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Film Review: Zack Snyder's Justice League

21 March 21 words: Jamie Morris

The director’s cut of DC Comics’ superhero team-up is four hours of wacky, over-the-top fun, writes Screen section co-editor Jamie Morris...

Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill
Running time: 242 minutes

For a long time, it felt like the director’s cut of Justice League was doomed to join the ranks of Tim Burton’s Superman Lives and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 as just another scrapped superhero movie that would never see the light of day. Following creative differences and a family tragedy, director Zack Snyder exited the project and his original vision for the DC Comics pantheon was disfigured by severe cuts and re-shoots. 

The end result was mostly innocuous cape ‘n’ cowl fare, albeit hollow and undaring, as if it had been scrubbed of anything that could be considered too risky. Four years and an extra $70 million later, fans' pleas to “release the Snyder Cut” have been answered, with the whopping four-hour version of the film completed and made available to stream—but was a doubled running time really the remedy Justice League needed?

First of all, this is a very silly film and not one to be taken completely seriously. The tone is set from the get-go, with the opening scene depicting Clark Kent’s death cry from Batman v Superman echoing around the globe and awakening three ancient magic boxes. What follows is an abundance of slow-mo set pieces and cheesy needle-drops, all coated in Snyder’s signature grimdark veneer. 

Yet, there’s something to be said for the director’s commitment to bringing all the big ideas of a nineties’ superhero comic to the screen. Snyder’s approach is self-indulgent and certainly won’t be to everybody’s tastes, but it’s still a lot of fun for those who are willing to immerse themselves in his universe. There’s often whiplash between big-grin-good and eye-roll-bad, but for the most part it’s wacky and zealous enough for the four hours to zip by at a surprisingly decent pace.

A great deal of passion has clearly been poured into making it feel like one giant reward for everyone who has enjoyed Zack Snyder’s previous work

The plot is broadly the same as the 2017 version, but much more room has been given to develop characters who were sidelined in the theatrical cut. Most notable of these is Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg, who in many ways feels like the protagonist this time around as we see him learn to live with immense abilities that become crucial to the overall story. Barry Allen, the Flash, is also promoted from solely comic relief to a fully-fledged character.

That’s not to say that the full 242 minutes had to be included uncut, however. In particular, there’s quite a bit of clunky set-up for a sequel that’s (probably) never going to get made, and several scenes don’t justify their existence beyond being included as deleted scenes in a Blu-Ray release. The film’s epilogue is the main culprit of this, where we jump to a shoehorned post-apocalyptic sequence that undermines the triumph of the final battle mere moments prior. 

Still, the film still works both as a standalone piece and as the conclusion to the trilogy that Snyder began with Man of Steel. A great deal of passion has clearly been poured into making it feel like one giant reward for everyone who has enjoyed Zack Snyder’s previous work and in some ways, any review—be it positive or negative—feels a little redundant. Let’s face it: anyone who reads the words “four-hour Justice League epic from the director of BvS” is going to know exactly whether they personally feel it’s worth their time or not. This film’s very existence is a testament to risk-taking and making something a lot of people are going to loathe, but just as many are going to love. You can’t please everybody, but Snyder was never trying to.

Did you know? Zack Snyder dedicated Justice League to his daughter, Autumn, who took her own life in March 2017. A billboard for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention appears in the film.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is available on NOW and Sky Cinema

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