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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Zack Snyder’s Justice League

March 22nd, 2021 by Marc Comments

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (18)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher
Running time: 4h 2min

In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, determined to ensure Superman’s (Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Momoa), Cyborg (Fisher) and The Flash (Miller) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf, DeSaad and Darkseid and their dreadful intentions

Remember that iconic line in The Dark Knight when Heath Ledger’s Joker tells Christian Bale’s Batman “There’s no going back. You’ve changed things… forever”?

Well, what you’re seeing now is something that will potentially change the world of film… forever.

Four years after Warner Bros released Joss Whedon’s Justice League upon the world, a movie that received lukewarm receptions from fans and critics alike – although I liked it at the time; maybe I was swept up in seeing all these heroes together for the first time, but I saw it through the rose-tinted glasses of a true-believer. I have many times said I was wrong with my initial thoughts on the movie (review here) and the more I watched and thought about it, the more, like so many others, I felt short-changed by Warner Bros and DC.

That was not the movie we were promised. I didn’t feel like a natural continuation of the story Zack Snyder had started in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman Ultimate Edition. It felt cheap, overly saturated and considerably hollow. It was a poor conclusion to Snyder’s world. Although, after the theatrical release of Batman V Superman compared to the home released Ultimate Edition, we shouldn’t have been surprised.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.

And fans have suffered. When Snyder kicked off the DCEU with Man of Steel, it was a universe unlike any other… it stood opposite Marvel’s MCU as a very different animal; Marvel embraced a bright comic book world, where stories could be told in an optimistic way, while Snyder’s universe asked the question ‘what would happen if gods came to earth and decided to go to war?’.

It was a different world, a different feel, a different aesthetic. And that was ok.

I always felt with Snyder’s universe it would start off dark and eventually, as good prevailed, embrace the light and, that’s what has been happening to an extend with movies like Aquaman, Shazam! and Wonder Woman carrying a brighter feel.

But, after Batman V Superman’s reception – the theatrical movie was dark, yes, but despite the solid performances and the best Batman since Michael Keaton hung up the cape (come at me) in Ban Affleck, the movie, which Warners insisted be trimmed, edited and cut to pieces, was a horrendous mess and it wasn’t until it hit home release with the Ultimate Edition that we really saw the movie Snyder made… honestly, if you’re still deciding on watching the UE, go and do so immediately.

But, even with the superior version out there, the well had been tainted.

Warners had panicked on Snyder’s dark vision of the DC world and the fans, repulsed by the movie they saw in cinemas, turned on the franchise. As a result the then-filming Justice League faced extensive rewrites and, when Zack Snyder’s daughter died during filming, Warners saw it as the opportunity to change the direction of the DCEU.

They took in Joss Whedon –  the guy behind the first two Avengers movies – to finish the movie and re-jig what Snyder had created. They brought in Danny Elfman to score the movie, giving him a crazy short amount of time to get it done, hopping that injecting the classic Batman 89′ theme (which Elfman composed originally) and the iconic Superman theme into it would add magic to a movie that was lost at sea. It didn’t. And look, I love Elfman and I live that score, but it couldn’t save anything.

And so the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fandom was born and, getting back to the opening of this article… it’s changed things. Everything about the release has been a success – the reviews are mostly positive, the fans love it, many naysayers do too and many who don’t have said that they are at least happy that this movie finally got made.

A bell has been rung… the success of this movie means that auteur filmmakers will not have to constrained by time any more. It also means that the fans have a voice and this is a powerful thing.

Which brings us to the movie itself.

We have been here before with Zack Snyder. With Watchmen we had to wait for superior final cut. With Sucker Punch we had to wait on a director’s cut and with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice we had to wait for the Ultimate Edition and all three cuts massively improved movies that were solid to begin with; however, with Justice League what we got was, aside from the basic story, not really Zack Snyder’s movie at all.

So, on that note, there’s not point discussing the plot – it really is the same as the Whedon movie with Steppenwolf scouring the earth for the Motherboxes while Batman tries to put together a team to fight this evil power, while also pondering… can we bring back Superman after his death in Batman V Superman.

But the difference is the story telling.

While Whedon told the story like a quick, forgettable popcorn movies – and look, just to be clear, there are parts that Whedon put in that I liked –  Snyder treats it like a real mythology, injecting it with a gravitas and level of detail that is exhaustive.

In Snyder’s version Fisher’s Cyborg steps up front and centre, becoming the heart of the team, a tragic character in search of a meaning, who finds it with the Justice League. Also, Miller’s Flash gets much more to do here – gone is Whedon’s fledgling superhero, replaced by one who has been doing this a while and who knows the power in his abilities and a character with a powerful arc in the story who, along with Cyborg, show that it takes more than strength and weapons to win the day.

Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Affleck’s Batman, Momoa’s Aquaman and Cavill’s Superman all get their moments to shine and shine they do. I will die on the hill that Ben Affleck is now the definitive Batman and here, while he hasn’t got the power the others have, he shows why he the leader of the League and probably the most formidable of the team… a man driven to the point of madness to fix what he previously destroyed.

And, best of all, the Knightmare scene and murderous Superman threads set up in Batman V Superman are not forgotten here as they were but Whedon, but rather are developed and explored – although not concluded by any means – here.

However, it’s not all perfection.

The movie’s four hour runtime does pass quickly and the story is engrossing, with Ciaran Hines’ Steppenwolf here fleshed out much more than Whedon allowed. Working for the evil god Darkseid – who we get see in various flashbacks, visions and communications – here Steppenwolf is almost sympathetic, driven by a desire to get home but enslaved to a master he once betrayed.

But sadly, the editing and pacing leaves a lot to be said at times which Snyder clearly deciding he was going put everything he filmed on the screen – and I completely understand why he did it and why the fans are happy he did – but the movie does suffer for it.

One moment we’re in one place, the next somewhere else before going somewhere else entirely… to the point where, at times, it feels like a series of loosely connected scenes rather that one linear story.

Another place where the movie suffers – and again, with that damned virus still causing havoc, it’s understandable why – is the effects work.

We know Snyder had all the movie filmed, well, except for a few minutes, but there was a lot of effects work needed and, with it being done from home and remotely, some of it just isn’t that great (though some of it is superb) and it does take you out of the movie in parts and nowhere moreso than in the epilogue when we get some of the most exciting stuff, but sadly the effects work is just, well, pretty bad.

So, ironically, the thing the movie likely needed most, we an extra few weeks in a studio with a tighter bit of editing and pacing being employed.

However, on the whole, the Snyder Cut succeeds in all the places we hoped/needed. It’s a much better story, with real stakes and characters who feel real and fully fleshed out, with all the core characters having very individual personalities and traits… no Marvel-esque wise-cracking types here with Snyder, in the midst of all the insanity, asking how would this really go? How real can we make this feel? And, in doing that, the movie – as with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition –  creates a very unique feeling world.

So, overall, yes, it was worth the wait. Snyder, dedicating the movie to his late daughter, finally gets to put right something that has annoyed fans and must have really annoyed him too. It shows what his vision was, it vindicates the work of Affleck, Cavill and the rest of the cast and it gives us two more -yes, two – potential Justice League members and if you’re a Green Lantern fan keep your eyes open.

Not as good as either Man of Steel and Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition (in my opinion), Zack Snyder’s Justice League is still well worth checking out and maybe even celebrating but, as well as the movie, it’s what comes next and what come because of this, that I’m most excited for.

4 out of 5 Nerds

Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….