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‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ satisfyingly ends Zack Snyder’s original saga

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ satisfyingly ends Zack Snyder’s original saga

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ satisfyingly ends Zack Snyder’s original saga
March 26
12:00 2021

“I don’t care how many demons he’s fought in how many hells. He’s never fought us. Not us united.”

After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) scramble to assemble a team as the three Mother Boxes awaken, drawing a hostile invader. With Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), they must unify to stop Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) before he paves the way for invasion for the New God, Darkseid (Ray Porter).

It’s taken nearly five years, but Zack Snyder has finally completed and unleashed “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” onto HBO Max. Combining initial footage with recently-shot material, Snyder’s final foray into his DC Extended Universe looks to provide closure for fans. However, can he win over the hearts and minds of those who’ve been turned off by his previous outings?

Depends.

The Snyder Cut isn’t a great movie, but it is enjoyable and outdoes the Joss Whedon-directed theatrical cut on nearly every front.

So, yeah. He kind of won me over.

The four-hour runtime will be a hurdle for many, but Snyder is pretty wise about how he fills out that time, primarily with moments dedicated to developing the League members themselves. Even if Snyder does continue his overly-important “mythologizing” take on these godlike characters, he adds a more sensitive, human side to them.

Snyder’s attention to character detail is especially evident with Cyborg. Snyder communicates Cyborg’s loss and angst gracefully through flashbacks to his origin, while Fisher embodies a far more dynamic character. Seeing him work through his grief and develop a new family among the League is the high point. If we were to compare his depiction here with the Whedon cut, Whedon’s Cyborg would be murky and out of focus, while Snyder and Fisher’s take is detailed and in sharp relief. With Fisher’s future with the character in doubt due to alleging the producers and previous director mistreating him and the cast, his committed performance should serve as full vindication as to where his heart lies with the character.

This extends to most of the other cast — Miller gets to do more than be comedic relief as the Flash. The relationship between him and his imprisoned father (Billy Crudup) has more meat, his personal goals get more focus and he even pulls off an incredible moment during the climax. Momoa’s Aquaman is largely unchanged, but he gets more scenes with Wonder Woman and some of his story that leads into his solo movie is expanded upon here.

Affleck also gets to shine as a brighter, more-focused Batman. The theatrical cut shows him as a comical, bone-headed leader, but here he gets to show a more clear-headed and kind take more in line with the Batman people know and love. He still has his guilt over “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” but he’s taking pains to make up for it and is a much kinder-hearted leader. Most of his humor feels more in-character, plus he has excellent chemistry with the whole cast. He may be my favorite live-action Batman.

On a mixed note, there’s something a little off about Gadot’s Wonder Woman. The museum battle is even better, but she decides to just obliterate one guy and cause some pretty excess property damage last minute. Gadot manages to keep her human, but for most of the movie, she serves more as an expositor than a human being. At least she’s not overly sexualized like she was by acclaimed “feminist” Whedon.

Her iconic theme is also suspiciously absent to make way for the lamenting wales that wind up every single time she’s in action. They not only fail to live up to Han Zimmer and Tina Guo’s head-banging electric cello riffs, they’re also straight-up ear-piercing.

On that note, Junkie XL returns for this cut after Whedon replaced him with Danny Elfman. While XL’s work recalls his previous score for “Fury Road,” points go to Elfman for a far more dynamic body of compositions, recalling so much of what came before. There were greater gravitas and sense of what came before, elevating most of the mediocre direction. A lot of the score blends together, save for Flash’s big moment during the finale.

For the antagonists, Hinds does get to redeem the forgettable Whedon version of Steppenwolf with a more sympathetic, less one-dimensional take. That being said, he isn’t particularly memorable. As for Darkseid, he’s only in a handful of scenes and does leave an impression, even if Porter doesn’t get much time to shine.

Lastly, some of the runtime could have been trimmed down. Again, there’s excessive slow-motion and a couple of scenes that drag out their welcome: a scene involving a fiery arrow, part of the Flash’s introduction and so on. Especially with the epilogue.

Slight spoilers ahead.

The last 30 minutes do take time wrapping up the story but unfortunately leave some threads unmarred. The Knightmare returns, with Jared Leto as Joker and Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, but given how Snyder said he’s currently done, this lingering thread really does feel like it didn’t need to be left hanging. It would be a lie to say this doesn’t ruin some of the goodwill. Not completely, but I think fans wanted closure for Snyder’s take on the DC universe and this sequence is polar-opposite to that. There’s also another character who feels randomly inserted, but I didn’t mind as much.

Still, I don’t think those negatives derail the experience. Snyder mostly completes the story he set out to tell and closes out his take on the DC universe.

While not perfect, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” serves to mostly-vindicate the director’s vision and his dedicated fans. It’s not for everyone, but then again neither were his other movies. They’re a singular, distinctive interpretation. One I still don’t think is for me, but does have validity. Snyder’s out and focused on “Army of the Dead” at Netflix. While nothing is ever impossible, this is as good a way to close the book as any.

Will’s rating: 3.25/5

Courtesy HBO Max

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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