No more spin and wishful thinking.
We now have director Zack Snyder’s version of “Justice League,” the movie he tried to tell in 2017 before a personal tragedy consumed his world.
This four-hour behemoth is bloated, no doubt, with moments that scream cutting room floor. In a way that’s not the point. The film exists to placate fans, the group who helped will the project into existence.
The basic story established in the Whedon version remains intact. The Batman (Ben Affleck) knows a threat is heading to Earth, so he must assemble all the super-powered people he can to defend the planet. That means a reunion with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), his “Batman v. Superman” colleague. Everything about Gadot’s work here serves as a palate cleanser for the superbly awful “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Welcome back, Diana!
The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a quick sell on the “save the earth” concept as well critical comic relief. Recruiting Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) … is another matter.
The film, rendered in full screen, gives us a far richer villain in Steppenwolf, at least visually speaking. He’s no Thanos, to be clear, but his power and presence make him a worthy foe for our assembled heroes.
Of course Superman returns, again, with Cavill showing once more he doesn’t just look the part. Too bad Hollywood isn’t always sure how to convey a Boy Scout in our anti-hero age.
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” retains the narrative through line of the mini-franchise. Steppenwolf must reunite three magical “Mother Boxes” in order to conquer Earth. It’s a simplistic narrative the film treats with far too much reverence, an elevator pitch broadened beyond necessity.
Mild spoiler -- the film caps with a half-hour epilogue that feels like pure fan service.
Then again, had Snyder resisted his passion for slo-mo sequences the entire project could come in at a neat three hours.
This is a Snyder presentation from start to finish, from the heavy CGI look to the majesty given the heroic beats. And oh, does his “Justice League” brim with the latter. The action sequences are marvelous, capturing the power and pageantry of super beings letting it all hang out.
Once more Snyder trumps Whedon, even if Whedon delivered cleaner action with his original “Avengers” film.
FAST FACT: Zack Snyder shot additional footage to complete his vision, all the while hampered by a pandemic and statistical nightmares. He ended up “directing” new scenes with Miller and co-star Diane Lane via Zoom, for example.
Snyder’s take can do so much more given the running time, meaning we get an entirely fresh look at Fisher’s Cyborg. That works to the film’s advantage, broadening his humanity and showing us he’s not just an Iron Man ripoff.
Not even close.
The updated “Justice League” benefits from the extra cash injected into the project, no doubt. The entire canvas has that “300” look to it, which will forever seem artificial in some circles. The effects, though, are marvelous, especially our extended peek at the Thanos-like Darkseid and his minions.
Still, a four-hour movie like “Justice League” has plenty of flaws. The film stops cold a few times to explain, and over-explain, material that could have been summarized in far less time. The first hour feels choppy, incomplete even, as audiences are expected to piece story snippets together from our collective knowledge of the DCEU.
The conceit behind the supergroup concept, from “Justice League” to the “Avengers,” is that these heroes can’t save the planet by themselves. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” stays true to that ethos, as these mighty warriors have each other’s back time and again.
The same can be said of Snyder and his passionate fan base. For them, this film is the embodiment of working together for a greater good.
HiT or Miss: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a promise fulfilled, both to Comic Con Nation and a filmmaker whose personal grief interrupted his grand vision.