(Mostly) Spoiler-Free Review of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

By Steve Younis

Thanks to Warner Bros., I was given access to an advanced screener of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” ahead of its release on HBO Max on Thursday, March 18. I’m pleased to report that I really enjoyed the film.

While I won’t give away any spoilers, I will say that this film (all 4 hours of it) feels completely different to the theatrical version of the movie. It’s the same film in some ways, but very different for the most part.

The parts of the movie that are the same feel different in many respects, whether it’s the tone of the scene or the influence it has on the over all story, they’re familiar yet different. It’s hard to put a finger on it. You’ll understand what I mean when you watch it for yourself.

At four hours long, the movie is slow in parts, especially early on, when Snyder takes his time with each of the characters, and makes some odd choices with certain scenes. For example, I don’t know why we needed to spend 5 minutes listening to nordic women sing a song as Arthur Curry dives off into the ocean. However, for the most part, the movie never lets up. You would think that it would contain so much of what we already saw in the theatrical cut, but you would be wrong. It feels like at least 60% of the four hours is footage exclusive to this version of the movie. I may be wrong, but it felt that way.

A lot more time is spent on fleshing out Victor Stone and his relationship with his father. A lot more time is spent on Barry Allen prior to his meeting Bruce Wayne. There’s more time with Diana Prince and Arthur Curry as well. Interestingly, Bruce Wayne/Batman, while having a fair amount of screen time, doesn’t really have anything new that we hadn’t seen before… not for the first two thirds of the movie anyway.

While we don’t see that goofy cell phone interview with Superman from the theatrical cut, Superman does open the film. We specifically see how his death, his final cry of agony, has a direct impact on everything else that follows. It’s a powerful opening. Beyond that, while his name is mentioned once or twice, we don’t really see Superman until much that later. We do however get more Lois Lane and Martha Kent, which is great!

Thankfully, when Superman does return, it is awesome! I actually welled up with tears at one point. His triumphant return will have Superman fans cheering! My concerns about his being used in a dark and concerning way were unfounded. However, Snyder does have this fascination with alternate timelines or what has become known as the “knightmare” sequences where Superman is evil. These pop up from time to time in a sort of “what if” Elseworlds possibilities. They really don’t add anything to the film other than to make us thankful that they’re not reality.

I was quite pleased Snyder decided to break up the film in to six chapters. Sitting through a four hour film, no matter how good, can be tedious. These chapter breaks give you an opportunity to pause the movie if you need to take some time out.

Much has been said about Snyder’s color palette. Thankfully, to me, the movie didn’t seem overly dark or depressing. While I’m still not sold on keeping Superman in his black and silver costume for the entire film, it didn’t bother me too much. Although, we do see Superman in his blue and red costume at one point, it’s not at a good point of the movie. Which was an odd choice.

Steppenwolf also gets a lot more screen time in this version of the movie. He’s a more fleshed out character, and we understand his motivations a lot clearer here. His look is also a huge improvement. The inclusion of Desaad and Darkseid is also a welcome addition. You just get a better feel for what’s at stake and why things are happening the way they are.

Snyder also spends a lot more time showing us how Darkseid’s previous failed invasion of Earth. It’s glorious in its scope and action. Even the battles we saw previously, like Steppenwolf trying to get the Mother Box from the Amazons, just look better. They’re definitely more violent, but not unnecessarily so. There’s just a more obvious threat and consequence to these fights and battles. Even Wonder Woman’s face off with the terrorists in London feels different somehow.

There are some surprises along the way. DC fans will love seeing some Easter eggs thrown in. While everyone knows about Martian Manhunter by now, how and when you see him was a nice surprise and well timed.

The musical score is impressive. Tom Holkenborg does a masterful job of bringing in various themes throughout the film. There were some interesting musical choices at point of the film, but over all the score adds to the grandiosity of Snyder’s vision.

Even at four hours long, the story feels balanced. Each of the characters gets a fair share of screen time. Cyborg and The Flash get plenty of moments to shine. Superman, while only really appearing in the final third of the film, is beautiful to behold. His return really is a high point of the film. Even the fight at the destroyed monument in Metropolis has elements to it that were not seen in the theatrical cut. I was also pleaseed to see that Marc McClure’s role was more substantial.

All in all, I’m glad this version of the movie exists. It really is a different film than what we saw in theatres. Is it better? Yes, by far. A definite improvement on what Joss Whedon gave us. While I would have preferred to have Superman in his blue and red costume, it’s not a deal breaker. He is Superman… which just makes me want to see Henry Cavill return in the role for more movies.

Do yourself a favor. Set aside four hours to watch “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”. You won’t regret it!

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10 Comments
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andramus
March 16, 2021 9:24 am

I find this review is surprisingly positive. Maybe I’m misremembering things or conflating Michael’s views with Steve’s. I was never an ardent Snyder fan or active supporter of the Snyder Cut but I was also never against it and was genuinely curious to see it even in an unfinished form. Over the last few years whenever the topic of the Snyder Cut was brought up on Radio KAL Live or later WGBS TV Live I always felt that Steve and Michael were pretty down on the idea. Perhaps Michael especially. On the most recent WGBS Michael said he was more… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by andramus
NeoRanger
March 16, 2021 9:36 am
Reply to  andramus

“I’m not even sure if I’ll like the movie that much but a review I read on Den of Geek made my blood boil with it excess negativity and sweeping assertions about Zack Snyder and his fanbase.” Ah, the “Ghostbusters 2016 is good actually, because it makes manbabies cry” school of film critique. Yeah, whenever you see a review making such broad and presumptuous statements, you are free to entirely ignore it; the people behind it have lost sight of what they’re there to do. Now, I don’t watch the podcasts here (sorry), but I will say; I’ve been on… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by NeoRanger
redcape
March 16, 2021 1:34 pm

I think it’s going to boil down to the same thing. If you liked what Snyder had done in the two previous outings, you’ll like this as well. I’ve read a few early reviews as well. Some really like it, others give it a C. I don’t believe it’s going to convince or change the minds of any of the ZS haters either way. Recent info on Blu-Ray release has said May 21st!! I’m sure when the 18th rolls around, there’s going to be a lot more critiques on it all over the media. A mixture of both + and… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by redcape
DrAwkward
March 16, 2021 5:17 pm

Yeah, the Red & Blue shows up in only two “bad” scenes (already in trailers / spots so not serious spoilers), but Superman is a force in this film. People who disliked MOS & BvS should give this a shot, the press and review embargo have already been lifted and the consensus is already better than those two prior films. Many critics who previously panned Zack are now praising him- just, for example, Gail Simone. Rather than wondering whether ZSJL can “convert” people, I think a better analogy might be something like chicken wings. With MOS being a standard buffalo… Read more »

MOS
MOS
March 16, 2021 7:06 pm

I cannot wait for this!!!!!

LarGand
March 17, 2021 5:10 am

Good to see this movie seems to be getting a generally positive response across the board, including the fact that the dreaded Rotten Tomatoes score has actually crept up over the past couple of days, from 70% shortly after the review embargo to 78% now. Maybe critics are more inclined to be kind to Snyder now, partly because of the struggle he went through personally to get his vision to the screen, and partly because this – finally – is his pure vision, with no interference at all from WB. Or maybe people are more prepared for Snyder’s tonal approach… Read more »

NeoRanger
March 17, 2021 9:53 am
Reply to  LarGand

I was thinking about this and I’m actually curious how much the lack of Marvel movies in the past year might’ve affected the reception of Justice League. Regardless of quality, tone and all that, the MCU has been ubiquitous for over a decade. They didn’t just set the trend, they dominated the market and the pop culture surrounding it even after Endgame. I’m wondering if putting some distance between their way of doing things and the audience allowed for that early-to-mid ’00s experimentation that disappeared in the last decade to gain some ground again. Continuing from there, I’m also curious… Read more »

redcape
March 17, 2021 2:18 pm
Reply to  NeoRanger

To Marvel’s credit, they certainly kept the movies rolling one after another. I wouldn’t say the quality was overwhelming, but it was non stop. So in between all of Marvel’s movie bombing, DC in between all that, got the short end of the stick because they weren’t Marvel or Marvel-ous!!!! But I believe you’re right regarding the critics and of how they may have reviewed this ZSJL. If you remember, they trashed JossW’s JL in ways that I for one had never read before. It was brutal. And a lot of that still fell on Snyder’s shoulders. With all the… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by redcape
Superman2878
March 17, 2021 4:06 pm

So now that we are less then 24 hours away from Snyder’s JL premier, I thought I’d share my final thoughts on what I think before I see the film. While it’s true that I’m not a fan of MoS and BvS, there were some things about the theatrical cut of JL that I did like. Mainly some of the interactions that Superman did have with the other JL members towards the end of the film during the final battle. I know that this cut of JL won’t have any of the Whedon footage, but I’m hoping that there will… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Superman2878
redcape
March 18, 2021 1:06 pm

WOW…….movie reviewer in newspaper gives JL 3 1/2 stars!!! Claims it’s one of the best he’s seen in a long time !!