MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, Karen Bryson, Kiersey Clemons, Peter Guinness, Amber Heard, Ciarán Hinds, Zheng Kai, Harry Lennix, Jared Leto, Joe Manganiello, Joe Morton, Marc McClure, Ray Porter/Runtime: 242 minutes
I think it is safe to say that the take from 2017 on the iconic superhero team that is DC’s version of Justice League was at the time of its release, and even to this day and most likely always will be, one of the worst fiascos to ever come from a major studio in the last 20 years. Coming into theaters outfitted with a mood and scope that in no way, shape, form, or fashion even lined up remotely with what original film helmer Zack Snyder had been setting himself up to showcase with the previous 2 slices of cinematic pie he had helmed for DC Extended Universe in the forms of Man of Steel in 2013 and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 respectively, the version of this slice of cinematic pie that we did get (courtesy of Joss Whedon taking over) became derided in equal measure by both professional reviewer and casual movie goer and in the process literally sent off the rails the plan that had been set up by DC/Warner Brothers and which a great many people, myself included dear reader, had seen as DC trying too hard to catch up to the work done by Marvel/Disney. Yet even in the middle of the nuclear bomb-size fallout that has ensued and the time that has passed since then we have learned more and more about what the film was SUPPOSED to have been to say nothing of some serious allegations made against Whedon by members of the 2017 version’s cast and crew and as a result a curious thing began to emerge. Namely a steadily rising number of both fans and crew from the first stab at this property began pushing back at DC and Warner Brothers to release what has come to be known as the “Snyder Cut” or rather just let Snyder finish and then subsequently release the vision of Justice League that he had wanted to make in the first place. This of course brings us dear reader at long last to the 2021 slice of cinematic pie that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the say-all, end-all viewing experience that endeavors to showcase just what it was that Snyder wanted to achieve with this film to begin with. With that being said I can honestly say that, upon seeing all 4 hours of this slice of cinematic pie, it was at the least worth waiting on all these years, but on the other side of the scale is a truly jaw-dropping and remarkable accomplishment that I feel is easily one of the better entries in the subsection of DC comic book adaptations put to celluloid in recent years. Yes those of you who are fans I can promise you that your fight and patience is about to be rewarded, but if you are someone who was on the fence about the DCEU from the beginning then I can also promise that this might just be the slice of cinematic pie to make you reconsider that notion…
The plot is as follows: In the aftermath of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman (Henry Cavill) has tragically perished, and the world is in dire peril. So it is during these dark times that, in part due to being haunted by visions of an apocalyptic future and also out of a sense of guilt for his part in the Man of Steel’s untimely demise, we see that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) has continued to investigate Earth’s meta humans. Unfortunately however, it isn’t long before Bruce’s visions in the last film start to become a frightening reality due to the extremely unwelcome arrival of an alien military officer known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his army of winged minions known as Parademons. They have been tasked by Steppenwolf’s lord if you will with the glorious purpose of hunting down three hidden devices known as Mother Boxes and using their combined power in the hope of conquering and then reshaping our world as they see fit. As he so doesn’t like or even wish to be a part of that alien agenda, we see that Batman along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) decides to recruits a speedster named Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a water-powered half-man, half-merman hybrid named Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), and a cybernetically enhanced young man named Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in an effort to form an uneasy and ragtag alliance to not only stop Steppenwolf and his nefarious plans, but also maybe just maybe to usher in a new age of heroes in the process….
Now right off the bat I guess I should note that Zack Snyder’s Justice League at its core is still the same slice of cinematic pie that the take from 2017 claimed to be (hence why I included my plot synopsis from my review of that 2017 debacle). As a result we see that the plot does still revolve around Superman being dead, the world in a state of hopelessness and peril, and Batman and Wonder Woman attempting to bring together a team of fellow superheroes in order to defend the Earth from the coming conflict with Steppenwolf and his Parademon army. Indeed that core narrative structure from what we were exposed to back in 2017 is still a part of this so therefore I guess you could argue that, by and large, this film is not all that different from what we saw before. With that being said however, there is a key distinguishing factor to be found here and that would have to be in regards to how that story is told this time around. Indeed with a jaw-dropping 4 hour duration, this slice of cinematic pie might appear to be quite the daunting viewing experience even to those who are diehard fans of any of the characters involved. Yet, upon seeing it, I feel that you really shouldn’t stress that much about how long this movie is. I say that because the additional levels of design, character information, and even groupings of tiny yet wonderful character moments help to ensure this is a truly grand movie. It also should come as no surprise to see yet again that Snyder is able to show us that his distinct cinematic vision is one that is best showcased when operating outside of the typical narrative construction as we see beautiful imagery merge wonderfully with a narrative that feels like a tribute to the myths told by the Ancient Greeks and Romans amongst other cultures. However, rather than just taking cues from notes made into popular ideas through cinema’s long and storied saga, this narrative takes the idea of the mythos told by the comics and presents it to audiences in such a manner that it gives a riveting vibe of being more like the myths that inspired the comics rather than the mythos in the comics themselves.
Now make no mistake dear reader: whist this is by and large still a major force in the world of movie magic’s superheroic slice of cinematic pie, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is also powerful evidence that the method that some, myself included, viewed as way too ambitious might have been on to something after all. As a result, we see that with the bigger runtime and scope this film is permitted to play with, we are actually given much welcome examples including Barry Allen utilizing his powers as The Flash a lot better than he did back in 2017 and the genuinely heartwrenching tragedy of Victor Stone’s metamorphosis into the organism that is Cyborg is given the proper amount of time to operate and in the process lay the seeds for his decision to both become a hero and accept his new-found sense of reality. Indeed instead of just merely glossing over or picking and choosing the pieces of these characters’ origins that are necessary for the story being told, the slice of cinematic pie that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League is actually able to organically insert the origin stories for these heroes into the framework of a team-up film. Yet it’s not just the new kids on the block at that time who get more in regards to depth and characterization as we see such iconic heroes as Batman, Wonder Woman, and (without going into too much detail) even the Man of Steel are given the chance to have arcs in this that are significantly more immersive than they were the last time. Heck even Lois Lane of all people is able to get a better arc in this narrative. No it is by no means as immersive as you might want it to be, but it is still leaps and bounds an improvement over what we got the last time. Plus if all of that is not enough to make you cheer and applaud, then you will be delighted to know that all moments of comedy and mustache eradication from the 2017 take have either been omitted or retooled to fit more seamlessly into the overall narrative. I also know that normally this would be where I mentioned certain performances that I enjoyed and what made them enjoyable, but honestly this is one slice of cinematic pie where I am going to make an exception and just tell you that every single performance in this is aces. Yes that sounds too good to be true, but try to understand dear reader: this is a unique situation where every single character that was mehhh in the first go-around has been improved to the umpteenth degree and every single character that was good in the first go-around has been made absolutely amazing. Oh and that’s not even covering the characters who are part of this take that weren’t part of the 2017 take and when it comes to them I think I will leave that to discover for yourself….can’t make things too easy after all…..
All in all I can honestly tell you dear reader that the ability to acquire a second chance to show how good it truly could be is not usually something that a slice of cinematic pie is able to acquire (unless that film is Blade Runner and its 3-4 minimum distinct cuts, but I digress). Thankfully when it comes to the long cooking slice of cinematic pie that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I can promise you that the second chance that this slice of cinematic pie was awarded was worth every single degree of fight that the fans utilized against Warner Brothers and DC in regards to giving it the time of day let alone releasing it in the first place. I say that because Zach Snyder’s Justice League really truly is a mesmerizing superheroic-fueled slice of cinematic pie that patiently threads together a narrative both about humanity and what being a hero is all about. Indeed with a distinct and seeable road for what is to come set up and better ties to what was once called the DCEU, I think there is a fairly good chance that the Snyderverse could actually pick up steam again should there be enough of a positive response to this slice of cinematic pie. Something that I feel is easily possible since even though the film ends in that dreaded “narrative corner” that the studio had cautioned viewers to expect, the slice of cinematic pie that is Zack Snyder’s Justice League still brings enough passion and just plain riveting entertainment value that I feel the vast majority of movie goers (to say nothing of the fans) should be quite satisfied. Oh and with all due respect to Warner Brothers and DC: I do wish you all the luck in the world in trying to maintain your stance that future films won’t come out of this one. I say that not only because the livened up story and the riveting seeds that are planted here for future consumption are most assuredly going to get the same fans who managed to get this revived like Superman in a Genesis Chamber fired up and ready to fight the good fight yet again, but because (as in the comics) there should always be room for new super pals to sign on the dotted line and join the team. Suffice it to say then that Justice League was supposed to change the game forever for DC Comics adaptations and now with the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, it has been able to accomplish that objective. Put another way dear reader: I think it is safe to say that at long last justice has finally been served. On a scale of 1-5 I give Zach Snyder’s Justice League “2021” a solid 4.5 out of 5