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Movie Review: "Zack Snyder's Justice League"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

HBO Max Release: 3/18/2021

HBO Max Release: 3/18/2021

Synopsis

Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, and the world mourns. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) regrets the role he played in his conflict with the Man of Steel, and he is troubled by the warning given to him by Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg). Superman acted as a deterrent for Earth, keeping dark forces from attempting to invade. With Superman gone, Earth is now vulnerable to outside invaders, and Bruce knows that he and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) are not enough. There are other heroes out there, and if they can be united, they may just be enough to protect Earth.

Bruce and Diana know of a young speedster (Ezra Miller), the legendary Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and a powerful cyborg (Ray Fisher). Together, the five could form a team of defenders, but uniting them will prove to be a challenging task, and they are running out of time. A seemingly unstoppable alien conqueror named Steppenwolf (Ciara Hinds) has arrived with his army of parademons. His wants to acquire three ancient artifacts known as the Mother Boxes and use them to transform Earth into a replica of his home world and enslave any of Earth’s survivors. The Justice League will need to unite in order to face Steppanwolf, but even then, they may not stand a chance without Superman.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Justice League (+8pts)

Long & Slow Motion (-5pts)

Steppenwolf (+6pts)

Darkseid & The Anti-Life Equation (-3pts)

The Mother Boxes & The Action (+10pts)

Lois, The Manhunter, and The Epilogue (-2pts)

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Pro: The Justice League (+8pts)

It is easy to compare this movie to The Avengers. Both saw teams of individual superheroes coming together to face a world threatening adversary, and both were the first movies of their kind in their respective franchises. What made this one special was which characters were coming together. This movie included Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Flash all in one movie—obviously Cyborg as well, but he was not quite as iconic as the others—and it was awesome seeing an epic movie like this one bringing them all together.

Rather than give each character their own stand alone movie before hand, the filmmakers of this movie had to introduce three, major new characters in a way that would get audiences invested in their stories. They had to do this while also furthering the stories of three other characters, while also introducing a major villain and telling the main plot of the movie. I liked how the filmmakers introduced the new characters, as they basically took the The Magnificent Seven approach—a major threat was on its way, so the main hero set out on a mission to recruit a group of skilled individuals. Some characters were eager to join, and others were not, for various reasons, which gave each character their own voice and personality, while also showcasing their unique abilities. I really enjoyed seeing these iconic characters coming together, and the filmmakers did a pretty good job of handling their stories.

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Con: Long & Slow Motion (-5pts)

The filmmakers had to introduce Steppanwolf, the mother boxes, and the threat coming to Earth. They also had to introduce the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg, while giving each of them enough screentime to make audiences care about them, and they had to do all this while giving plenty of screentime to Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, the two main characters. There was simply too much to do, and there was no way the filmmakers were going to do it in a 90-120 minute time frame without making things feel rushed or choppy. However, this movie came in around 240 minutes—4 hours—which is a lot for a single movie. After having seen the movie, it easily could have been trimmed down by about an hour.

There were some completely unnecessary scenes—like the Manhunter scenes, Lois’ daily routine, and Lois’ conversation with Martha. There were also plenty of scenes that were slow motion, when there was no reason for it—like Victor’s football scene. There were also a bunch of scenes that were drawn out much longer than they needed to be—like the women singing at Aquaman, Clark’s time at his mother’s house, and the epilogue. None of these scenes were bad, but a four hours is just excessive, and there was plenty of room to trim this movie down by about an hour without sacrificing the important, relevant aspects of the story.

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Pro: Steppenwolf (+6pts)

In addition to being able to flesh out the new protagonists, the same was true for the primary antagonist, Steppanwolf. In 2017’s The Justice League, Steppanwolf was just a generic, underdeveloped villain. He sought word domination, destruction, and the enslavement of the planet's species. He wanted this for arbitrarily bad reasons, and that was pretty much the extent of the character. In this movie, we got to learn more about him and his relationship with his boss, Darkseid.

The filmmaker’s did not spell everything out, but we learned that he saw conquering Earth as tedious work, that he had done something to make him fall out of Darkseid’s good graces, and that he was desperate to prove himself to Darkseid so that he could go back home. What Steppanwolf wanted was still bad, but the filmmakers made us feel his desperation and his guilt, which made him interesting. Then there was the fact that he was an absolute powerhouse, going through armies like it was just another day at work, and taking on the individual members of the Justice League like they were annoyances more than anything else. His action sequences were pretty cool, his character development made him interesting, and he was a badass of a primary antagonist. This Steppanwolf was a major improvement from the one we saw in 2017’s The Justice League.

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Con: Darkseid & The Anti-Life Equation (-3pts)

The filmmakers of this movie improved Steppanwolf, making him more than a one-dimensional, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil antagonist, but they did not do the same for Darkseid. Fortunately, Steppanwolf was without a doubt the primary antagonist of this story, so it did not hurt the movie too much. Then there was the ridiculousness regarding Darkseid and Earth. Basically, Darkseid discovered the incredibly valuable Anti-Life Equation on Earth a long, long time ago. He also left three Mother Boxes on Earth, and Earth became the one and only planet that he ever failed to conquer. The filmmakers then wanted us to believe that all of that happened, only for Darkseid to just forget which planet all of that happened on, which made no sense whatsoever.

The filmmakers unfortunately did a poor job of explaining the difference between the Anti-Life Equation and the Mother Boxes. It was also unclear what Darkseid would be able to do with it that he could not do with the Mother Boxes. The filmmakers did a great job of setting up the Mother Boxes and their importance, but they did a poor job of explaining what the Anti-Life Equation was and why we should be more worried than we already were. Given how much was going on in this movie, and how little a role the Anti-Life Equation played in that story, I think the filmmakers should have taken the Anti-Life Equation out of the movie entirely, or left it as a cliff-hanger ending, teasing a potential movie.

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Pro: The Mother Boxes & The Action (+10pts)

The filmmakers did a good job of setting up the Mother Boxes, what they could do if Steppanwolf got his hands on them, and how important it was to protect them. This gave the movie a clear objective, and it set the stakes high. Then, say what you will about Zack Snyder and his style of filmmaking, but the guy knows how to shoot action.

The movie always looked visually outstanding, and Zack Snyder’s style of zooming in and out, and pulling in and out of slow motion, made the action look really cool. Mix that with getting to see the various members of the Justice League doing their thing, and what you have is epic, awesome action featuring badass, powerful characters showcasing their various skills. This movie was four hours long, but there was plenty of awesome action to keep me watching. Each action sequence left me wanting more, and the movie rarely kept me waiting for very long.

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Con: Lois, The Manhunter, and The Epilogue (-2pts)

Lois did not really contribute anything to this story until a certain someone needed to be snapped out of a frenzy. Nonetheless, the filmmakers kept spending screentime showing her moping around, and in a four hour movie, it just was not necessary. Then there was the Manhunter, and while Man of Steel hinted at this character’s presence in this universe, this movie took it a step further, and it all felt unnecessary as well. Finally, there was the epilogue, which was honestly pretty cool, and it left me wanting to see what might come next in the DCEU. However, it did not fit well within the context of this movie, it went on kind of long, and it sort of took away from the conclusion of this story. There were a few scenes in the epilogue, and given how long the movie was, a few of these scenes probably should have been cut, and the apocalyptic one probably should have been trimmed down. Ultimately, even all of these "issues" together were not very significant, and they only ended up in this review because I could not think of more significant issues.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (89pts)

First, how different could it be from the 2017 theatrical release? Second, did it really have to be four hours? After having seen the movie, I can tell you that the movie was a lot better than the 2017 theatrical release, but the movie definitely did not need to be four hours. The filmmakers easily could have shaved off a quarter of this movie by taking out or trimming scenes that were unnecessary to the overall story, and by using slow motion more sparingly.

It was a long movie, but the filmmakers were able to properly develop all of their characters—including characters like Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman, who were all underdeveloped in the theatrical release. They also made Steppanwolf a formidable, and interesting antagonist. Darkseid was pretty one-dimensional, but this was not his movie, so it was not that big of a deal. The movie had some other minor problems, but the movies strengths made it a lot of fun anyway. I enjoyed following each of the characters that made up the Justice League, the Mother Boxes were effective artifacts to center the plot around, and the action was the epic action you would expect from a director like Zack Snyder playing with these iconic characters. Did this director's cut fix all of the movie's problems? No, but it fixed most of them, and it made this movie a whole lot better than the theatrical release.

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