Over the course of the past 48 hours the internet has been singing the praises of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. No longer just a movie, this version of DC’s team of heroes, has become a tale of creative redemption, mobilized fandom, advocacy for workplace safety and ultimately a response to pandemic content on a scale not even the MCU can match. Zack Snyder’s Justice League in its lure, scale, ambition and imperfection is a gift from the movie Gods.
Like the multiverse that Barry Allen (The Flash) speaks of, there are two worlds: Justice League without Zack Snyder and Justice League with. For those reading who don’t know the story behind the film, the release of Justice League in November 2017 is the stuff of movie urban legend. With Zack Snyder leaving the production in Spring of 2017 his work as the architect of the DCEU, burdened by corporate malice and thwarted by familial tragedy, was unraveled by director Joss Whedon (Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Warner Bros. executives. With a heavily restructured story, expansive reshoots and a demoralized cast and crew, Justice League’s arrival and time in theatres was far from glorious. A critical and commercial disaster, Zack Snyder was ultimately laid to blame. Only after actor Ray Fisher (Cyborg) broke the story of workplace harassment under Joss Whedon in July 2020 did the full scope of the production’s issues come to life.
Unlike Marvel, the DCEU was designed by a director who has a brand of his own. Very much an auteur, Zack Snyder movies come with their own sensibilities. Since his 2002 Dawn of the Dead remake and most certainly since 300, Snyder is a director who puts visceral action on the screen with a visual sensibility that screams his name. With this release of the film, he not only reclaims his honour but his canvas. His tone has been restored. This new release of Justice League finds Snyder bold, glorious and imperfect.
Ultimately, after fans demanded and created a #releasethesyndercut movement and cast including Ben Affleck (Batman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman) emboldened the fandom with retweets and Instagram stories, Warner succumbed. Serendipitously, having HBO Max’s soft February 2020 launch to thank, corporate brass knew that making peace with Zack Snyder’s DCEU would be good business and rehabilitation after Ray Fisher pulled the curtain of post Zack Snyder workplace harassment. Synder’s time had arrived and so did the time for the cast and crew to be recognized for their successes and hardships.
Nearly 5 years since the 2017 release of Justice League, this new release is Snyder’s superhero opus. Not only the best reviewed movie of his career thus far but also the most inspired at all levels. Frankly, it’s a film for our pandemic times. Both a reminder that filmmaking of such a grand scale is like no other form of storytelling and that the world needs a Justice League more now than ever. This movie is a pandemic antidote; take it in and go for the ride.
A tale of consequence, redemption, love, family and discernment, Zack Synder’s Justice League is audacious. From his choice of 4:3 aspect ratio to every significant character being honoured with real story arcs, the coming together of heroes in Snyder’s world comes with deep urgency. In fact comparing the two releases of the films is jarring. As I watch Snyder’s version I couldn’t help but think about the lack of respect given to his original vision. In this version none of the footage Whedon shot was used and the changes made to Snyder’s original blueprint were restored. In fact, Snyder has never seen the 2017 film. Thus, he followed his own blueprint throughout. This is the original as he always intended.
The film represents a complete catharsis in every sense of the word. Beyond heroes and villains, this film and Snyder’s experience will speak to anyone who has put their heart and soul into a project, initiative or workplace only to have it stripped upon departure. There’s just something human about the film you are watching and the story of how it came into existence.
So, is Zack Snyder’s Justice League a perfect film? No, it’s not. At over 4 hours, it lags at times, falls victim to self-indulgence and overdoses on CGI in classic superhero ways. It’s best moments are in fact the flushed out character ones that the 2017 lacked as it sped into action. Take your time as Synder did himself.
Watch, pause, stretch, come back to key scenes. Just indulge and enjoy the ride.
It’s not a perfect movie but it’s a hell of a ride, just the same.