Zack Snyder's Justice League

Zack Snyder's Justice League ★★★★½

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“We have to try.”

Roughly this time last year, I watched the theatrical cut of Justice League. I hated it, and as a matter of a fact it’s one of the very few films that I’ve ever given a 0. Though I’m very proud of that review, in which I described the film using language in colorful and frankly disgusting variety. The one thing I’ve always regretted about that review was the way I made it all Zack Snyder’s fault. “Zack Snyder was camera-fucking these women,” “Zack Snyder doesn’t belong in Hollywood.” I was swiftly corrected and told in great detail about how Zack Snyder was actually treated during the making of the 2017 Justice League, and how most of what I hated was the fault of Joss Whedon and the companies producing it in general. I claimed that a different cut of the film could only do so much to fix one of the worst films I have ever seen. I know that I was wrong, but I mostly feel bad that I beat Zack Snyder further down when he was already in a dark place, losing his daughter from suicide (this film is dedicated very lovingly to Autumn Snyder) and having his masterpiece, his best film by a considerable margin, beaten and mangled by unfeeling, money-grubbing whores. Which is to say, Hollywood executives.

I claimed that a different cut could only do so much because I truly felt that way. Every creative choice about that film was so disgustingly Frankenstein like that I couldn’t imagine a world in which the film could possibly be good, let alone great. Plus, you know. If you’ve seen my Letterboxd diary over the last few days, you’ll know I made it painfully clear that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s work. But I also knew he always had potential, and that he could make a great film if he put his heart and soul into it. Which is why when I saw Matt Zoller-Seitz give this film a three and a half out of four, calling it, to put it mildly, a modern auteurist classic, I had a great feeling about this film. And folks...he wasn’t lying. This transcends most comic book movies with incredible brute force. This didn’t even feel like a Zack Snyder movie, considering what I had done to expect from his work. At Zack Snyder’s Justice League’s absolute best, it felt like a selection from Steven Spielberg’s golden age. You can see it in the building tension, you can see it in the science fiction elements, you can see it in the characters, you can see it in the imagery. Zack Snyder really harnessed the power of the greatest directors of all time when piecing together his cut of the 2017 flop that shall not be spoken of. When people mention passion projects and magnum opuses and modern classics, this is the kind of shit that they mean.

The fact of the matter is the Snyder Cut improves drastically on the theatrical cut in every measurable way. Even when you look at the scenes he did shoot that made it into the theatrical cut. Every frame of that movie was an eyesore, but when you take a step back and realize that the big issue really with that was it was all over saturated as hell...well, at least for me, I had something of a higher respect for Zack Snyder’s tendency to up the black point, at least a little. Not only does it work wonders with the overall tone of this film specifically, it makes the color pop out in a beautiful way. The sunsets feel more orange, the powers feel more vibrant. My other big issue with the theatrical cut was how none of the characters felt like they had big arcs and any character building or development to speak of, especially when I looked at Barry Allen and Victor Stone. They finally have points to their existence. I get their motivations, I get why they’re upset, and to some degree I’m right there next to them, feeling every emotion because...at his best, Zack Snyder really does know how to create compelling characters with honest to God motivations. It’s refreshing. And because of all that, the drama is more dramatic. The stakes are...stakier. Such to the point that most of my real issues with it boil down to the small things. I didn’t like that edit, that scene could have been framed a little better. But the choreography, the visual effects, the writing (there’s one monologue near the 2:20 mark that is straight up the best of the year so far), the directing, the heart and soul. Everything that Zack Snyder could possibly do well, he does spectacularly with his cut of Justice League. This movie is incredible, and I’m so happy I get to say that.

Please consider donating to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention using this link, in memory of Autumn Snyder, who is gone but will not be forgotten.