‘Zack Synder’s Justice League’ deserves its second chance

HBO Max’s resurrection of ‘Justice League’ is a win

Image by: Tessa Warburton
The heroes of 'Justice League.'

Zack Synder’s Justice League is a reminder that the good guys always win. 

Back in 2017, the original version of Justice League limped into theatres. An all-star cast couldn’t save the movie from becoming an all-time-worst superhero box-office flop. Reviews for the film ranged from lukewarm to downright terrible

Behind-the-scenes controversy plagued the production team. After then-director Zack Snyder stepped away from the film following his daughter’s death, Warner Brothers hired Joss Whedon of The Avengers to do the finishing touches—and he inexplicably reshot most of the scenes to create an entirely different product. 

Whedon’s mistakes aren’t limited to butchering Snyder’s vision. Cyborg actor Ray Fisher condemned Whedon’s on-set behaviour after the movie released, prompting a full-blown investigation by the studio into potential misconduct. 

The 2017 version of Justice League deserved to be forgotten. Yet, over the course of three years, HBO Max spent over $70 million to revive a failed movie. 

It took considerable convincing to get this endeavour approved. One petition to release the so-called ‘Snyder Cut’ collected over 100,000 signatures in less than a week back in 2017. Zack Snyder himself had confirmed his version’s existence by 2019; Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) even joined the fight on Twitter in favour of its release. 

On March 18, 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League aired on HBO Max. While bloat was inevitable given the film’s four-hour runtime, it’s undoubtedly a better movie than the original—a resounding redemption story for everyone invested in the film, from the fans to the cast. 

The over-arching plotline is relatively unchanged: Batman (Ben Affleck) must assemble a team of superpowered allies to defend Earth from an impending invasion with Superman (Henry Cavill) dead after his sacrifice in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. He and Wonder Woman recruit The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg to fight the intergalactic conqueror known as Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds). 

This version’s extended runtime is used to flesh out the characters, many of whom were making their big-screen debuts, and their backstories. Cyborg is a standout; the relationship between him and his once-absentee father becomes the film’s emotional heart. Batman’s journey from cynical recluse to optimistic leader is also better realized. 

They also fixed Henry Cavill’s moustache removal fiasco

The heroes are worth rooting for in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Their thoughtful development allows them all to shine in the film’s explosive final act. The new version of the League’s penultimate confrontation with Steppenwolf is more exciting. However, it’s Flash’s reworked role in the grand finale that steals the show in the blink of an eye. 

These foundational improvements don’t fix everything, however. The all-powerful Mother Boxes are still a lazy McGuffin done better in Marvel movies. Steppenwolf’s added motivation and redesigned appearance still lack in comparison to Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. Worst of all, the movie’s extended epilogue sets up sequels that have been cancelled

Nonetheless, movie fans should support Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s worth celebrating that his vision ultimately prevailed over studio meddling. The hype surrounding a movie long enough to be split into two separate films is also refreshing; streaming services can enable more filmmakers to tell their stories without the limitations of a theatrical release. 

In its current form, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is proof that prioritizing attention spans over delivering a quality product is a bad business decision. People enjoy long movies when the content they’re watching is worth their time. 

The Snyder Cut saved the day—and the film industry is the real winner.


Film, Review

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