Greetings Redmangoreaders. Editor Jules here. So last week Zack Snyder’s Justice League (ZSJL) premiered and it was the biggest moment in comic book films since Avengers: Endgame was released. Whether you liked it, loved it, or loathed it, there is no denying the massive impact this film has had on the fan community. And with a film this huge one review just wouldn’t cut it. So I have summoned the Trini Critics League to assist me in battle, figuratively speaking.
Well that’s quite enough tongue-wagging. With an Apokolips-sized SPOILER ALERT (seriously, if you haven’t watched it by now, what ARE you doing with your life?) here are four reviews of ZSJL:
Review #1 Wayne Rock, Guest Writer
It’s no secret that I’ve been a very vocal critic of Zack Snyder’s take on superheroes. After seeing his joyless take on Superman in Man of Steel, a movie which I have defended in the past but after subsequent viewings my mind has changed, and his utterly boring Batman v Superman, needless to say I went into his cut of Justice League with the lowest of expectations. Then, after the abysmal Josstice League in 2017, I thought that even if there were a Snyder Cut, it couldn’t be that much better than what we actually got. Maybe that is why I’m surprised to say I did not hate this film.
Now, that’s not to say I think it’s the masterpiece of cinema the legions of Snyderfans (who arguably made this film possible) think it is. Nor do I think it’s even Snyder’s best adaptive work (that honour still goes to 300). No, Zack Snyder’s Justice League still has a number of flaws. It’s overly long and indulgent, much of the exposition is clunky and delivered poorly, the colour palette is as Zack Snydery as ever—muddy, brown and desaturated to the point where colours become unrecognisable—and there is still some dumb stuff. That being said, even though I started watching this movie with my critic hat firmly on, after about two hours in I stopped taking notes and just started experiencing the film.
Much like BvS, the film starts very slow, but it’s actually paced better than Dawn of Justice, with bits of action peppered throughout so that the entire introduction is not just pretentious expository dialogue. And unlike BvS the setups actually pay off. With the exception of Wonder Woman, who is still an exposition machine here, the characters are given a lot more development, due mostly to the mammoth 4-hour runtime. In fact, the film is not very different from “Josstice League” from a narrative standpoint, but it’s clearly the product of a singular vision.
The visuals and shot compositions are seriously impressive at times, the action sequences are much better, character motivations make sense and ultimately the character personalities are consistent instead of flip flopping between ultra-serious and corny. The two standout characters are Cyborg and Flash, the former who has a complete story arc to eventually become the heart of the team, and the latter who is a better comedic relief and has arguably the best action set-piece in the movie. I still don’t like Snyder’s versions of Batman and Superman, but they work for the most part in this film and we can actually buy them as real people. Seeing the Justice League work together as a team without having them bicker first was refreshing, and there are some more intimate character moments that help to sell them as real people. Oh, and can we have more sassy Alfred please?
Unfortunately, even though Steppenwolf’s motivations are more fleshed out, he still isn’t a very good villain. And while Darkseid is an awesome addition, I was more interested in him than I ever was in Steppenwolf. I will say though that having characters actually injure Steppenwolf and put up a real fight before he overpowered them helped sell him as a real threat and not a whiney mama’s boy like he was in the theatrical release. Other things that didn’t work for me were the distracting aspect ratio (why?), Lois’ involvement in the story (if you can even call it that, she is just…there), the colour palette, Gal Gadot’s exposition (seriously, it sounds like she’s reading directly from the script), Zack Snyder’s tendency to take himself way too seriously, some weird editing choices and that awful Knightmare sequence tacked on at the end. Ultimately, if this film was a tighter three hours long instead of four I might have even considered watching it again. But as it stands, once is enough.
I judge superhero movies on a separate scale to other films, since they’re the junk food of the movie industry. Just like there’s really good junk food and terrible junk food (kale chips anyone?) Zack Snyder’s superhero movies are pretentious junk food. And while his version of Justice League is certainly a more cohesive vision, I still won’t consume it more than once.
Wayne’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
Review #3 Matthew Bailey, Guest Writer
Let’s make one thing clear—the trilogy of films made by writer/director Zack Snyder for the DC Extended Universe (2013’s Man of Steel, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and yes, this year’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League) will go down as three of the most divisive comic book movies in film history. Man of Steel, the first film in the DCEU (and a movie I still defend, mainly for its modernised, slightly non-traditional take on the iconic Superman character) drew praise from some viewers and criticism from others, mainly for the same reason I still defend the movie. Batman v Superman had its defenders when its theatrical cut was released, and has since grown a cult following since the Ultimate Cut (i.e. director’s cut) came out on home media. As someone who saw the little potential it possessed when I first saw it, I’ve grown to despise BvS due to its convoluted and ultimately pointless story, bludgeoning musical score, pathetic attempt at laying the foundation for the Justice League, utterly DISAPPOINTING fight between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight, and its unintentionally mean-spirited and bafflingly joyless approach to its subject matter.
2017’s Justice League saw Snyder and Warner Bros attempting to live up to their promise of an official, long-awaited equivalent to Marvel Studios’ The Avengers. However, a huge personal setback forced Snyder to leave the production, and Avengers director Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the film. Long story short, Snyder’s vision was “Whedon-ized” into an incredibly flawed but passable film, and though many viewers (myself included) were fair to the final product, we still wondered how the film itself would’ve played out if Snyder stayed on board.
Which brings us to the official, long-awaited Zack Snyder’s Justice League, or as #ReleaseTheSnyderCut supporters will continue to call it, Justice League: The Snyder Cut. Like the great director’s cuts of yesteryear, this definitive, 4-hour version of Justice League presents Snyder’s original vision for the film. The story’s still the same—Batman and Wonder Woman seek out Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg to form a team, and also resurrect Superman, in an attempt to defeat Steppenwolf, an alien warlord bent on destroying Earth. But in this version, new scenes (a few of which were purposefully re-shot) and a new score from BvS co-composer Junkie XL were added to the film, along with more character development and backstories, a six-chapter (with prologue and epilogue) format and an appropriate R rating for its language and non-graphic but still pretty violent content.
ZSJL is one of the most fascinating director’s cuts I’ve seen in years, not because of its length and epic scope, but the bold and incredibly smart decision by Snyder and Warner Bros. to release a 4-hour cinematic experience (initially meant to be a 4-part miniseries) on a streaming platform (HBO Max) at a time, for better or worse, when binge-watching TV shows and seasons have become part of our media-consuming regimen. Speaking of length, its runtime is both the film’s biggest strength and weakness. Yes, we get more visually, emotionally and narratively satisfying scenes, and yes, we do get some admirable and oftentimes captivating moments of characterisation, from Cyborg and the Flash to Superman and Steppenwolf (the DCEU’s most underwhelming villain now has two dimensions, thanks to this movie). But you really do FEEL the length of the film (for me, this took place after the third hour) and it will make or break one’s overall enjoyment of it.
And even though I had a few issues (forgettable musical choices, periodic moments of spotty VFX, dialogue either poorly written or delivered, hole-poking narrative decisions, Steppenwolf STILL being the DCEU’s most underwhelming villain), I found myself truly enjoying and admiring Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Along with its numerous moments of visual and emotional splendor, my enjoyment came from seeing the time and effort put into crafting the most competently-told superhero team story thus far in the DCEU. My admiration, however, came from seeing Snyder apply the directing techniques (from scene composition to comic-book-styled colour palettes to stylised slow-motion and staging of grandiose action sequences) he developed since 2007’s 300 into this film without losing sight of the story he wants to tell and the emotions he wants you to feel.
While it’s not a perfect film, ZSJL gave me what I had hoped to see from the theatrical cut, and more. It’s leagues (see what I did there?) better than Batman v Superman and the Whedon-ised Justice League combined. And with more viewings, I can easily see this being one of my go-to DCEU movies. I also see the film’s greatness, or even its “goodness” (SPOILER ALERT), being debated for years to come—or until The Suicide Squad comes out later this year and we forget the Snyder Cut came out this year. But whether you like, love or loathe the film (hey, he stole my line), you have to respect the filmmaker in front of it and his vision finally being realised. After all, his name’s on the title for a reason.
Matthew’s Score: 8 out or 10 (light to decent 4 out of 5 stars <see this movie>)
Review #3 Sommerleigh Pollonias, RMR Senior Writer
I’ll start by saying I’m happy for Zack Snyder. While we’ve seen director cuts in the past, it’s a truly rare thing that was accomplished here. He had the studio’s and his cast’s support to finish his film Justice League the way he wanted to. That said, while I have enjoyed some of Snyder’s films in the past, I’ve never been a fan of his version of the DC Universe, and his vision of these characters and those feelings haven’t changed with my viewing of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
While I did enjoy some elements like the extended action sequences, all of which were very well-executed (my favourites are the Amazons vs Steppenwolf and the final act culminating in Flash giving us a glimpse at a possible Flashpoint) and I also appreicated seeing a fully-realised Cyclops, Flash and even to a lesser extent, Steppenwolf, the issues that have always plagued his films are still there.
I don’t like the dark, somewhat washed-out colour scheme. Don’t get me wrong; I HATED the colour correction work Whedon did in the theatrical version, but the muted colours here are just as bad. This is a colorful world and I want to see that on screen. Then dialogue and line delivery in some scenes also felt like I was watching a first take, instead of something that had been tweaked where it needed to be. And of course, we have the moments that just didn’t need to be there. Lois has always been treated like a red-headed step child in Snyder’s films and almost like an appendage to Clark Kent/Superman instead of a truly fleshed-out person, and that error isn’t fixed nor improved upon here. For a character that’s supposed to be so integral to his story (based on what we’ve seen) you would think Snyder would put a bit more effort and screen time into her. But once again poor Amy Adams doesn’t get to do much but be sad and wait longingly on her man.
We also have the Martian Manhunter showing up for no other reason than fan service. Don’t get me wrong; MM is and always will be one of my top five favourite DC characters, but his first appearance here made little to no sense, not to mention his very being in this world throws massive plot holes at Man of Steel, a film that is already problematic on its own, without adding questions like “If Jon Jonzz was there at that time, why the hell didn’t he help Superman?”
The humour has been dialled down to almost zero in this movie with most of the laughs coming from Ezra Miller as Flash while Aquaman is once again relegated to being no more than a surfer dude version of Khal Dhrogo. It’s impossible not to compare his personality here to that of James Wan’s Aquaman. I don’t care which one came first, I just know which version I like better.
I could go on forever picking this film apart, pointing out what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. With a runtime of four hours, there’s a whole lot to discuss, and I’m sure videos and articles analysing this movie are going to be flowing steadily for some time. So I’ll just wrap up here by saying, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is very much an improvement on the version released in cinemas. I would be lying if I said I hated it. But while I did find much I liked, I also felt this movie didn’t need to be this long, had flaws in its choices of music, dialogue, plot and even in the removal of some moments I thought worked well in the theatrical version (“Save one”). I’m glad for Snyder, who seems like a genuinely nice person, but I’m also glad this is over and done with and I for one look forward to a DC Extended Universe with a lot more colour and a little less slow motion.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
Review #4 Julien Neaves, RMR Editor
Someone stop the hype train because I need to get off! *Train screeching noises* Thank you. Now firstly I have to apologise to all you folks who kept calling for the Snyder Cut over the years. I found you guys annoying and never thought it would happen. But it did and we got a pretty good movie out of it, so you guys can “take win” as we say in Trinidad. Now you will notice I said “pretty good” and not a “masterpiece” or “the greatest comic book ever” as I have seen thrown around quite liberally. Pump your breaks their folks.
Now this is the most Zack Synder-iest film ever, for better and a bit for the worse. The director’s greatest talents lay in his ability to craft stunning visuals and deliver awesome slow motion action set pieces. And ZSJL features some stunning visuals, including that lovely overhead shot of Lois Lane laying flowers on the Superman tribute and that trippy Cyborg virtual sequence. Some of the music paired with those visuals, however, were just kinda odd or too on-the-nose like that ballad during the Aquaman scene. It felt like Zack just paired some scenes to his iPod playlist. But I have zero complaints about the action set pieces as these were some of the best comic book action I have ever seen put that screen. Did you see that Wonder Woman opening scene? Damn! The climactic battle was also pretty awesome. The only thing I would have wanted is the flashback battle with the Amazons, Atlantians gods, Lantern and men versus the Apokolips army to last just a bit longer. Okay, so I have one complaint. Sue me.
And speaking of the epic battle, did Darkseid have to get taken out like such a punk. He got one axe to the chest and had to be dragged away like a wounded dog. I have heard people saying this is not THE Darkseid but him in his pre-Darkseid form Uxas. Well they never made that clear in the movie so I am just going off on what I saw. And what I saw demystified this DC big bad a lot and made him seem like much less of a threat. I think just a glimpse of him at the end would have been sufficient to whet fans’ appetites. But for this version of Darkseid seemed less than intimidating. And now on to his subordinate Steppenwolf. I will admit he did look cooler and he featured in some much better fight scenes. When he chopped that one Amazon in half I was like DANG! And kudos to the Snyde one for attempting to give him some background. But I still felt no sympathy for the character and he fell almost as flat in the previous film. I did prefer his death scene here though. Head’s up beyotch! And is it just me or did the Parademons get a visual downgrade? They just looked kinda goofy to me and less intimidating.
In terms of the Justice League members, it was a bit of mixed bag. Cyborg definitely got a major upgrade (no pun intended) and some much-needed fleshing out, though his dad’s big sacrifice felt very contrived. Flash remained the comic relief but we got that super cool Iris rescue scene and the epic climax, so I felt he was used much better. He still runs weird though. And why didn’t run with the hostages instead of running and telling them to hurry up? That made no sense. Wonder Woman did not have much of an arc though, and Aquaman had even less of an arc. Snyder cut out a couple of his quips from the first film but he really feels like he is just there. And Snyder couldn’t do the whole accepting-his-destiny storyline so we got a lite and watered-down version of that (and yes, pun intended there). I was also disappointed by man Bats. You know the scene when Alfred tells him a guy brooding in a cave shouldn’t be the one to bring a superhero team together. And he was right! This is the same lighter Batman from the first film with his jokes about his superpower being rich. Where is the super dark Batman from Batman v Superman? The Dark Knight had some improved action scenes but the characterisation did not work for me. Supes lost the silly CGI lip but other than the black suit and some minor changes this is exactly what we got before. And anyone else found it weird that we got no origin of the black suit and no one commented on it? It was like, “Here’s your fan service, bob bye!”
And speaking of Supes, did we need all those scenes of Lois missing Clark? Yeah. She misses him terribly. We got that two scenes ago. And the scene where Martian Manhunter pretends to be Mrs Kent to console her? What the hell was that? All emotional impact was undercut by him being Martian Manhunter. In this four-hour movie Snyder couldn’t have found anywhere else to put him? Literally anywhere else would have worked better. And the scene has no impact on the narrative other than to set up Martian Manhunter’s return at the end of the film. One of the drawbacks of complete creative control is there is no to tell you about killing your darlings. And there were several scenes where some cuts would have made things tighter and flow better. Remember the scene where the woman sings for Aquaman after he leaves? There is no pay-off for that later on. It is just there. And while the above-mentioned Cyborg virtual scene was visually impressive it felt like it went on forever. The Knightmare stuff was cool and Jared Leto did a lot to redeem himself as Joker, but it is all set-up for a film or films that may never happen. So yeah, if Snyder was a bit more restrained the film could have been about half and hour shorter and worked even better.
And you know how people have spent years crapping all over Joss Whedon and his “Josstice League” for years? Well, the skeleton of that film is the same as ZSJL. Sure Snyder chopped a few cringey moments, tweaked some things and added several scenes for context, the same beats are here. And the story is just an okay one. I strongly suspect that if Snyder had completed the film and forced to confine it to two hours then it would not have been that different from the much maligned original version. Where Whedon dropped the ball was the inconsistency of tone. With ZSJL Snyder maintains the mostly bleak tone throughout. And thanks to some fantastic visuals and action he delivers a very entertaining film. But a perfect one? No. Though as I said before there are people who were always going to declare this greatest comic book film ever. After calling for this film for so many years there is no way they will admit that it is anything less. But nothing’s wrong with a very good but flawed film. And I think we all should be satisfied with that. #RestoretheSnyderverse. Hey! Who put that there?! Dagnabbit. And so it begins again…
Editor Jules’s Score: 7 out of 10
So how would you rate ZSJL? For Editor Jules’s ranking of Zack Snyder films you can click here. Or for Senior Writer Sommer’s review of animated film Justice League Dark: Apokolips War you can click here. Or for the Trini Critics League collab reviews of Avengers: Endgame you can click here.
Very special thanks to our guest reviewers Wayne Rock and Matthew Bailey. Here is where you can find the members of the Trini Critics League:
*Wayne Rock is at RockLee Productions on YouTube
*Matthew Bailey is at Beers, Beats and Bailey on Apple podcasts and Waz D Scene on YouTube. You can check out his three-part ZSJL collab podcast at the following links: PART 1 Zack Snyder and his contribution to the DCEU https://youtu.be/ewgNJ79uZ6A; PART 2 The movie’s prologue and 6 chapters: https://youtu.be/qFD1RoWOMS0; and PART 3 The movie’s epilogue/Final thoughts and rating:https://youtu.be/M7wWtmdOrjE
* Sommerleigh Pollonais runs RMR’s Horror section and is also at MovieJunkie ForLife on YouTube and Moviejunkies Cont’d on YouTube
* Julien Neaves (Me) can also be found at Movieville on Facebook and running the RMR Facebook page.