I originally intended to watch Zack Snyder’s definitive edition of Justice League in multiple viewings due to its ungodly 242 minute runtime. But I have to admit, once I got going it sucked me in and I ended up banging out the entire #SnyderCut in one sitting because it delivers big time.
The difference between the Joss Whedon theatrical release (which some people that are more clever than I have dubbed Josstice League) and the Snyder Cut is night and day. Granted it’s twice as long, but it’s broken up into six parts (not including the prologue and epilogue) which lend some credence to the rumors that HBO Max considered releasing it in weekly installments rather than all at once. Now if you’ve never seen the theatrical release you may just think this is a four hour masturbatory act from Snyder and I wouldn’t necessarily fault you for that assumption, but this just may replace Blade Runner’s Final Cut as the definitive example of a Director’s Cut.
So we all know by now that DC was trying to replicate the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which continues to run laps around DC with the also massive success of WandaVision on Disney+. However, this is 13 years in the making with the first Iron Man coming out all the way back in 2008 followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America THEN the first Avengers movie.
The biggest misstep DC made was releasing a very strong Man of Steel movie, an OK Batman vs Superman movie (that I often forget Wonder Woman is actually in), and then immediately jumping into Justice League with the addition of Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg. With only two of the six characters fully developed it was kind of a tall task to jump straight into team movie, introduce a new villain, and then bang it all out in 2 hours. Now I’m not saying you need to painstakingly recreate every single character arc because we all know Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down in front of him as a kid, and Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben was killed because of Spider Man’s carelessness. We don’t need to see that explained all over again, but Batman, Superman, and Spider Man are the three biggest superheroes in the entire history of the comic book genre. Not everyone knows the back story of Aquaman (all my knowledge is from the Vinny Chase movie in Entourage), the Flash (unless you’re a big CW fan), or Cyborg (best known from the cartoon Teen Titans, IMO).
In the original theatrical version all three of those characters get put on the back burner so you never really have time to care about them. With the opportunity presented by a four hour movie, Snyder really dives into the back story of all three, particularly Cyborg, and gives you a reason to want to see these characters succeed. Plus it also does a much better job teasing the Aquaman and Flash standalone films.
It’s hard to get into too much detail as to why the Snyder Cut is so much better without spoiling a lot of what made the cut so enjoyable so I encourage you to watch it before Twitter spoils it. I can say that the quippy Joss Whedon dialogue got axed, the motivations of many characters have changed (for the better), Darkseid is actually, ya know, in this movie, and gone is the unsightly red sky plastering the final act in the original. The new cut is overall darker (both visually and thematically), more violent, more serious, and is even rated R (yay F bombs!). So it is much truer to Snyder’s original version. But to be fair even if he had finished the movie originally, Snyder would have never been allowed to release a four hour R-rated tentpole superhero flick. So while what he has accomplished here is huge, it’s important to keep in mind that he was able to move the goal posts a bit, a luxury which he or Whedon would not typically have had.
I cannot believe how different this movie is after Snyder allegedly filmed only four minutes of additional footage in his reshoots. Granted Snyder had a whole series of DC films planned for what was dubbed the Snyder Verse so there was a lot left on the cutting room floor that he was able to just pick back up. There are also tons of easter eggs and threads (like what actually happened to Robin) that are finally pulled on here just to tease viewers in the name of fan service.
Now comes the inevitable question of “what if?” What if Joss Whedon never came on board and Snyder had been able to finish his original vision? Would the DCEU have never collapsed on itself and would we already be discussing Justice League 3, the Ben Affleck standalone Batman film, and a potential Jared Leto Joker spinoff? DC has to have known (hoped?) this would be the case and provide new life to an IP that was on ice after critical and commercial indifference. It is kind of a bummer because Snyder fully pulls back the curtain to show us what he was working on and we’re unlikely to ever see that vision realized. The new Knightmare dream scene that is towards the end of the movie (rather than earlier on in the original) is a perfect example of this. But hey, I never thought the internet would ever be able to bully a major studio into investing tens of millions of dollars into a reshot, recut version of a failed tentpole film, and here we are.
I really want to kick down the doors at DC right now and give them the Herb Brooks Miracle speech about great opportunity. That’s what you have here tonight, boys. I’m sick of hearing about what a great cinematic universe Marvel has.
Through their own failures DC has accidentally stumbled into an amazing opportunity here with the multiverse. They can finally stop trying to replicate the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It didn’t work, it happens. With the multiverse DC can simply make all of these random one off films and individual stories with different actors and just punt on a shared universe until they decide to bring everyone together again. It’s something DC has already test run on its various TV series with the Crisis on Infinite Earths event where they even brought back my dude Tom Welling for a brief Superman cameo. If rumors about the upcoming Flash standalone movie are to be believed then DC is really going to lean into that exact mindset with the multiverse as multiple Batmen are allegedly set to appear in the film.
Watching the Snyder Cut is a trippy experience because even the opening minutes are entirely different from the original version with previously unseen footage. I felt like I had Alzheimer’s because in my head I know I’ve seen Justice League multiple times but now it’s…different.
Admittedly, my viewing of the Snyder Cut may be seen through rose colored glasses after 3+ years of the internet lobbying for and then somehow actually getting a completely recut and reshot version of beloved IP. And it worked! Now do Game of Thrones.