How Zach Snyder Reclaimed Justice League to Make The Greatest Superhero Epic of All Time

by Nick Papanicholas

It goes without saying that casual cinephiles and DC Comic superfans weren’t happy with the direction DC was going with its recent string of films. Save for Aquaman and the first Wonder Woman, their new set of films, which includes Suicide Squad, Justice League, and Birds of Prey, didn’t go over well with fans the past several years. After the release of Justice League in 2017, fans weren’t sure where its proposed universe was going. Due to the suicide of his daughter, Autumn Snyder, Zach Snyder walked away from completing the film. Joss Whedon (Firefly, The Avengers) took over, much to the dismay of the people involved in the production. Recently, allegations surrounding Whedon’s behavior on set have come to light, including leaving out massive chunks of Cyborg’s backstory, and threatening Gal Godot’s career when she expressed her concerns about the direction of the film.

The mess didn’t stop there. On the first watch of the theatrical release of Justice League, I noticed very sloppy visuals and CGI. Using CGI to remove Henry Cavill’s beard was super obvious, and at times distracting. The design of the villain was awful. too. He seemed puny and not menacing in the slightest. Parts of the plot seemed unfinished, and it was a tangled mess of a movie. I was disappointed. and so were many other people, that is, until the recent release of Zach Snyder’s Justice League.

His version of the film restores everything that I’d been hoping for in a DC film and removed the egregious CGI. The movie does at times seem like a rehash of the Avengers finale but told in a different way; it obviously contains different heroes, better pacing, exposition that explains character choices, and a plot that grabs hold of your attention for its entire four-hour runtime. Yes, this movie is four hours long. Trust me when I say it’s worth every second and is the only “superhero epic” to date. It’s longer than any other Marvel or DC film and it now makes sense why they couldn’t release it in theaters. Thankfully, the movie is split up into parts and has appropriate title cards to indicate each part throughout the film, so people don’t feel obligated to watch in one sitting.

The film itself also doesn’t look like your average blockbuster superhero film. The sides of the screen are cropped to preserve the format and vision Snyder had for Justice League from the start. There are also two separate versions of the movie on HBO Max, the only platform where you can watch it. One of them is in color, while the other is in black and white and aptly titled Justice Is Gray. As for what version I recommend, that’s entirely up to your personal taste. I’ve only seen the color version and brief snippets of the black and white version. If you find yourself with a hankering for some good ol’ black and white, Justice Is Gray will be right up your alley.

I do suggest that you go into this film expecting a very detailed backstory of why and how each hero is in the Justice League. Exposition is certainly what was missing from the original cut of the film, as well as better visuals. I felt that this was the version fans were begging for from the initial announcement of Justice League years ago, but never received until this year. I’m also very happy that Snyder took the time to put together this cut of the film and dedicate it to his daughter.

This visually stunning and gorgeous film gets a 9/10 from me. It doesn’t hold back anything from the audience or try to be something entirely different than a superhero epic. It embraces film and all its possibilities in more ways than one. This is a film in the DC Universe that can stand on its own without much previous knowledge needed. Simply put, this film has all the elements to craft a near perfect entry to shed light on why each hero or villain does what he or she does. At the end of the film, you care about what happens and are rooting for the characters that are being built up in the first and second acts of the movie. That, to me, is what makes a great movie worth watching.