In 2017, DC cursed the world with the disaster project Justice League, a film so awful that it took four years to fix. I was originally skeptical about a “Snyder Cut”. I thought it was non-existent. In my mind, even if the film existed, it would a dumpster fire. However, my initial reactions to some odd trailers and a troubled production were disproven by a delightful film.
In case you were unaware, the original theatrical cut of Justice League was changed drastically from Snyder’s original vision. This was partially due to a personal tragedy in Snyder’s life, resulting in the director leaving the post-production of the project. DC hired Joss Whedon, of Avengers fame, to take on the rest of the project. Following Snyder’s departure, the film underwent changes including, but not limited to: reshot scenes with more “comedy”, complete cutting for darker scenes, and a change to the film’s visual style. By mixing these changes in with Snyder’s original vision, Whedon created a Frankenstein of a superhero movie that was ultimately a complete dumpster fire. The original film had obvious continuity errors due to reshoots, and due to a studio wanting a more digestible runtime, the film lacks a lot of narrative cohesion.
What Makes the Snyder Cut Worth Discussion?
The Snyder Cut is an odd enigma. I truly believed that the project was a myth, thinking it was a mere falsehood in the heart of fans. However, the release of the film on HBO Max proved me wrong. The Snyder Cut seems like something that would not happen if it weren’t from passionate fans. While I did not share the same passion as some fans, I can appreciate what was made as a result of the passion. It creates an odd view of what films are and can be. Maybe the world will get a Lord/Miller cut of Solo: A Star Wars Story, or the rumored “Ayer Cut” of Suicide Squad.
However, this could prompt companies to change art to appease fans. For example, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a divisive film, one where some fans call it a masterpiece while others bash it online. This could begin a ripple for entertainment where the viewer has power over the artist. However, I don’t think this is the case, at least for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, because the film is his piece, a piece that was taken from him by a studio to follow an agenda. Overall, the fact that Zack Snyder’s Justice League exists is a miracle and disaster for cinema, a change that we will feel the benefits and hardships from for years.
The Film Itself
So what about the actual film, is it any good? Yes, I am happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed all four hours (yes, a whole four hours) of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Nearly everything that hindered the theatrical release is now gone from this new film. Yes, this film, not an edit, is a completely new beast of its own, clocking in two and a half hours of never-before-seen content. Gone are the poorly timed and awkward jokes. The ugly “upbeat” aesthetic of the theatrical cut is gone. Those flaws and many others are replaced by new scenes that grow the characters from once dull and flat to interesting and engaging.
In the past, Snyder has struggled with characters in his films. Man of Steel had nice visuals and an incredible score, but every character, save for maybe Superman, was boring. Now, Snyder has created interesting and compelling characters. Additional scenes really flesh out everyone, especially Cyborg. Cyborg was essentially a plot device in the theatrical cut, but the new film really fleshes him out and gives him the justice (no pun intended) the character deserves.
The Flash and Aquaman are both greatly improved as well. The Flash has two incredible scenes that showcase his power in exciting ways and are highlights of the film. Aquaman also feels like a character instead of a punchline for “You talk to fish” jokes. In the theatrical cut, Aquaman is quite detached and painful for the team, but in the Snyder film, he shows care and emotion for his friends.
The characters are not the only major change to the film. Snyder really honed in and has fixed some of his shortcomings, and improved his strengths. First, Snyder has created a wonderful-looking film. The theatrical cut is ugly, and the visuals suffer due to poor color correction. Zack Snyder’s Justice League has beautiful shadows and lighting, as well as wonderful framing, staying true to its IMAX aspect ratio. (*Note: Those black bars on the side present the same aspect ratio that Justice League and many other blockbusters shoot their scenes in.) Second, Snyder’s film is much more genuine and heartfelt than his other films. A film like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice fails to hit any proper emotional beats, whereas Snyder’s latest film is quite emotionally investing. Thanks to screen time dedicated to character development rather than pseudo macho dialogue.
(Note: This film does not have the CGI Henry Cavill lip!)
Despite really enjoying Zack Snyder’s Justice League I still have some issues with it. The script in Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not Chinatown or Pulp Fiction by any means. Dialogue has never been Snyder’s strong suit, and here the dialogue is admittedly a little weak. However, the dialogue is not so bad that I was taken out of the film. For example, in the theatrical version, the “comedic” lines are very forced, desperately trying to mimic the Marvel style. So, the dialogue is weak, but it still manages to be an improvement over the original.
A continuation of the dialogue relates to the film’s R rating. The violence never really bothered me; however, it is jarring to see characters on lunchboxes inflict a lot of violent damage to enemies. The main thing that threw me off was the swear words used by some of the main characters. It is jarring to see Batman use some pretty profane language. I don’t mind profane language in a film, but the profanity at times felt out of place as if it were being edgy for the sake of being edgy.
Before I praised Snyder for his evolution as a filmmaker, but some aspects of his directing still bothered me. This consists of his soundtrack choices that distract a lot from the film. One thing the DCEU has going for it over the MCU is their musical scores. Man of Steel has an incredible soundtrack, and its themes here are quite effective in the Superman scenes. But, the film stops so the audience can hear some poorly placed needle-drops, and while it seems small, the issue does irk me.
Despite what I said before about the characters improving, one character hasn’t changed that much, and that character is Lois Lane. The DCEU films still struggle to make this character interesting at all. I like Amy Adams a lot, but her character here leaves a lot to be desired and detracts a lot from the overall film.
The runtime can also make the film feel a little clunky. I was never bored, but balancing so many scenes with different characters is tricky, and it didn’t always work. The introductions to characters are great on their own, but they don’t fit very smoothly into everything.
Some of the new additions to Zack Snyder’s Justice League mostly impressed me. The updated look due to much better color correction, as well as new CGI designs for characters I had found dull before. However, Zack Snyder’s Justice League adds new characters that completely change the original. As the trailers suggest, Darkseid, DC’s big villain, is present in this film. There is a scene involving him and heroes from thousands of years ago that was truly stunning. I felt worried that his addition would convolute things, but it was quite the contrary.
Another major change involves the Flash. In the theatrical cut, he saves a Russian family, and it felt like a waste of time for the character. Here, the Flash saves the day. Superman and Cyborg are too late to save the day and the Darkseid portal enters, killing the entire team except for the Flash. The Flash then moves so fast that he turns back time, saving the characters and helping close the portal.
Martian Manhunter, better known as the green guy from the Justice League cartoon series, makes an appearance in this film. His edition is admittedly neat, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story and feels a little out of place.
Another edition features a “Knightmare” scene featuring Jared Leto as the Joker. The scene is admittedly interesting and appealing on its own, but it feels really tacked on at the end. It sort of explains the “Knightmare” scenes in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it feels unnecessary. I surprisingly did not mind Jared Leto’s performance. In the film, he does not say “We live in a society” as he did in the trailer. Thank God. The “Knightmare” scene was nice to see, but removing it would leave a tighter film.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a delightful surprise. Despite its issues, I found it to be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. I’d go as far as to say that it is probably my favorite DCEU film simply for how bold it is. Looking at his past few films, it would be safe to say hope in Snyder was low. However, with Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Snyder has really proved what a talent he is.
With that, I give Zack Snyder’s Justice League a 3.5/5.