The long awaited Snyder Cut is finally here. Zack Snyder’s Justice League released directly to HBO Max with a runtime of more than four hours. This massive movie is broken down into six chapters and an epilogue.
The question all along has been how different would this cut of Justice League be? Since the release of the previous version in 2017, rumors have swirled about new plotlines and characters. Finally we have those answers so let’s not waste another second.
“I’m real when it’s useful”
Is Zack Snyder’s Justice League really a new movie? Yes and no.
The main plot points from the 2017 film, which was controversially overhauled by Joss Whedon, are still more or less intact. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) starts the movie on a quest to unite known metahumans against a worldwide threat he was tipped off to by Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. On the other side we have Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) leading an invasion of earth on his quest to collect three Mother Boxes. The Justice League slowly comes together to battle Steppenwolf and defend earth. They quickly realize to defeat Steppenwolf and his army of parademons they need help. So they bring Superman back from the dead.
So point A to point B are essentially the same. Where this movie becomes something new is in filling in the notes between those two points. And there are a ton of new notes. These aren’t just added scenes that weren’t necessary either. They explain major plot elements, give texture to key characters and provide much more motivation for our villain.
When comparing this version of the film to the previous version there are characters who were once glossed over that are now absolutely integral in this story.
New and improved
If we’re putting the two versions of Justice League against each other, we can see there are some massive improvements in character development.
The biggest upgrade is to Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone, a.k.a. Cyborg. He was promoted from a plot device to really the central character arch in the whole movie. Bruce still gets most of the screen time for much of the film but this movie is as much a Cyborg origin story as anything else.
We meet Victor as he struggles with the monster he has become. Silas Stone (Joe Morton), a scientist with S.T.A.R. Labs, used a Mother Box to save his son’s life after a car accident that killed his wife. Elinore Stone appears in the film and we get quite a bit more of Victor’s backstory.
Silas helps walk us through more of what Victor’s abilities are. It establishes Cyborg as more than the tech guy. He has the keys to our hyper-connected world in his hands, or head.
Cyborg gets a glimpse at a possible future after he links up with the Kryponian mothership. Not to spoil anything but it is bleak and brutal.
Steppenwolf gets a needed boost as well. Ciaran Hinds’ voice is a bit more evident and he has much more to work with. It still feels like a shame to hide him in a lifeless CG character but the character design was made a bit more menacing.
It turns out Steppenwolf isn’t simply on a quest to conquer earth. He actually has some motivation. He broke Darkseid’s orders on a previous conquest and is trying to get back in his good graces by unifying earth’s Mother Boxes and terraforming the planet in the image of Apokolips. As an added bonus he discovers the Anti-Life Equation is on earth. This would have set up Darkseid’s reason for coming to earth in a sequel.
Remember when Superman was resurrected and went nuts on the Justice League? The only thing that stopped him from taking out Batman was Lois Lane (Amy Adams). Well Lois has more of a presence this time. It isn’t a lot but it establishes the level of her mourning. She visits Supes’ memorial every day and still hasn’t gotten back to work at the Daily Planet. There’s a very subtle hint that she and Clark were trying to have a child.
Who’s the new guy?
Several new additions to the movie were already given away in the trailers but there were still a couple of surprises.
The worst-kept secret was the inclusion of Martian Manhunter. He appears in full form, though not likely where you’d expect him.
Darkseid (Ray Porter) wasn’t really a secret at all. Unlike Steppenwolf, Darkseid commands the screen whenever he appears. Knowing his presence looms over everything in a more tangible way makes the climax of the film feel more hyped up. He gets limited action but he does use his Omega beams.
DeSaad (Peter Guinness), Darkseid’s second in command, is the main point of contact between Steppenwolf and Apokolips. Granny Goodness is there but is relegated to the background.
Maybe the biggest surprise appearance was Ryan Choi, the second Atom. Played by Ryan Zheng, Choi is the No. 2 scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs behind Silas and in the end is promoted to director of nanotechnology — hinting at his future as the Atom.
The flashback sequence that sees the previous Apokolips invasion on earth was filled with tons of action and easter eggs. Steppenwolf doesn’t go it alone this time. Darkseid makes his first appearance and it takes the powers of man, Amazon, Atlantean and even a Green Lantern to stop him. The Green Lantern in this battle is Yalan Gur, not Hal Jordan or John Stewart. During the battle, Yalan Gur’s hand is chopped off and releases the lantern ring from his possession.
Zeus and Ares also take part in the battle. Both are prominent characters in Wonder Woman’s history. This whole battle sets up the three realms each taking a Mother Box into their protection. Very much like Lord of the Rings.
Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) finally makes her debut in Flash’s backstory. Clemons was cast as Barry Allen’s love interest way back in 2016.
Detective Crispus Allen is another new addition, though a very minor one. He is more of a key player in the Gotham Central comics and most notably takes on the role of the Spectre.
“He never fought us”
Each Justice League member is done much more…well…justice. Cyborg was the most improved but the others were as good or better in this version.
Batman’s motivations were always clear — he grieved for the loss of Superman and feared the threats earth would face. This point was driven home even more, but Bats wasn’t as reliant on the help of his friends and his wonderful toys this time. He just kicks a lot more ass. In 2017, he was pretty much nothing without his gadgets; constantly being saved.
Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the Flash is still somewhat divisive. He is charismatic and has overwhelming comedic timing. But he doesn’t come across as Bruce and Victor’s intellectual equal like Barry Allen usually is. He’s also almost useless in a fight.
There were several F-bombs throughout this movie and for some reason it seemed Diana (Gal Gadot) was around for most of them. No, Wonder Woman didn’t become a sailor overnight. She just happened to be there to hear it.
When Diana is Wonder Womaning she looks like the most powerful member of the Justice League. She is the League’s resident history teacher and catches everyone up to speed on what is coming after exploring a temple underneath a monument to the Amazons in a new scene.
If any JL member faded to the background it was Aquaman (Jason Momoa). There were additional scenes between him and Vulko (Willem Dafoe). The battle for the Mother Box in Atlantis was juiced up and more action packed as well. It wasn’t that anything was taken away from Aquaman. Instead what was added for him was slightly weaker than the rest of the League.
“Make your own future”
One of the more anticipated aspects of the Snyder Cut was the new “Knightmare” sequence. There were actually a couple glimpses into a post-apocalyptic future throughout the movie.
As mentioned above, Cyborg gets a glimpse of a desolate earth when connecting to the Kryptonian ship to resurrect Superman. He gets a longer look at this future when he tries to separate the Mother Boxes during the climax.
But as we find out during the resurrection, the future isn’t exactly certain. At least not when the Flash is involved. Barry makes mention of his ability to run at the speed of light which can create a spark of energy. He says he has a rule to not do this because weird things happen with time when he does it.
This of course sets us up for Andy Muschietti’s The Flash which is expected to center around time travel and multiple timelines.
Whether the Knightmare future comes to pass or not, we may never know. It does play out at a couple points in this movie though. The Epilogue chapter sees Batman, Cyborg and the Flash traversing the wasteland likely outside of Gotham City or Metropolis. They are joined by Mera (Amber Heard) and Deathstroke (Joe Mangienello). They come upon the Joker (Jared Leto) while they discuss their plan of attack. A lengthy exchange between Batman and Joker reveals more of their history in this universe than we had coming in. From the sounds of it, it is a bloody and disturbing history.
Admittedly, I eat the superhero stuff up. But more than that, I was excited to see this film happen because a creator was allowed to bring their vision to life. Zack Snyder got a second chance to make his Justice League. Now, when you get an unprecedented chance like this, you also have the weight of expectations on your shoulders. You better deliver.
What Snyder and co. delivered was a far more fleshed out narrative. Snyder executed a strong and entertaining telling of the mythology of these iconic superheroes. Cyborg in particular. The beats of the story were allowed to ring rather than rata-tat-tatting from one to the next in a hurry. Granted a theatrical runtime wouldn’t have been allowed that room.
In classic Snyder fashion there is a lot of slow motion. A lot. It is most noticeable in the first chapter as we are slowly reintroduced to this story. The runtime could have been significantly shortened if slow motion sequences were sped up to real time. This is without counting scenes where we are seeing things through the Flash’s perspective too. These sequences look really cool but it was probably overdone.
Gone are the one-dimensional characters lacking any true reason for their actions. Gone is that orange hue that made the whole final act hard on the eyes.
Also gone, unfortunately, is Danny Elfman’s Batman score. That’s a bummer.
This film was more guttural and violent than I expected. The language caught me off guard as did the blood and brutality. It wasn’t a lot. Not Dredd amounts of violence. But it wasn’t Christopher Reeves stuff either.
If you hated Justice League it’s unlikely a new four hour cut is going to sway you. It is a much better film but the skeleton of the old version is still there.
I liken this to the extended cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. When watching the extended version of that movie it was hard to imagine seeing the theatrical release without those added scenes. Some of them turned out to be pretty significant and my favorites of the whole film.
On its own, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a fun ride for fans of the genre. It was long. There’s no denying it. But the world you’re asked to spend four hours in felt like it had more stories to tell. It’s only a matter of whether or not you’d want to hear them.
Overall score 3.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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