Zack Snyder’s Justice League is Somewhat Better than the 2017 Cut, but still Fundamentally Flawed in Countless Ways

Zack Snyder finds redemption in a better movie but still demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the characters, storytelling, pacing, and beyond.

REVIEW SUMMARY

Story
Acting
Visuals
Plot Pacing
Ezra Miller
Understanding of the Characters
CGI
Length

TLDR

Snyder's melodrama can be easily misinterpreted for depth and darkness, especially by the uninitiated legions of fans that will blindly support Snyder for the sake that he has been handed the keys to the DC castle by Warner Bros. But in the end, behind the mountains of layered CGI is nothing more than an awkward obsession with six-pack abs, blue hues in nearly every scene, and a fundamental misunderstanding of nearly every character in the Justice League.

If it weren't for Snyder's upbringing by Heavy Metal Magazine, perhaps we would have gotten a director that has respect for what Batman, Superman, and the other DC heroes stand for rather than a hyper-focused perspective that can't be swayed away from making things look cool, in place of making plot sense.

Snyder clearly has a style that is on its own, but perhaps it would help if he actually picked up a comic book at some point and read about these characters he is so hellbent on trying to turn into roided-out, stoic cardboard cutouts with no personality that lack any type of character development, or sense of chemistry between one another.

The Snyder Cut would have been better off as a six-part mini-series rather than a four-hour movie filled to the brim with countless scenes that go nowhere, backstory details that do nothing to further the plot, and a curious focus on Lois Lane and her coffee addiction.

All in all, the Snyder Cut is indeed a better, more fluid movie than the 2017 theatrical release, but the fluidity is about as slow as molasses. And despite being leagues better than its predecessor, no one with a truly objective view will be able to justify a higher score than a C- or C at best.

Mr. Snyder, you had four years to get this right, a $70 million dollar budget, and four hours to tell a decent story. How could you still fail to deliver after all of that working to your advantage?

Zack Snyder has had a rough go of things since he took over the reins to oversee the DC Cinematic Universe, otherwise referred to as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU for short). Most reviews for his films have been mixed at best, and the 2017 cut is no exception. However, we all know that there were many hands involved in that version of the film thanks to excessive executive and corporate meddling from WB and Joss Whedon’s take-over after Snyder went through a family tragedy.

Now, four years later and four hours long, Zack Snyder’s original vision has come to fruition in what is being referred to as Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Having debuted earlier this week on the HBO Max streaming service, I sat down on Thursday to watch what I would have expected to be a stellar and phenomenal version of the film we all hoped Justice League would be. And while I will say that the ZS Cut is leagues better than the 2017 Cut, there are some serious issues with Snyder’s vision for characters he still, after four years, doesn’t understand in the slightest.

During my viewing of ZS’s JL, I decided to do things a little differently. Unlike any other review before, I thought my approach would have to reflect a clear, in-the-moment first impression, and to do that, I took notes throughout the entire film. Of course, I only jotted down things that popped in my head that I felt were worth expressing and possibly acknowledging. This lead to a stark contrast between what I liked and what I disliked which eventually tallied up to be far more dislikes.

One of the main things that viewers need to prepare themselves for is that Snyder is back again with many of his typical approaches to cinema- scenes that go on way too long, scenes that go nowhere at all, and many unnecessarily meticulous details are focused on while the broader and central plot gets pushed back until midway through this four-hour film. His hyper-focus on setting up shots to look cool with rippling muscles and slow-mo, completely dwarf any character development, proper plot progression and pacing, and really hold the movie hostage unto itself.

I have never felt like a movie was too slow and too fast at the same time. Somehow, Snyder accomplishes this in a fashion that many will choose to ignore simply because of their undying devotion to the characters they hold so dear in their hearts.

What you find below will be my notes, in order, as they came into my mind while I was watching. Again, I find that the circumstances around this movie and its development and redevelopment are unlike anything we have ever seen in our lives with a massive blockbuster film, so an unconventional approach was greatly needed. It’s kind of like live-tweeting the movie.

Lastly, I also feel it is important to acknowledge that these are spoilers, breakdowns, assessments, criticisms, and curiosities that contain spoilers so if you do not want to have anything ruined for you, then read no further. If you have seen it, or don’t care, then proceed with at least caution.

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My first thought was that the 4:3 aspect ratio for at-home viewing. Not a big deal, and in the first 30 minutes you forget that it is there. Some people may have larger gripes about it but it was all right.

But let’s start at the beginning. And be advised that I absolutely do nitpick the shit out of this movie. After four years, I believe every fan is entitled to do so.

Part 1

Batman shows up in an Icelandic village that will look familiar to you from the 2017 cut. Here, Aquaman is praised like some sort of God. What feels so inconsistent here is that Arthur Curry is dedicated to helping this village but not the whole world. His hesitation is irrational and unexplainable, regardless of his struggles with trusting people.

It is clear that Zack Snyder loves to see Jason with his shirt off to show those rippling pecs. Something that the Icelandic women seem to love when they awkwardly sniff a guy’s sweater and sing to exhaustion as he swims away into the cold water with only his Levi’s on.

Wonder Woman’s intro was way too long. We didn’t need to see the bad guy’s plot play out with so much detail. It should’ve been a bank heist or something quick that cops can’t handle and wonder woman jumps in and handles them instantly. This felt like an intro for her own movie, something that came after Justice League, to begin with. The slow pacing of this scene didn’t really fit the larger narrative that is being focused on.

Wonder Woman blocking all the bullets felt way too fan-servicey. Any hero wouldn’t wait to just show off like that. She would have jumped in and ended the guy or put him down without a second thought before the guy could pull the trigger, especially considering how fast she is. Letting him shoot that much and even switch ammo was reckless and stupid for a hero like her. This wouldn’t be so bad if this were her own solo movie, but Snyder, who shows a fundamental misunderstanding of all these heroes. Acknowledge that this looked cool, but then ask yourself if this is something that makes rational sense.

Sidenote: In the MCU movies, starting with 2008’s Iron Man, Nick Fury shows up at the end to recruit Tony Stark. Each movie henceforth leads into the bigger and larger threat with logical and rational attempts to recruit heroes who want to help and save the earth. In the DCEU, no one wants to work together, no one wants to save the world, no one wants to help. But then, why does Arthur Curry hell the Icelandic people? Because they are more important than the world?

Heading to Themyscira, my first thought is that the Amazon uniforms seem a little odd as well. Their armor looks more sexy than practical for combat but I’m not a historian so maybe that is accurate armor for a female, but I doubt it.

More slow-motion with Amazon’s that makes very little sense. It’s just women with crazy ab muscles wearing metal bikinis that smash wood with a hammer. The slow-motion in this scene was not only unnecessary, but it also slowed the momentum of the suspense taking place.

Also, the lack of technological advances by the Amazons always bothered me. I understand why they are set in their ancient ways, it has worked well enough for them so far. But there needs to be a time where you think about progress forward. You’ve got aliens who can fly that use space magic and the Amazon’s just use normal wood arrows and try to get away by normal horses. Like, where did they expect to go? Their sanctuary that held the mother box was destroyed. Also, the Amazon who got crushed by the horse… like, aren’t Amazons supposed to be strong? Lift that off yourself. Or, I dunno, one of the many other Amazonians couldn’t lift it off?

Part 2

An Amazon refers to Steppenwolf as having “gone back to his universe”. The universe is all containing. She should’ve said “galaxy”, but then immediately in the next scene, he’s in Russia or Istanbul or whatever. So like, what?

When the arrow of Artemis is fired into the temple, it’s blocked off by authorities. However, Diana manages to not only just casually stroll in to take it in the middle do the afternoon while wearing street clothes, but she also fires an arrow back to her Themyscira from the same spot without being seen. Then finds a hidden passage that opens out to a sort of catacomb filled with ancient paintings that tell her that Darkseid is coming. Something Batman already knew and already tried to tell her and Aquaman. What’s the point of this scene?

When we do eventually get back to Aquaman, we once again see him rip his shirt off in slow-motion to some song that is out of place before diving into the ocean. My gf was sitting next to me and says “this guy looks like Maui from Moana. And why does he even bother wearing clothes if he’s just going to take them off all the time to go swim in the cold ocean?” Of course, Arthur can’t take his pants off because then his Atlantean junk would show and we can’t have that.

As we watch Aquaman dive into the ocean toward Atlantis, he once again appears in an air bubble to speak for some reason. This happens sometimes in the Aquaman solo flick, but it’s often not needed as Atlanteans can speak and breathe without them so I fail to see the point of this when it happens. This scene seems to be divided between desperately wanting to be a part of Aquaman’s solo film, and being forced into Justice League against its will.

I just want to add that Steppenwolf looks like that toy you find at Sharper Image with all the pins that you place your hand and face against to leave an imprint. Not a fan of that redesign.

I get the feeling that Zack Snyder misunderstands what “galaxy” and “universe” means. He keeps using the term universe when I think he means galaxy. But maybe some iteration of Darkseid and Steppenwolf live in another dimension. I don’t know, it’s never explained, as a story probably should if it wants to make sense.

When we finally see Darkseid, he looks very heavily CGI’d. But it’s fine, whatever. Didn’t hate it, but wasn’t impressed.

The mother box explanation during this scene was absurd. Turning the planet into copies of the user’s homeworld. Seems a little underwhelming.

Stoked to see 300’s Leonidas in the role of Ares during this fight sequence. Glad Snyder saw fit to allow him to come back.

Those arrows and blasts made Darkseid look like a bitch.

The blood was an interesting touch. I didn’t hate that, but it seemed pretty gratuitous. Like everyone had the structural integrity of a water balloon

Probably would have made more sense for Zeus to just take all the mother boxes to the homeworld of the gods. Especially since the humans just dug a three-foot hole and dropped the box in like they were burying the family dog in their backyard.

Part 3

When we finally get to Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen, easily my most favorite character, I don’t like his intro as some neurotic spazz. It doesn’t fit the character at first and it was tolerable in the Whedon cut but it’s a bit much in this one. Also, the blue lightning is cool, but they should’ve done with his signature yellow. RIP Barry’s shoes. This was the best use of the slow-mo CGI, though. It makes sense from a plot point of view and from a visual perspective.

Love how Barry took the hot dog first. I laughed out loud at that.

And the dog thing with the meat snack was also funny. Despite the neuroticism, I’m completely cool with this interpretation of the character. Miller has great comedic timing and is a strong actor and overall, it works very well for him.

And we return to Victor Stone, a character who might get a recast in any future films due to taking to Twitter and airing out all of his grievances with WB, DC, JW, and the feds who investigated a case he opened regarding mistreatment on at. This is perhaps the only character who doesn’t need a solo film, simply because he’s the byproduct of the mother boxes technology. So it makes sense that he would get his backstory fleshed out in Justice League. It’s a bummer that Fisher seems to be too melodramatic for his own good because he’s fairly enjoyable to watch as Victor Stone in DCEU and WB aren’t likely to bring him back in the future. He could, and I hope he does return, but it’s looking rather grim.

During Vic’s origin sequence, we are only 1.5 hours into the movie. The main plot hasn’t even really picked up steam yet. It’s just forcing all of the character origins into one movie because WB was too lazy to give everyone their own films beforehand. It’s amazing how Justice League feels so rushed but also so slow at the same time. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

Super nice of Vic to break the law for that woman, though.

Returning back to Barry, as he is speaking to his incarcerated father, it felt more organic and believable. I felt the emotional tension in the room.

The slow-motion sequences with Flash are all phenomenal. Loved them.

The product placement is quite laughable in this movie. under armor, Mercedes, Sony, really needed to lock-in that financing.

Cyborg without clothes looks like the body of a cat who just got out of the bath. The proportions creep me out. He just looks naked and his legs look super scrawny.

I really wished the story would’ve focused more on Cyborg’s dad and the science behind the mother boxes discovered by Silas, and then Batman and Wonder Woman show up to fill in the gaps, and then Cyborg joins them at his father’s request. It would’ve made more sense than seeing Cyborg just brooding in the downtown apartment for the majority of his screen time. If they would have kept him in the lab, it would’ve made more sense to fuel his rage being cooped up. Then having Batman shows up in the lab with ease would should how stealthy and resourceful he can be.

Side note, JK Simmons is the best Commissioner Gordon to date. Love him. More than Gary Oldman. Gary was perfect, but Simmons has transcended perfection in his brief run in this role.

The. Freaking. Air bubbles. In. Atlantis.

Mera doesn’t have a British accent in the solo Aquaman movie. Like, come on.

Part 4

So the bad guys have been under their noses this whole time. Not in some faraway distant location, but under Gotham Harbor. Love watching the heroes slowly walk upstairs together to get there. Also funny how Steppenwolf had no security guarding their nest to alert when intruders break-in.

I also don’t get how they can smell the scent of a mother box on people but not the mother boxes themselves. Especially since the last box is buried in a shallow grave for Victor Stone. Literally less than 50 miles away. Also, shouldn’t Victor have the strongest scent of all that have encountered the boxes?

During the scene where they are fighting the parademons in the nest, Batman’s distorted voice sounds super odd. Doesn’t hit the ear right. Not a big deal, minor criticism.

Absolutely love Ezra Miller as the Flash. The highlight of the whole movie. His ability to shock and knock bad guys around is super cool to see. The traditional yellow lightning, I’ll admit, wouldn’t look half as cool as the blue. The blue sets a colder darker tone that makes sense for WB, and ZS’s obsession for being dark. The yellow lightning is on the warmer side of the spectrum and just wouldn’t work. So I get the creative visual change.

Cyborg’s mask makes him look like an Overwatch character and it makes me aroused.

Aqua man showing up during this fight only when there is water makes sense on paper, but translates very poorly and is sort of ridiculous when you think about it. Was he just sitting out there waiting for a way in this whole time?

Also, Cyborg being afraid of the water is equally hilarious. Exposure to water and it’s like a toaster in the tub, which I did consider at least 3 times in the first two hours. Oh well, if Cyborg gets wet, just put him in a bag of rice overnight and he’ll probably be fine.

PS: Not a fan of Darkseid and Steppenwolf’s dirt crop circle art.

The revelation that all 3 mother boxes and the anti-life equation are on earth didn’t land with the emotional impact and intent that it tried to. It wasn’t a surprise, it just left you scratching your head like “oh, the anti-life equation is a part of this now? Okay, I guess.” There’s no build-up at all about the anti-life equation so the audience doesn’t really have any sense of surprise or investment. Still, it’s awfully convenient that everything is on earth. Plot bandaid galore for Zack Snyder.

Also, the general audience will have no clue what any of this means nor will they even care. You’re telling me that in four hours, the first two hours leading into this, the anti-life equation is introduced with no prior introduction, teaser, or explanation? Oh brother.

At 2h13m the league is finally together and don’t trust each other, don’t care to understand each other, and are no closer to saving the world. Why bother coming together at all if the entire premise hinges on getting over your pride and ego for more than two hours? Halfway through the movie, we should be past this by now. But the pacing is just so slow and force-fed to that audience nothing feels natural. It just feels slow, misunderstood, and contrived.

Does it bother anyone else that the explanation of how the mother box operates reveals that it can heal Superman and bring him back to life but Cyborg is a walking Autobot with a single human cheek?

Adding Martian Manhunter was cool, but holy hell was that awkward and forced. Again, Snyder has no idea how to organically and progress through a story or introduce characters. And he had 4 years to figure it out and 4 hours worth of movie to do it and he still couldn’t do it right. Now, you might be thinking that it didn’t bother you and you were fine with it, but that doesn’t make it good. You can love Batman, you can love Superman, you can even love this movie. But so far, the pieces that have come together are slow, hollow, sloppy, and nothing but window dressing.

Part 5

Is it weird to anyone else that Superman was buried as Clark Kent and the federal government didn’t confiscate Superman’s body for study? I call bullshit on that.

Aquaman carrying a trident with him into the labs seemed super hokey. He and the rest along with Batman walking through the front door was so underwhelming. They didn’t even sneak in. They just set off an alarm and strolled into the labs with ease. I guess you can do that when you have a robotic chicken-legged super hacking machine with a severe case of self-loathing at your disposal.

I also don’t understand the whole world mourning over the Superman thing. Like, think about it. Superman wasn’t really Superman until Zod showed up. Then shortly after Zod turned into Doomsday and Superman died. Batman had been active for 20 some years before Superman came into fruition. Superman was a flash in the pan. He couldn’t have been around for longer than a year or two. It just doesn’t make sense at all. From MoS to BvS, Superman couldn’t have been around for that long. It’s just so odd.

The Superman vs Flash fight scene was really cool. Super short, but super cool.

Don’t really know where Batman was during this fight. Shows up last minute to pat a soldier on the back and tells him to take cover. Seemed very odd.

Superman head-butting Wonder Woman was cool.

I’ll be honest, when Lois Lane showed up, I was really hoping that Clark was going to laser her to liquid-like Homelander would have. Now that would have been dark lol

There are a lot of borderline illiterate morons with college degrees who identify the vaguest sign of internal struggle or drama as a form of an allegory or a representation of the human condition. Snyder is great at playing things up. It would not shock me that most people are captivated by the idea that Superman being dead means something to anyone, strictly because of the amount of manufactured drama Snyder creates.

— My buddy Trevor, authority figure

Also, someone should’ve told Silas that he didn’t have to be inside the room to remotely attempt to destroy the mother box. What a feeling less and needless death. That wasn’t a sacrifice so much as a moronic decision that makes me question whether or not Silas was qualified to be a scientist working on this alien tech, to begin with.

Part 6

This makes me feel like this should have been a mini-series. Making this into a single movie was irresponsible and overwhelmingly unnecessary.

Once Lois and Clark arrive at the Kent farm, makes you wonder why Batman or Cyborg didn’t hack the Sprint network or whatever Lois has as a provider to give her a call and sort it out.

Also, why did Alfred say he didn’t know where he would find the cups for the tea? Like, wouldn’t you have teacups near where you store the kettle? And isn’t the bat cave under Wayne Manor? Take the bat elevator and get some from the kitchen

And why is Victor so upset that his father died? Shouldn’t he know that the boxes could bring him back to life? Especially since they talked about the house being burnt to ash and being reassembled.

I love how Batman says that emotional line about how Darkseid has never fought them before United as a team, but they barely beat Steppenwolf.

I’m also bothered by how much of the movie sets are CGI. They couldn’t afford to shoot on set with the hundreds of millions for the budget?

When Superman finally comes back to be himself and Martha Kent shows up, which should’ve been a critical point in the movie, I’m already anxious and thinking they don’t have time for this. If the movie didn’t drag on for so long, and this scene took place at a more pivotal time in the movie, it wouldn’t feel like they were taking their sweet time when the world is facing impending doom.

At least they finally addressed the “Lois Lane is the key, am I too soon” scene.

the best character in the whole movie is the gust of wind that conveniently follows Superman around when he has his cape on.

Glad they kept in Aquaman’s signature “my man” line.

Cyborg completely obliterating the city where Steppenwolf’s army is located was really cool to see. A little excessive, but okay.

Why would Superman stop off to see Alfred when his friends are fighting a war on the other side of the world? Also, this means that Superman flew above the stratosphere for the signature Jesus pose just because it looked cool, and not for any practical reason. He did this before he went to see Alfred and that just seemed odd. I will make the excuse that he did this in order to be closer to the sun to recharge. I’ve not seen anyone interpret this action as him doing such, so I’ll make that excuse for the scene on behalf of Snyder.

Superman’s laser eye beams look a lot more like Homelanders. I can’t help but feel like they are trying to copy that a little bit.

Darkseid looked cool, but his role is underwhelming. He never once felt like an actual threat when the character was supposed to be integral to what was going on.

Epilogue

The ending tries to wrap up everything all nice and tidy, but not one J-Leaguer in the epilogue reflects on the oncoming danger of Darkseid. No one seems to want to have a conversation on who Darkseid is or what sort of hell and fire he is set to bring. We really don’t need a JL2 for four more hours if it is going to feel like this.

This movie would have easily and more logically been a mini-series.

Lex Luthor escaping Arkham also makes no sense. With his money, power, and influence, he could easily buy judges and congressmen to get him out. Breaking out of prison seems very out of character for a man like him.

Deathstroke looks cool but also looks fan-made. Like a YouTube web series or something.

The Knightmare scene is cool in concept, loved Flash’s appearance. Makes sense when he goes back in time now. But Mera wearing her Atlantean armor doesn’t seem practical on land.

Jared Leto is still a terrible joker. This scene was neat but I don’t like seeing Leto’s pompous arrogant face in the makeup.

If I’m not mistaken, when they showed a closeup of Barry’s face before the armor mask came down, it looked entirely CGI. Like, did Ezra Miller not shoot the scene?

When MM finally shows up, it makes you wonder where the hell he was during the fight with Steppenwolf. MM appearing in the movie was cool, but again, super fan-serving and didn’t actually provide any real plot support or need.

Almost every scene has either an orange hue to illustrate hope or a blue hue to illustrate tension or one of the other non-hope emotions.

Snyder’s melodrama is easily misinterpreted for depth and darkness that his legions of dedicated fans feel attracted to. But truthfully, he demonstrates a love for six-pack abs, blue hues in nearly every scene, and fundamental misunderstanding of every single one of the characters in the Justice League.

This could have been easily cut down to 3 hours without all the slow motion. So many slow-motion scenes didn’t need to exist. So much filler and unnecessary focus on details that don’t push the story along.

  • Lois walking in the rain
  • Lois lowering her coffee cup
  • Lois waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Lois Lane getting more coffee

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There is obviously a lot to unpack, here. But you need to ask yourself one question- after four years, and four hours in its run time, is this really what you wanted? I can’t imagine that this is the Justice League movie everyone hoped for. It was slow, it was forced, it was slow, and it just seemed like everyone in charge never picked up a comic book before the making of the film.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the movie we got, but not the movie we deserve.

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