Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill
Director: Zack Snyder
Running Time: 242 mins
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an American film and the director’s cut of Justice League. After the death of Superman, Bruce Wayne decides to assemble a team of heroes to protect the Earth from an oncoming threat of catastrophic proportions.
A film that proves that if you try, try, and try again, you’ll always find a way to succeed. The production of Justice League was infamously difficult, resulting in a finished product worlds away from Zack Snyder’s original vision, but this staggering four-hour cut is proof of the power of a passionate and audacious vision like no other.
Ever since Marvel came out with Iron Man in 2008, we’ve had so many superhero movies all trying to be part of a wider cinematic universe, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the first comic book film in over a decade that feels totally different.
It’s certainly not without its flaws, but there’s something exceptionally unique about the film, which tells a meaningful, exciting and emotionally resonant story with patience, passion and real imagination. Far from the cold-hearted cash-grab that the original Justice League seemed to be, this is a labour of love of unparalleled proportions.
So, the main thing to know is that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is very much the definitive version of the film, and the one that really continues the story that had been set up during Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Both of those films, despite their very clear flaws, had so much to say, with fascinating and bold ideas only undone by messy storytelling and a dark style that just didn’t sit right with many audiences (myself included).
Justice League, meanwhile, seemed to have nothing to say, caught in an awkward position between the dark style of its two predecessors and a brighter vision brought by stand-in director Joss Whedon that didn’t really work either.
I remember criticising Zack Snyder’s ‘drab’ style for the failings of DC’s Extended Universe back then, but upon watching this cut of Justice League, it’s evident that what we needed was more of Snyder’s vision, left alone to break barriers and tell bold stories without studio interference.
I’m happy to have seen DC take a brighter turn with the likes of Birds Of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is so dark, so intense and so gritty that it stands head and shoulders above any other superhero film you’ve ever seen.
With that daunting four-hour runtime, extreme violence, desperately dark drama, and a very, very slow pace, this is a film that’s brave enough to forge its own path away from the whimsical genre tropes created by Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and that’s what makes it so staggeringly unique.
Right from the first minute, you can tell that the film is filled with Snyder’s passion for the story, along with a deeper emotional tone coming off the back of a challenging period that began with the troubled production of Justice League.
The film’s opening half hour in particular is stunning, blending brilliantly patient pacing with exciting action and powerfully emotional moments, all brought to life by Snyder’s incredible direction, strong performances and a particularly memorable musical score.
This isn’t a happy-go-lucky superhero blockbuster, but a pensive and emotionally tender film that has hallmarks of both a big-screen action movie and an intimate personal drama.
And it’s that combination which makes a formerly dull story so much more meaningful. In the original cut, Justice League came off as a wannabe Avengers, with a predictable comic book story that culminated in a dull and pretty meaningless action finale.
In Snyder’s version, however, the film takes all the time in the world to develop its characters in a well-rounded and deep manner, with entire chapters dedicated to the back stories of the heroes at the centre of our story, with Cyborg and The Flash in particular becoming fascinating personalities that you really care for, rather than the cheap side characters they were in the original cut.
All of that of course makes a world of difference when it comes to the action sequences, which are transformed from the dull CGI-fests to emotionally riveting set pieces that anchor this dramatically engrossing four-hour story spectacularly.
It’s a marvel that this film never really feels boring at any point of its enormous runtime. It’s certainly an exhausting watch, with more of a Tarkovsky-esque ‘slow cinema’ style than the exhilarating, sweeping majesty of Hollywood classics like Gone With The Wind, but for the most part, Zack Snyder’s Justice League uses all of its time really effectively.
And with that longer runtime and the film’s more patient pacing, everything that happens here feels fully earned, with the stakes raised immensely and the challenges that our heroes face seeming all the more daunting.
It’s hours before some characters actually appear in the film, and although some appearances are arguably more earned than others, the sparing use of some characters, themes and ideas in this film is testament to how this film really is a labour of love from director Zack Snyder, and not a desperate attempt at fan service.
Throw into that the film’s 4:3 striking aspect ratio and a number of other creative decisions made by Snyder, and it’s clear as day that this film is there to be enjoyed as a truly unique production. It’s not there to destroy the original cut (although it may do just that), nor is it there to rewrite all of the DCEU’s lore.
In the end, Zack Snyder’s Justice League takes superhero cinema to a completely different level, working more as a piece of high art than just another comic book blockbuster. And I, for one, was absolutely blown away by what happens when a director like Snyder is given the opportunity to let his creativity run wild, trying and trying and trying again after the disappointments of the past to deliver something truly special.
Overall, there’s no denying that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is quite the masterpiece. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a totally unique piece of work the likes of which we’ve never seen (and may never again see) from a major studio.
It’s a testament to the director’s dedication and passion to this story, finally showcasing just what the film was meant to be when it was first released: a meaningful, exciting and unendingly bold production that really is one in a million. So, that’s why I’m giving Zack Snyder’s Justice League an 8.0.