In 2017, Justice League arrived in cinemas. Hailed as Warner Bros. Pictures’ big event movie, Justice League brought together Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman, for a world-saving adventure.
But before its release, Justice League encountered a significant issue – the loss of its director, Zack Snyder. The man behind Man of Steel (2013) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), had to step away from the project mid-production, due to a family bereavement.
In order to complete the movie, to meet the intended release date, Warner Bros. hired The Avengers (2012) director, Joss Whedon to finish what Snyder had started. Under Whedon’s watch the movie was completed, and was released on time; however, some rewriting and reshoots took place along the way.
When Justice League arrived in cinemas it received mixed reviews. Many felt the Snyder/Whedon-hybrid was underwhelming, and rather lacklustre, and it underperformed at the box office.
But in the years since the release of the movie, an increasing number of fans have called on Warner Bros. Pictures to give Snyder a chance to return to Justice League. They believed that given a second opportunity, as well as the right resources, he could deliver an epic motion picture to live up to the original hype.
After a very lengthy, very vocal, and very persistent social media campaign (as well as a desire to deliver new DC content during a global pandemic), Warner Bros. finally agreed to fan demands. The studio re-hired Snyder, gave him some funding, and allowed him to deliver Justice League: Take Two – or as it is actually known, Zack Snyder’s Justice League (aka Justice League: The Snyder Cut).
This updated version of Justice League hits HBO Max in the US today, while in the UK it is exclusive to SKY/NOW TV customers. Unlike the original cut, which was exactly two-hours long, this new cut of Justice League runs just shy of four-hours, and is the longest-running DC movie ever committed to film.
This is not a completely different take on the 2017 Justice League – it is essentially the same movie – but it is loaded with material that wasn’t present the first time around. Some of this material adds greater depth to the story, and a whole new perspective to some of the characters, while some of it simply elongates scenes.
By adding in this additional material – some of which was newly shot for this version of the film – Justice League: The Snyder Cut is a richer, fuller, more immersive experience. It exposes the original as a paper-thin and messy product, which was shunted out at break-neck speed to meet a predetermined release window.
Without doubt, this is the better version of Justice League. It is a movie which makes it clear why the world needs a team of heroes, it includes stronger characters, and watching it feels like an event – something which could not be said the first time around.
But The Snyder Cut isn’t perfect. So, let me get the negatives out of the way first.
This film is too long. At almost four hours, watching The Snyder Cut is a big commitment, and at times it does feel a touch bloated. Early on, there are scenes with Amazons which run on a little longer than they need to, and the same can be said for a few other moments here and there.
If this movie had arrived in cinemas back in 2017, I would have found it a stretch to sit through. Yes, it is an improvement over the two-hour version, and I appreciate this is Zack Snyder’s vision (without studio interference), but I believe a little bit of editing wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I also feel that if you have largely disliked Zack Snyder’s take on the DC Universe prior to today, then this cut isn’t going to miraculously transform you into his biggest fan. There is a very strong chance it will make you reconsider and possibly re-evaluate your feelings over Snyder’s previous films, but this is still a dark, murky world, which is a largely sombre affair.
I liked Man of Steel, but I personally found Batman V Superman too mean-spirited. For me, Justice League: The Snyder Cut leans closer to Man of Steel, but this isn’t enough to convince me this approach to DC characters is for me.
Now all that said, this is as much negativity as I am going to direct at Justice League: The Snyder Cut, because I believe it would be wrong of me to nit-pick it infinitum – and totally unnecessary. What Zack Snyder has done with this movie is deliver a significant improvement on the previous cut, which arrives fully formed, and one which offers fans the film they have longed for, for years.
This isn’t some kind of cut-and-shut, in which some of the characters are diluted down to comedy relief or glorified extras, this is a picture which elevates all of the main players to the same level. And this is achieved by providing everyone with the screen time they need.
For example, Cyborg, a character who was side-lined the first time around, is now given a chance to shine. He goes from being an uninteresting member of the League, to being a powerful, deeper character who deserves to stand toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
Likewise, The Flash is far better served in The Snyder Cut, and even gets an entirely new scene. It is action-packed, humorous, and enjoyable to watch.
In addition to the above, The Snyder Cut also introduces some new characters, including Darkseid (aka the big bad who was absent from the previous release); revisits a lingering plot point from Batman V Superman; and gives Superman a new costume. And speaking of Superman, this is yet another character who is better served, even though his screen time is pretty limited.
The previous version of Justice League had a significant issue relating to its depiction of Superman; namely the character’s bizarre CGI mouth – a result of some last minute reshoots which saw the production team digitally erase Henry Cavill’s moustache in post-production. The Snyder Cut doesn’t suffer from this problem, and there is no distracting mouth nonsense this time around.
But more importantly, this cut handles Superman very, very well. Snyder keeps the Man of Steel off screen for the majority of the movie, and by doing this, and placing the rest of the League in their darkest hour without him, it means his eventual return feels so rewarding.
There is a moment at the 3 hours and 14 minutes mark, which involves Superman, that genuinely made me smile. I’m talking full on grin – something akin to the smile the Cheshire Cat sports in Alice in Wonderland.
In that one moment (which is very brief), I felt the entire drive, purpose, and moral of this movie – that people are stronger together, but sometimes it just takes one person to tip the balance for the better. This is a message which was missing from 2017’s Justice League, despite its constant efforts to tell us team work is important.
Team work is important, and so is having the convictions to see things through. And while I, and others, have previously dismissed some of Zack Snyder’s ideas and his approach to Superman, I believe he has stuck to his guns regardless, and with Justice League: The Snyder Cut he has delivered what he set out to deliver.
Justice League: The Snyder Cut won’t be for everyone; it isn’t the greatest movie of all-time and casual audiences will find it too long, but it is a second chance, a redux, a do-over if you wish, which gives the League a more respectful opportunity to shine. I still believe a better Justice League movie is achievable if Warner Bros. was to start with a clean slate (rather than re-jigging material), but for now, this cut makes up for past disappointments.