Determined to ensure Superman's (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. When an alien being known as Steppenwolf (voice of Ciarán Hinds) arrives on Earth, Batman and Wonder Woman enlist the help of Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) to their team...
The journey from page to screen for 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' is almost as unbearably long as the movie itself. It began shortly after the initial 'Justice League' movie was released, with rumblings that another cut of the movie existed. This took root in the corners of the internet where the DC Expanded Universe, or Worlds of DC, or whatever you want to call it, lives and fed into a long-winded conspiracy that Zack Snyder was denied his artistic vision. From there, an incessant campaign of gaming the algorithms of social media saw #SnyderCut trending multiple times, eventually catching the eye of the assistants who handle the social media for Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Jason Momoa. From there, it grew and grew until, finally, Warner Bros. decided to re-release the movie on HBO Max where it could help bolster the struggling streaming service.
So, to strip away all the bullshit, all that hyperbole, all the endless chatter and then try to review 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' on its own merits. Is it better than the movie released in 2018? Of course it is. That's not exactly a high bar to cross. Improving on hammered shit isn't all that much of a challenge. The central fault of the original version was that you had quite literally two completely opposing directorial visions at work trying to blend together to make something coherent. Here in 'Zack Snyder's Justice League', it's all Snyder, all the time. There is not one moment in this movie where his tattooed imprint isn't visible. Every second of its four-hour runtime is exactly as he wants it. There are copious nods to the comics. Snyder's own touchstones are present everywhere. John Boorman's 'Excalibur' gets a reference, as does Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead'. Even a coffee-shop that the director loves gets a scene in this.
So if every whim and every indulgence has been granted, does that mean it's a good movie? If you're one of Zack Snyder's die-hard followers, then yes. This movie is everything you could possibly want. Every emotional beat in the movie is wrung dry by slow-motion, longing looks, and gentle musical moments from the likes of Nick Cave or This Mortal Coil. You can't move for all of the heavy emotional beats in this thing. At four hours long, there isn't one part of the movie that isn't left to the imagination or any scrap of exposition left unsaid or unexplained. Nothing is left to the viewer's discretion. Everything is served up in full on maximalism because, well, that's Zack Snyder's style. There are no half-measures, not when you've got the fate of the world on the line and a sizeable chunk of the internet to please.
If you're outside of the reality distortion field, however, 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' is four insufferable hours of long-winded dialogue, CGI-reliant action setpieces, endlessly boring musical interludes, and all of it topped off with an aroma of smugness that's impossible to ignore. It is so indulgent, so completely what Zack Snyder wanted, that you almost have to marvel (poor choice of words here) at how he managed to pull it all off. Would someone like Elaine May have gotten a second chance like this after 'Ishtar', for example? Who knows.
The performances, by and large, are about as wooden as one would expect. Gal Gadot's idea of showing internal turmoil is frowning at everything, while Ray Fisher's Cyborg has to contend with some very ropey CGI in the middle of very actor-y acting scenes. The only ones who seem to be making any kind of headway with it all are Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa. Miller's motormouth antics are a welcome tonic to all of the seriousness, while Jason Momoa gives a far more feral performance than the one he turned in for 'Aquaman'. That said, they all work in the context of a movie that doesn't have a scrap of naturalism or realism in it.
It's pointless comparing it to the movie released in 2017, as they are two completely different movies. Ray Fisher's Cyborg has far more of a stake in the story, as does Ezra Miller's Flash. The inclusion of Darkseid, however, completely neuters Steppenwolf as a villain. Not only that, the wealth of the movie is basically spent waiting for the Justice Friends to wake Superman out of his slumber so he can save the day, which then begs the question as to why Superman needs any of them in the first place. Henry Cavill's performance, such as it is, does lift the movie up towards the final hour and a half, and you really get the sense that he has been continuously let down by Zack Snyder in the past. On the flip side, actors like Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, and JK Simmons are basically reduced to exposition devices and the movie completely squanders their talent and presence.
Though it's broken up into six chapters with an epilogue, 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' has a bizarre sense of pacing. It lumbers along through one segment, kicks the brakes off and zooms through the next, stopping and starting so much that there's barely any flow to it. Long, winding epics like 'The Return of the King', 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'Ben-Hur', 'The Right Stuff', 'Dances With Wolves' and so on all understand that at three-plus hours, you've got to have some kind of rhythm and shape to it. 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' instead carves itself up rather than committing to its length and allowing it to flow rhythmically.
It's hard to know how to review or rate a movie like 'Zack Snyder's Justice League', because it is exactly what you'd expect of a movie where a director has been give complete, unadulterated control, especially in a genre that is often directed and dominated by committee and audience testing rather than a singular vision. It cannot be said that 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' leaves anything to chance, nor can it be said that it hasn't given its all. Yet, in doing so, its very excessiveness is the issue. There's too much and never enough of it. The excess, in a way, is the point of it.
Just be warned, you're not getting those four hours back.