Zack Snyder’s efforts to complete his version of 2017’s “Justice League,” which he left in mid-production due to his daughter’s suicide, had been ongoing for over two years.
As he dropped litany of social-media missives that hinted at what his unadulterated vision might have been, the filmmaker’s massive fan base bent Warner Bros. to its will, until the studio gave him his wish — an additional $70 million and a new platform — HBO Max — on which to show it.
Is this new four-hour epic an improvement over the Snyder-Joss Whedon hybrid released four years ago? Very mush so, as it contains more complete backstories for its lesser-known characters as well as a clearer plot that makes much more sense.
Is it perfect? Far from it.
This is a flawed feature that suffers from a sense of pretentiousness that borders on parody and an overindulgence where Snyder’s grandiose plan is concerned, as he foreshadows future plot points with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Overall, the story remains the same — an alien threat named Steppenwolf (vastly improved visually) has come to Earth in an effort to find three constructs known as Mother Boxes.
They are scattered around the planet, and his heavy-handed efforts to retrieve them draw the notice of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who recruit fellow meta-humans in order to form a team to combat this threat.
Initially reluctant to lend his support, Aquaman (Jason Mamoa) comes into the fold when the threat breaches the borders of Atlantis, while super-speedster the Flash (Ezra Miller) eagerly joins up, desperate for any sort of social interaction.
The half-human, half-machine construct Cyborg (Ray Fisher) lends his vast knowledge of computers, and as for Superman (Henry Cavill) … well, he’s dead, and our heroes must grapple with the moral implications of resurrecting him when that opportunity presents itself.
A great deal more time is spent fleshing out Cyborg and the Flash, both to great effect.
Whereas the latter’s backstory was briefly alluded to in the 2017 version, this one devotes a good half-hour to his origin, his thorny relationship with his scientist father (Joe Morton) and his gradually coming to terms with his true purpose.
It’s the highlight of the movie, adding a poignancy that was horribly lacking the first time.
As for the Scarlet Speedster, Miller is invaluable as the well-meaning, motor-mouthed geek who provides a great deal of much-needed humor.
Superman’s resurrection and an action sequence involving the team and Batman’s spider-tank are extended, providing a sense of clarity to key moments that were obviously truncated and fragmented.
Overall, the transitions are much smoother and purposeful, a sense of flow and cohesion making for a much better, if bloated, movie.
Affleck, Gadot and Jeremy Irons as Alfred are solid, lending a sense of stealth gravitas to the proceedings that’s never overbearing.
Too bad Snyder can’t follow suit. To be sure, Snyder is a brilliant visual stylist, but his overuse of slow motion and melodramatic approach prevents the movie from being a full success.
The epilogue indicates he has grand plans yet to realize. Whether he’ll be given the opportunity to show us remains to be seen.
In the meantime, wallow in all this film has to offer. For all of its glorious spectacle and glaring flaws, this truly is a unique cinematic beast.