Reviewed in the United States on June 26, 2021
I first watched Zack Snyder's Justice League when it came out on H.B.O. Max on March 18th for the better part of that afternoon. It was probably, to date, the most entertaining four hours of my life. The only problem with it is, films like it are REALLY hard to review, especially when you've come to appreciate the theatrically released version for what it is and has to offer, and when the two projects ultimately turn out to be entirely different altogether. So I hope you'll all bear with me here on this "review".
So the primary plot remains the same, but the subplots have much greater depth. Following Superman's selfless sacrifice at the hands of the late monster Doomsday, and fueled by his restored Humanism, Batman joins forces with Wonder Woman and sets in motion his plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the planet in the Man of Steel's absence. This task proves more difficult than Bruce and Diana initially expected, however, as each of the other three recruits - Arthur Curry, Victor Stone, and Barry Allen - are held back by the demons of their own pasts, and only once they overcome their turmoils are they truly able to come together as the titular superhero team. Once united, however, this unprecedented league of heroes - Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash - may already be too late to stop Steppenwolf and his armies of Parademons from destroying the planet, or their superiors, DeSaad and Darkseid, from carrying out their own ambitions....
That's one of the biggest differences between the two versions: whereas Justice League puts its focus mainly on the main plot and makes some small references to the subplots largely in passing, Zack Snyder's Justice League allows each of the characters' respective subplots to connect with the main plot. However, none of the footage that Joss Whedon shot for Justice League appears in Zack Snyder's Justice League; whereas the former has a MUCH brighter tone and more humor, this latter is more consistent with the bleak vision that Snyder has for the franchise, but still adds at least some sense of optimism and humor amidst the darkness. Plus, while Steppenwolf's appearance in Justice League is much closer to his look in the comics, his revamped look here in Zack Snyder's Justice League looks more like an over-exaggeration and remake of one of the Decepticons from Michael Bay's pointless Transformers films, and seems to only be created merely in an attempt to solicit more drools from Snyder's enthusiasts. As for Darkseid and DeSaad, however, while Darkseid was only briefly mentioned once in Justice League, he's more clearly involved in Zack Snyder's Justice League, and DeSaad acts as Darkseid's personal assistant and master torturer, much like how the Other was devoutly obedient to Thanos in Marvel's The Avengers Assemble before being murdered by Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. And like Thanos, Darkseid is just DEVASTATING! Once he eventually launches his invasion in a future film, you'll wish you were already dead before he gets to you. I mean, he is like the Devil incarnate in the D.C.E.U.! However, unlike Thanos, who required the Infinity Stones in order to bend the entire space, dimensions, and time continuum to his will, Darkseid doesn't, already possessing such powers as one of the so-called "New Gods" of Apokolips. And while Steppenwolf lead the original invasion of Earth in Justice League, Darkseid did here in Zack Snyder's Justice League; and while it was Steppenwolf's failure that forced Darkseid to exile him in Justice League, it was Steppenwolf's own self-pride that lead to his exiling in Zack Snyder's Justice League - and while Steppenwolf would reclaim his place after conquering Earth in Justice League, in Zack Snyder's Justice League, while he owed Darkseid fifty-thousand more worlds first, his discovery of what may be the final part of the Anti-Life Equation being present on Earth is what convinces Darkseid otherwise to redeem his uncle. (No spoilers intended)! Plus, we're introduced to a future member of the team during the very last scene: the Martian Manhunter! And you'll never guess who he has been in disguise as since he was introduced. I won't say who it is, though. Beyond all that, though, I'll save the rest for all of you to see for yourselves.
Finally, while Danny Elfman created an intentionally retro score that resurrected both his classic Batman theme from '89 and John Williams's definitive Superman March from '78, "orchestralized" (if you'll pardon the made-up word, but then again, aren't ALL words made-up?) Wonder Woman's theme, hinted at Blake Neely's theme for the Flash from the current show in Elfman's own way (but not his own theme from the '90's show, intriguingly enough), nodded to his work for Fifty Shades of Grey for Cyborg (interestingly), gave Aquaman a basic, choir-driven motif, developed a villainous theme of apocalyptic proportions for Steppenwolf, and created two themes for the team (i.e., "The Justice League Theme - Logos" bears some uncanny resemblance to Mark Isham's theme for the "Army Strong" commercials, and "Hero's Theme" combines Elfman's Batman theme with the "building blocks", if you will, of Wonder Woman's theme), Junkie X.L. has returned, continuing his and the over-rated Zimmer's work for Batman and, unfortunately, pollution for Superman, and Wonder Woman's theme with its original, electric cello-driven glory, nodded a bit to Rupert Gregson-Williams's theme for Aquaman, seems to have created some themes for the Flash in this franchise and Cyborg, an apocalyptic sounding theme of his own for Steppenwolf, and a "glorious" theme for the team. I'll admit: I'm indifferent about whatever themes are created for Batman, but trying to watch a Superman story without any of the definitive themes that John Williams created is almost like trying to watch a 007 film without "The James Bond Theme" and its traditional mixture of '60's Big Band Jazz Fusion with romantic spy thriller orchestra, or a Star Trek film or episode without any of ITS own themes and styles, and to reject what Williams establishes is a remarkably ignorant, arrogant, and stupid choice and the worst decision of ANY composer's careers, especially given how much one can still learn from the maestro, who's still working today even at his great age, and since he wows with timeless, pencil-written symphonic mastery. In his score for Superman Returns from '06 (my top personal-favorite Superman film, b.t.w.), John Ottman did the best job at adapting, translating, and evolving the character's definitive musical foundation into new and more modern situations while adding some new stuff of his own and interweaving them together, and without rambling on, becoming tiresome, or getting carried away, and thus proving that such adaptations are not only possible, but also quite effective. If only Zimmer and Holkenborg got that. But no, no, no, they just had to go "our ways or the highway" and toss Williams's work out the window as if it didn't even matter, or even exist for that matter. What a pity. I was so glad when Elfman added Williams's Superman March in his score for Justice League, and it's probably the one thing about X.L.'s music for Zack Snyder's Justice League that I regret not hearing, and hearing X.L. also continue his and Zimmer's likewise stupid simplicity for Lex Luthor in one of the very last scenes just makes me, for one, wanna nod off. Maybe I'm playing Devil's Advocate here when it comes to the franchise's musical style and fans, but those fellers have really twisted and tortured ears for music when it comes to Superman and his world.
Overall, I wasn't lying when I said that films like Zack Snyder's Justice League are hard to review. But I gotta tell you: if it were up to me, in an effort to bring at least some more brightness and humor amidst all the darkness and bleakness of the whole franchise, as well as to also better connect to each character and their respective backgrounds and personalities, characteristics, traits, and the like, I would've incorporated virtually every aspect of both versions at exactly the same time, with just three exceptions: Elfman's score, which I for one actually appreciate but also know disappoints the franchise's fans; the part in Justice League where the Flash accidentally lands on top of Wonder Woman, face-first into her boobs and cleavage, when pushing her out of the way of the falling rubble, visually displaying Whedon's both sexist and unprofessional behavior; and the part where Wonder Woman simply destroys Steppenwolf's Electro Axe at the climax of the final battle, knowing that Steppenwolf dying was the original intent. Who knows? Perhaps such a combination would've made a more complete and entertaining audiovisual experience on screen. We'll ultimately never know for sure, but still. (Perhaps I might utilize such a merger in part of my work). 😉😏 All in all, I honestly don't really know how many stars out of five to give it. Since it's so hard for me to review, even though I gave it three stars here, I really give it zero, since it's for uncertainty. You should definitely watch it if you have H.B.O. Max. 😎 If not, set up an account now, or just wait until it's finally out on home media. Hopefully, it'll be successful enough to give the planned sequels their green lights. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNITE!!!!