When DC’s Justice League hit theaters, it was quite different from what the original director intended. Justice League by Zack Snyder aka, it makes up for it and expands the film to four hours of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League fighting the good fight. The Snyder Cut was released on HBO Max in 2021, and now you can finally buy your own digital version of the four-hour film.
Did I mention it takes four hours?
This extended director’s cut is Snyder’s re-edited version of 2017’s Justice League, which was credited to Joss Whedon after Snyder stepped down midway through production due to personal tragedy. Three years later, Snyder dusted off the original footage, shot some new stuff, and then assembled it into a four-hour montage. Officially titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League, this epic version was originally exclusive to the HBO streaming service.and DC Comics spin-offs. However, you don’t need to subscribe to HBO Max, as you can also buy it on Blu-ray or as a digital purchase.
Like the theatrical version, Snyder’s Justice League sees Batman recruit super-powered pals Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash to track down their fallen super friend Superman and thwart the alien invader. Superpowers and soul searching ensue.
The biggest strength of this and all DC movies is the cast of heroes. Gal Gadot’s smoldering Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill’s square-jawed Superman, and Ben Affleck’s world-weary Batman all fill out the comic book costumes perfectly. Alongside them, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller give exceptional performances and breathe life into lesser-known characters. It’s fun to spend time with this league of heroes who beat each other up, pose and bounce.
The fun relationships between the heroes were a big part of Whedon’s rewrites in the theatrical version of Justice League. However, a section of fans quickly rallied to restore the original director’s vision with the #releasethesnydercut online campaign. Somewhere between the grassroots movement of comic book fans and the waving outcry of harassment from critics and DC, the Snyder Cut controversy has become a peculiar nexus in the online culture wars that have recently complicatedand new revelations that .
So yes, this movie comes with a lot of baggage, but life is too short to get caught up in all that. I won’t even comb through the differences between the two versions. Instead, I’ll look at whether the Snyder Cut can stand alone as a cohesive story experience.
It’s no spoiler when I say that the new cut begins with a recap of the earlier 2016 film. Which means you don’t just have to go back to the Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies that have come since then; you have to think back five years to an even earlier film in the series. Look, I forgive you for not remembering the details of what’s going on or why Lex Luthor is hanging out in some kind of CGI wading pool. I’ll actually save you the trouble and tell you up front that Lex Luthor isn’t mentioned again in the main plot of this movie, so including him in the intro is just unnecessary and confusing.
Ten seconds in and I already have that nagging feeling, all too common in today’s continuity-obsessed blockbusters, that I have to pause the movie and check Wikipedia to see if I’m missing something.
That grim prologue tells you very clearly who this movie is for. Are you intimately familiar with the ins and outs of Zack Snyder’s films? Welcome aboard. Are you the other 99% of the moviegoing public who kind of liked the Wonder Woman movies and just want a little superhero escapism while sitting at home with only streaming services for company? Shit! Go watch Batman forever, you lookers!
The Snyder Cut isn’t supposed to be funny. It’s full of serious people saying serious things. Granted, the stream of self-aware jokes in the theatrical cut came dangerously close to mocking fans for taking this thing even remotely seriously, but there’s got to be some middle ground between Whedon’s goofiness and Snyder’s leaden approach. When the Snyder Cut does go for humor, it plays like someone who heard a joke once but didn’t really understand why everyone was laughing. In this version, Ezra Miller’s performance as the Flash is still an unpredictable highlight, but his dialogue often feels forced and weird rather than goofy and cute.
It’s serious business according to heavy textures like Nordic villagers singing ominous songs or stark black title cards or flashbacks and dream sequences and numerous comments from many dead fathers. And sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Get emotional for a full minute of Lois Lane drinking coffee in slow motion in the rain while Nick Cave plays, or get emotional again for a full minute of Aquaman drinking whiskey in slow motion in the rain while, um, more Nick Cave plays.
All of this adds up to a bloated run time. For one, I’m happy to spend time fighting crime with each of the Caped Crusaders. But the film is also filled with countless details that any responsible editor would cut without a single hesitation. We probably didn’t need Commissioner Gordon in the subplot about Batman being a suspected kidnapper who is then completely forgotten about, or the recurring theme of poverty and evictions that have absolutely nothing to do with anything (especially incongruous when one of the heroes is literal billionaire Bruce Wayne ). And we really didn’t need a scene that was just Alfred showing Wonder Woman how to make tea.
Despite its length, however, the Snyder Cut presents nothing meaningful or significantly new. For an example of how a remastered version can deepen a story, look at Blade Runner. The fabled Director’s Cut added fascinating nuance and ambiguity to the question of whether the hero was human and really added another dimension to the film, even if you’ve seen it before.
But the four-hour Snyder Cut of Justice League feels like essentially the same movie as the two-hour theatrical version, only longer. At times it feels less like a story and more like a free-roaming video game where you wander around the DC universe interacting with non-playable characters.
And don’t even get me started on tacked-on mini-movies designed to set up sequels that never come. These throw a bunch of DC fan characters on the wall and look cool, but frankly, incoherent nonsense.
On the plus side, the film expands on several plot elements with varying degrees of success. The extended story leans heavily on Fisher’s cyborg, which is good because he has an interestingly conflicted relationship with his superpowers that make him the most interesting character on the team.
We also learn that the villain Steppenwolf is a subordinate of a space conqueror named Darkseid. In theory, this could add some fun nuance: Marvel movies have shown how villains can be developed into personalities with relatable conflicts that reflect the dilemmas faced by the good guys. But in practice, this means that the existing overly CG-ed gray beast from Justice League is now reporting to another CG gray beast, which in turn is reporting to another CG gray beast.
And I’ll save you some googling here: You’re not mishearing the dialogue, it’s just that one of the gray CG baddies is named “DeSaad” and the other is “Darkseid.” Ridiculously similar names like these are the kind of clutter you remove from a movie, not intentionally add back.
By the way, did we make it seem like we made it this far before mentioning the M-word? Like it or not, Marvel has been setting the bar for superhero blockbusters, and DC has been playing catch-up for a decade. Justice League tried to do in one movie what the Avengers series has developed over several years, and it just isn’t it. But Snyder, Warner Bros. and DC are also not doing themselves any favors by telling a story that’s so similar to what’s going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Bickering heroes collecting magical alien artifacts are basically the same as Infinity War andand Darkseid basically is no character development. Heck, Snyder even throws in a moment that seems to lift Hulk’s signature line (“I’m always angry”) from the first Avengers movie — ironically written and directed by Joss Whedon.
So at least after all the fuss and online battles, we can finally compare Snyder’s and Whedon’s versions. And we can officially confirm that no matter how great it looked in the fandom’s fevered imagination, the Snyder Cut is just as much of a mess as the theatrical cut. Which version you prefer is entirely up to you – I’m not going to judge whether the two-hour or four-hour version is better.
But I will say this: At least one will finish early.
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