Justice League untied the League, but divided the fanbase. Although Wonder Woman finally gave the DC Extended Universe a win, it was still way too soon for a large scale team up. Unlike Phase One of the MCU, Man of Steel and Wonder Woman are the only solo movies set before Justice League. The first 5 movies of the DCEU are the equivalent of Iron Man, Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers. I was nevertheless very excited to finally see the Justice League of America on the big screen. First uniting in The Brave and the Bold #28, Gardner Fox created the team in 1960 as a Silver Age version of the Justice Society of America. With superheroes as big as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter on the team, how could I not be a huge fan of the Justice League?
If not for DC’s bestselling superteam, Marvel may not even exist. Making it all the more pathetic that Warner Bros. couldn’t even get a movie made before The Avengers was released. The Justice League had far more success in animation. From kid friendly Saturday-morning cartoons like Super Friends to well thought out universe building like Justice League & Justice League Unlimited. Not to mention a handful of excellent animated films based on famous DC storylines. The only movie to enter serious production was the cancelled 2008 George Miller directed Justice League: Mortal. The DCEU wasn’t well thought out at all, but Zack Snyder seemed like he was listening to fan concerns. A First Look at the movie made it seem a lot less serious. The first trailer set to “Come Together” was just as encouraging, but since troubled productions go hand in hand with the DCEU, I should’ve known I’d end up disappointed…
Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, the Flash, and Aquaman unite
Justice League isn’t as messy as Batman v Superman, but it is a mess in many other ways. Personally I was turned off the moment I saw the complete roster of heroes. The New 52 is a universe of rebooted storylines that have affected DC properties ever since its launch in 2011. The Justice League’s roster included all of the original 7 members except for Martian Manhunter. He was permanently replaced by Cyborg. Despite reading and enjoying the New 52 Justice League #1 comic, I never understood putting Cyborg on the team. I get that he represents modern technology, but his place will always be on the Teen Titans. Although Cyborg isn’t the first black DC superhero, he is usually the only African American on either team. That didn’t bother me nearly as much as the glaring lack of green on the team. Green Lantern has always been a crucial part of the Justice League, but Warner Bros. made the idiotic decision to leave him out. Despite continuing to feature him in their new DC movie logo. I don’t care how bad the 2011 movie was, Hal Jordan should’ve gotten a second chance.
Now the team consists of: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Even that didn’t pan out, because Superman died in Dawn of Justice. Although it was obvious Superman would return, he was still left out of all marketing. My next concern was Zack Snyder’s continually bizzare casting choices. Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot proved themselves, but I had serious doubts about Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher. The Flash is one of my favorite superheroes outside of the DC Trinity. Police scientist Barry Allen became the Scarlet Speedster when he was struck by lightning and dosed in chemicals. He made his debut in Showcase #4 where he established himself as the Silver Age Flash. Between the original Jay Garrick and his successor Wally West, Barry Allen is the definitive Fastest Man Alive. Ezra Miller seemed a little too offbeat and flamboyant for the part. Especially after Grant Gustin was already doing so well in The Flash CW series. Miller’s Dawn of Justice cameo highlighted the Flash’s superspeed, but his out of nowhere message from the future wasn’t the best first impression.
A Suicide Squad cameo showed off his costume, but not much else. Miller ended up being a notable highlight as Barry Allen. Since he’s an inherently light hearted superhero, the Flash is the primary comic relief. It’s just his costume that looked overly complex. The Flash wears a scarlet suit with gold wings, but it looks more like armor with wires strung around it. Aquaman has always been the biggest punchline in DC comics, but he’s also the definitive underwater superhero. Despite his aquatic powers and ability to talk to fish, Arthur Curry has been taken a lot more seriously in later comics. He is the King of Atlantis after all. Jason Momoa felt like a bizarre choice since he’s mostly known for burly bruisers like Conan or Drogo. He’s no blonde adonis, but Momoa’s long hair and beard does match a later version of Aquaman. Not sure I understood his pale blue eyes though. His Dawn of Justice cameo revealed Curry underwater with a five pronged quident instead of the usual trident.
I wasn’t crazy about Aquaman’s Maori tattoos, but his costume left less of an impression. Rather than go for the traditional orange & green, Aquaman wears generic gold & green Atlantean armor. Momoa’s performance has a lot of brooding in it, but he makes up for that by acting like a laid back bro. Cyborg became a fan favorite thanks to his fun loving portrayal on Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans, but his tragic origin has changed to incorporate the Mother Boxes from Apocalypse. Turning Victor Stone into a highly advanced part-man part-machine with alien tech built inside him. Ray Fisher was previously a stage actor with no film experience, so I only took him at face value. His Dawn of Justice cameo was the only one to depict his origin. I do appreciate the irony of Miles Dyson himself Joe Morton playing Victor’s S.T.A.R. Labs scientist father Silas Stone turning his son into a cyborg with a Mother Box. Fisher ended up being very robotic with barely any personality, save for the stray use of his catchphrase “Booyah.” Cyborg’s metallic body wasn’t much better. His body is way too skinny and generic compared to the bulky white parts he normally has in the comics.
The continued involvement of director Zack Snyder made me just as nervous. The Justice League have always been a colorful band of costumed crime-fighters, so I really didn’t understand why Warner Bros. kept him on board after Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder did step down, but for far more tragic circumstances. So he was replaced by someone who already directed 2 successful superhero ensembles. Joss Whedon proved himself with The Avengers, but that doesn’t mean you can easily drop him into the already established DCEU. The marketing of the film noticeably started to change with Alex Ross style posters, light hearted trailers, and a November release. The most puzzling thing was a shockingly short runtime of exactly 2 hours. I was far less uncomfortable seeing the movie with my family, but it’s a serious problem when Justice League doesn’t leave an impression. So I wasn’t exactly shocked when it failed to break-even. The director credit may say Zack Snyder, but you can tell this is a Joss Whedon film from the start.
Justice League begins with an unbearably cringy scene of Superman rescuing people before his death. I appreciate having an optimistic Man of Steel at the very beginning, but why did it have to be on a phone with kids asking him the most childish questions imaginable. Whedon’s signature dialogue is made very clear with gems like Superman comparing hope to car keys. Even that isn’t the most cringy thing about the scene. Henry Cavill wasn’t allowed to shave his Mission: Impossible – Fallout mustache during re-shoots. Rather than delay the film, Warner Bros. ended up digitally erasing Cavill’s mustache. The results are way too distracting to take seriously. CGI is a major problem in Justice League. It’s practically a video game with a CGI villain, CGI henchmen, a CGI Cyborg, CGI landscapes, and CGI being used to make the climax less dark. The Justice League logo is shown on a flag before an opening of the world mourning the death of Superman. Lois Lane and Ma Kent mourn Clark’s death, but there’s also chaos in the streets of Metropolis. Setting it to “Everybody Knows” was another weird choice.
Danny Elfman ended up scoring the movie instead of Han Zimmer. You can definitely hear his original 1989 Batman theme if you listen close enough. Since the runtime is only 2 hours, it feels like every character is introduced with no time to establish anyone. Even the incoming conflict doesn’t have much set up. Batman is immediately seen in Gotham City tying up a criminal. He uses his fear to attract a Parademon. In the comics, Parademons are the foot soldiers of Darkseid. They look exactly like they did in Bruce’s Knightmare, but now they have neon green blood to make them more kid friendly. Speaking of being obnoxiously kid friendly, Steppenwolf looks nothing like he did in the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman. His face is overly human with a goofy horned helmet and uninspired armor. It doesn’t help that Ciarán Hinds is given the most generic villainous dialogue and forced attempts at comedy. Not that I was expecting much from a villain I never cared about.
Of all the Justice League villains to fight, why go with Steppenwolf? Especially when he’s so closely associated with Darkseid. The criminal that Batman ties up, practically tells the audience that Parademons are invading because Superman is gone. Alfred gives further exposition by revealing Lex Luthor’s journal to be their guide. An indeterminate amount of time passes when a bearded Bruce Wayne searches for the rest of the metahumans. Despite Dawn of Justice featuring a murder crazy Batman, Ben Affleck softens up the Caped Crusader considerably. Since Batman is always less brooding while on the Justice league, he’s not such a sad loner with a sense of humor. Most of the time it works, but sometimes it feels like Whedon trying too hard again. Probably his best joke is saying he’s rich when asked about his superpowers. The batsuit is the same except for a more armored tactical batsuit with goggles that he wears in the climax.
Bruce finds Arthur Curry in a small fishing community that counts on him as the legendary Aquaman. He saves fisherman on a sinking boat and brings fish in a mural that Bruce notices. Arthur not so politely declines the offer to join Batman’s team before Momoa’s obligatory shirtless scene. As Aquaman dives into the water, Bruce shaves and discusses a strategy with Alfred. Jeremy Irons wasn’t that rough in Dawn of Justice, but he’s also softened up with references to the Penguin and offhanded jokes. Wonder Woman is currently in London where she makes her grand entrance atop the Lady Justice statue. Since Diana Prince actually had a solo movie to make her a beloved character, Gal Gadot ends up being pretty consistent. Except that she’s still cut off from the world and talking about Steve Trevor decades later. The Wonder Woman costume thankfully hasn’t changed, but the way she’s shot is different. You can tell by all of the tight pants Diana wears.
Wonder Woman is first seen disposing of a bomb detonated by gentlemen terrorists. It’s great hearing Wonder Woman’s epic theme again, but the sequence doesn’t have any bearing on the plot. Although Diana is on good terms with Bruce, she doesn’t join the fight until the Amazons get involved. Justice League utilizes almost every hero’s individual supporting character regardless of relevance. Connie Nielsen returns as Queen Hippolyta alongside her scantily clad Amazonian sisters. They’re the first to encounter Steppenwolf when he comes for their Mother Box. The Amazons put up a valiant fight, but Steppenwolf manages to obtain the McGuffin anyway. So Hippolyta lights a beacon Lord of the Rings style, to warn her daughter of the incoming conflict. Diana is still working as a museum curator when she sees a burning Greek monument. Diana stops by the Batcave where Bruce is working on a new Flying Fox plane. She tells him the story of Steppenwolf attempting to conquer the Earth centuries ago.
It’s one of the movie’s main highlights since it brings together the armies of Earth, Atlanteans, Amazons, the Old Greek Gods, and even Green Lantern Yalan Gur. I’d say it’s enough just to see one Green Lantern, but Gur is immediately killed as his Power Ring flies away. The Old Gods include a jacked Zeus, Artemis, and David Thewlis’ head plastered on a stuntman playing Ares. Steppenwolf was exiled after his defeat, but tries to find all of the Mother Boxes in order to establish “The Unity” for Darkseid. Darkseid is literally mentioned once in the entire movie. The Mother Boxes are under protection from the Amazons, Atlanteans, and humans. Since Steppenwolf already has the Amazon box, he sets his sights on Atlantis. I was very excited to finally see the underwater society on the big screen, but all we see is a tiny portion of it. Amber Heard plays Mera, the redheaded true love of Aquaman who possesses hydrokinesis. She fights a water breathing Steppenwolf who briefly encounters Arthur when he swims down to the depths. Their aquatic fight ends with Steppenwolf obtaining the second McGuffin.
That’s followed by the dumbest creative choice in the entire movie. Rather than simply speak underwater, Mera has to create a stupid air bubble just to talk to Arthur. She mentions his queen mother and origin, but all of that will have to wait for his solo film. Since neither Diana, nor Bruce got anywhere with Arthur, they separately contact Victor Stone and Barry Allen. Barry is first seen jokingly using his superspeed in prison where he visits his incarcerated father. Dr. Manhattan himself Billy Crudup plays Henry Allen. Like the New 52 comic and CW series, Barry’s father was falsely accused of killing his mother. Most of their bonding doesn’t affect anything apart from Henry telling his son not to run around in circles. Bruce travels to Central City where he meets Barry in his second favorite chair. Although Miller has his moments, hyperactively talking about brunch is once again Joss Whedon trying to be funny. It is a cool moment when Bruce throws a batarang and Barry enters the Speed Force while figuring out he’s Batman. The Flash’s superspeed isn’t just running really fast. Time seems to stop and blue lighting surrounds his body. Barry immediately agrees to the Justice League since he needs friends.
Cyborg has almost no time dedicated to his life before the accident. All we see are old photographs and a sullen Victor hiding away when his father comes to check on him. Although he’s angry at his father, he seems to get over it really fast. We also bypass seeing Cyborg developing his rocket flight or any other weapon built into him. All we really learn is that Silas has the final Mother Box called a Change Engine. He works at S.T.A.R. Labs, which is still in possession of the Kryptonian scout ship. Diana contacts Victor when he hacks the batcomputer, but she doesn’t seem to get very far when they meet face to face. Not until a series of Parademon kidnappings that result in Silas Stone’s capture. The cringiest scene by far is a meeting between Lois & Martha at the Daily Planet. Whedon seriously thinks an old woman swearing about aliens probing her husband is funny. What’s worse is the nonchalant way Martha talks to Lois after Clark’s death. Diane Lane doesn’t have much to do apart from having the Kent farm foreclosed on. Amy Adams is similarly shortchanged, apart from Lois taking a break from writing.
When the Parademon kidnappings enter Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon contacts an old friend using the Bat Signal. Many assumed James Gordon was dead during the events of Dawn of Justice, but he’s alive and well after 20 years with the Dark Knight. J. K. Simmons sounded like inspired casting, until he ended up with literally nothing to do. Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash are joined by Cyborg when they talk to Gordon on a rooftop. They conclude that Steppenwolf must be taking kidnapped S.T.A.R. Labs employees beneath Gotham Harbor before suddenly vanishing. The Flash lampshades the superhero trope by vanishing himself. The Justice League unite less than an hour into the movie. Cyborg saves his father when Steppenwolf interrogates him. Wonder Woman steals the show by fighting Steppenwolf with her sword & shield. Batman fights Parademons hand to hand, but eventually ends up using a new vehicle called the Knightcrawler. The Flash is frustratingly shortchanged by making him afraid to do battle with anyone. Batman telling Barry to save one person is supposed to be inspiring, but it just doesn’t make sense for his character.
The Flash eventually shows his power by helping Diana retrieve her sword. Unfortunately it’s followed by Barry landing on her boobs for no reason. Cyborg gets everyone to safety in a reprogrammed Knightcrawler when Steppenwolf ends up flooding Gotham Harbor. That’s Aquaman’s cue to swim in and stop the flood with his powerful quident. Arthur officially joins the team as Cyborg flies away for unexplained reasons. He returns with the final Mother Box that Victor explains to be the source of his power. Bruce takes the team to his Batcave where he gets the morbid idea to revive Superman using the Mother Box. Despite the events of Batman v Superman, Bruce refers to Clark as if they were best friends. Unlike The Avengers, the Justice League arguing never feels warranted. Diana & Arthur agree that bringing back Superman could go terribly wrong. Bruce & Diana fight when he questions why she’s hidden herself away, but they quickly patch things up later on. Barry & Victor sort of bound while digging up Superman’s corpse. The former is somehow the funnier one trying to fist bump and connect over being accidents.
The team infiltrates the Kryptonian ship where they place Kal-El’s body in the genesis chamber. Cyborg taps into the mainframe and the Flash uses his speed to activate the box. When Superman returns, it’s a Pet Semetary situation where a shirtless Clark has no memory of who he is. He uses his x-ray vision on the team, but only becomes hostile when Cyborg activates his defense system. The Justice League vs. Superman is an expected fight that overwhelms most of the team. Cyborg & Aquaman are both taken out, but Wonder Woman is strong enough to have a headbudding match. Probably the best scene in the entire fight is Clark being fast enough to see the Flash when he tries to sneak up on him. Things get cringy again when Clark spots Batman and uses the infamous “Do you bleed” line against him. I guess the Knightmare scene is called back to when Lois arrives to calm Clark down. He flies off with her, but the tender moment is undermined by Bruce once again making a joke. The last Mother Box is taken in the chaos and Steppenwolf enacts his evil plan at a power plant in Russia.
Another annoying Whedon trademark is him thinking the audience cares about random civilians in a superhero movie. For some reason, a pointless Russian family is cut back to periodically throughout the movie. Without Superman, the team plans to fly to Russia in the Flying Fox, but not before another joke where Aquaman tells the truth while sitting on the Lasso of Truth. Clark takes Lois to Smallville where their tender moment is also undermined by cringy dialogue. Lois tells Clark he smells good and he describes coming back to life as itchy. At some point I had to question whether or not Joss Whedon was intentionally trying to sabotage DC. Clark reunites with his mother and decides to rejoin the fight at Lois’ insistence. The climax now has an ugly orange skyline. As Batman draws out the Parademons in the Batmobile, the rest of the team come to his rescue. Despite the lack of water, Aquaman is still very durable while joyfully flinging his quident into Parademons. Cyborg attempts to destroy the Mother Boxes while Wonder Woman faces Steppenwolf directly.
The Flash actually does some fighting, but Superman swoops in with a colorful costume when the Justice League is overwhelmed. He beats down Steppenwolf and uses his heat vision on him. Superman is practically left out of the entire movie since the fight would be over immediately otherwise. I’m glad Henry Cavill got to play a hopeful Superman, but his CGI mouth is still distracting. Superman & the Flash compete over saving civilians including the random Russian family. When they’re done, Superman turns into a big brother fighting Steppenwolf and assisting Cyborg. Batman & Superman also share a moment that undermines the tension of the situation. Which is followed by another ridiculous scene of Superman joking around with Cyborg when they destroy the Mother Boxes. Superman finally uses his arctic breath to destroy Steppenwolf’s axe and Wonder Woman finishes it off with a sword swing.
The Parademons sense Steppenwolf’s fear and engulf his body as he’s taken away in a Boom Tube. For some reason, plant life starts to spring up in the wake of Steppenwolf’s defeat. The entire Justice League has at least one group shot that isn’t quite as satisfying as it should be. They go their separate ways, but look to the future. Arthur returns to the sea, Barry makes his dad happy by joining the police force, and Victor reconfigures his metallic body with his father. Bruce saves the Kent farm by buying the bank and establishing the Hall of Justice with Diana. Diana reconnects with the world by continuing to fight crime. Clark finally gets the signature moment of ripping open his shirt to reveal the Superman costume before taking flight. All of this is shown as Lois writes an article about looking up to the sky for heroes.
The mid-credits scene is a lighthearted one that tries to answer the question of whether or not Superman can outrun the Flash. That’s followed by an after-credits scene where Jesse Eisenberg is sadly still around as Lex Luthor escaping Arkham Asylum. At least he’s bald and actually looks like the diseased maniac while wearing a well tailored suit. He meets with Deathstroke on a yacht discussing the possibility of forming an Injustice League. A silver haired Joe Manganiello was cast as Slade Wilson years ago, but I was still shocked when he appeared on screen. Sadly Justice League never supported its ambition. A possible two parter was cancelled and the DCEU practically imploded when The Batman was completely reworked, The Flash was continually delayed, Cyborg was cancelled, and Green Lantern Corps never materialized. Warner Bros. clearly had no idea what they were doing. Justice League has a strong superhero team in place, but middle of the road wasn’t gonna cut it for such iconic characters…
The Justice League unite
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is what you get when fans scream loud enough. Although I was disappointed by Joss Whedon’s Justice League, I frankly thought it was a failure from the beginning. A problem that steamed from how poorly Warner Bros. handled the DCEU. As big of a DC fan as I am, I never really understood people begging the studio to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. The same people who were disappointed by Zack Snyder’s grim take on Batman v Superman. Although Zack Snyder and writer Chris Terrio had an even darker Justice League in mind, the response to Dawn of Justice did inspire a more hopeful tone. But Warner Bros. continued to push for more jokes and a shorter runtime. When Joss Whedon eventually came on board for rewrites, they practically seized the opportunity to have him direct after Snyder left.
The less than glowing response to the movie led to a complete reworking of the DCEU. One so drastic that it’s hard to say the DC Extended Universe even exists anymore. Similar to Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, fans felt the “Snyder Cut” would be way better than the movie we ended up with. Both movies had a last minute director switch that drastically altered the tone of each film. I tried to ignore the “Snyder Cut” movement, but I was constantly bombarded by crazed fans yelling as loud as they could. All that yelling finally led to a completed movie in 2021, restoring the original footage seen in trailers. Released on HBO Max, the first teaser looked good, but the aspect ratio change was a bizarre creative choice. The R rating felt unnessercery and the 4 hour runtime seemed extremely excessive. It all turned out well in the end, but that tends to happen when a movie is roughly the length of a miniseries.
SPOILER ALERT! The difference between the “Snyder Cut” and the theatrical cut is made explicitly clear right off the bat. The darker tone is reestablished by showing the death of Superman in slow motion. When Doomsday impaled the Man of Steel, he screamed so loud that it could be heard across the world. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lois Lane witness this first hand. A sullen Cyborg, fearful Atlanteans, and battle ready Amazons all witness their respective Mother Boxes activating. Lex Luthor is still in the genesis chamber learning about Steppenwolf when he hears the Kryptonian cry. The scene of a bearded Bruce Wayne traveling to a fishing community makes a lot more sense after an opening like that. What follows is a series of parts meant to make the 4 hour experience more bearable.
Part 1: “Don’t Count on it, Batman” – Bruce Wayne meeting Arthur Curry is a lot less joke heavy with more focus on his mission to build an alliance of warriors. Aquaman is a lot more no-nonsense when speaking the Icelandic language and turning down Wayne’s money. The main difference is a group of creepily aroused Icelandic women singing a folk song when Arthur rips his sweater off and dives into the sea. It’s nothing compared to Whedon’s version, but that doesn’t mean Snyder isn’t prone to WTF moments. Bruce & Alfred have a far more straightforward conversation afterwards when Aquaman says no. Scenes of Metropolis mourning Superman are cut out with more focus on Ma Kent foreclosing the farm and Lois visiting his monument. Former Jimmy Olsen actor Marc McClure plays the friendly police officer that she brings coffee to. Wonder Woman’s introduction is still at the London bank, but everytime Diana or the Amazons appear, Junkie XL plays an operitic siren call. Every… single… time!
We still hear her epic Dawn of Justice theme during a more action-packed slow motion fight, but the other theme is just excessive. The Black Clad gentlemen terrorists are a bit more sinister with one of them dropping the first of only 3 F bombs in the entire movie. There’s no question that Wonder Woman kills the lead terrorist when she strikes her bracelets. Immediately after killing someone, Diana has time to inspire a girl who wants to be just like her. When Steppenwolf arrives to face the Amazons, he has a far better alien design with spikes, bulging muscles, and a more threatening voice still provided by Ciarán Hinds. The Amazons declare their lack of fear to Steppenwolf when his Parademons attack. Violence is really the main reason for the R rating as CGI blood splatters during every action scene. Steppenwolf is ruthless in his pursuit of the Mother Box. He tosses horses and flexes arrows out of his body. Queen Hippolyta puts up an even more desperate fight that ends exactly the same way.
Part 2: The Age of Heroes – The next section bridges the gap between the old and new age of heroes. Bruce & Alfred only discuss searching for Barry Allen while on their plane. Ben Affleck was determined to soften up Batman regardless of director, so he’s still on a path of redemption. Gal Gadot hasn’t changed much between versions either. The main difference is having Diana slowly discover the history of the New Gods in an underground cavern after her mother lights the beacon. Jason Momoa is a lot more serious with Arthur’s link to the ocean. He has another obligatory shirtless scene as water consumes him to the tune of “Icky Thump.” Willem Dafoe is fully restored with Nuidis Vulko scolding Arthur over taking up Queen Atlanna’s trident. Since Aquaman’s mentor was first seen in Aquaman, you can tell even more that Atlantis wasn’t fully developed beforehand. Especially since Vulko also does the stupid air bubble thing. Joe Morton is immediately shown to have a bigger role as Silas Stone working at S.T.A.R. Labs when a janitor is kidnapped by a Parademon.
Ryan Zheng is also restored as Ryan Choi aka the second incarnation of Atom. He speaks with a Chinese accent and works with nanotechnology by the end. Silas returns to an even more angry Victor who watches over their Mother Box. The other better change made to Steppenwolf is having his motivation be redemption for his betrayal of Darkseid. He’s forced to conquer 150,000 worlds in order to return to Apocalypse. He speaks with master torturer DeSaad voiced by Peter Guinness, but the true big bad of the DC Universe will always be Darkseid. Turns out the “Snyder Cut” was finally enough to bring the ultimate world conqueror to live-action voiced by Ray Porter. His CGI design mostly resembles the comics with his imposing grey appearance and blue helmet. The centuries old battle between man, Amazons, Atlanteans, Old Gods, and a Green Lantern is even better and bloodier with Darkseid leading the charge. Robin Wright even makes an appearance as Antiope. The battle is far more epic as the Greek gods tear into Darkseid and ununite the Mother Boxes. Diana tells Bruce about Darkseid’s defeat as he continues to work on that Flying Fox plane.
Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son – Turns out Barry Allen was supposed to make his first appearance applying to a pet shop. Although Ezra Miller had his moments before, I have no doubt now that he is the strongest comic relief in the move. Even without Whedon’s B material, Snyder manages to keep the Flash light hearted. Iris West is fully restored with Kiersey Clemons becoming the second black actress to play Barry’s love interest. Their romantic relationship is only hinted at with loving glances. Barry’s superspeed is really taken advantage of in a beautiful sequence of him saving Iris to the tune of “Song to the Siren.” As long as you ignore the cringy moment of Barry grabbing a wiener mid Speed Force. Barry visiting his father in prison isn’t changed much.
The scene of Bruce & Diana discussing recruits is shown in full as the latter mentions a war between Amazons & Atlanteans. Bruce recruits Barry roughly the same way, but thankfully there’s no mention of brunch. Declaring himself to be rich is kept in however. Alfred has his less cringy lighter moments as well, but I’m not sure we needed tea time with Diana. Creating a blast resistance bat-gauntlet is a better use of his time. Steppenwolf only finds Atlantis when he brutally interrogates an Atlantean. His fight with Mera is about the same except for her violently sucking out his blood. Aquaman shows up to the fight, but the outcome with the Mother Box is the same. One thing I definitely didn’t notice before is a British accent that Amber Heard inexplicably gives Mera.
Arthur & Mera’s bubble conversation is a bit more connected to his solo film than it was before, but the biggest change is everything involving Cyborg. Ray Fisher was the most vocal critic of Joss Whedon’s behavior while filming Justice League. It got to a point where he was practically whining over and over again. I wasn’t surprised when Fisher was fired, but his characterization is more memorable than it was before. Victor’s entire origin as a noble football star, the death of his mother Elinore played by Karen Bryson, and the resentment he feels for his father is all fully restored. Cyborg is practically turned into a tech god that can literally control the entire world. He learns to fly and gives a struggling family money. Although he is still grim while dropping a second F bomb in his encounter with Diana. Everything changes when Silas is captured and Victor buries the final Mother Box.
Part 4: “Change Machine” – Commissioner Gordon’s role is almost exactly the same as it was before. Even the rooftop scene wasn’t changed. The team arrives at Gotham Harbor where they engage in a better first fight that isn’t undermined by jokes. Steppenwolf now interrogates people using a Starro type device that sees into their mind. Victor shows that he still cares for his father when he’s threatened. Cyborg displays further abilities that include an arm cannon, talking to Bruce’s plane, and growing a third arm. He mostly helps S.T.A.R. Labs employees to safety. The Flash isn’t a wimp who uses his superspeed to fight a Parademon and quickly help civilians. Batman puts up a good fight using Alfred’s power absorbing wrist blades and commanding the Knightcrawler before Cyborg steps in. Wonder Woman is still the best fighter in both versions when she engages in an even more intense duel with Steppenwolf.
Aquaman swims in the same way, but the team coming together in the Batcave is entirely different. I have no doubt that Cyborg was meant to be the main character after he explains the origin of the last Mother Box when it was taken by Nazis, then used by Silas to fix his son. The team much more calmly decides to use the Box to revive Superman. That’s followed by a much more heartfelt scene of Martha & Lois grieving at the latter’s house. Although the nice moment is kind of undercut by the revelation that Lois was talking to Martian Manhunter the entire time. His CGI could use some work, but apparently Harry Lennix was always meant to be the shapeshifting martian. Not exactly the cinematic debut I pictured for him. Meanwhile, Darkseid finally speaks when Steppenwolf discovers the all important Anti-Life Equation that can control all life in the Multiverse. Only after “The Unity” will Steppenwolf earn his freedom.
Part 5: All the King’s Horses – The grave robbing scene is completely different with Barry & Victor discussing Superman & Wonder Woman. Diana & Arthur are also nearby discussing the significance of an Atlantean teaming up with an Amazon. Alfred has another nice moment with Bruce continuing to make breakthroughs with his trust of Superman. Silas is more directly involved when the Justice League enter the S.T.A.R. Labs Kryptonian scout ship. He allows Victor to pass without interference. The Flash charging the Mother Box to revive Superman isn’t that different apart from Aquaman objecting the idea more. Cyborg also sees a post-apocalyptic future when connected to the ship. It shows Darkseid successfully invading Earth and controlling an evil Superman.
Diana is buried by the Amazons, Arthur is killed underwater by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, and Superman holds the cowl of Batman over the body of Kilowog. Clark coming back to life and fighting the Justice League obviously hasn’t changed depending on the scenes without his CGI lip. Save for Cyborg helping a cop and the Flash running into Aquaman. Everything Wonder Woman does is the same including the infamous “Kal-El no!” line. The main difference is Clark’s encounter with Batman where he silently uses his heat vision on the Dark Knight. Lois was already in the area. We see her with a pregnancy test and walking away from the monument beforehand. Steppenwolf actually arrives to take the final Mother Box this time. It’s more tragic when Silas heroically sacrifices himself trying to destroy the Box in front of his son. DC borrows a line from Marvel when Cyborg tells the team to go get the son of b*tch.
Part 6: “Something Darker” – Although I planned to go all the way, it was at this point that I needed a bathroom break. Clark taking Lois to the Kent farm is far less childish without Whedon’s dialogue. Talking to Lois about his engagement ring and embracing his mother is better when Henry Cavill looks more optimistic. Unfortunately, I’m not crazy about his choice of wardrobe. I know black suit Superman is synonymous with his resurrection, but that’s just another problem with setting Dawn of Justice before Justice League. Superman really should have his classic red & blue suit when with the team. Otherwise both him and Batman are wearing black. Despite being more hopeful, Clark chooses the black suit as the conflicting words of his human and Kryptonian father fill his head. Superman flies into the heavens to join the fight. Meanwhile, the Justice League have a calmer discussion about how to find Steppenwolf after meeting Alfred.
Cyborg intends to disconnect the Mother Boxes while the Flash builds up a powerful electric charge. Arthur opens up a bit to Barry, but he doesn’t need a Lasso to do it. Bruce also brings up the Knightmare to Diana before they head out to Moscow. Thankfully there’s no pointless Russia family to save. The power of “The Unity” can be felt from Themyscira to Atlantis. Alfred meets Master Kent for the first time when he comes searching for the others. The final battle is rightfully restored to its original nighttime color palette. Batman still destroys the barrier, but using the Batmobile is given more weight. Most of the time Batman stays away from Steppenwolf in order to take out Parademon sharpshooters. After the team have another group shot, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman face Steppenwolf directly. He tries to get under Diana’s skin by reminding her of the Amazons and attempts to keep Victor from the Boxes.
Steppenwolf swings his axe on Cyborg, but Superman arrives just in time to use his arctic breath on it. Superman’s powerful display is rougher, but not much different from the theatrical edition. The suit was actually colored black in post-production. When a Parademon somehow manages to hit the Flash, it becomes too late to stop “The Unity.” Darkseid appears in a portal alongside DeSaad and a presumably digital version of Granny Goodness on Apocalypse. As the world crumbles, the Flash really shows his immense power by turning back time in a breathtaking Speed Force run. No doubt that the Justice League are in fact gods among us. Cyborg views his family when revived, but sees past the deception in order to break the Boxes. Steppenwolf won’t go down without a fight this time. Until he’s impaled by Aquaman, punched by Superman, and actually beheaded by Wonder Woman. Darkseid knows enough to retreat, but plan an old fashion invasion later on. The Justice League standing together is about the same apart from the distracting black suit.
Epilogue: “A Father Twice Over” – Rather than have Lois close out the movie with a Daily Planet article, Victor listens to the recording left by his father that he destroyed earlier. Silas Stone gives similar words of encouragement as the heroes go their separate ways. Victor embraces his role as Cyborg, Arthur talks to Vulko & Mera before leaving to see his father, Barry similarly tells his father about his forensics job, and Diana returns to her Amazonian monastery. The Hall of Justice scene is the same and so is Bruce buying the bank for Clark. The only difference with Clark is him opening up his shirt to reveal a silver ‘S’ underneath. The after-credits scene is now part of the movie with Lex escaping Arkham, but having a different conversation with Deathstroke. Now the scene has more to do with The Batman when Lex reveals Batman’s secret identity.
Although that’s a natural place to stop, there’s still an entire Knightmare to get through. The post-apocalypse is shown in more detail with trench coat Batman, weaponized Cyborg, British Mera carrying Aquaman’s trident, the Flash wearing an armored costume, Deathstroke as an ally, and even the Joker. Since all of this was brand new, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard, Ezra Miller, Joe Manganiello, and Jared Leto never look like they filmed together. After his terrible portrayal in Suicide Squad, Leto makes up for it with a more subtle tattooless Clown Prince of Crime. Not that his dialogue isn’t a little cringy and drawn out. Batman & the Joker discuss Robin, Harley Quinn, and the Caped Crusader actually drops the final F bomb. Which is followed by the evil Superman attacking. By this point I was done, but even that’s not the end when Martian Manhunter finally shows up to tell Bruce he’ll fight with them in a future we may never see.
In conclusion, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is better than the theatrical cut, but it’s not the masterpiece some fans call it. If you need 4 hours just to tell a story properly, than I wouldn’t exactly call that genius. Snyder got even more self indulgent by making a black & white version of the movie. The Leonard Cohen version of “Hallelujah” is only heard during the credits. Fans continue to press Warner Bros. for an “Ayer Cut” of the similarly botched Suicide Squad. Along with the full restoration of the Snyderverse featuring a Justice League trilogy. Although this was a good effort, I’m still not a fan of his radical vision for famous DC characters. The solo approach to the DCEU isn’t a perfect one, but I’m fine with it as long as the movies are good. In the end, Zack Snyder completed Justice League for his daughter, so I guess I can’t fault him for that.
The Justice League unite
Preceded by: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Wonder Woman