- Movie Rating -

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

| March 18, 2021

I feel it necessary to enter into a review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League by noting that I am not unsympathetic.  I’m not giving the film a favorable review but I completely understand why Snyder felt compelled to return to a project that he had to abandon four-years ago after the death of his daughter.  The movie ends with a notation in her honor (the first cut was completed by Joss Whedon).  But, as a critic, I can’t let that curdle my feelings for the movie, which is much better structured but is still unmercifully bleak and gloomy.  When all is said and done, basically Snyder has taken a movie that was grim and joyless at two hours and has made it grim and joyless at four hours.

Joyless is an understatement.  This movie exists in a state of endless mourning under a permanent cloud cover (literally and symbolically) and every character arc is painted with shades of misery and pain and despair from which they rarely emerge for a smile or even a chuckle.  for 242 minutes we watch the most powerful beings on Earth wade through one agonizing personal crisis after another, all under the darkest canvas that cinematographer Fabian Wagner can provide.  And all with booming operatic overtures provided by Danny Elfman.  After 90 minutes, I was shouting “Please!  Somebody!  Tell a joke, sing a song, throw a pie!  Something!

Four years ago, I gave the theatrical cut a middling review, feeling that it was less of a movie then an excuse to try to compete with the phenomenally successful Avengers movies which by that point had paid their dues and earned their team-up.  But where Disney and Marvel established a sense of quality control, those responsible for the DCU did not.  That burden weighed heavy on Justice League which took a lot of notes from The Avengers but often felt bulky and unwieldy, an also-ran that was even trounced by its own television dopplegangers.

So, here we are.  It’s four years later and Zack Snyder’s Justice League after a massive online campaign has resulted in Snyder being able to go back to the project that he was forced to abandon, add in additional footage, rearrange some of the storyline and, most importantly, extend the running time which now runs four hours and two minutes.

So, first the good news.  The extra time allows a proper introduction to new characters like Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and also allows us to get re-acquainted with Bruce Wayne/Batman, Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and much later Superman/Clark Kent.  He died in Dawn of Justice but you know that bankable characters always come equipped with mortality loopholes.  The narrative through-line here is much cleaner so that we follow character motivations with much better involvement.  Vastly improved is Victor’s relationship with his scientist father (Joe Morton) which is uneasy but, in the end, has an emotional payoff.

Now, the bad news.  Setting aside the movie’s aforementioned funerary tone, the entire plot is relegated to a very small idea that didn’t need four hours to work through.  Seems there’s an interdimensional CGI megaloid named Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hines) who is searching for three objects called – I love this – Mother Boxes that when fused together apparently can purge the Earth clean with fire.  From what I understand they’re not a million miles removed from Infinity Stones, but apparently, they’re harder to get and they’re even harder to destroy.  Steppenwolf is, for some reason, working under orders from a fiery being called Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter).  I’m not sure why Steppenwolf is working for Darkseid and why he doesn’t just tell Mr. Seid to go get his own damn Mother Boxes.

Steppenwolf is seen early and often.  He’s about 25 feet tall, looks like a Gillette ad, and speaks two languages: ominous exposition and portents of doom.  He drops into the picture so often that at this running time you’re not thinking about him as a villain so much as just muttering to yourself: “This guy again?

Mr. Darkseid isn’t much better.  He drops into the movie less than Mr. Wolf and really isn’t any more dangerous or ominous than any other other-worldly being in this movie.  He is also about 25-feet-tall, seems to be made mostly of metal and, for some reason, spends the entire movie on fire.

But the villains are the least of this movie’s problems.  The dialogue (and there’s a lot of it) is mostly just colorless plot advancement.  The characters don’t really speak to each other as people, their interactions are largely plot-driven and so we never really get any sense of how they feel about one another.  With The Avengers, we always sensed their strengths and their flaws and how they related to one another.

Given these problems there’s no real reason for this movie to stretch on for 242 minutes.  The movie doesn’t have that much plot nor does it have that much to say about anything.  The ending is particularly agonizing, not just the endless boss battle, but the post-plot wrap-up that refuses to end.  If you thought Return of the King had trouble arriving at an ending, this movie has at least seven epilogues that do little more than set up movies that we don’t really care about.  There’s no reason for this, there’s no reason for the movie to have a running time that apes Gone With the Wind.  Come on, Zack, wrap it up.  Tomorrow is another day!

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Action