We’re exactly one year removed from one of the most interesting movie events of the modern age. That may sound like an exaggerated statement but make no mistake: Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a monumental event the likes of which will probably never happen again. For the briefest moment, a studio actually listened to its audience and delivered an unadulterated product born from the imagination of an auteur. While many wait breathlessly for more chapters within Zack Snyder’s gritty superhero universe, the resounding success of Justice League is certainly enough to tide us over for years to come.
Even in the wake of Matt Reeves’ sensational The Batman — which I absolutely loved, by the way — it’s hard not to wonder where the DC Extended Universe might be right now had the higher-ups allowed Snyder to complete his vision. From what I remember, it’s likely his entire run would have come to an end by now, which means we would’ve received three Justice League movies, solo films for Ben Affleck’s Batman, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, Ezra Miller’s Flash, and likely another Man of Steel (Henry Cavill).
Imagine having all of that and then getting The Batman with Robert Pattinson? That’s the stuff of dreams.
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No matter. Zack Snyder’s Justice League still works as a grand finale to the man’s trilogy of comic book films, namely Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Watched back-to-back-to-back, the three features form a solid beginning, middle, and end while foreshadowing future possibilities. Sure, we can dream, but if Justice League marks the end then what an epic conclusion it was.
In a sense, we really got two Justice League films. The first two hours of Snyder’s four-hour cut build towards that wild action sequence that sees Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Cyborg duking it out with Steppenwolf in the tunnels below Gotham Harbor — my favorite scene of the entire film:
I assume this would served as the big climax of Part 1, with the Superman tease hitting right before the end credits. Part 2 would follow the team’s efforts to resurrect Super-Man, which is another great moment.
One that ultimately leads to this great action bit:
As an aside, it’s truly astounding how subtle changes can completely alter the tone of a film. A cut here, a line of dialogue there, a different piece of music, better FX, color filters … the most subtle of tinkering can drastically affect a scene, for better or worse. It makes you wonder how many bad films might actually be good if placed in the hands of another editor — and how many great films would suck if they were presented as originally intended.
In fact, here’s an example of one:
Also, here’s a cool video that exhaustively goes over a majority of the differences between the theatrical cut of Justice League and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in case you’re interested:
At any rate, I think audiences would’ve flipped for Zack Snyder’s Justice League had it been released as originally intended. Keep in mind, both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, while not Avengers-like successes, were gobbled up by the public when they hit DVD/Blu-ray. Audiences also flocked to Suicide Squad ($746 million), Wonder Woman ($822.3 million), and Aquaman ($1.148 billion), clearly taken by Snyder’s iteration of the characters. (By comparison, the highest post-Snyder DCEU film is Shazam!, which earned $365M worldwide.) Considering Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio went to great pains to make Justice League lighter and more accessible to audiences — at least, compared to the previous two entries — I imagine a little more patience on WB’s part might have ultimately paid off in the long run.
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That’s the odd thing about this whole DCEU mess I’ve never understood. WB clearly wasn’t happy with the direction Snyder was taking its arsenal of characters. Critics pounded Man of Steel and Batman v Superman for their dark tones and overt violence. As such, Snyder obliged and delivered an epic film that’s practically dripping with hope. In Justice League, Superman returns and finally becomes the hero we all know and love (replete with a classic shirt rip), “Batfleck” at long last exercises his demons and transforms into the classic Batman, Cyborg discovers his place among the world, Flash makes peace with his father, Wonder Woman stands as one of Earth’s mightiest protectors, and Aquaman heads home to claim his rightful seat as the King of Atlantis.
The final battle also includes this wicked shot:
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the ultimate team-up movie — a straight-faced Avengers brimming with classic heroes, larger-than-life villains, and epic action laced within a story about redemption. Even the film’s big bad, Steppenwolf, is given more depth than your average supervillain. The poor guy desires little more than to return home to be among his people, but due to past mistakes, must continue to serve Darkseid until his ridiculous debt is paid.
Yet, since booting the “way-too-dark-Snyder,” WB has produced the very R-rated Birds of Prey and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, the latter of which sees some dude get his dick shot off. Even Reeves’ The Batman is about as dark a take on the Caped Crusader as I’ve seen right down to a climax that sees a bunch of Riddler followers shooting into a crowd of people while Gotham harbor pours in around them. Comparatively, the studio went the opposite direction with Shazam! and Wonder Woman 1984, which were seemingly catered for five-year-olds. It’s bizarre.
As such, there will always be a part of me that remains bitter about the SnyderVerse, regardless of how much I love DC’s future projects. Currently, I’m absolutely ecstatic to see where Reeves takes his Batman franchise. The Batman might even be my favorite superhero film at this point, though it’s probably far too early to say as much. Even so, Zack Snyder Justice League will forever be one of those films I have to watch on a regular basis. I place it up there alongside The Dark Knight as one of the best superhero flicks ever made. It’s a stunning achievement made by a man with a genuine passion for its characters.
I’m happy that fans were passionate enough to put forth the effort to see this thing through and grateful Zack Snyder had the gall to bring his ultimate vision to the screen.