ZACK SNYDER'S JUSTICE LEAGUE Review: A Monumental Triumph For The Director And His Fans

Zack Snyder's Justice League is set to hit HBO Max this Thursday, and now that the embargo has lifted, you can find out what we made of the fabled "Snyder Cut." Some mild spoilers will follow...

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So, here we are. The fabled "Snyder Cut" of Justice League nobody ever really expected to see is set to release on HBO Max this week.

It's impossible to jump straight into a review without acknowledging what an anomaly this movie is. In an unprecedented move, Warner Bros. decided to grant Zack Snyder the opportunity to revisit a critical and commercial flop, giving him millions of dollars to restore FX sequences and shoot entirely new scenes, and all because of fan-demand.

Make no mistake about it: if it wasn't for the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut Movement, this director's cut is never seeing the light of day. You can talk all you want about toxic fandom and "bowing to the demands" of entitled fans, but you can't argue with the results.

The big question is, of course, was it all worth it? Is Zack Snyder's Justice League better than the version that hit theaters back in 2017? Unequivocally, yes.

It's difficult to imagine even the most ardent Snyder detractor failing to admit that this 4-hour (we'll get to that mammoth run-time in due course) cut improves on the original film in pretty much every way. The story flows much more cohesively, the characters are better defined and developed, it's far more tonally consistent, and just makes a lot more sense in general.

Warner Bros.' plan to introduce most of these heroes in a team-up movie before their solo adventures always seemed like a risky gamble, and, as the theatrical cut of JL can attest to, it clearly didn't pay off. However, the extended version is structured in a way that allows us to get to know the characters on an individual basis before they come together as a unit, and it makes all the difference.

The team members - and actors - that benefit most from this are Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who are both given a lot more to do and develop a touching rapport that was completely absent from the theatrical cut. Even the big CG villain is fleshed out, and while Steppenwolf is not going to trouble Thanos in the character development department, he is, at least, more than just something for the heroes to punch this time around.

Which brings us to the big-screen debut of DC's Thanos equivalent, Darkseid. The ruler of Apokolips only appears in a few scenes, but he definitely makes an impact. One sequence, in particular, is sure to delights fans of the character, while raising hopes that Ava DuVernay's New Gods movie gets off the ground.

There are also some incredible new action sequences (we won't spoil 'em by going into detail), and even the ones that play out largely the same - Steppenwolf's invasion of Themyscira and the final battle - are greatly enhanced by all-new shots, the magic of editing, and Junkie XL's pulse-pounding score.

The much-discussed epilogue is a little jumbled, and might seem pointless to some considering the "Nightmare" scenario is not likely to be explored any further. But it's still a fascinating glimpse into what might have been, and Batman's face-off with Jared Leto's Joker's is strangely compelling. By the way, that much-discussed "we live in a society" line from the trailer? He says something else entirely.

As you might expect, Snyder's vision is an altogether darker affair, but it's far from bleak. All of the studio-mandated "humor" has been removed, but there are still plenty of funny and uplifting moments. That said, those who already feel that Snyder takes this stuff too seriously are unlikely to come away with a new perspective.

Snyder does, admittedly, throw the baby out with the bathwater on a few occasions. It would be easy to reject everything Joss Whedon added (especially in light of recent allegations against him) to the film when Snyder departed the project, but it really wasn't all bad. Some fun banter between Cyborg and The Flash has been altered, and though the Superman/Batman memorial altercation scene in the theatrical version was rightfully criticized for its goofiness, all of Kal El's dialogue has now been removed, robbing the scene of some of its power. Maybe there was simply no getting around that damn CGI jaw?

Is it too long? If this was a theatrical release it would obviously be much harder to justify those 4 hours, but the streaming experience allows for pauses and viewers can watch it in installments (it's broken into chapters) if they choose. It does still drag a little at times and some will undoubtedly accuse Snyder of self-indulgence, but he was asked to deliver his definitive take on Justice League, and - for better or worse - that's exactly what we got.

Zack Snyder's Justice League won't please everyone, and has no aspirations to do so. The divisive filmmaker has delivered his definitive take on the DC Comics super-team, embracing the characters' rich mythology and treating them with the respect they deserve. It's not perfect by any means, but should still be viewed as a monumental triumph for Snyder and his legions of fans.

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