Movie: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Release Date: March 18, 2021
Director: Zack Snyder
Runtime: 4 hours 2 minutes
Genre: Action, Adventure
Columnist’s Rating: D
Over the past decade, superhero movies have dominated movie culture in both influence and box office receipts, mostly due to the incredible success and consistency of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel’s biggest rival in the comic book world has always been DC Comics, who launched its own cinematic universe in 2013 with the release of Zack Snyder’s "Man of Steel," a darker take on Superman starring Henry Cavill. The film was met with a mixed critical response.
Snyder followed this up with 2016's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," starring Ben Affleck as Batman. The film was also met with a disappointing critical response and it underperformed at the box office, at least compared to the other superhero clash released that year by Marvel, "Captain America: Civil War."
Snyder, now on his third attempt to create a hit with the DC characters, began tackling the Justice League but had to leave the project in May 2017 after his daughter, Autumn, died. Joss Whedon, director of the first two "Avengers" films, came on to finish the project and do extensive reshoots.
The final product, "Justice League," was released in late 2017 and was once again maligned by critics and fans. At this point, it seemed as though Snyder’s vision for the DC Universe wouldn’t be carried to completion.
DC and Zack Snyder fans who felt as though the released film didn’t represent his creative vision due to Whedon’s work on the project began campaigning for Warner Bros. to release an alternate ‘Snyder Cut’ of the film.
With the launch of HBO Max in 2020, Warner Bros. announced that a ‘Snyder Cut’ of "Justice League" would be coming exclusively to the platform in 2021, and on March 18 it went live on the platform title as "Zack Snyder’s Justice League."
Snyder’s version of "Justice League" is considerably longer, extending the runtime almost double the time. The added footage gives the film more narrative cohesion as each member of the cast is given a more extensive setup and payoffs.
For doubling the film’s length though, "Zack Snyder’s Justice League" doesn’t make good use of its extra padding.
The biggest problem with Snyder’s films is the lack of humanity they have when they are dealing with science fiction and fantastical concepts. The DC films are often celebrated by fans for being darker than Marvel films, but the characterization of the heroes doesn’t capitalize on that tone.
Snyder depicts these figures as important without ever exploring what makes them so, resulting in a four-hour chain of unearned moments. There is no struggle for the heroes except struggle itself; it's tied up in the idea and not the execution. Making these films ‘darker’ should offer Snyder the opportunity to have these characters explore troubling questions about humanity, but in practice, the film favors action and slow-motion grandeur over character and consequence.
The action itself is incoherent and repetitive, taking up too much of the runtime without ever being engaging. The villain Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciarán Hinds, is unthreatening, especially once Superman enters the film, making the stakes unsatisfying.
The best-executed action is when the Flash slows down time to affect the battle. This is because it’s the only time when the audience can identify the time and space in which things are happening.
Outside of those brief sequences, there is so much CGI, or computer-generated imagery, kicking and punching that doesn’t hurt or challenge the heroes that it becomes exhausting.
Exhausting is perhaps the word that best describes the total experience of sitting through all four hours of "Zack Snyder’s Justice League." While this new version of the film restores the serious tone of DC Universe and gets rid of Whedon’s tacked-on and poorly written comedy that plagued the theatrical release, the story remains essentially the same — just with an incredible amount more fat.
DC had an opportunity with its cinematic universe to be more thoughtful and artistic than its formulaic counterpart at Marvel. Unfortunately, this belated release of Snyder’s vision re-confirms the problem his films always had: they never give the audience anyone to care about.