Blu-ray Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
Written by: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Thanks goes to WB for the free review copy.
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.
Before I dive into this review, I would like to take a moment to inform how the film is presented. Note that I was sent the Blu-ray edition, which is split into two discs. Disc 1 contains the first four parts of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, along with a featurette titled “Road to Justice League.” Disc 2, meanwhile, is home to Parts 5, 6, and the Epilogue. And yes, the 4:3 aspect ratio is preserved. Those hoping for an inclusion of Justice is Gray won’t get it here, as an insert inside the packaging bills it as an HBO Max exclusive. But who knows, maybe one day it’ll be released through Warner Archive or something.
As for the movie itself, I have to say that it may be Zack Snyder’s best DC effort to date. I really dig Man of Steel and Watchmen, so it may take time and perspective for me to one day say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League (ZSJL) dethroned either in my mind. Having said that, it’s better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the theatrical cut of Justice League released in 2017. Truth be told, I like both versions of Justice League, but I happen to like Snyder’s a lot more.
If you’ve yet to see ZSJL for yourself, know that you’re in for a four-hour experience. Well, you don’t have to watch it all in one sitting, but you should probably do something close to that. Stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, grab a snack, and then pop in the second disc. It takes a long, long time getting in, but stick with it. The third act is where this baby shines, though there’s more to love.
Aside from that impressive running time, general moviegoers’ jadedness when it comes to Snyder-directed flicks could play a factor in their choosing whether to view this. If you find yourself in that category, don’t worry, because although ZSJL is a serious affair, it’s not as dark as BvS. Actually, you may find yourself surprised at how many jokes that made it into the theatrical cut were Snyder’s – and there are a few ones exclusive to his cut as well. In other words, there’s levity but the stakes are higher this time around.
On that note, be assured that Cyborg and Steppenwolf are more fleshed out, Batman doesn’t deliver any cringeworthy Whedon-isms, Ezra Miller is actually tolerable as the Flash, and Amber Heard’s Mera has a British accent for some reason. And love him or hate him, Jared Leto returns as the Joker during the Knightmare portion of the Epilogue.
The biggest addition to this cut that put a smile on my face is that of Darkseid’s inclusion. He was absent from the theatrical cut and has never appeared in a live action feature film. Hey, he may not get much screentime, but I sure did enjoy myself whenever he showed up. Hopefully some other filmmaker will one day include him in a Justice League or Superman movie of their own.
I’d really be remiss if I didn’t mention Tom Holkenborg’s score. As much as I love Danny Elfman, Holkenborg bested him in this instance. Heck, if you don’t believe how greatly music can change the tone of a scene, then I’ll refer you to the bank heist thwarted by Wonder Woman. There’s a world of difference. Plus, it’s just more in line with the Snyderverse, anyway.
Before I move on to the next section, I’d just like to circle back by complimenting the third act. It’s a climactic battle truly worthy of DC’s premier superhero team – and boy does the Flash ever play a memorable, pivotal role. I often tout this aspect for those on the fence.
As I alluded earlier, it does take quite a while to get to the meat of the narrative. I’m not sure if I’ve seen so much setup in my life. There’s a fine line between a slow burn and spending what felt like a half hour showing Steppenwolf retrieving a Mother Box from Themyscira. Some scenes really, really drag, and others are sometimes bordering on pretentious.
Still, it’s important to point out how this is an extended director’s cut in the purest sense. I’m assuming Snyder included nearly everything he shot. Had he not been replaced by Joss Whedon, my gut says his theatrical cut would’ve clocked in at two-and-a-half or three hours, with an extended home video release planned for down the line. However, if he thought a four-hour tentpole would actually fly, then he would be the only one wondering why the studio execs showed consternation.
But if anything grinds my gears, it’s the inclusion of Martian Manhunter. Don’t get me wrong, I love J’onn J’onzz, but are you meaning to tell me that he sat idly by while three events threatening the planet occurred, yet he’ll get off his ass because Lois Lane hasn’t shown up at her workplace? That’s Paul W.S. Anderson-level stupid, and I wish someone vetoed the idea.
So, should you double dip by purchasing Zack Snyder’s Justice League? Well, I’d say it’s best that you like at least one of his previous DC-related efforts, but you probably should partake. Whether you liked or disliked the theatrical cut, it’s worth at least a rental if you’re a fan of movie trivia. It’s not often we get these “what might have been” releases, so savor it. Although ZSJL hits the same major story beats as its 2017 counterpart, the journey it takes getting there is often different. Those familiar with the two separate versions of Superman II will find themselves in similar territory, and I couldn’t draw a better parallel.