The release of Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League has finally been released as a tentpole release for HBO Max. It was an improvement to the version that was released in 2017.
The death of Superman has sent ripples across the universe. These ripples are heard by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), a disgraced follower of Darkseid who’s seeking redemption by conquering Earth. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) can see this threat coming from beyond the stars and sets out to form a team of superpowered beings for the upcoming fight.
The production of 2017’s Justice League was a troubled one. After the disappointing reception of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Warner Brothers decided to course correct. Aquaman, Shazam!, and Wonder Woman 1984 were all lighter in looks and tone. But to get there Justice League had to be reworked with Warner Brothers replacing Snyder with The Avengers’ director Joss Whedon, and demanded the film be less than two hours. This led to a film that was a mishmash in tone and had to skip over a lot of details. Because of this 2017’s Justice League was lambasted by critics with fans putting the blame on Whedon when in reality it was the executives who were at fault.
Comparing The Snyder Cut and the theatrical cut serves as a great lesson in filmmaking and editing and sees how much films can change. Most of the action scenes remained intact everything else has changed. The theatrical cut saw The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Steppenwolf were given short shrift. The Flash was given a flashy introduction with him saving Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) from a car accident, and Steppenwolf was turned from a generic alien leader to someone who wanted to atone for his past actions and seek forgiveness from his master.
Cyborg was improved greatly in this version of the film. Most of his backstory and character development was removed from the theatrical version. The Snyder Cut showed Cyborg’s issues with his dad. In this version of the film Cyborg wasn’t just resentful towards his father because he turned him into a living machine, he also blamed his father for his mother’s death. This gave the film an emotional core. Snyder’s version of the film was better at explaining Cyborg’s powers: he was more than just a man with robot parts, he was also a living computer who was able to hack any computer system. There was a sequence where the film showed Cyborg’s empathy when he views the tragic life of a poverty-stricken woman and decides to help out.
Superman’s story also had more emotion. After Superman gets resurrected, he has to accept why the Justice League did it. There has already been two films of emotional investment and Justice League called back to Man of Steel with the use of Kevin Costner’s and Russell Crowe’s voiceovers and the familiar theme music the DCEU used.
Batman was less guilt-ridden than he was in the theatrical cut. It was clear that Affleck had to come back for reshoots because he was unfit and was suffering from personal issues. In the Snyder Cut Bruce Wayne/Batman was more focused and needed to stop the alien invasion.
One of the biggest criticisms that was laid upon Batman v Superman was it was too dark and violent. This was toned down for Justice League. There is violence and swearing, it’s still a Zack Snyder film, but it felt less sadistic – Batman wasn’t the psychopathic killer he was in the 2016 film. The violence pleased my primal senses but the swearing (especially use of the f word) came across as a 13-year-old trying to be edgy. The worst example of this came with the final scene of the film involving a character who’s return was teased by the marketing.
The Snyder Cut had a lot more connective tissue, like the Amazonians sending a signal to Diana. Other scenes were clearly added to set up future installments. This was evident with scenes involving Aquaman with Atlantean characters who tell him to fulfill his destiny and become the King of Atlantis – and we got to see that story in 2018. Other storylines being set up involved Darkseid’s plans for conquest, mentions of the multiverse, and showing more scenes featuring the dark future. However, the question is what’s the future for the DCEU? Will the franchise return to the Snyderverse, or will it continue down the lighter path? The DCEU’s continuity is one of the most confusing.
Justice League is the longest film in the franchise, the story was a lot more straight-forward than Batman v Superman. The story was simply the Justice League getting formed and stopping an alien invasion. It was the same basic premise as The Avengers and the villain wanted to terraform Earth – that’s what General Zod tried to do in Man of Steel.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been declared a masterpiece by some people and it holds a high IMDB rating. But it has been overhyped. It’s solid but Snyder can be an over-indulgent director. The first 90 minutes was a slog and the same can be said about the ending. Despite the length already there the first 90 minutes would have done with an extra action sequence to help break things up. The film was split into parts that had title cards like it was a Tarantino film. Despite the extra money that was invested in this version of the film the CGI effects were not much of an upgrade to the theatrical cut. It’s a real shame because Man of Steel and Batman v Superman had CGI effects. The filmmakers decided to show the film in the 4:3 aspect ratio. You will get use to it but it leads to the question, why was it done?
The other issue affecting Justice League is not really its fault. That is comparisons between Marvel and The Avengers. The planned overarching plot was similar to what Marvel did with the MCU. Thanos and Darkseid were big, powerful bad guys with a bunch of lieutenants who set out to conquer. The basic setup of the film was similar to The Avengers and the wider story reminded me a lot of Avengers: Infinity Wars. If Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released as it was originally intended this issue would have been muted.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an interesting curiosity for movies and it provides lot of superhero entertainment. But it is not the best film in the DCEU, let alone one of the best superhero films.