Three years ago, a team of superheroes united on the big screen. The Justice League, DC Comics iconic team, made their debut in the 2017 blockbuster that continued the events of Man of Steel and Batman v.Superman: Dawn of Justice. It should have been a triumphant moment for the filmmakers and fans alike, but the final product ended up being nothing more than a beautiful lie. After director Zack Snyder left the project due to a personal tragedy, the studio tried to make its release date by hiring Joss Whedon (director of Marvel’s Avengers) to finish the project. What transpired was an altered version of the movie that was met with both criticism and controversy. Now, thanks to the efforts of Release the Snyder Cut movement, Justice League has been restored as Zack Snyder returned to the director’s chair to finish what he started. Though this director’s cut did not debut in theaters, it did however find its way to viewers thanks to WB’s streaming service HBO Max. Trying to watch the film was an adventure in of itself for me, but after several delays I was able to see this massive blockbuster. While I am not a major detractor of the theatrical cut (though it has not aged well for me) I will definitively state that not only is Zack Snyder’s Justice League the superior version, it is one of the best superhero movies ever made.
The story follows Batman (Ben Affleck) who, alongside Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), have to assemble a team of superpowered beings to face the impending invasion led by the monstrous Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). In retrospect the theatrical cut followed the footnotes of what was intended, and it ultimately falter in its execution. After seeing this tale in its entirety, the plot of Justice League was nothing short of an epic. The first half the story does an outstanding job setting up both the characters and the stakes; while the second part was a spectacular adventure. A surprising factor to this plot was its structure and its astounding execution. Despite being over four hours, the plot never wavers as its sense of pacing prevented this extensive story from dragging on. Along with being engaging, the plot was a culmination that brought things into focus. The story that began in Man of Steel came full circle in this film and the events of this plot marked a new beginning (so to speak) in this chapter of the DCEU. With its thematic nature and sense of adventure, the scope of Justice League was fantastic as it captured the feeling of a major event seen in comics and some of the biggest films to grace the silver screen.
The cast of Justice League was the embodiment of an ensemble. Each member of the league brought something to the film; whether it was establishing new progression for Batman and Wonder Woman, or starting the development of Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Aquaman (Jason Momoa). The direction of Barry Allen and Victor Stone in particular was good as their characters were far more rounded than they were in 2017 film. In Aquaman’s case, though his development was minimal, his role cemented the group as his grounded behavior was a way to keep the team honest. When it came to the Man of Steel, Superman (Henry Cavill) brought a strong role to the group despite his limited screen time. Along with a strong principal cast was an equally as impressive group of supporting characters. From Alfred (Jeremy Irons) to Hippolyta (Connie Neilson) each supporting character brought something to film; and even the most minor role felt important to the movie. A notable supporting player was of course Lois Lane (Amy Adams) whose grief of losing Clark was an appreciated direction for her, and it helped establish the importance of Superman’s character. When it came to the villains, the likes Steppenwolf was a commendable threat while Darkseid (Ray Porter) was simply imposing-even with his brief time on screen. With some surprising appearances (like a certain clown prince of crime), this cast was nothing short of impressive and it truly personified a cast for a superhero film.
When it came to the likes of visuals and music, Justice League was sound in its delivery. The visuals, while some were better than others, were effective in capturing the film’s spectacle. The cinematography was also impressive as it complimented the film’s tone and gave it a look worthy of any comic book movie. The music by Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) was a formidable soundtrack. While some tracks could be a bit excessive, the variety and grandeur in this score was dynamic and it showed the extensive style in Holkenborg’s work. When it came to the action, Justice League was as exciting as they come. From the massive battles to the superpowered fights, the action to this blockbuster was everything I could hope for and a little bit more. The final battle was particularly notable, especially when compared to the theatrical cut, as it was gripping and utilized all the characters appropriately. All of these factors were vital in capturing the movie’s tone which encompassed the delightful and thematic elements of the superhero genre.
It took some time but the Justice League have finally arrived. What started as typical superhero film has become a masterpiece of a movie that, in this Film Adventurer’s opinion, is Snyder’s best work to date. While some issues could be found, they were trivial when it came to the movie’s presentation as its strong delivery in story, characters and spectacle has cemented this blockbuster as a pivotal film in the foundation of the DCEU. Regardless of what the future might bring, I humbly take my hat off to Zack Snyder and everyone involved as Justice League is not just a defining superhero movie, but it is undoubtedly a true cinematic experience.