Film Review: ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE by Jett

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SYNOPSIS: In ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE, determined to ensure Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman (Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and The Flash (Ezra Miller) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf, DeSaad, and Darkseid and their dreadful intentions.

FYI: BOF received an early screener of ZSJL for reviewing purposes. – Jett

Let me preface my review of ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE with the following…

  • I borderline love MAN OF STEEL.
  • I despise BATMAN v SUPERMAN.
  • I didn’t hate the theatrical version of JUSTICE LEAGUE.
  • I did not believe that ZSJL would ever happen nor did I care to see it. (And neither did Warner Bros. Pictures, apparently.  If you’re a supporter of it, thank your lucky stars that AT&T bought Warner Bros./DC Comics/Warner Media and is all-in on HBO Max.)
  • I’m on record saying that Warner Bros. flubbed the dub here.  They should’ve either removed Mr. Snyder from JUSTICE LEAGUE and regrouped, or let him finish the thing and release it in 2017.

With all that said, I made a promise to myself to watch ZSJL with an open mind and judge it fairly.  And yes, that includes my own sensibilities when it comes to the world of DC Comics and, of course, Batman playing a big role in that judgment.  So here goes…

  • It’s not utterly horrible.
  • It’s certainly not great.
  • It’s somewhere in between — although there are flashes of both good and bad in it.

Also, all those who believe/hope that ZSJL is a completely different movie from the 2017 theatrical release will be disappointed.  The storyline at its core is the same.  It’s just longer, darker, bloodier, more violent, and — for lack of a better term — more Snydery and all that entails.  Some will love it, some will not, period.

Yes, some of the subplots are fleshed out better, but I’d say that speaks to the fact this film is too bloated.  For instance, Cyborg’s (Ray Fisher) backstory is fleshed out, but it really isn’t needed and weighs down the film.  In fact, the same goes for The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), and Arthur Curry/Aquaman.  It certainly would’ve been better if these characters had been introduced in solo films prior to JUSTICE LEAGUE — like Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in WONDER WOMAN — but hindsight is 20/20 and, quite frankly, Warner Bros. is to blame for trying to get to their version of Marvel’s THE AVENGERS yesterday.

Let me address the cast.  Since this is Batman On Film, I’ll speak to Ben Affleck as Batman last…

All were OK — though Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman stood out (The bank heist scene is not only an awesome Wonder Woman segment, but it’s the film’s best moment).  Miller’s Barry Allen is still quirky and provides ZSJL with some “comic relief” — well, as much as you’re going to get in a Snyder joint — but he comes off a bit more heroic than he did in JL2017.  Momoa’s Aquaman is still “rocker Aquaman brah” (spelled like that on purpose).  And Fisher’s Cyborg is the same as he was in JL2017 — albeit with more of an arc that would’ve been better played out in a solo movie.

As far as Henry Cavill as Superman…

Like with BATMAN v SUPERMAN, Cavill is wasted as The Man of Steel.  He’s dead for more than half the film and when he returns, he’s still dark, morose, and not very Superman-ish.  Hell, he’s literally dark and his black suit is an F’n metaphor for this take on Superman.  I will say that there’s a really nice scene set at the Kent farm in Smallville and another that harkens back to a scene in MAN OF STEEL, but that’s it.  Now, to The Dark Knight…

Ben Affleck’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman is not nearly as good as it was in BATMAN v SUPERMAN (While I’m certainly not a fan of that movie and how the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne was depicted, Affleck gave a really good performance in it), but it’s better than the one he gave in the reshoots for JL2017.  Sure, Batman puts the team together, but there’s really not much Batmanning to do when you’re alongside gods and fighting aliens.

The film looks exactly as you’d expect it to look: A green-screened, slo-mo, CGI-fest.  And dark.  While not terrible, I wouldn’t call the look of the CGI characters — Steppenwolf, Darkseid, and others — good.  I’d say it’s a notch or 2 above a video game cut scene level stuff.

I don’t have much to say about the film’s Junkie XL’s musical score other than it’s very nondescript.  Of course, Hans Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme shows up and is awesome — just like that Wonder Woman bank heist scene, as does his Superman theme from MAN OF STEEL (love it!).

While the film’s third act/finale is (kinda) different than JL2017‘s, the outcome is still the same — though much more bloody and violent, of course.  Regardless, it does “end” with the Justice League victorious and the team is shown all happy and stuff (except for Batman because he never smiles and Superman who was just dead and now wears black) standing together shoulder to shoulder.  Then there’s the ZSJL “Epilogue”…

I looked it up and the definition of “epilogue” says: A section or speech at the end of a book, film, or play that serves as a comment on or a conclusion to what has happened; a final or concluding act or event.  While the “Epilogue” part of ZSJL indeed comes at the end of the film, it sure as hell doesn’t serve as a conclusion.  No, it is — as Mr. Snyder himself admitted in an interview — a cliffhanger that can be used to set up another Justice League film.  In fact, there’s one part of the “Epilogue” (there are three parts to it total) that can be used to set up a non-JL DC film.  Frankly, it’s obvious as hell as to why it was included in ZSJL.  And I’ll leave it at that.

So, what’s the bottom line here with ZSJL?

Snyder/BATMAN v SUPERMAN fans will likely love it.  That’s damn near a given and that’s perfectly fine.  DC fans who didn’t like Mr. Synder’s take on their beloved characters probably won’t like it all that well.  And that’s OK too.

And as for all the non-comic book/genre stuff folks out there — which make up the majority of any film’s potential audience — I really don’t know how they’ll respond.  I doubt that a lot of these folks are even aware of ZSJL.  Will they care enough to watch a new version of a film they didn’t care about seeing 4 years ago (thanks to BvS)? Will the 4-hour runtime be a deterrent?  We’ll see.

As far yours truly, I liked it better than BATMAN v SUPERMAN, relatively speaking, of course.  However, I found it hard to get through (It’s too damn long!) and it’s a bit of a monotonous experience.  And I’m no prude, but it’s dark and violent just for the sake of being, well, dark and violent.  This is a niche, self-indulgent passion project from a filmmaker who has, shall we say, a “unique” take on the DC Universe.  And that’s more than OK — just like it’s more than OK for some people to not dig it.

Yet, I’ll admit there were some “cool” things in it — I grew up a DC fan you know. But “cool things” shouldn’t be all there is to a movie.  I’d actually like to care about these characters that are in this movie — the Justice League — but I don’t and this film didn’t allow me to do so either. – Bill “Jett” Ramey

GRADE: C-ish

JETT’S EPILOGUE: Wow, what an experience this has been the last almost 4 years, to say the least.  I hope that ZSJL does well — it’s “DC” and has Batman in it after all.  I hope that all the folks who are excited about it enjoy it tremendously.

When it comes to Mr. Snyder, I hope he finds some closure by being able to finish and have people see his film.  As a father of 3 “kids” (mine are now 25, 23, and 19), I cannot fathom going through a parent’s worst nightmare: Losing a child.  I don’t know Mr. Snyder personally, but he’s been cool and kind to me each time I’ve met him.  He spent an hour talking to me 1 on 1 at a Warner Bros. party at San Diego Comic Con in 2011; he visited briefly with me and my wife at the MAN OF STEEL after party in New York; and, he called me personally and informed me that he and WB were allowing BOF to exclusively debut the first “in-theater” poster for JUSTICE LEAGUE (JL2017) in April of 2017.  Anyway, I think he’s a good dude and I wish him and his family the best.

A little over a year ago, Team BOF lost a very, Very, VERY dear member to suicide.  John Bierly was not only a big BOF supporter, longtime contributor, and the BEST damn writer this site has seen, but probably the kindest person I’ve ever known.  Not only did I donate to suicide prevention for Mr. Snyder and his family, but for our John Bierly as well (CLICK HERE to donate and read my tribute to JB HERE).  Furthermore, I spent damn near all of 2020 worrying about a dear friend of mine fearing he’d do the same.  He’s now well and came through the abyss of depression.  And full disclosure, I’ve long suffered from anxiety and slight depression; but I’m good due to modern medicine and, most importantly, FAMILY.  So, to the person who recently accused me of “making fun of suicide” and the Snyder family’s tragedy, SHAME ON YOU.  Anyway

Hopefully, we can put this divisive period of Batman fandom past us now that ZSJL is a reality and move forward in a positive way.

One can dream it, at least. – BR