Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): Sincerely excessive to say the least

“Zach Snyder’s Justice League” is sincerely excessive to say the least. Although I felt rather tired as going through its exciting but exhausting final hour, I must admit that, thanks to its considerably extended scope in terms of story and characters, the movie has a fair share of strong points compared to the original version which came out in November 2017. Sure, the overall result is often ponderous and plodding especially during the first half where it is busy with establishing its various main characters and their impending emergency, but it keeps rolling at least even during that part, and the fans of DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movies will be certainly rewarded a lot for waiting for this chunky but entertaining piece of work for several years.

First, let’s talk a bit about the very troubled production history behind the film itself. As many of you know, its script, based on the story by director/co-writer Zack Snyder and his co-writer Chris Terrio and Will Beall, had to go through numerous changes even during its production period, and then Snyder came to step down during the following post-production shortly after the death of his daughter. After that, Joss Whedon, who is a persona non grata in Hollywood these days due to his past history of harassment on a number of people he worked with, took care of the subsequent extensive post-production process, and the final result was not received that well by many critics, though I gave it three stars out of four because I was quite annoyed by some awful South Korean film right before watching it.

Anyway, mainly because of the constant demands from millions of fans eager to see what Snyder originally envisioned, Warner Brothers eventually decided to give it a shot, and it spent no less 70 million dollars for making what was simply called the “Snyder Cut” at that time. With Snyder at the helm again, the original version was re-edited in addition to being added with changed score and special effects, and Snyder and his crew and cast members also shot a number of new scenes to be included in his definite final version. With the running time bulked up to no less than 4 hours, the studio initially wanted the final product to be presented as a TV miniseries, but then it eventually came to decide to release the final product as a feature film on HBO Max, and we finally came to see its release on last Thursday.

So here is the question: Is the Snyder Cut as good an improvement over the original version as those DCEU fans have hoped for? The answer is somewhere between yes and no, but, in my humble opinion, the Snyder Cut has enough strong aspects to compensate for a number of its glaring weak ones. Consisting of six chapters and the epilogue, the movie surely feels like watching a long TV miniseries from the beginning to the end, but it has some new engaging elements for more plot and character development, and it certainly looks and feels more like your typical Zack Snyder flick compared to the original version.

The overall setup of the movie is not changed much on the whole. After Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) bravely sacrificed himself for saving the Earth and the humanity during the climax of “Batman v Superman; Dawn of Justice” (2016), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) tries to compensate for his unwise and disastrous conflict with Superman, and he tries to gather other superheroes as he comes to learn that another big threat will come to the Earth sooner or later. While Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) are Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) are willing to join Batman, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are not so interested to say the least, but it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that these two guys will eventually join the group as they become more aware of the threat from the outer space.

The threat in question mainly comes from Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an evil alien guy who should not be confused with the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Illinois. Like countless alien villains in comic book movies, he has been hoping for achieving the total destruction in galactic scale, and he comes to the Earth for finding and then gathering the three mysterious boxes hidden somewhere on the Earth. Compared to how many magic stones the chief villain of “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) had to gather, I guess this is a relatively less demanding job, though Steppenwolf is often pressured by his big giant boss lurking somewhere in the outer space.

Despite several cool action scenes which are accompanied with heaps of slow-motion shots as you can expect from Snyder’s work, Steppenwolf’s destructive quest for these three mysterious boxes is one of the lackluster elements during the first half of the movie, but this and other flaws including occasionally lagging narrative pacing are compensated by the additional personal dramas for The Flash and Cyborg, who incidentally have each own daddy issue. While the Flash has been obsessed with proving the innocence of his wrongfully accused and incarcerated father, Cyborg has struggled with his harrowing love/hate relationship with his scientist father, who revived him via an alien technology shortly after he died along with his mother due to a tragic accident.

Once everything is ready on the plate, the movie goes all the way during the second half, and Snyder surely demonstrates here that he is a better action movie director than, say, Michael Bay. The expected climax sequence unfolded in an abandoned area located somewhere in Russia is quite loud and busy with lots of things happening here and there, but the movie, which is presented in the film ratio of 1.33:1 probably for the subsequent IMAX release in the future, gives us lots of epic moments, and it also did a fairly good job of juggling its superhero characters and their respective abilities without never losing its sense of direction. In case of the epilogue, it is rather redundant and unnecessary as mostly functioning as a teaser for whatever may come next, but it is nice to see Snyder show a bit brighter side of his as showing some signs of hope and redemption among his superhero main characters.

In conclusion, “Zach Snyder’s Justice League” is better than expected despite its many imperfect sides, which, to my little surprise, I came to overlook willingly when I watched it at last night. I do not think I will revisit it that soon, but I agree with others that this is an interesting case showing the bests and worsts of recent superhero movies together, and I assure you that you will be very satisfied if you have been eagerly waiting for it.

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