In a world where studio-driven blockbusters are the norm, Zack Snyder’s work in the DC Extended Universe was quite the anomaly. With a signature style that has drawn much controversy since his work on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, ardent supporters and detractors were at each other’s throats as executives mulled over how it all went wrong. After numerous creative clashes and a painful personal situation that resulted in Snyder leaving his next project, 2017’s Justice League, the studio took control and in a foolish attempt to course correct, released a bloated tonal mishmash of a film that resulted in a disappointing venture for all. However, as details began to be revealed about the project’s turbulent production, rumors of an unreleased director’s cut came to light, and after a wave of passionate campaigning from fans and industry figures alike, the studio decided to do the unthinkable and spent millions upon millions of dollars to create a brand new film that rose from the ashes to become the next large-scale global cultural event: Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Following the events of Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) journeys around the globe to unite a group of superpowered characters as he begins to sense an outside threat approaching that threatens to doom them all. After bringing together Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman, a newly created group known only as the Justice League attempts to combat those sinister forces in search of cosmic “Mother Boxes” to enforce their rule on earth. Yet while the succinct plot synopsis accurately reflects both the original 2017 theatrical release and Snyder’s newly formed cut, Zack Snyder’s Justice League expands on the original’s streamlined plot, weaving through far more elements that result in new storylines and characters being added to the mix. With a recentralization of those left in the shadows at first, the film pivots to give characters such as Cyborg, Superman, and even Steppenwolf a chance to shine, all while adding far more layers of depth than what was originally seen. With Snyder having complete control at the helm, the film displays Snyder at his most, for better and for worse.
Now, with Snyder’s control, the film’s self-indulgence is on full display. Packaged in a lengthy four-hour runtime that may be too much to stomach at once for the majority of mainstream viewers, temporary bouts of glacial pacing are clearly felt from start to finish. Present are numerous sequences that serve as power trips to fulfill Snyder’s self-interest, with their inclusion resulting in jarring moments that can make the film feel incoherent at times. While perhaps they working better as standalone shorts, deleted scenes, or popularized post-credit sequences, segments such as Barry Allen’s rescue of Iris West and Batman and Joker’s confrontation in a stunted epilogue instead disrupt the narrative flow of the overall film and present clear places where the runtime could have been substantially trimmed without hurting the overall impact of the film.
However, much to supporters’ delight, the positives the gargantuan runtime brings, along with Snyder’s creative control, vastly outweigh the aforementioned negatives. In this new cut, without the studio notes that resulted in a rushed pace, Snyder employs an artfully methodical buildup that gives its characters room to breath as he exquisitely deconstructs their motivations and defining traits. With developed backstories and richly defined arcs, this breathing room gives ample space for the talent to truly dig deep into their characters’ psyche in quiet moments that contrast the bombastic action. Placing Cyborg at the heart of the film, Snyder allows Ray Fisher to deliver a commendable performance here through a dramatic emotional conflict with his father that sprawls itself throughout the majority of the cut. At its full force, Zack Snyder’s direction is able to imbue a well-rounded sense of gravitas and palpable stakes with a masterful command of tone. Even with the presence of some superficial action sequences (that will admittedly work for those expecting the comic-book extravaganza popularized in the past decade), the film’s large scope harkens the true blockbuster epics of the past that were propelled forward by a stunning vision. Showcasing Zack Snyder’s vision at its finest, with this new Justice League cut, Snyder’s stylized grasps at something greater that were derided in the past finally blossoms into a bold visionary epic that reinvents the genre as we know it today.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s Justice League may just be the best film to have come out of Warner Brother’s superhuman cinematic experiment yet. While it is highly self-indulgent, it manages to employ it as a strength to result in a classical epic powered by a strong bold vision and full of heart. While this is the moment the Snyder Cut’s ardent supporters have been waiting for years, its remarkably accessible nature gives hope to the fact that this event will be the one to kickstart revitalization of the cinematic comic book storytelling that will propel the genre forward for decades to come.