Zack Snyder is one of the most polarizing big-budget directors working today. You either love him for his heavy visual effects, grimdark storytelling and muted color palettes, or you dislike him for those exact same reasons. For me personally, I can’t call myself a huge fan. His films have always felt like mixed bags to me, succeeding in one area and falling short in others. The first time this film was released in 2017, I completely skipped it. After seeing the mess that was the previous film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I had little interest in seeing the progression of this cinematic universe. However, Snyder’s diehard fanbase have continued to be vocal over the years, clamoring for Warner Brothers to release the Holy Grail of blockbuster superhero movies: the Snyder Cut.
A quick history on this social media hashtag phenomenon. During the production of Justice League, Snyder abruptly left the project due to a personal family tragedy. With the film already making its way into post-production, WB employed director Joss Whedon to come in and finish the film. From there, the movie was heavily changed once the executives got their eyes on it. Reshoots were issued, much of the film’s tone and appearance was drastically changed and the film was now apparently completely different from Synder’s original vision. The film released to nearly widespread critical panning, resulting in this $300 million movie becoming a certified box-office bomb.
After the failure of what would go on to be known as the “Josstice League”, Warner Brothers decided not to pursue the intended direction Snyder had for the franchise. Despite this, an online petition the likes of which the movie world had never seen began to take form. Fans of Snyder began to clamor for the release of the “Snyder Cut”, the unabridged and untampered version of the film that was everything Snyder had intended it to be. This went on for years, with the cast and crew of the film rallying behind the movement. Over time it became apparent the “Snyder Cut” wasn’t something that actually physically existed. But, maybe it could…?
In 2020, after years of outcry, Warner Brothers decided to give Zack Snyder a chance to tell the story he originally intended to. With a budget of $70 million to fix what many believed Whedon had broken, Snyder began working on what would become a 4 hour remaster of the original film that included new footage, unused footage, new special effects, a less-lighthearted tone and a much more subdued color pallet. In March of 2021, the certified “Snyder Cut” was released to the world via HBO MAX as one of the most unique instances of public influence attempting to rewrite history.
I went into this film without having seen all of the “Josstice League” version of the film. I had seen clips and bits of it, which I believe really gave me a feel for the rest of the movie: clunky, overproduced and forcibly silly. I was able to view Zack Snyder’s Justice League as its own movie rather than a director’s cut, keeping my personal biases to a minimum while still being aware of the changes. While I can somewhat confidently say that the film is an obvious improvement over the original, Snyder‘s style and presentation are on full display here, and for me it’s not always a success.
So, 4 hour runtime. It’s long for Scorsese, it’s long for Snyder and it’s long for basically any movie. The film is at least split into chapters, allowing you to approach the film in a more episodic manner. While I appreciate this approach, I still sat through the entire 4 hours in one sitting considering it is presented as a film and not a limited series. While the film manages to remain relatively tight in its storytelling there’s a lot of fluff that could have been trimmed down. Whether it be elongating certain moments unnecessarily or including scenes specifically designed to foreshadow future films that will most likely never come, it’s a bit too much for its own good. From my understanding, the amount of new footage here is a lot less than one would think, yet Snyder still manages to keep the film stocked up with plenty of action and special effects.
Inside this monster of a runtime is an albeit simple story of misfits of mythological proportions coming together to stop a big bad CGI brute. The character interactions are done well enough that you don’t mind following them on their journey, but there wasn’t much to keep me invested 100% of the time. Cyborg, portrayed by Ray Fisher, was a standout among the bunch for me. His emotional turmoil of finding peace and acceptance with the fact that he is now part robot was a prime motivator to use his newfound abilities for good. Other than that, I just found the rest of the cast to be okay or underwhelming. Ben Affleck‘s Batman felt underutilized, a disappointment because I believe Affleck was handed a raw deal with this role. Despite a polarizing portrayal in Batman v. Superman, I actually believe he could do great things with the character given the right direction. However, given this is the last time we’ll see Affleck under the cowl, his swan song as Batman was a bit disappointing. Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa‘s Aquaman look the role and are the standouts in the action department, but they never really accel at anything beyond that. Granted, they do have their own movies to cover their character arcs, but I wish we could’ve seen a bit more progression in this film as well. Finally, Ezra Miller‘s Flash is…annoying. Not as annoying as he is in the original cut, but still grating on the ears. I get The Flash is supposed to be the jokester of the group and its practically a comic book commandment to make speedsters hyperactive and fast-mouthed, but man does it get old quick. Characters like these are supposed to annoy the other characters, not the audience. As for our villain Steppenwolf, he comes with an altered design that makes him look a bit more monstrous than his previous design. Sharp, edgy and 100% CGI, the character seems like a Snyder wet dream. His motivation is understandable if not a bit dull, playing the role of lackey for a big bad that serves more like fan service than a genuine necessity to the plot.
Snyder is a heavily visual storyteller, aiming for grandiose imagery and a monsoon of special effects. It hasn’t exactly been a style I’ve taken to kindly in the past, but I understand that some of these designs and locations just cannot be produced practically. Justice League is more of the same; flashy special effects, a lot of green screen and a somewhat unhealthy amount of slow motion. For some moments it fits, like The Flash running through the speed force, but other times it’s far too overindulgent. That being said, it’s a big, punchy super hero movie. I’m not expecting nor wishing everything be shown practically, but sometimes I forget there’s supposed to be actual people in these movies and not just computer generated dolls. This becomes even more apparent by comparing some of these fight scenes to ones from the better MCU movies. They too utilize heavy CGI, but most of the time they do a great job with choreographing the fights in such a way where the suspension of disbelief can remain intact somewhat. Another aspect of Snyder is his writing style; which aims to apply deeper, philosophical meaning to a guy that punches people dressed as a bat. It comes off as a bit shallow and overly dramatic at times, yet the humor this time around is surprisingly tolerable. With most of the forced humor from the original cut scrapped, I found myself cringing a lot less from the few jokes that sprinkled throughout the runtime. There are a few questionable plot decisions that seem to only happen because the story would be over a lot faster than intended (i.e. Flash tripping over something or getting shot even though he’s running at the speed of light). It really makes me wonder just how short this film could have actually been without all the padding.
Color wise, the film has ditched the overly bright, constantly saturated hue of the previous version of the film for a darker, grayish pallet. It’s drab at times, but it fits the tone at least. Some shots and set pieces remain striking despite their lack of saturation, especially when scenes are filmed on location and not a sound stage. I’m a bit mixed on the soundtrack, with most of the songs being either epic orchestral melodies or on-the-nose licensed music. However, there is one piece of music on display here that annoyed the absolute hell out of me, and it’s the “ancient Amazon lamentation” that plays nearly every time the camera focuses on Wonder Woman. No joke, this choir harmony would play multiple times throughout a scene whenever the focus would shift back to Wonder Woman. I counted this audio being used over 10 times throughout the film, and I’m not sure if this was intentional or due to lack of time, but man did it go from aggravating to unintentionally annoying fast. In contrast to the lighter, more approachable Marvel movies, Snyder has sought to take a more mature approach to these stories about men and women in tights. Not an impossible feat, as the Dark Knight trilogy and, to a lesser extent, Snyder’s own Watchmen have proven that success in the serious can be found with the right presentation and directing. He at least finds a nice middle ground between the two extremes here, never feeling artificially bright as the 2017 cut and not as unnecessarily dark as Batman v. Superman. If anything, it’s at least tonally consistent.
I can’t exactly call myself a huge Snyder fan after this one, but I can at least give credit where credit is due. This is a somewhat monumental achievement in the world of film simply because of the long lasting support of one man’s creative vision. To come back and attempt to fix what was taken from you is something I’m sure many filmmakers wish they could do. I can at least admire the man for seeing this through to the end, even if Warner Brothers won’t be continuing with his planned cinematic universe. Would I call the definitive Snyder cut a great movie? Not really. Is it an improvement? Absolutely. Should you be happy that this movie finally saw the light of day? I hope you’re absolutely ecstatic if you’ve been waiting for this for years, and I hope it’s everything you wanted it to be. At the end of the day, this one is specifically for the fans, because it wouldn’t exist without you.
Zack Snyder himself said that this is a superhero movie for grownups, and I can’t think of a more grownup drink than a nice, stiff martini. Modeled after Cyborg with its silver and red color pallet, this cocktail is only for the classiest of superhero connoisseurs. Made with gin, vermouth and Maraschino liqueur, this is an exceptionally dry martini with a hint of cherry and orange for a bit of fruit flavor.
- 1 1/2oz dry gin
- 1 oz bianco vermouth
- 3/4oz Luxardo Marischino liqueur
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Garnish: Cherry
- Shake all ingredients with ice.
- Strain into chilled martini glass with cherry resting inside.