“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a film that I did not expect to like as much as I did. I enjoyed “Man of Steel” and hated “Batman v. Superman” and on top of that the studio’s Frankensteined version that originally came out was the only film I hated enough to walk out on it was so awful. This film solved those issues in regards to the initial walkout though. Basically reshoots and studio interference are death for any vision. I will sit through a flawed awful film if in the end it is still consistent as a story in tone and narrative. This film has that and is really good. It is only in the flaws of prior films where the flaws really come to the surface and if you are willing to sit through a 4 hour film, this is well worth your time.
The film was directed by Zack Snyder and written by Chris Terrio.
The film follows Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) as he attempts to remake the world in the image of his world Apocalypse as Bruce Wayne / Batman (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) unite meta-humans in an attempt to stop him.
The Soundtrack – Thomas Holkenborg also known as Junkie XL’s rocking soundtrack works well here at elevating action scenes and expressing the stakes. This film is slow and reflective for characters (it is 4 hours long) and his soundtrack embraces this as he adds to the emotion of what the characters are going through.
The Tone – Unlike the trash original “Justice League” that took jokes and cleverness for character development this one has a somber tone and sticks to it. This film feels like the world is at stake and we see that in the characters and their relationships. This made the film work and fixed the tonal clashes of my initial experience of the Snyder/Whedon/Studio Theatrical cut.
The Action – The action is good and unlike the awful CGI scenes of the theatrical cut, this all looks good. When Steppenwolf hits people with his axe, you feel it. The Paredemons feel like a threat as well as you see them successfully defeat people throughout the film. We also have real stakes. No scenes felt staged like Batman and the thief in the original. Every action scene advances character or plot and you learn something you didn’t know before. Each fight with Steppenwolf is interesting and has loss and stakes. It isn’t just a videogame cutscene. You get to see the character relationships and what the loss of people means.
The Minor Characters – The minor characters are one of the strongest parts of this film. Whether it is Commissioner Gordon, Oliver Stone, Alfred or Queen Hippolyta…each of their scenes advance the plot. The only characters who don’t really work are those tied to Superman, which I will mention later.
Queen Hippolyta – Queen Hippolyta is awesome! In this we see just how much she is willing to risk to stop Steppenwolf as well as how connected she is to her people. She holds her own against the Old God on multiple occasions and seeing her in the original battle in the flashback gave power to how much Steppenwolf has to fear in her. Connie Nielsen gives her so much empathy as we see her fight to save as many of her people as she can and send the warning signal to her daughter Diana.
Commissioner Gordon – I hope we get to see more J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon as the scenes he has here he obviosuly shines in. He is one of my favorite actors and he is one of the few people besides Diana Prince and Alfred who can call Bruce Wayne out. I’d say just to see him and some of the other minor character again I’d want to see DC let Snyder finish this Trilogy of “Justice League” films.
Alfred Pennyworth – Jeremy Irons was one of the few things I liked in “Batman v. Superman” and he continues to shine here as we see him be standoffish with the rest of the Justice League but grow to trust them. His heart is looking after a man who has a death wish and because of that you can get how broken he is. In this his mini-arc is finding that reason to some degree as he sees he is no longer Bruce Wayne’s only confidant.
Steppenwolf and the Old Gods – We get DeSaad as the voice of Darkseid and Granny Goodness at the end besides Steppenwolf attempting to get back into Darkseid’s good graces. The motivation is very Ronan from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy” without the betrayal. For this reason I was interested. Why do they follow Darkseid? For me the mystery worked here as we saw that Steppenwolf’s entire motivation was to please. Also, the Old Gods have fascinating lore I’d recommend to any comic readers.
The Justice League – The Justice League finally works in live action with the core team! I mean I didn’t even make it to the united team the writing and filming was so bad in the original cut but here I cared about most of them. The weakest link ends up being Superman, which I will get into later.
Arthur Curry / Aquaman – Aquaman does not feel like a bro in this. You see how he goes out of his way to help isolated communities and how conflicted he is between being an Atlantean and human. Here the conflict works and it strengthens Jason Momoa’s characterization unlike the drinking douchebro cut that didn’t even show that the community he was helping was cut off from the world. The strength is in the details and this film fills those details in. I cared about Aquaman and found him more likable here than in his own film.
Barry Allen / The Flash – Ezra Miller’s Flash still has some cringe in this but he mostly works as this is a somber film so we get more than jokes. His scene with his dad in prison was powerful and I wish we had got his origin story. He goes back in time in this and I feel like him experiencing the Speedforce was needed for that step. In this film we don’t get his relationship to the Speedforce so it doesn’t work the way it did in the CW “Flash” show.
Bruce Wayne / Batman – Ben Affleck is good in this. This is clearly a Batman living with major regret after “Batman v. Superman” so I get why he is risking his life and going martyr complex in the final battle. I also like that the team came to save him and Superman forgave him. All these contributed to his character growth. I also liked the romantic tension between him and Diana Prince as it showed both of them healing but their core trust issues.
Victor Stone / Cyborg – After everything Joss Whedon put Ray Fisher through I’m glad he got to be fully explored as a character here. Here he is a stronger character than Batman and the Flash as we see how his relationship to his parents defines him and his noble nature as he hacks the bank to help a single mom and risks his life to stop Steppenwolf. This is my favorite version of the character besides “Teen Titans” and here he has the depth and nuance you don’t see in the DC animated films. I hope we get to see Ray Fisher play him again. He is awesome.
Diana Prince / Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot is still the best part of the DCEU for me. I thought for her films are flawed but great and here seeing her avenge her people with the killing blow to Steppenwolf as well as her growing relationship with Bruce Wayne worked. She has been around for so long and because of it knows the Old Gods lore but isn’t defined by it. She is what Superman could be if he chose to be human, for whatever reason that isn’t what Snyder hasn’t chosen so Wonder Woman has picked that up, whether it is saving civilians and taking the time to listen to someone she saved or taking on Steppenwolf and the Old Gods…she walks both worlds in a way Superman in the DCEU has never been able to.
The End of the World Epilogue – In the epilogue we get a dream sequence from Batman where he is with Mera, Flash, Cyborg, Deathstroke and the Leto’s Joker as they all work together to stop a Superman who is serving Darkseid after Lois is killed. It is full “Injustice League” universe and I liked it as this potential future would be fun to explore in a mini-series or film. This combo of characters is intriguing and shouldn’t work so I’m curious how they’d “Mad Max” it and win against Superman who shows up at the end to fight them before Bruce Wayne wakes up from the vision.
Martian Manhunter – Martian Manhunter shows up voiced by Harry Lennix who appeared in both prior Superman related films as a military leader. He is a great actor and seeing him in that role as appreciated as Martian Manhunter is one of my favorite DC characters. I wish he’d been in the final battle though.
Heroes and their Dads – This film is all about dads and their relationships to their sons. Victor makes peace with his dad over the course of the film before he dies, Barry is motivated to save his dad in prison and in the aftercredits Joker even calls out Bruce for letting Robin die as he was his surrogate dad. Steppenwolf also treats Darkseid as a dad he wants to be back in the good graces with. Dads define this film film and it adds nuance to a lot of these characters.
Flash and the Speed Force Setup – So Flash just knows the Speed Force and this film never explains it. We get how Darkseid, Mother Boxes and so much other stuff works but Barry Allen’s origin is never explained or shown. This makes his reversing the heroes loss feel hollow, which is basically the Flash tripping at the end. Everything was there and this could easily have been a 3 minute scene to fix.
The Superman Motivation Hole – Superman comes back with no memories and is destroying the Justice League until Lois Lane shows up. Why he remembers her or showing he remembers her is never shown. This is a huge hole given that Cyborg had visions of Superman serving Darkseid ending the world if he is brought back. So this motivation hole is still there. The how he remembered is still a major issue the film never addresses.
Lois Lane and Martha Kent – Zack Snyder films are terrible at writing women. This is me just taking “Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman” and “Watchmen” into account, which is my experience with Snyder’s films. Lois and Martha are mourning figures with no agency. The world is burning around them and the only moment of character is Lois saving Bruce from Superman…that is it. It is brief and we don’t get her motivation either. Superman and everyone he is connected to is the weakest part of this film.
This was a really good but flawed film. I respect it being broken up into parts and the fact that Zack Snyder made this in honor of his daughter is powerful. This is the film that the theatrical cut should have been. There is tone, motivation and heart here that didn’t exist in the studio monstrosity of the original. Seriously, if you are a DC fan and are good with watching a 4 hour film this is well worth your time. I look forward to watching this film again if sequels aren’t made and this is the final. This film is flawed, good and a favorite DC film after today.
Final Score: 8.7 / 10 I would watch this again. It is good, flawed but works.
Here was my experience of the original “Justice League” film: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/i-walked-out-of-justice-league/