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Is Zack Snyder's Justice League the DC movie we always wanted? Critics are impressed but divided

By Josh Weiss
Zack Snyder's Justice League

Over the weekend, DC fans shared their early reactions to Zack Snyder's Justice League, which many described as an epic super-masterpiece. But what do the stiff-collared film critics think of the four-hour comic book colossus that will start streaming on HBO Max later this week? Some are loving it, while others aren't too impressed.

At the same time, the critics who don't think it's a life-changing magnum opus say they can still appreciate Snyder's vision, which is apparently way more coherent than the Joss Whedon theatrical cut that flopped in theaters nearly four years ago. The overall takeaway? It sounds like Snyder hasn't been yanking our chain — his preferred edit is the real, albeit somewhat flawed and overlong, deal.

Let's dig into the highlights:

"Snyder has restored the film to its pop operatic grandeur, it strikingly echoes the sinister extravagance of the Avengers saga, notably the last two installments of it, which hadn’t come out when the bowdlerized, trimmed-to-the-bone 'Justice League' appeared in 2017," writes Owen Gleiberman for Variety. "The new Justice League exudes a majestic sense of cosmic historical evil. Its tone is less reminiscent of other DC or Marvel movies than of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy." 

Tom Jorgensen of IGN posits that the feature represents "a surprise vindication for the director and the fans that believed in his vision. With a mature approach to its superhero drama, better-realized antagonists, and improved action, Snyder’s version of Justice League saves the movie from the dustbin of history, something that likely only could’ve happened on a streaming platform like HBO Max. Though not every addition feels totally necessary, and some new visual effects stick out as unpolished, it's hard to overstate how much more enjoyable this version of Justice League is."

While not completely bowled over by the finished product, The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore still describes Justice League 2.0 as "an improvement in some concrete ways. Its plot and tone are more coherent, with occasional puzzling exceptions. Its FX are substantially improved, though still sometimes fakey, and in general the photography looks better — though viewers may resent the frame's nearly square aspect ratio, which was designed with IMAX, not widescreen TVs, in mind."

Writing on behalf of Deadline, Todd McCarthy admits that despite the fact that he has superhero fatigue, he can still appreciate what Warner Bros. has achieved. 

"I’m impressed and even delighted that Warner Bros, having already lost big playing the Justice League card, decided to go for double or nothing," he says. "In the end, I have to admit that, for all its longueurs, Zack Snyder’s Justice League possesses its own kind of integrity. The possessive nomenclature of the title is deserved. I’m glad the clamorous fanboys agitated and made enough noise to see their dreams come true. We’ll learn soon enough if their faith is rewarded."

Thanks to its jumbo-sized runtime, the Snyder Cut is able to give its characters room to breathe. Collider's Matt Goldberg states that one of the new version's greatest improvements is its handling of Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher), who actually gets a complete emotional arc.

"In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he’s a fully formed character. He’s resentful of his father (Joe Morton), feels like he’s been transformed into a monster, looking for a place to belong, and willing to risk his life to save the world. While Fisher has been public about his disdain towards how he was treated by Whedon, producer Geoff Johns, and Warner Bros, I also have to imagine he was unhappy with seeing a finished product that severely negated a much richer character."

"Even as it fleshes out the stories of characters like Flash and Cyborg, Zack Snyder's Justice League offers no more logic than the previous version," says Keith Phipps of TV Guide. "But it also dares viewers to care too much in the face of all that spectacle. It's overkill, but overkill is kind of the point."

Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich was less than impressed with Snyder's final say on the DC team-up, noting it's just an overly-long and equally mediocre project when compared to the 2017 version: "Zack Snyder's Justice League is a chore. At the end of the rainbow, viewers are left with the promise that the actual cool things will happen next time." Franich writes. "This cut is no worse than the theatrical edition, but it sure is longer. 'So begins the end,' Steppenwolf declares. When he says that, there is one hour left."

Rated R, Zack Snyder's Justice League drops onto HBO Max this coming Thursday — March 18.