Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Review

Promotional Photo for Justice League
John Scalzi

There are many reasons that Zack Snyder’s Justice League (aka Justice League: The Snyder Cut) exists, almost none of them having to do with the actual film itself.

The first and foremost reason is that it is (relatively) cheap advertising for HBO Max, the streaming service owned by AT&T, which owns HBO and Warner Bros and DC Comics. Warner paid $70 million to build this version of the film, which was mostly spent on special effects and some reshoots. $70 million isn’t nothing, but for a major superhero film it’s dirt cheap (there’s also the $250M-$300M the company already spent on the much-maligned theatrical cut, of course, but that’s already been costed out in Warner’s ledgers). That outlay gives HBO Max what is now its signature event — here’s something that you could only get thanks to streaming, and only thanks to HBO Max. Given the flood of reviews, features, reactions and awareness that ZSJL has generated since it was announced, this is the best $70 million that HBO Max could have spent on advertising.

The second reason is that it gives Warner another (again, relatively cheap) way to right the foundering ship that is its cinematic DC universe properties, which financially and culturally are playing a distant second fiddle to the immensely profitable and popular Marvel universe of films and (now) TV shows. The underwhelming financial and critical performance of the Justice League theatrical release is the event that threw the current iteration of the DC cinematic universe into doubt, so there’s irony in this iteration being a vehicle to prop it up. But it just means that the bar for this version to clear is low — as long as it’s better, in some ineffable way, it’s a win.

The third reason is that it gives Warner Bros a public avenue to repair its relationship with director Zack Snyder, who left the previous version of this film after the death of his daughter, but not before there had already been some pushback from the studio about the direction and tone of the film. When Snyder left the film, Warner brought in Joss Whedon to finish it (and, as it turns out, substantially rewrite and replot it). On paper, this looked like a grand idea: Whedon had written and directed two immensely popular “Avengers” films in the Marvel universe, both of which featured ensemble casts and multiple storylines, which of course was what Justice League was all about.

In reality, it resulted in a bit of a tonal mess for the theatrical release, and now we all know Whedon was allegedly something of a dick on set, which has led actor Ray Fisher to publicly denounce his behavior, with Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa supporting his claims. Snyder being asked to do a redo and refresh of the film is a way for Warner to offer a public mea culpa for what had happened while at the same time getting something out of it. Why be enemies when you can be friends.

The fourth reason is that it helps rehabilitate Zack Snyder as a director and architect of the DC Universe. It’s worth remembering that there was (and is) a persistent concern that Snyder’s good-looking-but-dour-as-fuck version of the DC universe wasn’t quite on point, particularly when the candy-colored Marvel universe was out there, sucking in money and positive reviews. It’s not for nothing that the single most financially-successful DC film of the “Snyderverse” era is Aquaman, i.e., DC’s very own candy-colored superhero film, and one conspicuously lighter in tone relative to its compatriots.

After the theatrical release of Justice League, the nerds of the Internet took it as an article of faith that Snyder’s version had to have been better, and that he had been wronged, by Warner and Whedon and by the universe. Once again, a low bar, but if Snyder’s cut of the film was better, than his reputation would get a boost, and indeed, per point two above, the whole “Snyderverse” might be in line for critical and cultural reappraisal.

Again: None of this is about the film in itself. Justice League ain’t exactly The Magnificent Ambersons, which is a deep cut reference for you film nerds out there (if you’re not a film nerd, that’s Orson Welles’ second film, which in its original cut was alleged to be genius, and which was forcibly taken from him by the studio and recut into a shorter version, with all the cut footage destroyed). But the idea that a director’s vision was compromised and a better, more significant version of a film exists is in itself narratively compelling. However, I am very certain, that’s not the reason this version of Justice League exists. No one who held the purse strings for this version of the film splashed out millions in the strong belief that a creative vision had been wronged and, thus, there had been a moral crime that had to be righted. If there was no HBO Max, there would be no ZSJL, except possibly as a crappy no-effects extra on a “Deluxe Edition” home video package for the six people who still buy movies on physical media.

For whatever reasons ZSJL exists, it does exist, all four hours of it, and I watched it.

And how is it?

Meh, it’s fine.

Which, to be clear, is an improvement on the theatrical release version of the film. I can say I saw the theatrical release of the film. What I can’t say is that I remembered it at all prior to watching this version. There were bits in this new version for which, when they happened, my brain was all oh, yeah, I think I saw that part before, but honestly that’s all I got. It’s not a good sign when one’s memory of a $250M+ tentpole film is “I know I put it in front of my eyeballs but otherwise I got nothin’.” I’m pretty sure I’ll remember at least bits of this version, so that’s a win.

But being able to remember it doesn’t mean I feel compelled to care about it, and that’s the real problem with the Synderverse DC films. They look great and I dig the vibe — I like the Snyder aesthetic, personally — and, also, with the exception of the first Wonder Woman film, I find it hard to give a shit about any of them. I don’t hate them, but I don’t especially like them either (more accurately, I like them just fine — in the moment. More on this soon). They exist, and that’s about it. The problem with the Snyderverse films is not that they’re dour but that they’re empty. They’re not compellingly written, either in the larger plot sense or the smaller character sense, and when you’re done watching them, most of what you’re left with is a sense that you sure looked at something expensive.

(The other thing about this version is that it is almost certainly not what “The Snyder Cut” would have been in 2017. If the universe had rolled differently that year, Snyder would have been compelled to turn in something in the “two hours and thirty minute” range, not a four-hour version that exists only because you’re watching it somewhere you can pause at any time to pee and/or get snacks. This is a Snyder cut. It is not the Snyder cut, the one that the Internet nerds were clamoring for. I think you could certainly have gotten “the” Snyder cut out of this cut — there’s a whole lot that could have been trimmed down and still have this be a coherent experience — but we’ll never see it.)

The bones of this version are largely the same as the theatrical release: Earth is threatened by an alien invader who will destroy the planet for reasons that make no sense and no one really cares about, so Batman (and here’s where I note that as a Batman, Ben Affleck is a really excellent Bruce Wayne) assembles a team of “meta-humans” to fight said alien invader and his army of CGI effects. Oh, and along the way they need to find a way to resurrect Superman, because the Jesus metaphor that has developed around that character is not nearly subtle enough. Snark aside, this is standard super hero movie stuff — minus Superman’s resurrection it is literally the plot of all four Avengers films — so the question is how the film rings the changes.

And some of the changes are all right! For example, giving The Flash and Cyborg better backgrounding. The Flash gets some dimensionality to his past life, and Cyborg gets his actual origin story. These really should have been handled in their own films, incidentally. One of the problems both versions of Justice League have is that they’re precipitate — only one of the heroes of the Snyderverse had had their own film at that point. But when you have four hours to fill, you have to fill them with something, and here we are. These bits are pretty decent.

Some of the changes are less all right! Like stopping the story dead for clunkily-handled exposition, which happens several times, and shoehorning in secondary characters mostly so you can say “hey, look, it’s that guy from that thing,” whether “that thing” is from the DC universe or some other film from whence they’re better known. The most obvious version of this (and it’s not a spoiler, as it’s in the trailer) is the appearance of the Joker, who is literally only there for the most pandering of fan service for the Internet nerds. I hope you’re happy now, Internet nerds. There’s a lot here that’s here because Snyder got four hours to fill, not because it matters to the actual function of the story.

“I’ve got four hours to fill” is in fact the organizing principle of this version of Justice League. This film is a buffet, basically: you get a lot of stuff and you get a lot of that stuff, even if some of the dishes are entirely unrelated to others. Everything tastes all right, which is to say the individual bits, whether action sequences or character moments, are all done competently, and with That Certain Snyderness that hopefully you’ve come to see.

But as a side effect, it’s pokey and it wanders about doing one thing and then the next, and as a result it doesn’t build particularly well. When the third act of this film comes (in Part Six, as this film has, in a nod to its streamy nature, voluntarily chopped itself into six 30-to-40 minute segments, not including an almost entirely unnecessary epilogue), you feel that you’ve been delivered to it by the film, but not driven to it. I was oh, right, big finish, mighty heroes, got it. The finish was perfectly well done! Just not arrived at with popcorn-munching urgency.

So it’s slack and flaccid? No — again, everything is perfectly competently done. I wasn’t bored, and I didn’t get lost. I just didn’t feel much about any of it other than the basic sense of being entertained in the moment. Being entertained in the moment isn’t bad! But then the moment’s over. I won’t be dwelling on the events of or characters in ZSJL for any great length of time.

This is a problem for what was meant to be (and now in a distaff way still is meant to be), a critical tentpole of a franchise. I’m perfectly happy to have seen this iteration of Justice League. But it did not bring out a desire in me to have any more of it. The film leaves lots of places for putative sequels to go, since, after all, Justice League was at one point meant to have sequels. But if you told me tomorrow they’d greenlit Justice League Two: Snyderpocalypse, my reaction would be, well, okay, nice for everyone involved to be employed. Which, in keeping with the theme of this review, isn’t really about the film itself.

— JS

48 Comments on “Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Review”

  1. I should note that when Zack Snyder has a good marriage of his aesthetic and his material, he’s really good. 300 still works for me, and I’m looking forward to his Army of the Dead, which I think is probably going to be pure popcorn fun.


    If you post spoilers in this comment thread, please mark them by putting “SPOILER:” on its own line before proceeding. Thank you.

  2. I liked the Snyder cut, and I think it showed that the Justice League should have been a streaming TV show, not a movie. They could have added 2-3 more episodes for a 8/9 episode season (like Wanda Vison, which I also liked). They could have filled out those episodes with better Flash backstory, Superman post-wake up, etc., and I think it might have been very successful. But this does show what happens when you have a studio exec trying to tell an artist what to do. And I’m not a huge Snyder fan. His aesthetic is pretty, but a lot of his stuff is vapid or misogynist (I’m looking at you, Sucker Punch). And still, the execs managed to make it so much worse. When, in fact, if they had given him the space and the right medium, they might well have had a big hit on their hands. Not a “oh, well, it wasn’t on the road to being total shite then…” on their hands.

  3. He probably could have turned in a 2.5 hour movie just by speeding everything that wasn’t the Flash going super fast up to normal speed, and having the Flash move at normal speed in the sections where you shot things in slow motion to convey how much faster he was than everything else, instead of him also being in slow motion.

  4. I think I saw the original release, but I’m not sure, because it didn’t stick in my head at all. Then again, I may have just watched a few clips on youtube and meh-ed out on it.

    ‘Wonder Woman’ was pretty good, but I got my fill of Batman and Superman back in the 60’s. And 70’s. And…

    Hollywood is so stuck now on ‘tried and true’ that originality is a bug, not a feature any more.

  5. A few thoughts (and @John Scalzi, I note that I’m pretty sure I still can’t number my paragraphs–the numbers just get stripped out when I post):

    First, I did like this one better, though it could have been a lot shorter. Some of the exposition helped the story make a lot more sense. Some of the back story for Steppenwolf was helpful in exploring his motivations.

    Second, [SPOILER ALERT] some of the additional material was NOT helpful and in fact almost laughable. At one point it is revealed that Earth was the one planet in the universe/multi-verse/what have you that Darkseid failed to conquer, AND DARKSEID AND STEPPENWOLF DIDN’T KNOW THAT. WTF? They knew they had left the mother boxes behind. Steppenwolf knew Diana was an Amazon. This revelation made absolutely no sense.

    Finally, [SPOILER ALERT] this version of the movie is a LOT darker than the original in the respect that Wonder Woman and Superman don’t seem to have any moral issues with killing the bad guys. WW appears to kill one of the terrorists in her intro scene by slamming her bracelets together and creating a tremendous explosion that leaves nothing of the baddie but his hat, which floats down onto the police car. More troubling, toward the end of the big battle, Superman climbs on top of Steppenwolf and basically starts beating him to death, cuts off one of his horns with his heat vision, and nobody seems terribly worked up about it–I really expected one of the JLAers to say “Kal-El, he’s done, let him be”. But no. In fact, before Steppenwolf goes back to Darkseid, Aquaman stabs him in the chest, and WW cuts his head off for good measure. This is a far cry from Superman killing Zod only after Zod gave him no choice in the matter–here, he’s a cold-blooded killer.

  6. Spoilers*** Watched it twice but broken in half because holy hell 4 hours is a long time. I really liked the back stories we missed on the Flash and Cyborg who really became the heroes of the movie. There was some redemption for the both of them from that pos before.

  7. “they need to find a way to resurrect Superman, because the Jesus metaphor that has developed around that character is not nearly subtle enough.”

    Just in time for Easter!

  8. Stylistically, the film Snyder Cut most reminded me of was Woody Allen’s “Interiors.” Both movies drowned themselves so deeply in downcast, somber tones that a film historian a century down the line might speculate that Snyder & Allen were the same person. (Aside: This ain’t a compliment — I was bored silly by both movies.)

  9. Completely agree – I too came away with meh. It certainly looked good. Except, of course, for that silly 4:3 aspect ratio, which was apparently because good ol’ Zack is obsessed with IMAX. Personally, I don’t have an IMAX at home, nor do I know anyone with one, so I’m not sure exactly who that was for.

    And I completely agree that the Epilogue was for the most part unnecessary. 25 minutes or so wherein 3 minutes were actually meaningful.

    Finally, I get that setting up additional movies is a thing – and something that, in the MCU, I actually like – but by my count, this movie, at one point or another blatantly was trying to set up no less than 4 more movies. I’m thinkin’ that that’s just a touch of an overreach for any movie, let alone a meh DCEU movie.

  10. It sounds like the dour nature of Snyder’s films bothers me more than it does you. I feel like every movie of his that I’ve seen could be titled “Miserable People” and I can go to the mall and see that for free (not that I want to). I appreciate the comment about emptiness too. Things definitely move on the screen in these films, sometimes very fast and loud, but they don’t really spark much emotion.

  11. here’s where I note that as a Batman, Ben Affleck is a really excellent Bruce Wayne

    Is this a subtle diss? Very amusing, if so.

  12. I watched this yesterday. Took me 6 hours because I needed breaks. It was entertaining, but that was about it. HBO should have turned this into a limited mini-series like Disney is doing with Falcon and Winter Soldier.

  13. The new version was certainly more interesting but soooo long. Maybe Christopher Nolan could take on some sequels in the future but not sure that would be his passion anymore. His Batman trilogy was awesome and never seemed to try to mimic other types of superhero movies.

  14. Your summary mostly lines up with mine. I commented to my wife afterward that it was remarkable that a movie with a 4-hour runtime, using characters that I have been primed from childhood to relate to, could not create any emotional connection with the characters onscreen.

    It’s a superhero movie about how coming together triumphs, but it has no moments that evoke hope or joy. Even the climax and ultimate victory moment that should send out the movie on a high note gets crushed minutes later in the epilogue.

    It’s a better movie than the theatrical release, but I don’t know if I’d call it a good movie. I’m pretty sure I won’t watch it again.

  15. “here’s where I note that as Batman, Ben Affleck is a really excellent Bruce Wayne”

  16. (.. now with actual content. Is there no way to edit or delete your own comments? Do we have to pray to the Mallet wielders for aid?)

    Re: “here’s where I note that as Batman, Ben Affleck is a really excellent Bruce Wayne”

    I think that’s been true of most of the live-action cinematic Batmen. Affleck may well be the best Bruce Wayne we’ve gotten (well, unless your tonal preference swings more Adam West’s way). Clooney was right up here in terms of looking like the character and could definitely pull off the playboy charm. Kilmer and Keaton weren’t much like their comic book counterpart, but were nonetheless much more believable as Bruce than as Batman.

    Christian Bale was the most credible live-action Batman as Batman, and I think his Bruce is where he fell a little short. Besides dropping the whole “world’s greatest detective” thing because Nolan couldn’t figure out what to do with it, I guess.

    Anyway, I think I’m in the minority who never had a problem with Batfleck. That warehouse rescue scene in BvS was a very well-executed Bat-fight, and much like Clooney before him, the actor playing Batman has been the very least of the problems with the movies he’s appeared in.

    I have yet to plop down and watch this thing, but the reviews I’ve seen have all been surprisingly positive. Like you said, it’s a low bar it had to clear, but now I kinda wanna see it clear it. So I guess, job done, WarnerMedia!

  17. The only thing, and its a major one, that you left out regarding why the Zack Snyder cut happened – is the pandemic. I was reminded of that recently. I’m not sure a lot of this would have occurred without the pandemic.

    Also, I’d forgotten the original film completely as well. I remember BvsS better – but went back to re-watch BvsS – which made the Snyder cut of JL work better somehow – they are really films that build on each other. Anyhow, when I saw Snyder’s I had a similar response. That is until I compared it to Whedon’s – which you can actually do on HBO Max. All I did was compare the first 15-30 minutes, and oh dear ghod, it really shows the problematic nature of Whedon’s cuts. And how baffling Whedon’s decisions are. And…how the Whedon version cuts the agency and the characterization of the female and minority characters, puts more in there for Superman/Batman, and jokes that are at the expense of the minority and female characters. I didn’t remember any of that – but when I watched the two in comparison – I picked up on it in the Whedon version in a way that surprised, shocked, and appalled me. (I kind of wish I hadn’t looked). And it made Ray Fisher, Jason and Gail’s allegations make a lot more sense. It also made me like Snyder’s film more than I had before I did it, and change my opinion about Whedon and Snyder.

    Prior to doing that? I had the same take you did.
    Now…so you may not want to do it. But if you do? Curious to see what your take is.

  18. I liked it. But generally I like the DC films better than the Marvel ones, specifically because they are “dour as fuck.”

    A universe filled with planet destroying, villainous monsters would not be one that is candy colored and fun. It should be a universe that scares the living crap out of you. DC gives us a much more serious take on that than the Happy Fun Shawarma Crew over at Marvel.

  19. DH and I watched the Snyder Supercut yesterday (in between laundry and dinner) and our reaction was, like yours, meh. Warning, proto-spoilers ahead.

    One of the big failings of the DC Snyder movies is that they aren’t particularly fun. They’re grimdark and gritty and everyone wears dark costumes (Superman, after being resurrected, wears a BLACK costume, for pete’s sake). That tone has a place, but the reason the Marvelverse is doing orders of magnitude better at the box office is because they remember that they have been derived from COMIC books and retain that four color entertaining value. The Snyder cut removed most of the fun aside jokes; for example, most of the Flash’s quips were taken out, and the remaining funny bits relied on him tripping at speed and running into something. The banter between Superman and Cyborg after they pulled apart the Mother Boxes (“I take it back – I want to die.” “My toes hurt! I don’t even…!” followed by a mutual pained chuckle) was removed, partly because the plot was different at that point, but partly because there is no room for anything but the tiniest scraps of funny in Snyder’s take. WW’s “Children — sigh I work with children.” got the axe too. The JL in this movie may work together to save Earth, but they don’t have any fun doing it. During a pandemic, a superhero movie should, Lord help me, be uplifting, not just another downer.

    We were happy to see some of Cyborg’s back story, but would have liked to see about a minute devoted to how the Flash got super-speed.

    There needs to be a happy medium between the Whedon version and the Snyder version. Maybe that’s why the first WW movie succeeded so well; neither director did it.

  20. I’m not a Snyder fan at all. I have liked nothing he has done, to the point I suspect I’d not like the man personally (I haven’t met him, probably won’t ever). I fell he has never understood the character of Superman, and he has butchered that character in his films. So that said, his cut was FAR FAR superior to the mess Whedon put out. More is explained. It makes more sense (though as has been pointed out above, it has it’s own messes of logic. “Oh Earth, that was the planet that defeated us. Never could remember that one.”

    I agree no studio would have let him put out a 4 hour movie. I could see it broken into two, however, with part one ending realizing they needed Superman, and part two about getting him back and the final defeat. Which would make it an awful lot like the last two Avengers films. The epilogue was completely unnecessary, especially since we won’t be seeing any continuation with this group.

    I think Affleck was great as Bruce/Batman both. I’ve always liked his performance in those roles, and was said when he backed away from the next Batman film (especially in light of what I’ve seen of it. Probably the first Batman I won’t see the theater since missing the 1966 Batman). He’d make a great Batman if they ever did The Dark Knight Returns comic.

  21. I kept thinking that Affleck was a terrific Bruce Wayne, but that his Batman mask (cowl? whatever) was really poorly designed. I hated the way it looked, and the ever-present black makeup around his eyes was a bigger distraction than it usually is. And while Affleck’s face looked normal in his civvies, the Dracula suit made his cheek look all puffed out.


    When I saw the townsfolk singing to the ripple Aquaman left behind, I knew I was in for some odd creative choices. Then when that song went on and on, I knew I was in Zack Snyder’s house and he was in charge of the tour.

  22. I agree with your comment. Felt much the same way. I’ve seen Snyder’s films, but I’m by no means a fan of them, etc. But while this film is admittedly bloated in places, and self-indulgent in others, it is far superior to the mess that Whedon released in 2017. From what I’ve read – Snyder did do a 2 hour and 20 minute cut that the WB did not accept at the time, and he finally gave up. I wish I could see that cut – because then we’d be comparing Apples to Apples here.

  23. I notice that ZSJL is a buffet, where Avengers: Endgame (A:E?) was a “a bunch of tasty canapes fed to you on a conveyor belt”. Is Scalzi the movie reviewer really just a frustrated food writer?

  24. On Friday watched the Whedon Justice League. Sunday was the Snyder Justice League.

    It was fascinating mentally comparing the two on Sunday.

    Overall I enjoyed the Snyder version. The backstories for the various characters was nice.

    Oh, I should note this is the first Snyder produced/directed film I’ve ever watched.

  25. My sense when I watched the theatrical release, and then again when watching this version, was that the studio was scurrying to play catch-up to Marvel. You gestures at this in your review when you observe that Cyborg and the Flash deserve their own movies. I’m no fan of Zack Snyder, who as a director has always managed to very stylishly miss the point of his source material, but if he’d been able to do another single-character film or two and THEN do JL, it would almost certainly have had more coherence in the overall narrative.

  26. Others have said everything I might say about the movie. I’m glad I watched it, but I won’t be disappointed if I never think about it ever again.

    My one real source of annoyance is the Joker. For years now I’ve been asking people to explain to me how he’s alive in this version of the DC universe. Batman is so kill-happy he probably shoots the Domino’s guy if he takes more than thirty minutes – even though they don’t promise that anymore! – but he has never bothered to find and kill the Joker? Bah.

  27. How about the best reason not to repair relations with Zack Snyder is he’s Zack Snyder – the man who gave us that ode to babyraping Sucker Punch, and is a conceited, talentless hack besides?

    After his Pedophiles R Us epic, I’ve gone from somewhat contemptuous of Snyder’s work to actively hating and the man responsible for it, and I am certain he’s one woman finally speaking up away his own #MeToo Moment.

  28. I feel the same way about Affleck – he’s quite good as Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist. Not so good as the Caped Crusader.

    I think what you’re describing is the difference between entertainment and art. Enjoyable in the moment, but no greater resonance for you.

  29. Three observations:

    I rented Batman v. Superman because after Man of Steel, I refused to pay good money to see another Snyderverse DC film. It cost me $1.69, and you have no idea how much I could get that $1.69 back.
    Zack Snyder’s handling of Lois Lane was awful. Just awful.
    How the hell Joss Whedon ever got a reputation as a feminist is beyond me.

  30. Random thoughts:
    * At fours hours, this was at least an hour too long
    * a big improvement over the Whedon version
    * Ezra Miller is completely miscast as Barry Allen and his twitchy, whiny, annoying interpretation of the character was almost unwatchable
    * the Snyder cut clearly demonstrates one reason why Ray Fisher was pissed off about how the Whedon film emasculated his Cyborg character’s planned key role in the film.

  31. For those interest – here’s a video comparison of the two films…it shows how much story Whedon’s left out in regards to Lois, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Aguaman, and the Flash.

  32. I’m so glad that so many younger, smarter people (our host, particularly) don’t remember too much about Whedon’s Justice League. I know I saw it, and I know I even saw it in a theater without the distractions of dogs and snacks and keeping those two distractions apart, but I truly can’t remember a single scene. You’ve relieved my fear of early onset Alzheimer’s. Thank you!

  33. How about the best reason not to repair relations with Zack Snyder is he’s Zack Snyder

    He’s also best friend with Christopher Nolan (Inception, Tenet, Dark Knight Returns). And he’s doing a series for Netflix entitled Army of the Dead…But I do think Chris Nolan matters here, considering Nolan hated Whedon’s film, as did Snyder’s wife, and both their names are in the credits to Whedon’s film. The credits to Whedon’s film version are interesting, Whedon only has a script credit, the director credit goes to Snyder, with Nolan listed as producer. That’s typical of a director reshooting another director’s film. This isn’t new, by the way. Richard Donner had the same thing happen to him with Superman II, and year’s later did a Director’s cut. Also Orson Wells (who was famously difficult to deal with), and Stanley Kubrick died prior to finishing AI with Spielberg completing it for him. And my brother interned for Kit Carson when he re-shot Lizzie Borden’s Love Crimes (which is a bad film). It rarely goes well. Film is a director’s medium, reshooting or fixing films after the original director has done most of it – usually ends in disaster, particularly if you do it in a short time period, like Whedon did. And reshoot it digitally from film stock. It’s easier to redo a script – and Whedon’s background was in script-doctoring, he’s not that good a director. But he’s usually very good at dialogue, except for Justice League – which didn’t fit his sense of humor at all. It’s also ironic – because way back in the 1990s, Whedon bemoaned the Kuzies ruining Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. He felt they didn’t do his vision and ruined it. Apparently the Kuzueis and the actors redid Whedon’s script and changed the story completely. So, Whedon got the chance to redo it as a television series, with the original movie forgotten. Seems like Whedon is now on the opposite side of that argument – he ruined Snyder’s and the actors film, and Snyder and the actors got a chance to fix it and release their vision.

  34. I loved it and ai despised the Variety interview with that Ann woman. I liked your review too one of the better ones Ive read by far. I loved Cyborg and Flash and Aquaman was fun to watch again after it. The projects DC is working on all sound awful. Then HBO Peacemaker and Gotham PD. Black Superman. Its all bad marketing execs “they’re al0ways listening to the fans…but” There is no but. They need a Kevin Feige…Zack & Jim Lee could do it. Warner Media is too distracted by toys.
    I hope Black Adam and Suicide Squad give them some legs to stand on but as long as they’re making movies for themselves and not the fans they are pretty much screwed.
    You make a product for a market not a market for a product.

  35. [Deleted for pointlessness. My dude, you’re going to have to do better than “it rocks, you suck” if you want your comments to stick — JS]

  36. Funnily enough all the completely glowing reviews haven’t prodded any desire to watch this film but your review has. I’m curious to see how it’s been out together. Thanks!

  37. I was excited about ZSJL, and was one of those who got HBO Max specifically to watch this movie and WW 1984 (which I really liked). This version of Justice League is not only much better than the theatrical cut, but is an excellent film (in my opinion, of course).

    There is a consistent thread and vision that goes through Man of Steel to BvS and ends with this film. Batman V Superman was dark, but middle chapters are often dark. THAT movie’s theatrical cut was also hobbled; the “Ultimate Edition” puts back in story elements that were critical to the movie making sense.

    I totally get that Snyder’s story telling and take on DC superhero films isn’t as popular as the Marvel films. I love a lot of the Marvel movies, and they benefitted from a measured build-up with solo films with a consistent tone and excellent production. However, except for the first Avengers films (which had an abrupt and disappointing ending), the other Avenger films have not appealed to me. In fact, Age of Ultron is one of the worst films I ever saw — in part because (again in my opinion) it makes Captain America out to be a complicit prick in

    [Spoilers still?]
    Stark’s parents’ murder, and has Cap beating up Stark on top of that. To hell with that.

    I think one issue is that Snyder didn’t really have the studio support (or whatever else it took) to really sell Man of Steel, BvS, and Justice League as a trilogy. When Man of Steel came out, it was criticized for (among other things) making light of all the property damage and lives lost in Metropolis in the final battle. BvS dealt directly with that issue and was criticized by many for being too dark. this version of Justice League dealt with the despair at the end of BvS and . . . reviews are generally good.

    Anyway, I tend not to compare Marvel and DC movies. I take DC movies on their own terms, and those are generally terms that I really like. I do the same for Marvel, and I generally like those movies too. The cool think is that I can watch both sets of movies; I don’t have to choose!

  38. Geez. I just realized that I confused Captain America Civil War with Age of Ultron in my previous comment. I didn’t like either, but for different reasons. My comments above relate to Civil War. My problem with Age of Ultron was the really silly premise for the whole film.

  39. Drew – I agree with your assessment, having re-watched BvsS Ultimate Edition (which was far better than I remembered – I think a lot was cut from it originally?) while watching Snyder’s cut of JL. (I also re-watched the first half of Whedon’s version – and they are completely different films.

    I’d like to add that Snyder’s films aren’t for everyone. I’ve seen most (not all) and they are more adult – and tend follow the darker graphic novels produced by DC (such as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen.). Snyder in fact has done cinema versions of two of Miller’s graphic novels – 300 (inventing a slow motion action visual style, and using film stock for FX that no one else had done prior), and Watchmen.

    Like you, I’ve seen all the Snyder superhero films and the Marvel ones. I have also discussed the Snyder films with people (co-workers and a professional documentary film editor) who preferred them. Stating they were more re-watchable and had more layers than they felt the Marvel did. I could argue it both ways. It’s like anything culturally – from books to films to even food, mileage it varies. I personally liked Ben Affleck as Batman, totally worked for me, but others preferred Michael Keaton or Adam West. (shrugs). That’s subjective.

    I think one issue is that Snyder didn’t really have the studio support (or whatever else it took) to really sell Man of Steel, BvS, and Justice League as a trilogy. When Man of Steel came out, it was criticized for (among other things) making light of all the property damage and lives lost in Metropolis in the final battle. BvS dealt directly with that issue and was criticized by many for being too dark. this version of Justice League dealt with the despair at the end of BvS and . . . reviews are generally good.

    It was also financial. Marvel’s films were bringing in much bigger numbers. For a very good reason – they targeted the whole family. You could bring small children to Marvel films. (I wouldn’t. I honestly think romanticized fun violence is worse. But mileage varies, and the FCC ratings system disagrees.) They have bright colors, kids in them, and jokes – often jokes targeting a younger male demographic. And the action in the Marvel films feels at times like watching a kids video game – it’s briefer and not as bloody.

    And Marvel’s films are all PG-14.

    DC wanted the big dollars – and to do that they needed funner, PG-14 fare – like say WW84 (which I didn’t enjoy as much as others did) or Aquaman. Or say, The Avengers. AoU, which I agree is a deeply flawed creative mess – was a financial success grossing over a billion worldwide. In stark contract Bvs.S only grossed 808 million worldwide. Which DC/WB considered a financial failure. It’s not really for an adult film. Nolan’s films never grossed a billion – they were adult films.

    The adult comic book film is going to hit a much narrower audience. Not quite as large worldwide. Most mainstream audience members tend to see comics and superhero films as being for kids or young at heart, not dark.

    Add to all this – Snyder took a huge risk with Superman – he chose to take the character in a darker direction, and question the icon more. Also it was a very “subversive” take – that turned off some folks big time. (See some of the comments.)

    So it makes sense from a money or profit vantage point – why WB wanted a lighter film.
    What they got was a worse financial failure than Bvs.S – Whedon’s Justice League was considered a bomb financially – with only $665 Million out of the $300 million cost. Ironically?? They make get more bang for the buck with the release of the Snyder cut and the influx of the subscribers.

    Anyhow, I think that is what happened, and why Snyder lost his support. The studio’s financial expectations were high. They expected Batman vs. Superman to be a huge hit, it was a modest one if that. And those who went to see it? Expected a fun comic book film they could take the kids too, not a darkly contemplative hyper-realistic adult film on what it means to be a hero and have powers in our violent world?

    There’s a lot going on in Bvs S – it critiques our media culture, shows how easy it is to fool the press or twist the narrative, and put a marketing spin on it. And it borrows heavily from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns – which is a brilliant comic that asks similar questions – but also very adult.

    Snyder was handed the mantle from Nolan, to do a trilogy with Superman similar to Nolan’s with Batman, in some respects, and broadened. It’s a shame money and profit got in the way of that. But that’s showbiz.

  40. Shazam and Wonder Woman all got the tone right for what the DC universe should be. Not just Aquaman.

    It improved despite Snyder. This film just brings them back to the way it shouldn’t have been.

  41. Okay, so Mr. Skalzi and I don’t agree but yes, I waded through Zack Snyder’s Justice League yesterday/last night. Regardless of the review above, I recommend. Highly. Here’s my take without spoilers.

    Make no mistake, it’s a four-hour epic and it’s not without flaws that might strain the patience in places. But it’s an entirely different story from the theatrical release. If you saw that, well forget everything you saw. This is animal is so altogether different that it’s an entirely other species. Finding the places where the same dialogue appears is actually more like an Easter egg hunt. However, Zack kindly broke it into mini-series size chapters for those of us who have weak bladders or blood sugar issues. You can plan your intermissions. So my Other Half and I watched the first two hours in the afternoon and the second two with and after dinner. It took us all the way to bedtime and I can’t say we were ever bored.

    Most of the yuks are gone. If you are only happy with jokey DCU, well, maybe this isn’t for you. This is serious shit. People, even superheroes, get hurt. They suffer great loss, grieve, important people die. Battles have consequences. Even–maybe especially–world saving battles have BIG consequences. Gray areas in the storytelling are even grayer. Fight scenes are much more believable. Some of our heroes are less friendly and a lot more scary. I enjoyed that part, but I’m weird. Maybe you are too.

    The basic outline of the story remains the same, but this time around is taken seriously. You get detailed motivations and backstory on pretty much everybody. If it was overdone I couldn’t see where it was ever wasted. Well, maybe once. But I quickly forgot about it because it was used so well.

    Lots and lots of new characters appear and disappear, sometimes without explanation or motivation, and sometimes without doing anything worthwhile–but still I found I enjoyed it. Let’s face it, a “Hey! That’s _______ !” bit of happy geekdom is fun even without a single valid reason. See the comment above about Easter Eggs, above.

    SEMI-SPOILER: Without revealing too much, despite a ton of foreshadowing, as of now my research indicated that there are no plans for sequels. Yet.

  42. Thanks for the review – it cements my instinct that I probably don’t need to waste 4 hours (seriously?!) of my life watching it.

    I have honestly really not enjoyed any of Snyders Superman movies. His Lois is terrible, and the “dark turn” or supposed questioning of the trope that his fans claim just…doesn’t feel earned to me. I think your general assessment of these films looking pretty but not having much substance rings true. I might someday watch it, but I can think of so much other media worthy of 4 hours of my time. I’m sure it’s better than Whedon’s version, but to me that sets the bar of “can I watch until the end without shutting it off,” and not really a quality marker.

    I do very much enjoy Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, it reminds me of the older, cynical BW from some of the animated movies. In fact, I adore the darker turns in the DC animated catalog overall…and those pack a much stronger emotional punch to me than either of the Snyder Superman movies I’ve seen.

  43. A bit of a tangent. You said, “the question is how the film rings the changes.” The internet informs me that this is common usage.

    But my little anglophile heart is convinced it will always refer to the bells in English churches.

    (I have no interest in superhero movies, but I read your reviews ’cause I like how you write. In this case, alas, you ripped my blindfold off.)

  44. Interesting – the previous review I read entered the film from a point of doubt, and left with the reviewer being thoroughly impressed about how the film told a meaningful story about relatable characters in a way that left a lot of food for thought. I really have to see the film now :D

    (Even though I’ve kinda avoided superhero movies. I loved superhero comics as a kid, and would still be prepared to praise some stories in them, but I doubt how moving those stories into cinema works. The medium is essential for those stories.)