate with the audience.

viii – Unlike Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Justice League is much better paced, the dialogues are much better written and each character has their own story arcs. I am by no means a Zack Snyder advocate, I am still not a fan of his portrayal of Superman and his “dark” cinematic universe but I do have sympathy for him with this film. Invertedly, the studio execs took advantage of Snyder’s personal tragedy, butchered his work without his consent and what is even worse, they spent millions of dollars on something which was actually good to begin with! Sheer, utter madness!

+ Low Points

i – For all that’s good with Synder’s original vision, it is at times very self-indulgent and bloated with numerous unnecessary scenes and dialogue. There is a 5 minute scene where Lois Lane hands Clark a shirt. Why do we need to see that? The film is at 4 hour runtime and even though Snyder fans will enjoy every minute of it, it feels completely tacked on and unnecessary to the overall experience. On one hand, I can understand why the Studio execs panicked when they saw a 4 hour nightmare. Three hours or so would have benefited the film perfectly. 

ii – Unlike Thanos from the Marvel films, Steppenwolf is an utterly dull and tiresome villain of the week. True, his motivations have been a bit more explored compared to the original film but sadly, not enough. At best, Steppenwolf is just a plot device for the Justice League to band together to fight the big baddy at the end.

iii – Midway through the film, a certain character makes a very brief cameo appearance and there was no reason for this to happen other than fan service. It will probably leave most audience members completely baffled by it and I don’t blame them.

iv – The last climactic battle is still a dark, muddy CGI mess. The strength of the film lies in its First to Second Act but ultimately suffers from the same Third Act issues as its theatrical counterpart.

v – Speaking of Bad CGI, this whole film is riddled with it. The CGI characters have no weight to them, the movement/ details are jerky and unresponsive at times, it’s amazing that with all that budget, Warner Bros. still can’t accompany their summer blockbusters with decent special effects.

vi – For lack of a better phrase, the film just looks ugly. Yes, the original had color saturation up to 11 but at least you could actually understand what was happening on screen. Snyder always opts for dark, flat colors which are in complete odds with what the Justice League should represent. 

vii – I wish I did not have to say this but… Lois Lane in Snyder films just plain sucks. She is treated by the plot as someone extremely important but her demeanor says otherwise. I cannot (for the life of me) care why she is focused so much during the film when all she has done up till now is mop and being rescued by Superman. 

viii – The 4:3 aspect ratio was supposedly Snyder’s original vision of the film (to fit the large IMAX screens). There is no obvious benefit that Justice League has from this format and it also doesn’t make any sense to release it in IMAX format only to end up being viewed by everyone on their 16:9 Television screens on HBO Max. 

ix – SPOILER ALERT!!! (if you would like to avoid it, please skip directly to the Overall Section):

Snyder’s Justice League has the “LOTR: The Return of the King” effect. Too many ridiculous endings that serve no purpose to the film. Did we really needed to see Martian Manhunter approach Bruce and painstakingly explain to him what will happen in the next coming sequels (which are apparently abandoned by WB/Snyder as of now), how “Lois is the key to all this” nonsense, a badly written dystopian future with hilarious R Rated dialogue between the Batman and Jared Leto’s Joker. Please, I really do not want to hear Joker make a “reach around” joke with Batman. That really is Zack Snyder at his worst. Being pointlessly “dark and edgy”. The film should’ve ended when Darkseid’s threat was averted.  

+ Overall

While the film suffers at times with its incredibly long runtime and overindulgence, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still a massive improvement over the original. It is a picture perfect example of how a film studio destroys a vision that filmmaker has and why creativity should be left best to the creators. 

Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0 stars (Theatrical release)

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.0 stars (Zack Snyder’s)

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