Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Directed by Zack Snyder

I grew up through the Silver and Bronze ages of comic books and loved team-up stories. Although Thor was my favourite, I ate up The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Justice League and any comics that involved multiple characters in convoluted story arcs. At that age I didn’t really care or fully understand who published what, I was just there for a rollicking good tale that could take me away from my small country town life for a little while.

In many ways, that’s what I’ve continued to look for in what can only be described as, this golden age of superhero films. Unfortunately, DC’s cinematic offerings have fallen way short of the mark, with the exception of most of Wonder Woman (2017) and elements of Aquaman (2018). Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017) are distinctly below par, particularly when compared to Marvel’s unbelievably coherent productions and the tour de force that was Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019).

Rather than focus solely on what’s wrong, I’d like to stress that Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League is infinitely superior to Joss Weedon’s theatrical cut from 2017. As many critics have noted, the Snyder cut is far more coherent but sadly, still a mess! While I really appreciated the extended version of Cyborg’s story, I wonder if it would be better served by a short series or a standalone origin story film. Similarly, The Flash (despite being part of the Arrow small screen universe), here seemed somewhat overblown. But upon reflection I wonder if it was the grating dialogue Ezra Miller had to say, which cheapened the character for me.

Above all, what lacks here is true character and narrative development. Instead, I see wasted opportunities. For instance, there is no building on the character branding and fan goodwill established through the Wonder Woman (2017) and Aquaman (2018) origin films. Instead, these two characters seem to get lost in the maze of the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” ad hoc storytelling and set pieces. There appears to be no cohesive narrative and even in this superior version, character motivations seem at best, muddled.

To my eyes and ears there are many problems with this film, not least of which are the (at times) incredibly intrusive score, the dreary colour palette (something of a DC trademark these days) and the overblown seriousness of absolutely everything! Also, this film runs in at just over 4 hours long, requiring a dedicated time investment and making it off-putting for many more casual viewers. But this is what the fans wanted, and to his credit, Snyder has responded.

Overblown and still pretty boring, but at least it sometimes almost makes sense now.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League and the theatrical cut are both currently available to stream on Amazon Prime in Australia.