The Significance of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”

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Owen Lennon, Editorial Board

This past March, Warner Bros. Entertainment released Zack Snyder’s Justice League to HBO Max. This superhero epic has a runtime of just over four hours, and it is a project with years of hype surrounding it. Despite all that, much of the population has no idea that this comic book movie even exists. So, to understand the victory that this movie represents, one must understand the context behind it.Zack Snyder is a film director. He loves action and slow motion. Snyder rose to prominence with his movies Dawn of the Dead, 300, and Watchmen. In 2013, Zack Snyder directed the blockbuster Superman movie Man of Steel. This Superman movie was planned to be the beginning of a DC Comics extended movie universe, similar to the Marvel Comics cinematic universe that had already been thriving since 2008. Following the release of Man of Steel, Snyder would begin production on his next superhero movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Released in 2016, that movie became instantly divisive among critics and audiences alike. The film was declared a silly mess by some, but to others, this movie was seen as a smart take on the over-saturated superhero genre. Despite its mixed reviews, the movie brought in enough money at the box-office to be considered a success, and so, Zack Snyder would then begin production on his next movie, Justice League.
The Justice League consists of some of the most iconic characters of all time. The film’s roster would consist of fan-favorite heroes Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash, among others. A script was written, the movie was filmed, but during post-production, tragedy struck. In 2017, Zack Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, took her own life. This tragedy prompted Zack Snyder to step down from his role as director of Justice League. With hours of footage already filmed, DC and Warner Bros. decided to bring in another director to finish the project and release the film in late 2017. Keeping in mind the mixed critical reception of the tonally bleak Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the studio decided that they wanted a more lighthearted take on this already established DC universe. To achieve this goal, the studio hired Joss Whedon, the director of the first two Avengers movies, to complete Justice League. Whedon would go on to rewrite the script and reshoot parts of the film. The result was a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie. Released in November of 2017, Justice League was a box-office bomb that critics hated.

Snyder directs Batman Ben Affleck and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot through a scene. (Photo courtesy DC and HBO Max)

After Justice League was released in theaters, rumors began to surface of Zack Snyder’s original cut of the movie existing. Zack Snyder’s loyal fanbase quickly began to campaign online for the release of “the Snyder cut.” For years, this movement to release Snyder’s cut would gain prominence. Hashtags were started, and some celebrities supported the cause to release this film. Then, in May of 2020, almost three years after the theatrical release of Justice League, Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder announced that Zack Snyder’s Justice League would be released to the new streaming service HBO Max. With HBO Max in need of new content to compete with other services, and the pandemic keeping audiences out of theaters, a window of opportunity presented itself. Supporters of the cause and cast members of the original film rejoiced. Zack Snyder’s original vision would finally be released to the public in March of 2021. Properly titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League, this movie consisted of hours of unseen footage all filmed by Zack Snyder. Nothing written or shot by Joss Whedon made it into this cut of the film. Upon its release to HBO Max, the Snyder cut was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences.
So, why is this release so significant? Well, the release of this movie is a victory for Zack Snyder. A hard-working director was finally able to express his vision, not the vision of a money-hungry studio. Although not everyone loves his movies, people should at least be able to appreciate a creator being given free-reign over his or her project. The existence of this movie is a reason for celebration. In an age where studio meddling and forced script rewrites can ruin a movie, it is refreshing to see a project like this one.
Now, as a previously stated, this is a four hour movie. It’s a film that takes its time, and it consists of long takes with a lot of slow-motion. The runtime may be intimidating, but if you do choose to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, watch it through a lens of appreciation. Rather than viewing those long slow-motion shots as excessive, view them as a victory lap for a man who has been through the wringer. The movie will be much more enjoyable if you watch it as not only a superhero movie, but also as a piece of history within the comic book movie genre.

Additions to the “Snyder Cut” involve a major plot with invader Darkseid and an added scene with Leto’s Joker, a scene that center’s around the “Knightmare Sequence.” (Photo courtesy DC and HBO Max)