justice league

Stars: 4.5/5

Cue the ancient lamentation music.

"Zack Snyder’s Justice League" is here.

Originally released in November 2017, the theatrical cut, mockingly referred to as “Josstice League” by fans, was a pitiful byproduct of studio interference from Warner Bros. and stand-in director Joss Whedon of "Avengers" fame after Snyder dropped out during post-production following the death of his daughter. It was a dumpster fire movie that had glimmers of potential underneath its inconsistent tone, awkward humor and an infamous CGI mustache. But thankfully, after nearly four years of deeply committed online petitioning, fans can finally rejoice and yell “hallelujah” for the wait is finally over.

And it is so, so much better than whatever the hell “Josstice League” was.

Clocking in at a whopping four hours and two minutes, the Snyder Cut is all one could hope for in a superhero film. It is ambitious, enthralling, triumphant and purely cathartic above all else. I hate to use the word “epic,” but that is exactly what this film feels like. It’s epic. An epic, hopeful story about mythic heroes banding together to prevent the inevitable destruction of the world.

The film opens with the final cry of Superman as he sacrifices his life for humanity. His death leaves the world defenseless, weak and without hope. This act of self-sacrifice sets the stakes and tone for the rest of the film as evil presents itself in the form of Steppenwolf, a servant of a malignant conqueror named Darkseid, who aims to unite the three Mother Boxes and destroy the world. This leaves it up to Batman and Wonder Woman to form an alliance of defenders to thwart what is coming.

Aided by Chris Terrio’s earnest and patient screenplay, the four-hour length lends itself to the film by allowing all of the characters to feel more fleshed out and beautifully realized. They’re given more room to breathe and evolve. This is made clear with the treatment of The Flash and Cyborg who were marginalized in the original cut by awkward humor and little to no character dept. Now, they serve as the beating hearts of the film’s emotional core. Every member of the Justice League serves a purpose here and I loved every second of them working together onscreen. Seeing the League scramble to find each other and then finally unite was surreal and goosebumps-inducing.

In order to preserve the integrity of Snyder’s creative vision, the film is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio which is absolutely beautiful. It takes a few minutes to get used to, but Fabien Wagner’s cinematography is visually dazzling and entirely immersive. I can only imagine what seeing a picture like that in an IMAX theater would be like.

Not since "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" has there been a four-hour long epic worth watching in one sitting. Unfortunately, it features an overlong, tacked on epilogue akin to King's own ending that feels like it could end at any second, but simply doesn’t. It’s fine and all, but it felt like Snyder was flipping the bird at Warner Bros. by showing what could’ve become of his ill-fated vision for the DC Extended Universe.

Aside from that, practically everything works in "Zack Snyder’s Justice League." It is undoubtedly a hefty piece of work to watch, but it is just so rewarding. Everything about the film is incredible from the way it’s structured in eight distinctive parts to the head-spinning soundtrack by Tom Holkenborg to the ripped-off-the-comic-book-page visuals. It’s mammoth, mythic and feels like an old campfire legend that’s passed down for generations. "Justice League" is a story of heroes persevering, defying the odds and overcoming an insurmountable force of evil.

Cue the triumphant music.

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