By: John M Jerva
THE REVIEW: After a long, winding and certainly weird road, the definitive cut of Justice League has finally debuted on HBOMAX this past Thursday. We all know the story of what happened during the making of the film and what happened after but I’m not here today to talk about any of that. I will say that this film is a true testament to what studio interference really looks like and hopefully moving forward, this will set some sort of precedence for other movies and we as an audience and a fan base will have more say. After all, aren’t we the ones that these films are made for? Just checking.
I will also say that for what it’s worth, I did like the 2017 version that Joss Whedon butchered and even though I was left with a strong what could have been feeling in my stomach after the credits rolled, I still got some joy out of seeing DC’s greatest superheroes team up on the big screen for the first time. It was a mess of a movie but it still had its moments.
With that we fast forward to March of 2021 and after a long and exhausting fight by fans, The Snyder Cut has finally come into our lives and with it filmmaker Zack Snyder has his day as the movie is a 4 hour labor of love that is a true comic book come to life. Before I saw this film, my favorite comic book flick was Avengers Endgame. After all, how could any of us who call ourselves comic book enthusiasts, not enjoy the spectacle of that finale. When Captain America, alone and almost beaten, hears Sam’s voice in his ear as he says “On Your Left.” What happens next is what I can only describe as an actual dream come true as all the heroes of the past 10 years team up to takedown Thanos. It was almost perfect in its execution.
Having said all that, I will now tell you that Endgame is a close second in the favorites department as Snyder’s definitive vision is a sight to behold. Does it have its flaws? Sure it does. Any movie isn’t perfect but some come damn close and with ZSJL, we have the Justice League movie that we have been craving. Yes it’s long but watching it, I didn’t even think of that as I was just immersed in the world of heroes and villains and Snyder sure does take his lumps on social media but I think he’s one hell of a visionary story teller. I have enjoyed most of his movies except for Sucker Punch and he’s made some mistakes in his career but he will without a doubt go down as a man who knew how to grab an audience and not let go until the end credits.
From the outset, make no mistake. This is a totally different movie. Yes we have the scenes that Snyder shot that did make it into the 2017 debacle but gone is the odd humor, Ben Affleck being a jerk and the big letdown of the package as a whole. Snyder, with his running time, is able to flesh out each and every character and make us care about them. We all grew up with them but here they are mapped out in a cruel and unforgiving world where there are consequences and good things don’t always happen.
We also get to finally see the bad guy who was supposed to be the antagonist from the beginning in Darkseid and he is ripped right out of the pages of DC. He was omitted in the original cut when the studio decided to go in another direction but he is here and he is everything fans could want in the ultimate villain. Alongside, we also get brief glimpses of Desaad and Granny Goodness that should delight die hards. These were the opponents worthy of the JL from the get go and it’s a great sight to see them added.
Ben Affleck is the Batman we need and here he proves it even more as his performance is more subdued and brooding. He’s the weathered Batman we all know and love and he is the heart of this team because it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for him. Affleck, who has had his share of problems in real life, does the character justice and I can say he’s my favorite interpretation of the iconic Dark Knight. Whether it be in the action set pieces or speaking with his body, Affleck leaves and breathes the part and it’s a shame we never got his standalone film.
Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman is one character that gets her justice (pardon the pun) here as this is the Wonder Woman we should have got in WW84. She is the fierce warrior we all know and she has ample opportunity to shine and show us what she’s made of in the film’s dramatic and action sequences. She’s fierce and Snyder let’s her do her thing more than once and it’s a crowd pleaser.
The same can be said for Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash, Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg. They all get their characters fleshed out even more and Miller is definitely the comic relief that the film needs to outweigh the heaviness of what’s going on. Fisher’s Cyborg steals the show as he is the heart of the story and it was sad to see him cut from much of the 2017 model. Momoa is exactly as advertised as he is the bad ass version of Aquaman that has shut up the haters and he has more than one hell yeah moment in the movie that is fitting a future king of the seas.
Then there is Henry Cavill. The one strong disappointment I had with Whedon’s patchwork was how his resurrection as the Man of Steel was nothing more than an afterthought. It was like it was just a side note and it was a crime to see how it played out. Well that’s fixed here as Snyder gives the last son of Krypton the respect he deserves and his return is nothing less than epic and here I got goosebumps as the scene where he dons the black suit is played out with the voiceovers of Russell Crowe’s Jor-El and Kevin Costner’s Jonathon Kent reiterating what he will mean to this world that so desperately needs him. Superman has always been the rock of DC and here he comes back with a vengeance and it’s on a grand stage to say the least.
The finale is also leaps and bounds better than the other film. Gone is that Russian family that didn’t really need to be there and instead we are given an epic, yes I’m saying that word a lot because it deserves it, and exhilarating final battle that sees our six heroic warriors wage war on Steppenwolf and his Parademons. It’s the stuff of, well, comic book legend and it’s the finale that this team of legendary heroes so rightfully deserves. We even get a group money shot of the team that would give any serious fan a huge smile on their face. It shows up at the right moment and it looks like the cover of one of the comic issues that this film is based on. Add in Junkie XL’s much better score (no offense to Danny Elfman) with its immense guitar riffs and bombastic percussions and this music becomes its own character in the film and it’s one that you would want to listen to without watching the movie. When music gives you the chills in a good way, you know it’s done it’s job and good music can pull you in even more to which this score does in spades.
It also helps that we get to hear Superman and Wonder Woman’s true music and when featured, it strikes all the right chords and it was sorely missed in the other version.
Like I said, there are flaws but I’d be nitpicking at this point. Yes there’s an over abundance of Snyder slo-mo, some suspect CGI in some scenes and some characters are given just what amounts to cameos but it’s all part of a bigger picture. You’ll read other reviews and while they point out what’s wrong with the movie I’m here to say that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter because the positives far outweigh any negatives. When I finally saw Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke and Jared Leto’s Joker or the Martian Manhunter, I just wanted more of all that. It’s easy to point out things that could have been better but here it’s all about vindication and a movie that delivered what it promised.
The other biggest problem I have with this cut is that it is one piece to a much larger picture and as of right now, if you ask Snyder or Warner Bros, there are no plans to further the story. Hell, it’s not even considered canon which is a huge crime. I’m happy beyond imagination that it’s being received so well because maybe, just maybe, Snyder and the studio will give us what we want. Sequels that will give this epic (there’s that word again) and thrilling story the proper ending it deserves. I understand why it was done but for god’s sake, let Snyder complete his vision because we as the fans are craving it. Only time will tell. Hopefully with streaming services like HBOMAX, there will be room to see all these actors come together again and do their own thing separate from anything else.
The epilogue itself is almost its own movie as we are given several endings like in Return of the King. Also included is the much talked about Knightmare sequence that gives us a world in ruins and a Superman that has gone bad. It is here where Affleck’s Batman confronts Leto’s Joker and the latter who took flack for his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime is a huge improvement from Suicide Squad. It just leaves you hungry and wanting more and it’s a plot I want see more of.
To sum it all up, Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t hype. It’s the real thing. If it had come out and been a major disappointment, that would have been the nail in the coffin but fortunately, it isn’t and it’s anything but. It’s a comic book movie worthy of being called just that but it’s so much more. I always find it funny that there are some people who dismiss these types of films as not being art but they are just as emotional, exciting and sprawling when done right as any other film that doesn’t come from the pages of graphic novels. Zack Snyder has proven that he can give justice (pardon the pun again) to these iconic characters and in his hands, the source material is in more than capable hands. Here’s hoping that we get to see more. Yes I am a fanboy but I’m a rational one that knows good and bad when he sees it and with this, it’s almost everything done right. The age of heroes is upon us and the child inside of me is reborn once again. This is a victory for fans, for Snyder and all the good that came out of this campaign. Job well done.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBOMAX