Zack Snyder's Justice League: Review
Zack Snyder’s Justice League Synopsis: Determined to ensure Superman’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne aligns forces with Diana Prince with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The film is a recontextualization of the 2017 original, serving as a director’s cut of Zack Snyder’s planned version.
Zack Snyder’s time in the DC Universe has starkly reflected the strengths and blemishes surrounding his trademark style. Considering the superhero genre’s largely homogenized approach toward blockbuster thrills, many have been divided by Snyder’s dour, character-driven lens on DC’s roster of fan-favorites. Personally, I am a fan of what the lighting-rod director constructed with Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films are too bloated for their own good, but they thoughtfully explore their super-powered protagonists with more vulnerability and nuance than their genre peers.
After the Frankenstein-esque outing that was 2017’s Justice League (few studio releases have felt as disconnected and dull), Snyder has been gifted the opportunity to finish what he started. His completed work, a 4-hour behemoth entitled Zack Snyder’s Justice League, lumbers towards release with several imperfections still intact from its disastrous predecessor. Through all the production headaches, Snyder’s infectiously sincere redux comes together in a satisfying team-up movie.
Let’s start with the noticeable improvements from the 2017 film. Where that film was a structural nightmare (the first hour was a series of exposition dumps), Snyder composes a sense of flow and coherency that was sorely missing. The elongated length allows patient introductions for new characters like Flash and Cyborg while still tying up narrative loose ends from previous DC films. Warner Brother’s decision to rush into a Justice League film still leaves some character-building undefined (Batman’s arc from jaded anti-hero to optimist seemingly happens offscreen), but Snyder cobbles together enough flashes to give these personas some life.
Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is rewarded the most noticeable upgrade of the bunch. A few sequences of spell-binding backstory (including a slow-mo football scene that left me dreaming for Snyder to direct a sports movie) unearth thoughtful textures from the character’s solemn persona. Fisher’s subdued performance carries the character’s baggage with emotional impact while the rest of the star-studded cast benefit from having additional rapport-building scenes (Jason Momoa’s Aquaman and Ezra Miller’s Flash share some cheeky interplay).
Snyder’s vision isn’t only more cohesive from a narrative perspective. His tonal approach remains consistent with BVS and Man of Steel’s gravely deliveries, a fact that will likely not convince his detractors to change their tunes. As a fan of his previous work, I admire the continuation of Snyder’s brooding edge. His superhero films have been some of the more humanistic the genre has seen, with his characters ultimately toiling with deeply-seated pains under the guise of bombastic violence (Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Batman grip with grief while Aquaman and Flash search for a sense of self-identity). The attention to development shows Snyder’s adoration for his subjects, seeing his caped-fighting heroes as more than blank action figures.
That’s not to say Snyder’s film is bereft of the genre’s blockbuster allures. Aside from a few spotty moments of CGI overload (the addition of CGI blood isn’t particularly warranted), the film’s setpieces often dazzle with creativity and excitement. Snyder and cinematographer Fabian Wagner have a knack for eliciting powerful hero moments from a wave of fight sequences. The duo cleverly implements Snyder’s mythologization of American superhero lore throughout the runtime, often capturing his heroic subjects’ sacrifices with poeticism and thoughtful allusions.
Even with noticeable improvements, Zack Snyder’s Justice League still operates under a faulty foundation. Snyder’s vision reads like a logjam of ideas at times, bloating itself with a melody of teases and narrative devices that ultimately go nowhere. The central plot mechanics here are as tired as you can get (why do all of these superhero films revolve around random boxes), while some of Snyder’s attempts at poignancy still ring with an overworked hollowness. It all concludes with an awkward sizzle reel finale where Snyder empty’s his bucket of fandom homages without much coherence (Leto is fine in his famed return, but the scene goes nowhere).
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a wholly imperfect beast, but one that soars with its share of open-hearted merits. While Snyder endures countless critiques, his daring,swing-to-the-fences dreams will always have a passionate audience.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will premiere on HBO Max on March 18th.