By Drake Vittitow
If I could put into words how monumental “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is for the movie industry, then I could maybe do this review justice, but I cannot.
Instead, I will talk about the journey that this film took until its eventual full 2021 release.
When this movie was in production, Zack Snyder’s (the first director) daughter committed suicide, which forced Snyder to step away from the project. Warner Brothers decided to bring in Joss Whedon, who directed the first “Avengers” movie.
Needless to say, when Whedon’s version of “Justice League” was released in 2017, it was a critical and commercial failure. Snyder’s vision was bastardized into a run-of-the-mill superhero movie with cringy comedy and uninspired characters.
Fast-forward to 2020. The hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut reaches millions of people, and the pressure is forced upon Warner Brothers to release Snyder’s original vision for the movie. On May 20, Snyder announces that Warner Brothers greenlit his original version and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is released on March 18 exclusively to HBO Max.
The movie’s premise is simple: a big bad being from another universe invades Earth, and Batman must recruit superheroes from around the globe.
Having watched both versions, I can wholeheartedly say that they are two completely different movies. Besides the two hours of added footage, the biggest change is the characterizations that are titular heroes receive.
For example, in the original JL, Cyborg is given no backstory, which results in the audience not caring about him enough in the end.
In the new version, Cyborg is given 20 minutes of backstory as well as The Flash, which is extremely helpful in the audience connecting with the characters.
Warner Brothers squeezed the original JL runtime down to two measly hours, and that was one of the biggest complaints I had about a team-up movie. Just look at the Avengers movies. “Infinity War” has two hours and 40 minutes of runtime, and “Endgame” has three hours of runtime. When there are movies with tons of characters, movies need these extended runtimes to tell a unique and fleshed-out story.
ZSJL clocks in at a whopping four hours.
The extended runtime also gives a much-needed breath of life to the main villain, Steppenwolf. With ZSJL, we are given a more direct look at the motivations of Steppenwolf and why he is scouring Earth to collect the mother boxes. The mother boxes, when combined, give the wielder immense power.
Steppenwolf is searching for mother boxes to prove to his master, Darkseid, that he is worthy of being by his side again after failing a previous mission.
Darkseid is my favorite villain of all time, and seeing him in ZSJL brought out the fanboy in me. Think Thanos with the infinity gauntlet but ten times stronger.
There are many fun easter eggs nestled in the film as well, with the biggest being the inclusion of Martian Manhunter, a being from Mars who eventually joins the Justice League in the comics. We also see an extended dialogue with Batman and The Joker (played by Jared Leto) in one of Batman’s nightmares. We are also introduced to Deathstroke, a mercenary who Lex Luger hires to hunt the Bat.
I could go on and nitpick the small flaws with this movie, but I will not do that. I think this movie’s purpose is that the creative teams behind movies should have the final say, not the business executives. ZSJL was initially a trilogy, but this appears to be Snyder’s last outing with DC and his Snyderverse. As of my writing of this, the hashtag “RestoreTheSnyderverse” is trending on Twitter. Will we see a repeat of history with Zack Snyder given free rein to finish his vision?
Only time will tell.
As for now, I think it is safe to say we will see a tonal shift in the power held by the creative teams of movies, and I think that is a win unto itself.