Based on characters from DC Comics, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an extended and revised version of the 2017 film that was originally directed by Zack Snyder until family tragedy forced him to leave during post-production in which Joss Whedon took over in creating new scenes and re-shoots that left the original 2017 film version to be considered a massive disappointment. Directed by Zack Snyder and screenplay by Chris Terrio from a story by Snyder, Terrio, and Will Beall, the film follows the same storyline of the original 2017 as it plays into Batman wanting to form a team with other heroes in the wake of a major threat following the death of Superman as the new story also revolve more on the players who would join the group as well as a far more dangerous villain in Darkseid. Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Diane Lane, Amber Heard, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Connie Nielsen, and J.K. Simmons. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a thrilling and compelling film from Zack Snyder.
Following events that lead to death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the film follows a group of superheroes who band together to retrieve a trio of powerful boxes before a godlike being gets it to bring in a much more menacing figure who plans on destroying the universe. It’s a story similar to the 2017 theatrical film version of the film but what screenwriter Chris Terrio and his co-writers in Zack Snyder and Will Beall presented isn’t just grander but also focuses on themes of loss, redemption, and identity. Notably as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) feels guilty for not making peace with Superman sooner following their brief fight and their battle against Doomsday that lead to Superman’s death. That battle would have serious repercussions as it would awaken these three Mother boxes and also brought attention to dark forces that realize that the boxes are on Earth. Both Wayne and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) become aware that there are these forces are coming as they would recruit Barry Allen/the Flash (Ezra Miller), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form a team.
What Terrio does with the story is flesh out more development in not just these individuals who would form the Justice League but also the motivations of its antagonist Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who is also seeking redemption for his master/uncle in a god-like being known as Darkseid (Ray Porter) who had found an anti-life equation on Earth hoping to destroy the universe. The script is broken into six chapters plus an epilogue as it help play into the development of characters as well as explore the themes of grief and redemption. For Bruce Wayne, forming the Justice League is him trying to redeem himself as his attempt to recruit Curry in its first chapter yet Curry is reluctant having felt more like an outsider by his own people despite a later plea from his mentor Nuidis Vuklo (Willem Dafoe) to take up the mantle as King of Atlantis knowing that something wrong is about to happen. The script also does more to showcase who Barry Allen and Victor Stone are as the former is a young man trying to find a job as his power is running faster than the speed of light while channeling electricity as he says yes to Wayne’s offer. The latter is a once-promising football player/student who was nearly killed in a car accident that also killed his mother as his father Silas (Joe Morton) had tried to save his son only for Victor to feel resentful as it’s why he turned down Prince’s offer to join the team.
Terrio’s script does have some exposition as the second part reveals about what Wayne and Prince have to face in Steppenwolf and the bigger threat that is Darkseid as the first two parts serve as the first act while the second act play into the next two parts of the series where it does flesh out the characters but also play into their motivations to fight but also take the time to know each other as both Allen and Stone find common ground in their own lack of direction in life while Curry gets the chance to cope with his own identity and be part of a team. The third act is about not just resurrecting Superman but also dealing with the stakes of what they have to face in Steppenwolf and the looming presence of Darkseid.
Snyder’s direction definitely aims for something grander while he chooses to present the film in a completely different tone than the theatrical version which had a look that emphasized on something overly stylized in its desaturated color. Snyder chooses to pull a back a bit on the visuals while the entire film in seven parts and a four-hour running time is given a different aspect ratio presentation of 1:33:1 that does manage to showcase a broader look and feel that felt lost in theatrical cut. Snyder’s compositions are straightforward when it comes to the non-action scenes as he does take the time to let shots linger for a bit and know when not to cut while the action scenes do feel more fluid while allowing the shots to linger as a way for the audience to understand what is going on. There also moments in some of the slow-motion shots such as Allen saving the life of a young woman who nearly dies in a car accident as Snyder goes into great detail of what had happened as it is told largely from Allen’s perspective when he’s running fast. There are also scenes where Snyder allows Stone to be his old self in a hyper-digital world to figure out a location or a scenario that showcases a man who is struggling with new identity and his old one but is trying to find acceptance in this new role.
The added element of profanity and gore does give the film a bigger edge as it play into the stakes and what the Justice League has to face as Darkseid is someone that is absolutely uncompromising in what he wants to do as he is giving Steppenwolf the chance to redeem himself following their loss in the past when Atlanteans, Amazonians, humans, and other warriors defeated Darkseid. The stakes are bigger and the violence is more intense as it does play into the brutality of what the Justice League is dealing with as it would also concern one of the mother boxes that Victor’s father Silas (Joe Morton) had been hiding as he had figure out what to do in case it falls into the wrong hands. It would play into its third act while there are also these brief moments that allude to a vision that Wayne had as Stone would see it as well which would relate to the film’s epilogue. The film’s epilogue is a mixed-bag where it does feel overstuffed and overwritten as it relates to these dark visions that Wayne and Stone had about a possible future as it relates to Darkseid and the Anti-Life equation where Wayne, Stone, and Allen team-up with Mera (Amber Heard) and two unlikely figures.
Yet, the epilogue also include an appearance from a mysterious figure who visits Wayne as it plays into the idea of hope which does carry into the members of the Justice League. Though it is a big flaw in the film, it doesn’t overshadow the journey into what Snyder wanted as it plays into these heroes working together and taking the time to get to know each other. He makes the most of the near-four hour running time as it does play into this story of redemption, unity, identity, and hope that would emerge in the most trying of times. Overall, Snyder crafts an exhilarating and riveting film about a group of superheroes who come together to fight off a powerful being who wants to destroy everything and everyone.
Cinematographer Fabian Wagner does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as the desaturated look of the theatrical cut is given a cleaner look as well as do a bit more with the dark colors and the film’s look as it does have some vibrancy to emphasize some of the dramatic and action scenes in the film. Editors David Brenner, Carlos M. Castillon, and Dody Dorn do amazing work with the editing as it definitely has a more fluid tone in establishing much of the action and drama without the need to do any fast-cutting or jump-cuts in order to let shots linger on for a bit while it also has these stylized slow-motion shots that doesn’t just help add a lot to the action but also in establishing what Allen sees when he is running super-fast. Production designer Patrick Tatapoulos, with art directors Beauchamp Fontaine, Samuel Leake, and Andrew Palmer, does brilliant work with the look of the Wayne estate and his lab as well as the lab that Silas Stone works at. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson does fantastic work with the costumes that include the look of Superman’s black suit as it does have this menacing look as a hero who isn’t here to play.
Special effects supervisor Mark Holt and visual effects supervisors John “D.J.” Des Jardin do terrific work with the visual effects as the look of Steppenwolf is given a cleaner and more menacing look while Darkseid does have this look of a figure that is out only for destruction as much of the special and visual effects add to the film’s visual look as it does play more like a world that is coming apart by Darkseid with the Justice League going into war. Sound designer Scott Hecker does superb work with the film’s sound in creating sound effects of how the Parademons and their weapons sound as well as the atmosphere in some of the action scenes as it help play into the stakes. The film’s music by Tom Holkenborg is incredible with this mixture of orchestral bombast and somber music pieces that includes some work co-written with Hans Zimmer including a variation of Wonder Woman’s theme as it has this air of urgency and knows when to appear while the soundtrack features covers of songs by Leonard Cohen and Tim Buckley as well as pieces from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and a traditional Icelandic folk song sung during Wayne’s meeting with Curry.
The casting by Kristy Carlson, Lora Kennedy, and Kate Ringsell is tremendous as it feature cameo appearances from Marc McClure as a police officer Lois Lane often says hi to, Harry Lennix in a dual role as General Swanwick and a mysterious individual, Karen Bryson as Victor’s mother Elinor, Michael McElhatton and John Dagleish as a couple of terrorists Diana defeats early in the film, Sergi Constance as Zeus, David Thewlis as Ares, Robin Wright as Antiope, Billy Crudup as Barry’s father Henry, Kiersay Clemons as the young woman Barry saves in Iris West, Lisa Loven Kongsli as Diana’s aunt Menallipe, Ryan Zheng as a scientist in Ryan Choi who helps out Silas Stone, Jeremy Irons as Bruce Wayne’s longtime butler Alfred Pennyworth who helps out the Justice League, and the voice work of Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner in their respective roles as Jor-El and Jonathan Kent. The appearances of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, and Jared Leto as the Joker for the film’s epilogue are fun to watch with Leto at least given something to do in his brief appearance. Amber Heard’s performance as the Atlantean princess Mera is not very good largely as Heard often speaks in a weird accent as it never sounds right.
Willem Dafoe and J.K. Simmons are terrific in their brief appearances in their respective roles as Curry’s mentor Nuidis Vuklo and Gotham police chief James Gordon as the former tries to get Curry to fight despite Curry’s issues with the Atlanteans while the latter helps the Justice League in locating where the parademons have taken some of Silas Stone’s staff hostage. Peter Guinness is superb in his small role as Darkseid’s enforcer DeSaad as someone who is reluctant to have Steppenwolf back in the fold due to Steppenwolf’s past failings while Ray Porter is fantastic in his brief role as the evil god Darkseid as a being who is the intense force of destruction. Connie Nielsen is excellent as Diana’s mother Hippolyta who fights off Steppenwolf and later sends a warning to Diana as she copes with what is at stake while Joe Morton is brilliant as Victor’s scientist father Silas as a man who admits to being an absentee father as he tried to save his son’s life while dealing with the power that is in one of the Mother boxes. Ciaran Hinds is amazing as Steppenwolf as he is given more to do to flesh his character more than in the theatrical version as it showcases his own motivations for redemption as well as be this massive threat to the world.
Amy Adams and Diane Lane are incredible in their respective roles as Lois Lane and Martha Kent as two women both in mourning and dealing with loss with the former just unable to return to work and the latter having lost her home as they both would eventually regain their way. Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot are phenomenal in their respective roles as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman as two heroes with the former being a reluctant half-Atlantean who is aware of what is happening but doesn’t want to be involved as he also copes with the prejudice of the Atlanteans while the latter is an Amazonian warrior who is also trying to restore some faith in people while aware that the stakes of what their facing is much greater than everyone realizes.
Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill are remarkable in their respective roles as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman with the former being a man consumed with guilt as he decides to form a team and acting on faith and hope while the latter is the Kryptonian superhero who had died and then be resurrected as he copes with returning to the world and dealing with what is at stake. Finally, there’s the duo of Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher in sensational performance in their respective roles as Barry Allen/the Flash and Victor Stone/Cyborg as two young men with different powers as the former is someone trying to get his father out of prison and find his own role in the world while the latter is a man who was nearly killed in an accident and is given unlimited access to technology with Miller providing a bit of humor as Allen yet it is Fisher that is the heart and soul of the film as someone dealing with his identity and what he could do with the power he’s given.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a marvelous film that manages to live up to what a film about the Justice League superhero team needed to be. Thanks to its ensemble cast, bombastic music score, dazzling visuals, and its emphasis to explore themes of redemption, loss, and hope in a dark world. It is a film that doesn’t just have a lot of thrills and spectacular action scenes but it is also a film that also explore people trying to keep hope alive amidst a dark threat emerging. While it does have flaws with a four-hour running time that is demanding, it at least does give the audience time to invest in characters who are all trying to do good in a world that is facing impending doom. In the end, the director’s cut of Justice League is a remarkable film from Zack Snyder.
Zack Snyder Films: (Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)) – 300 - Watchmen - (Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) – Sucker Punch - (Army of the Dead)
DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) - Wonder Woman 1984 - (The Suicide Squad)
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