Griffin Sendek | multimedia editor
I never thought the day would come that I would actually watch The Snyder Cut of Justice League. The myth presiding in the minds of frantic DC comic movie fanboys was brought to life and premiered on HBO Max on March 18, 2021.
Even more shocking than the mere existence of The Snyder Cut is the fact that it’s actually good — and when placed against the litany of superhero movies, it might be one of the best.
Some background for those who are a little confused of what “a Snyder cut” is: Film director Zach Snyder — famous for 300, Watchmen, Suckerpunch as well as the director of DC properties Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — was in the process of shooting Justice League (2017), when the tragic suicide of his daughter Autumn forced Snyder to drop the project.
Joss Weadon, well-known for directing the first two Avengers films, was called in to finish the job. Audiences’ general displeasure with Man of Steel and a huge negative outcry from Batman v. Superman lead to some hope with the shift away from Snyder’s direction.
Under Weadon’s control, Justice League underwent extensive reshoots and a large tonal shift from Snyder’s original vision for the film.
Justice League arrived at theaters on Nov. 15, 2017 and resulted in a meddling, unfunny, boring and confusing mess of a film. This isn’t a review of the original Justice League, but it’s important to note where this all started.
The film had its defenders and there were a few moments that worked — but the general consensus was that Justice League was bad overall. This was a huge disappointment and for the aforementioned crazed DC fanboys, they were convinced that Joss Weadon had ruined the project and a secret, perfect cut of Zach Snyder’s Justice League. Despite that cut having never existed at that point, the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut blew up. While a vocal minority of this hashtag’s community was toxic, there were many that saw it as an attempt to inspire Snyder to come back and make the movie he originally wanted.
The Snyder Cut for years was nothing but conspiracy theories — until it wasn’t. Last year, Warner Brothers announced the Snyder Cut was a reality and was to be released exclusively on HBO Max. Recutting footage was shot back in 2016, bringing the cast back for reshoots and $70 million later — the Snyder cut was released to the world.
This whole ordeal appeared to be an overly expensive attempt to polish a turd. It seemed impossible this film would turn out well. When it was revealed the cut was to be four, yes four, freaking hours long, I was expecting nothing but a trainwreck shot in super slow motion.
I went in expecting mostly the same movie with a bunch of bonus deleted scenes thrown in, but I was wrong. This cut felt entirely like a different movie and a much better one at that.
Sure, the movie is veer on being a complete overindulgent monstrosity, but it is so very refreshing to see a movie that knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be. Before the movie even starts, it’s about to be a deep dive into Snyder’s creative mind.
“This film is presented in a 4:3 format to preserve the integrity of Zach Snyder’s creative vision,” the opening text reads. A strange decision at first but one that quickly grew on me.
The film is no masterpiece — but it’s a director getting the opportunity to make a movie exactly the way they wanted, which these days so rarely happens.
The Snyder cut can best be described as decadent. Everything is so dark, gritty and dramatic. Slow motion shots, a staple of Snyder’s work, are so abundant it almost becomes a parody of itself, but never dips into the realm of monotony.
Did we really need to see Lois Lane exit the coffee shop in slow-motion? Certainly not, but that’s what “Zach’s creative vision” called for and that’s exactly what we got.
The biggest shock of this movie is truly just how well it all fits together. For as dark and moody as the movie presents itself, it has so much more heart and soul than the original cut of Justice League ever did. For however much Joss Weadon attempted to make the film more lighthearted and joke-y, the jokes never seemed to land; the Snyder cut, miraculously, is a lot more funny of a film.
Zach Snyder’s Justice League is a good example of the key difference between plot and story. Where the plot of the film mostly follows the same beats and structure of the original, the story feels entirely different.
The character of Cyborg (Ray Fisher) relegated a little more than an empty macguffin in the original cut, but soon became the emotional soul of the story, whose character has the chance to live and breathe within the runtime and complete a satisfying arc. The main villain, Steppenwolf, one of the absolute worst comic book villains ever put on screen, is actually given something to do and has suddenly become a lot more compelling as the big bad.
The Justice League is meant to be a unified team, not disparate pieces. This cut places the focus far more on the team as a whole, which fits the story far better thematically. There is some excellent action on display, but it’s the characters movements that are true takeaways.
There’s a lot of movies one can squeeze into four hours. So much is jam-packed into Zach Snyder’s Justice League that I can’t possibly touch on it all.
This movie certainly isn’t for everyone. As a first viewing with no prior context, for what the film used to be, perhaps it isn’t too special and for those who aren’t into superheroes watching Zach Snyder’s Justice League might be their own version of hell.
For all the praise I’ve given the film, it’s far from flawless; but going in predicting an utter mess and coming out four hours later, expectations far exceeded will always make for a wonderful movie watching experience.