Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the ultimate superhero epic (Spoiler review)
As someone who never saw the 2017 theatrical cut of Justice League, I wasn’t sure if the movie would work for me but having been a big fan of Man of Steel and BVS ultimate edition I was ready to give it a chance. But as soon as that DC Fandome trailer dropped I was fully onboard to see Snyder’s darker take on the superhero ensemble movie.
And I’m truly thrilled to say that not only did Snyder deliver on his promises, but he also gave us a movie that I would rank as one of the best superhero movies of all time and is my favourite movie of the year thus far. Be warned I will be talking full spoilers as I can’t fully express what I love about this movie so much without talking plot points.
One of the major complaints that Snyder has received in the past is how he has written these beloved DC characters, now as someone who does not read the comics and only really has exposure to these characters via media like games and films. His handling has been criticised due to his bleak takes on hopeful characters like Superman as well as Batman’s negligent and borderline murderous ways in BVS. However, with Justice League, the arcs for his characters have been made clear and what we were being shown was a journey on how these characters become what we know them to be.
I’ll start with Batman who for me is the protagonist of the film, in his first scene we see him travelling to find Aquaman who is viewed by a small fishing village as a kind of deity. We immediately see Bruce’s desire to reach out and trust other super beings something he defiantly opposed in BVS. This theme is carried throughout his journey in the film with many scenes where acknowledges his mistakes in BVS “I spent a lot of time trying to divide us” he says in an intimate moment between him and Alfred.
His desire to honour Superman throughout the film is incredibly powerful, his want to be the man Clark believed he could help to heal any resentment you may have felt to him in BVS. His arc is rounded off in a phenomenal scene where after resurrecting Superman, despite Superman’s confused and violent state when asked by Alfred why he believes he will help he replies “Faith Alfred, faith!” it’s a wonderful line that instils the more hopeful tone of the film.
However, I do feel that more work needed to be done to make him effective in the final battle against Steppenwolf as although he is useful in his Batmobile when it comes to fighting Steppenwolf, it would have been nice to see him in his armoured Batsuit. He takes a more commanding role within the team, helping to bring the team together and take the fight to Steppenwolf. We also see another peek into batman’s psyche again where even after his victory over Steppenwolf he has another vision of a bleak future one where he is a broken man forced to even work with The Joker to survive.
Having not yet seen the solo Aquaman film, this was my first introduction to the character and I have to praise his character. He comes off as a jaded and somewhat selfish character, who has animosity towards his people being torn between his human and Atlantean side, he flat out refuses to help Bruce on their initial meeting. However, as the film progresses, we see him grow as he interacts with the league even reconciling with WonderWoman when he realises Atlanteans and Amazonians share common ground.
Much of his additional scenes create the groundwork for the Aquaman movie that followed addressing interesting plot elements that will be built upon later. By the end of the film, he too has gone through a shift, choosing to trust the league and even sympathising with Cyborg’s loss later in the film.
Character-wise WonderWoman gets the least development, however, besides Superman, she was the only character to receive a solo film to this point (bearing in mind that this was originally filmed in 2016) so less time being given to her isn’t a big issue. What is here is still enjoyable though and connects well back to her solo outing, she has several enjoyable moments with Alfred and Bruce as well as a pivotal moment with her trying to connect with Cyborg.
What Wonder Woman lacks in character development in this movie she makes up for by having some of the most impressive action sequences, with her introductory scene being particularly brutal. Her fights with Steppenwolf are way more intense and impactful, however, the constant use of her theme in practically every scene she is in can become very grating on repeat watches. In her most character-driven scene, she uses the events of the original Wonder Woman to reach out to Cyborg, however, this scene is somewhat hampered by the release of Wonder Woman 1984.
The Flash & Cyborg
A big challenge Justice League faced was bringing these characters into the fold in the same film that they needed to assemble as a team, and with Cyborg and Flash, we have to learn and care about them before they even come together as a team. Fortunately, both characters here are handled expertly, with Cyborg being essential to the entire plot of Justice League, especially in the final battle. Cyborg in particular has many impactful scenes with his backstory being full of tragedy and the scene in which his powers are explained is a highlight of the movie.
The Flash (Barry Allen) also has his backstory and significant role to play within the final battle, the full does a good job of exploring Barry’s comic book origins with his imprisoned father potentially setting up for the later Flash movie to come, his scenes with his father are very endearing and well performed. Flash also gets one of the greatest scenes in the film, wherein the final battle against Steppenwolf the League fail to prevent the mother boxes from fully coming together destroying Earth, in a last-ditch effort Barry travels back in time in a visually beautiful scene that shows him reversing time and saving the world, giving him an incredibly powerful conclusion to his character arc in the film.
Whilst superman’s screentime is considerably lesser than his colleagues it is still valuable and helps to round off his arc that began in Man of Steel. He has some of my favourite scenes of all 3 films and his final battle with Steppenwolf is incredibly satisfying and downright brutal. There is a tonne of call-backs during his scenes to Man of Steel with dialogue from those movies playing over as he dons the black suit and flies up towards the sun, it's an all-time moment for comic book movies.
What I find particularly great about Superman’s arc in this franchise is that it is surprisingly reminiscent of the arc that David Dunn went through in the unbreakable trilogy, Clark Kent’s quest for purpose in the world is very impactful and comes to a very satisfying close, even if there are hints that he may potentially be a villain one day.
Steppenwolf & Darkseid
Finally, it's worth noting the strength of the film’s villain, Steppenwolf is a surprisingly interesting and complex character, he has his own set of motivations and it is made clear early on that despite his impressive level of power he is just an underling to a much more dangerous foe that being Darkseid, who is essentially the DC universe big bad. Steppenwolf’s fight scenes are excellent at establishing his power level he is incredibly ruthless at one point cutting an Amazonian in two in a surprisingly gory moment (thank you R rating).
Steppenwolf’s best scenes are when he is shown cowering in front of Darkseid begging to pay off his debt to the ruler of Apokolips, it’s a strangely endearing moment that teases additional lore with some kind of inner power grab going on within Apokolips. At one point he even sounds like a child when he asks Darkseid if he can “come home” it's very well done and his facial expressions are well done considering the challenges the special effects department must have faced.