Review: ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Improves 2017 Theatrical Release

Mar 19, 2021, 6:39 AM | Updated: Jun 11, 2021, 7:16 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s extremely rare that fans get to see an honest-to-goodness do over on a movie.

Not a reboot, not a reimagining, not a prequel or sequel, but an actual “let’s-do-this-again-with-the-same-cast-and-footage-and-make-it-better-this-time.”  And yet that’s precisely what has happened for fans of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the other DC Comic superheroes of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” streaming now on HBO Max.

For those who are unaware or have forgotten, Warner Brothers studio originally released “Justice League” back in 2017.

It was a sequel to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” It was expected to do for DC Comics what “Avengers” did for Marvel — get all the big-name superheroes from their company together and make a lot of money.

Only … it didn’t.

The movie was very uneven because Zack Snyder, the original producer and director of the movie, left during production to deal with a family tragedy. The studio brought in Joss Whedon, the guy who directed the first two “Avengers” movies, to finish the project.

Whedon made significant changes to the story and tone of what Snyder had already done. When it came out, neither critics nor fans seemed to like it very much. Though I myself found it to be somewhat enjoyable, it certainly was a box office disappointment.

Almost immediately, fans began wondering if they’d ever get to see what the original version of the movie looked like, and they started a social media campaign to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut.

These kinds of efforts by fans don’t always work, but this time it did.

Now, here we are a little over three years later, and we actually do get to see what Zack Snyder originally wanted this movie to look like.

As someone who is a fan of comic books in general, and Superman in particular, I really enjoyed this new version of “Justice League.” I give Zack Snyder credit for improving pretty much everything he could improve.

The story is better and more fleshed out. Each of the heroes has a better character arc — particularly Ray Fisher as Cyborg, who finally gets a backstory and really shines this time around. Plus, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman just kicks butt once again and I love her portrayal of the character.

And I’ll never get tired of seeing a bunch of superheroes together on the big screen.

The big bad guy is still an alien named Steppenwolf, whose name makes me laugh every time and gets the song “Magic Carpet Ride” stuck in my head, but in Snyder’s hands he’s much more powerful and brutal — and he has a cooler suit of armor.

You also get to know his motivations better in this version than the 2017 film, and Snyder wisely makes Steppenwolf subservient to the true big bad — Darkseid.

But you have to balance out any and all of the good qualities of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” with several major drawbacks.

First is the fact that the movie is four hours long. Yes, four! It has as many endings as “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and it’s actually kind of a test of endurance to get through all of it. I’m honestly glad it’s on streaming because I could pause the movie and have dinner or use the bathroom or whatever else you might need to do.

And weirdly enough, the movie is presented in 4:3 screen format — you know, the old style square picture with black bars on the right and left sides — rather than the normal rectangular picture that fills the whole screen.  I’m not sure why Snyder chose to do this other than maybe he wants to put the whole movie on Instagram someday.

To be fair, you do get used to it pretty quickly and at least Snyder warns you with a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie so you don’t think your TV is busted or something.

You also may be surprised to find that it’s rated R for lots of comic book violence and blood, as well as language and a very bleak, almost hopeless tone. Snyder’s use of so many gray tones and muted colors add to that feeling.

Even though Superman is in this movie, I recommend you keep the kids away from this one. In fact, this movie seems to be made exclusively for grown-up fans, which kind of disappoints me because I personally think any movie that has Superman in it should be accessible to kids. Additionally, I can’t imagine there are many people who aren’t already fans of these superheroes who will want to invest the time it will take to watch this.

But a fan myself, I have to give credit where it’s due, and I give “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” 3 out of 4 stars.  I have no doubt I’ll be watching it again, despite its super-long run time.

As for where you can watch it, it’s streaming exclusively on HBO Max. If you have HBO with your cable or satellite subscription it includes access to HBO Max.  If not, you’ll have to pay the $14.99 a month subscription fee.

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Review: ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Improves 2017 Theatrical Release