A campaign five years in the making has finally dropped on HBO Max. By now, everyone got a chance to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League. A do-over of the 2017’s superhero film that launched the #ReleasetheSnyderCut campaign and gave Joss Whedon angry fan mail. Now that the fans have gotten it, was it worth the wait and countless bathroom breaks?
Behind the Capes
For a refresher, Snyder did have to leave the project when the film was in production in 2016. The reason was sadly due to a family tragedy. This led to the studio hiring Avengers director, Joss Whedon, to pick up where Snyder left off; including reshoots. When the film hit theaters, people noticed that there were more jokes and half of Henry Cavill’s face was CGI.
Five years later, Snyder was granted by WB to recut Justice League the way he intended. That meant everything Snyder initially shot was added back into the movie while removing Whedon’s footage. What was made, was an epic with a run time an hour longer than Avengers: Endgame.
FOUR FREAKING HOURS!
Is that four-hour run time too long? Turns out, it isn’t at all! The film is packed with intriguing action scenes and amazing cinematography, that the run time barely feels like four hours. If it felt like the 2017’s version, or the Whedon Cut, was missing chunks of the story, don’t worry. Those missing scenes return and give more explanations to the MacGuffins of the story, as well as character motivations – both heroes and villains.
No Mommy Issues
A frustration of the Whedon Cut was the explanation of the MacGuffins, The Mother Boxes. In the comics, these boxes are meant to unite and help the big villain, Darkseid (Ray Porter), take over the world. In both versions of the film, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) is tasked to retrieve the boxes. Whedon explains his conquest is due to his mother being trapped in the boxes. However, Snyder explains that this mission is all for Darkseid. Snyder takes the cake due to this explanation giving more to his character.
Snyder enhances Steppenwolf’s purpose by explaining that he needs to return to good graces with Darkseid after betraying him. The audience later finds out that Earth is just one world out of the 50,000 worlds he still owes. With that desperation, Steppenwolf’s attacks are brutal towards the Amazons, Atlanteans, and these new heroes. Not only is his character enhanced, but his look is a lot more menacing and dangerous with his upgraded armor. But nothing is as dangerous as those boxes.
This version explains why The Mother Boxes start acting up. This version pulls a Man of Steel to Batman v. Superman and connects! The film starts at the end of the battle with Doomsday in Batman v. Superman. As Superman (Henry Cavill) is dying, he lets out his death scream. It’s then heard all around the world and triggers the boxes to wake up. Now, WB may have thought this would be difficult to understand; however, critics found this explanation to be an improvement. Another thing that improved was the action.
The action scenes flow similarly to the theatrical cut, but a lot longer and a lot more brutal. Being that this version’s rated R, blood splatters are present, and the kills are a bit graphic. It doesn’t reach horror movie territory, but it does highlight the heroes and villains’ strengths battle. With all this action and grit, does it mean the film’s that dower?
No Funny Business?
With this being Snyder’s cut, the Whedon jokes are nowhere to be found. However, it doesn’t mean that this film is 100% gritty and dark. There are light moments in this, with humor that lands. Think of it as the humor serving the scenes situations and the characters’ chemistry. Some that stick out are mostly with Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a.k.a. The Flash.
It’s forgiven that Barry is a bit annoying due to him being the youngest. However, his humor is dialed down a bit. Yes, he’s still annoying at first, but he’s able to bounce his humor when he interacts with the other members. One highlight is when he’s being recruited by Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), a.k.a. Batman. Another is when he’s conversing with Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), a.k.a. Cyborg about Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), a.k.a. Wonder Woman.
Other than his personality, his abilities also get to shine in this cut. Snyder got to add what Whedon didn’t, which is his ability to run so fast, he can reverse time. He gets to do this twice, one while resurrecting Superman, and later when he has to help charge up Cyborg. Why the studio didn’t want this aspect of his power is a mystery. This assurance of his powers allowed him to be a key player for the team towards the final battle. This version of The Flash is far from the bumbling kid who has a problem with the concept of brunch. By the way, that brunch “joke” is gone.
Another thing gone is the useless civilians in the final battle. Whedon introduced a Russian family that found themselves caught between the heroes and villains. It was up to Flash and a resurrected Superman to save them. The final battle in this version got rid of the family and any other useless civilian. The reason for Steppenwolf choosing Pozharnov was that there was a ton of radiation. It was secluded enough for The Mother Boxes to merge and for superheroes to fight as a team.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Speaking of team, the team dynamic is a lot better in this version. Having this cut broken down into six parts gives the audience enough time to get to know the characters. It’s understood why Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), a.k.a. Aquaman refuses to be King of Atlantis; he’s freer on land. Even why Bruce Wayne wants to form this team because he misjudged Superman and missed a bigger threat. But it’s really Cyborg who ends up being the heart of the team with a full backstory!
It’s obvious that in the Whedon Cut, Cyborg got the short end of the stick out the all the members. Putting his scenes back in this version enhances the important aspects of the plot. There are more explanations of The Mother Boxes and the resurrection of Superman. That is that they recreate matter. Besides the exposition, this highlights the tragic family relationship between him and his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton).
Since his father wasn’t around, Silas tries to make up for his absence to bring Cyborg back to life. Granted, he created bigger friction when he turned his son into part robot while failing to save his wife. But, even if Silas would be in grave danger, Cyborg still acknowledges his father and saves him…to a point. Him finally making it up to his son isn’t just heartbreaking. However, it drives Cyborg to be another key player in stopping Steppenwolf.
Without any of those scenes in Whedon’s version, it left the movie to half-ass plot points. Adding them back raised the stakes of the situation. It motivates Cyborg and the rest of the team to work better as a team. But it isn’t just Cyborg who gets the heartfelt story. Even the supporting characters, that aren’t Russian families get a sense of depth.
The movie does catch up with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) as she heals from mourning Superman. She gets the right amount of screen time highlighting her grief. She’s basically cooped up in her apartment like she’s quarantined. However, she does routinely visit Superman’s memorial ground while offering a cop a cup of coffee. Fun fact, that cop is a cameo by the original Jimmy Olsen, Marc McClure. Lois’s greatest scene happens when she talks with, supposedly, Martha Kent (Diane Lane).
As Martha speaks with Lois about foreclosing on the farmhouse, she encourages her to return to work. She allows Lois the time to mourn him but reminds her to move forward with her life. A heartfelt conversation that beats Lois talking about writing kitten grooming pieces. However, this scene goes from heartfelt to confusing.
For some reason, Martha Kent turns into John Jones (Harry Lennix), a.k.a. Martian Manhunter. Just a summary, he’s a being from Mars, who would protect the weak and serve the common good. His abilities range from super-strength, increasing his size, super speed, invulnerability, flight, regeneration, telepathy, telekinesis, shapeshifting, etc. He’s basically like Marvel’s Vision, but not an android. One great character, and a legit member of the Justice League in the comics, but was he necessary?
From the execution of introducing Martian Manhunter, it looks to be fan service. Now, fan service isn’t a bad thing in these comic book films. Fans finally get a black suit Superman, which looks fantastic. However, in the case of Martian Manhunter, it doesn’t feel as earned. Though he was meant to be set up in Man of Steel when he was acting as General Swanwick, this wasn’t the scene to directly fit the flow of the story.
It doesn’t also help that he shows up in the epilogue. An indicator for more fan service with a hint of having to be tack on. It won’t be hard to posts and comments about where the Hell Martian Manhunter was during that big battle. He isn’t the only thing in the epilogue that felt shoehorned.
A Complete Nightmare
There will be some debate on this, but the epilogue didn’t feel needed. It features two scenes. One is a meeting between Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) and a newly escaped Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). It plays out the same as Whedon’s, but the dialogue focuses on Batman rather than putting together a team. This scene was confirmed to have set up Ben Affleck’s Batman solo film. That film is now known as The Batman with Robert Pattinson, which is currently in production.
Another distant dream is the second scene. It’s back to Batman’s nightmare from Batman v. Superman. This time, he’s assembled Cyborg, Flash from the future, Mera (Amber Heard), and Deathstroke to try and stop Superman…again. He realizes that he needs one more person to help him. It’s none other than his arc nemesis, the Joker (Jared Leto). The Joker looks slightly better than his last DCEU appearance, 2016’s Suicide Squad. However, his back and forth with Batman doesn’t serve the scene either way.
There’s [Supposed to be] More?
Even if Snyder had full control of this project, the two scenes didn’t feel needed for the current DCEU. However, this is what he wanted to finish, and these last two scenes are part of his vision. Rumors do swirl that he intentionally reshot the nightmare scene in hopes his supporters will demand more. That includes the remaining two Justice League sequels intended. It would be great for him if fans stick by the latest campaign, #ReleasetheSnyderverse, but what about Warner Brothers?
Is it Canon?
Despite finally completing this project, Snyder believes this version to not be canon to the other theatrical films in the DCEU. However, after it was released, Warner Brothers have been debating the canonical ending to fit the current continuity. Talks are that they’re leaning towards the final shot of Superman ripping his shirt open to reveal the black suit. To give some sort of credit to his work and please the sweaty fans and viewers who prefer this version over Whedon’s.
Comparing the reviews, Snyder’s version sits pretty at 72% on Rotten Tomatoes versus Whedon’s 40% rating. The response has been widely positive with Deadline reporting that 1.8 million viewers tuned in for the four-hour epic. Since then, Bloomberg reported an 8.9% jump in HBO Max users. It even beat out Disney+ premiere of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which obtained 1.7 million viewers. At this point, the possibilities of Snyder being invited back to do sequels is up to what Hollywood agrees to. With ongoing tension going on at Warner Brothers, it should be looked at for now as a possible “what if”. But all in all, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a better movie than what was given five years ago. It has heart, action, and 10% slow-motion shots that can be somebody’s screencaps.