12:00 pm EDT, March 15, 2021

Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ review: The film fans have been waiting for

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a love letter to fans of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Here’s our review!

In short, Zack Snyder Justice League is everything Zack Snyder fans have been waiting for since 2016 but were robbed of when Joss Whedon’s abomination theatrical release came out in 2017.

But before I continue on with this piece, let me go ahead with my standard DC movie review disclaimer just in case you’re new around here: This isn’t going to be an objective review.

I say this a lot when I review DC films, but I especially want to make it clear in this one.

My love for Zack Snyder is well-documented, both here on Hypable and on Twitter. I’ve spent years fighting for the recognition that Man of Steel deserves and will forever vehemently defend Batman v Superman as one of the best comic book movies of all time.

I’ve also been an advocate for the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and celebrated it as a win for art and artists once it was (finally) officially announced.

All this to say: If you’re coming to this review for something resembling pure objectivity, then perhaps this is not the review for you. The road to getting this movie has been too long and the movie itself is too close to my heart for me to be able to be anything close to objective about it.

(Then again, Zack Snyder is such an oddly polarizing figure for people that perhaps there really won’t be many objective reviews out there — in which case, at least I’m being honest with you about where I stand.)

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However, if you’re coming to this film and this review as a fan of Zack Snyder or even as someone who enjoyed his previous two outings in the world of DC superheroes, let me make something clear as a fellow fan: This movie fucking rules.

Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ review:

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that respects its fans without losing itself to fan service with a narrative that has real weight without feeling self-important. The movie delivers the intricate world-building and epic storytelling we’ve come to expect from Snyder without sacrificing smaller, more emotional character-driven moments.

Above all, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a film that so clearly cares deeply about each of its characters. It takes them seriously and crafts thoughtful narratives for them, so that what we get is not solely a story about heroes worth emulating, but people genuinely worthy of our empathy in addition to our admiration.

Justice League 2021

If you were to watch Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Joss Whedon’s version of Justice League back to back, it’d be painfully obvious what a discordant note Joss Whedon’s cut of Justice League struck in terms of tone, visuals and storytelling.

Luckily, we can banish that disharmious attempt from our collective memories and bask in the greatness and beauty of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which is absolutely a different movie than the one we got in theaters — everything from its tone, to its visuals, to its storytelling, hell, even its soundtrack (shoutout to Junkie XL) has been elevated.

While the theatrical cut often looked muddy and messy, nearly every scene here is something I want framed and hung up on my walls. There are so many moments and scenes in Zack Snyder’s Justice League that look like a comic book panel come to life and as big of a TV as I have, this is the first time since the start of the pandemic that I wished I could actually see a movie in theaters.

It’s such a gorgeous-looking film, one that frames its quiet, intimate character moments as beautifully as it shoots its big-budget, frenetic action scenes.

Cyborg in Zack Snyder's Justice League

Indeed, it’d be worth it to watch this film just for its visuals. But Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t just empty spectacle and expensive action without heart; instead, it’s a beautiful-looking film so filled with heart that I spent about the first hour with a lump in my throat. It’s so clear from the opening frame to the final scene that Zack Snyder cares deeply about this film — about its characters, about its stories, about us as fans of it.

The movie continues to build the world introduced to us in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, giving us the epic mythology and majestic backstories that are unique to and such a beloved part of Zack Snyder’s DC filmography. The history lesson in this film in particular is so lush and majestic that I could’ve easily watched an entire film dedicated to it.

It also continues the character arcs of the heroes introduced in the first two films and develops the narratives of responsibility, heroism as a choice and our shared humanity that were woven throughout his previous two films, bringing them to a satisfying conclusion and making it clear that Snyder has had a definite plan in mind all along for the heroes in his universe.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League also doesn’t sacrifice character development for the sake of big set pieces. Its four hour runtime allows the movie to dedicate time to each of its characters, with Ray Fisher’s Vic Stone aka Cyborg especially getting the limelight that he deserves and was horrifically robbed of in Joss Whedon’s theatrical release.

Cyborg has been described by Snyder as the heart of the film, and without revealing too much of his storyline for the sake of the spoilers, I will say that it was a Cyborg scene that made me cry (the first time) in the film.

The movie takes care to really delve into Cyborg’s story, showcasing not only the tragedy and eventual triumph of the character, but highlighting just how incredibly powerful he is and how vital of a role he plays on the team.

Ray Fisher does a tremendous job in the role, and I’m sure that I won’t be the only one clamoring for Fisher to get both a solo Cyborg film and to be reinstated in the upcoming Flash movie.

Diana Prince

While Cyborg is the character who benefits the most from the Snyder Cut, it’s Zack Snyder’s take on the Amazons and Wonder Woman that impressed me the most.

The Amazons are warriors through and through here, and one of my favorite scenes takes place on Themyscira and shows off just how completely badass the Amazons are.

Diana Prince herself as portrayed by Zack Snyder is every bit as warm and compassionate and kind as we’ve come to expect from the character, but the movie also never forgets that she was raised on an island of warriors and is a warrior with 5000 years of experience under her belt. You get the distinct impression that this Diana would have snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck as she did in the comics, rather than delivering an unbearably cheesy ten minute monologue about the power of love.

She’s also an unquestioned leader of the Justice League, an equal to Bruce in terms of leadership and his better in terms of battle and strategy. She gets one of my favorite battle moments in the entire film — one that I hope will be endlessly gif’d so that I can continue to see over and over again.

In terms of the team as a whole, their chemistry is fantastic. Each of the characters gets scenes with one another and there are a few duos about whom I’d gladly see an entire movie. It makes me desperately wish that we were getting more of this universe of characters with this specific characterization.

Full Justice League

Despite the somberness of the world we initially enter, this film is actually much lighter in time than the last two — but manages to do it without devolving into the forced quips and juvenile humor of the theatrical version.

Ezra Miller’s Flash brings a lot of levity and jokes to the mix without becoming a joke himself; in fact, he gets one of the best action sequences of the entire movie, one that highlights just how powerful he truly is. There are a lot more situational gags and dry humor than you might expect given the previous outing and not a single bit or line feels forced or out of place.

However, despite the lighter tone, the movie still takes itself seriously — which is something I’ve always liked and admired about Zack Snyder’s superhero films.

I don’t mean to say that I like misanthrophic themes storytelling; I, in fact, dislike that kind of storytelling quite a lot. But I don’t, as many seem to, equate serious with relentlessly hopeless or grimdark (which are often words used to describe Zack Snyder’s superhero films).

What I mean when I say that Zack Snyder takes his superhero movies seriously is that he treats his characters like real people existing in the real world. His movies aren’t precious about its heroes — they don’t take the goodness of heroes for granted, they don’t leave decisions unquestioned, and they don’t ignore the repercussions of their actions.

That’s as true in this movie as it was in his previous ones.

While Batman v Superman was all about the repercussions of the existence of The Superman, Justice League is about the consequences of having to now live in a world without him. The movie doesn’t gloss over his loss or attempt to move past it quickly — it delves into it, exploring the ramifications of such a loss.

Superman isn’t present for a good portion of the film (this isn’t a spoiler; he did, after all, die in the previous movie), but his presence is still felt by the characters because of his absence.

While the world mourns the loss of Superman as a symbol of hope, the characters in Justice League mourn the loss of Clark Kent — beloved son, loving fiancee, personal friend. Heroes, the movie reminds us, aren’t just symbols to be worshipped, but real people whose presence makes an impact and whose absence carries weight.

On a broader storytelling level, our newly formed superhero team must not only deal with the loss on a personal level, but are forced to contend with what the loss of a powerful being like Superman means for the safety of planet Earth and must confront what they’re willing to do and sacrifice to get him back.

Steppenwolf in Zack Snyder's Justice League

I mentioned at the start of this Zack Snyder’s Justice League review that I can’t be purely objective about this movie and I stand by that. However, I will also stand by the fact that a lack of pure objectivity doesn’t preclude me from critical thinking.

So while I’m coming to this movie as a fan of Zack Snyder — and specifically what he’s done with DC superheroes in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman — that doesn’t mean it’s all hype, no reflection.

I watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League three times in full before I sat down to write this review because I wanted to make sure that even if I was coming to it as a fan, I wasn’t writing a review based solely on hype. I think an important part of the fan experience is not only celebrating what we love, but recognizing the things that we wish we could’ve loved more.

With that in mind, I will say that this is the simplest story of the three Snyder-verse films, with a more recognizable superhero movie (for the most part) structure and story arc. It doesn’t challenge any preconceived notions people have about specific heroes or heroism in general, which makes it more broadly appealing than the previous two movies; in doing so, though, it does lose some of the complexity that I enjoyed from previous Snyder outings.

While the addition of Darkseid into the storyline is a highlight that completely changed the stakes and weight of the story, Steppenwolf himself remains a lackluster villain — though I fully recognize that this is partly by design. After all, his broader function is to bring to light the actual threat of Darkseid.

Still, given that it’s unknown (I won’t say unlikely because I do hope the success of this film sparks something at WB) if we’ll ever get that follow-up film, I have to judge this film on its own merit, and having Steppenwolf as your main villain does put a ceiling on the film.

Finally (and this isn’t necessarily a criticism that applies to me personally, but just something I think is worth pointing out in this review), Zack Snyder’s Justice League assumes that if you committed to watching a four hour film with his name attached, then you’re bringing a certain amount of required backstory and comics knowledge to the proverbial table — or you’re at least willing to Google anything that you don’t quite understand.

The movie jumps right into the story without bothering to recap how we got to this point in the narrative, introduces characters, delves into story arcs, and makes reference to backstories without much fanfare or exposition.

I personally like this approach to storytelling because it assumes a certain amount intelligence in its audience and an ability to make inferences that superhero movies in general seem to frequently take for granted. However, I also recognize that it requires more heavy lifting for casual fans and general audiences.

Zack Snyder directing

Truthfully though, those are just minor quibbles for a four hour film that I watched three times in five days for this Zack Snyder’s Justice League review and will probably watch at least three more times before it even officially premieres on HBO Max.

The film is Zack Snyder unleashed and unabridged, and as a fan of Zack Snyder and his films, I absolutely love that about it.

I love how epic the movie is and how clearly Snyder takes superheroes as a modern mythology to heart. I love the seriousness with which he treats superheroes and how important he felt it was to have certain scenes breathe rather than rush through them. I even love how indulgent this film feels at times because you know what? Zack Snyder — and us as fans of Zack Snyder — deserve to be indulged after the journey it took to get this film.

How well all that plays for the Snyder skeptics and cynics out there I can’t quite say.

But really, this movie has never been for those who write scathing invectives about his filmography, or proudly declare his fans as terrorists, or fire off vitriolic assumptions about who he is as a person on Twitter.

Instead, this movie has always been about Zack Snyder and his point of view as a director. It’s about an artist getting to release the art he made, the exact way he intended to be released. It’s about the fans who championed that art and that point of view and that artist.

It’s just an extremely delightful cherry on top that it also happens to absolutely fucking rule.

So if this is the last Zack Snyder DC superhero film that we get, then let me say how grateful I am that we were able to see Zack’s final story the way he intended it. If this is the final installment of the Snyderverse, then let me say thank you to Zack Snyder for giving us such epic mythology, such rich storytelling and such badass movies about superheroes.

But let me also say this: I hope it isn’t the last that we see of Zack Snyder’s vision. #RestoreTheSnyderverse

Do you agree with our Zack Snyder’s Justice League review? Let us know in the comments below!

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