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!