DKN Spotlight Review: ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’

Writers: Chris Terrio (Screenplay), Zack Snyder, Will Beall
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adam, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, J.K. Simmons
Review by Adam Poncharoensub

Here it is, guys. The mythical #SnyderCut has finally arrived. After four years, we’re finally seeing the Justice League that the original architect of the DC film universe originally intended. Between the theatrical cut and the #SnyderCut, it’s pretty clear Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the better version. With better pacing and character development, Snyder takes his time crafting an incredibly sumptuous feast for DC fans.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Provides A More Complete story

For many people, a four-hour movie could be a very difficult thing to digest. In most cases, especially with movies, less is more, and that still holds true here. However, I will say that I never felt like the movie dragged. I only felt the passage of time because I couldn’t find a four-hour window to watch it, and had to catch it when I could, over the last three days. Also, I was looking for scenes from the original trailer, but that one’s on me.

Overall, the theatrical cut did retain most of the story from the #SnyderCut. Steppenwolf is a former Apokoliptian citizen who’s desperately trying to combine the three Mother Boxes, left behind on Earth millennia ago, and use their power to terraform the planet. However, there’s a lot more nuance in the #SnyderCut that fleshes out a more complete story. Steppenwolf’s doing this, not because he himself wants to take over the planet, but to redeem himself in the eyes of Darkseid.

Yep, like Snyder teased for so long, Darkseid is the real big bad in this movie. Kind of like the final boss of a video game.

In the past, it was Darkseid, and not Steppenwolf, who attempted to terraform the Earth. It was Darkseid that did battle against the Amazons, the Atlanteans, the Old Gods, and men. It was also hinted that Earth simply wasn’t just another conquest, but held a source of power that Darkseid sought. You know what I’m talking about, but for the sake of spoilers, I won’t go any further.

Satisfying character arcs

The biggest overall difference is each characters’ story arc. Flash is provided more context to his situation, and a better look into his relationship with his father. The story beats for James Wan’s Aquaman actually take root in this movie, with an appearance from Willem Dafoe’s Vulko, urging Arthur to take the throne and invoking his mother, Atlanna. Likely my favorite part of this movie though, is Cyborg’s arc. Snyder wasn’t kidding when he said that Cyborg was the heart of this movie, as his story receives the most attention. In the end, he’s just a kid grieving the loss of his mother and his former life. He’s angry at himself, the world, and most of all, his father. In this tech-based world, he was given unimaginable power that could enact change, but he was still in mourning. His resolution openly made me sob.

Yeah, there’s a lot, and some stories were given more attention than others, but remember that this film was supposed to launch solo Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman movies. Snyder was planting the seeds for two characters while giving most of his attention to telling a Cyborg story that was complete, satisfying, and beautiful.

Understanding the characters

Here’s the thing: Warner Bros. handed Joss Whedon enough material for two movies, told him to cut that all down to a more palatable two hours, and to make it work. Faced with an insurmountable task, and tons of studio pressure, he tried and, for the most part, failed at putting together a good movie from what he used of Snyder’s version. That’s likely the reason why the pacing just never worked for me. It felt so rushed, and utilized so many abrupt, awkward cuts. He was trying to tell a cohesive JL story using someone else’s template. It just didn’t work.

However, it should be made clear that I did not hate the theatrical cut. It wasn’t great, but it definitely did some things right. The best thing I think he did was trying to bring the story back to Earth. He included threads about regular people seeing all of this ridiculous superhero drama unfold. There were also some small beats and character moments Whedon wrote that hinted that he understood these characters, possibly more than Snyder did. More so their comic book personalities, I mean.

On the other hand, Snyder was far more invested in our heroes, and on making them appear human. At some points in the movie, it was made clear to me that Snyder didn’t understand the core comic book personalities of these characters, but he definitely understood his version of them. Because Snyder was so dedicated to their stories, we got a meditative, emotionally impactful, character-driven epic comic-book movie. Honestly, I think we were robbed when they cut Cyborg and Flash’s story.

Too much setup

As a quick note, as much as it pains me to admit this being a Danny Elfman fanboy, I’m going to say that Tom Holkenborg’s (Junkie XL) score was leaps and bounds better. Sometimes you need some filthy guitar riffs or some gnarly electronic beats underneath the great fight scenes. Elfman is a whimsical traditionalist, so we got a fantasy-based orchestral score, and upon re-watching some scenes, those were definitely out of place.

Unfortunately, Martian Manhunter had very little bearing on the movie, and therefore, his inclusion was a complete miss, for me. It’s pretty clear that he was simply a set up for a sequel, but considering that there won’t be one, there was no reason to include him other than fan service.

Actually, there were a lot of things that probably should have been cut, now that we know there won’t be a continuation. It’s pretty obvious that Snyder was working towards a multiphase narrative that won’t pan out, and with that knowledge, some parts should have been rewritten to make this movie stand alone. For me though, there are just too many open threads and unnecessary scenes that will obviously go nowhere. All in all, if we remove all the pointless setup for a future we’ll never see, this movie could have had a tight three-hour runtime that it could easily have benefited from. Similar to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was burdened and bogged down with creating a cinematic universe.

A better experience

To end on a high note, Jared Leto definitely redeems himself. His Joker is eloquent, interesting, and very disturbing. While his scenes definitely leaned toward the unnecessary, I’m glad he got another bite of that apple, because the Suicide Squad version simply wasn’t working, in my opinion.

Here’s the skinny: Zack Snyder’s Justice League is overall a much better experience, in almost every way. The movie takes its sweet time to craft a much more complete, satisfying story, but without sacrificing character development. Unfortunately, it’s just overburdened with being the foundation for an entire cinematic universe, bogged down with unnecessary setup for future movies we won’t ever get.

It’s thrilling and emotional when it needs to be, and at its own pace, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is currently streaming on HBO Max

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