Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Director Zack Snyder has made something out of nothing. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is not a great something, exactly, but it’s certainly a better movie than the vacuous 2017 blockbuster that came before.
In this four-hour cut of the film, we begin by reliving the death of Superman as it occurred at the end of 2016’s “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” His death awakened three boxes, filled with a dangerous power, which are being guarded by three groups on Earth—the Amazonian women of Themyscira, where Wonder Woman is from; the people of Atlantis, where Aqua Man resides; and normal land-dwellers (specifically, a scientist who used the box’s power to bring his son, Victor, back to life as Cyborg). When the threat of an attack is made known, Batman works to gather Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, Cyborg, and one other superhero, a teenager named Barry Allen who has the ability to run at the speed of light. Together, they’ll fight to keep the three boxes out of the hands of an evil alien, Steppenwolf, who is working on behalf an even greater evil to unite the boxes and destroy the universe.
Okay, now I can inhale. That’s a lot to cover, but four hours is a lot of time to cover it. And that’s what Snyder’s cut does. Instead of a rushed affair that tries and fails to introduce all these characters (only three of which had been properly introduced in previous DC Extended Universe movies), the Snyder version reassembled much more of the backstory that had been cut from the theatrical version. Sure, it’s an investment of time, but I’d rather spend four hours with characters I know and understand than two hours with characters about whom I only know surface-level details. This is especially true for Steppenwolf, the antagonist, who in the original cut was given no motivations or personality. Now, with more of his footage restored, we feel like we understand what Steppenwolf is fighting for and what the Justice League is fighting for. It makes the movie much easier to watch.
However, there is still much to deride. While Steppenwolf is able to inflict some real damage, his army of voiceless bug-like aliens don’t. These antagonistic hordes of creatures never do when they appear in superhero movies, do they? The final fight, which takes place in the middle of an abandoned former nuclear facility, is just as uninteresting as before. It’s all green screens and collateral damage, without any people outside of the action. Without any innocent bystanders at risk, the final fight is like a professional wrestling match—entertaining, but also staged and predictable. Nothing in a superhero movie beats the scenes where the superheroes save innocent people. The best superhero movies know that. In this movie, we see that a couple times is all. Mostly, it’s just the superheroes saving each other.
“Zach Snyder’s Justice League” is still worse than almost every Marvel movie, in my opinion. The fact that it’s better than the original cut of the film says more about how little the DCEU understands about what moviegoers want than anything else. They have had a pretty bad track record. It’s still more style than substance, but at least Zack Snyder did do something with all that footage he shot back then. It’s decent enough to make me wipe the theatrical cut of the movie from my mind entirely.