By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer
[Warner Bros.; 2021]
The time has come. Zack Snyder’s behemoth, a four-hour director’s cut of Justice League, has arrived after over three years of calls from fans. After the immense hype and speculation, with the film being stitched together under the worst circumstances, Zack Snyder’s Justice League miraculously delivers a satisfying and engaging epic that is sure to be a hit for the fans who waited so long for it.
It’s important to see the context that led to this movie’s release. Zack Snyder, who helmed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, took on directing Justice League as the culmination of his vision for the DC extended universe of films. Snyder stepped away from the project after his daughter passed away, with Warner Bros. tapping Joss Whedon to finish the movie. Whedon made some pretty significant changes, cutting down Snyder’s four-hour plan (that would likely have been split up into two parts for release) while adding his own re-shot scenes that drastically altered the tone of the film. Justice League was released in November 2017 to commercial and critical failure.
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Almost immediately, fans began to demand to see Snyder’s version of the film. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement picked up quickly despite no evidence that such a cut existed. Many parts of the call turned ugly, with some fans calling anyone who expressed opposition to be the enemy and many more spamming any Warner Bros. social media post with the hashtag.
Over time, the calls from fans gained traction, with Snyder and many of the lead actors from the film tweeting out the hashtag. Warner Bros. also faced controversy as Ray Fisher, who plays Cyborg in Justice League, spoke out against alleged abuse from Whedon during the original reshoots, with many of his cast members following up to support and corroborate Fisher’s claims. All of this led to Warner Bros. allowing Snyder to finish his version of the movie, spending an estimated $40-$70 million to finish the effects and the shooting of an additional scene. The film was released on HBO Max in March 2021, a little over three years after the original cut premiered in theaters.
So, after all of that, was it worth it? The short answer: yes.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League adds much-needed depth to the original film. It fleshed out many of the characters who had very small roles to make every member of the Justice League feel like an equal member of the team. This mostly benefits Ezra Miller’s The Flash and Fisher’s Cyborg, who are transformed from forgettable side characters to vital lead characters with full, compelling arcs.
The lore of the universe is also greatly expanded upon, which adds to the grand feeling of the story. The added depth gives the film’s villain, Steppenwolf, a much-needed facelift, adding an additional motivation more than “destroy the world just because.” It should be obvious with a four-hour runtime, but this version of the movie adds a lot, and almost all of the additions are improvements.
The film is very clearly Snyder’s vision. Gone are the gratuitous butt shots, weird flirting and end-of-scene button jokes from Whedon’s version. All of Snyder’s signature moves are here: the dark tone, big slow-motion action and extraordinarily stylized visuals. They all work here as the film is full Snyder, embracing his style rather than being hindered by it.
The movie isn’t perfect, though. It probably could be cut down to three or three-and-a-half hours while maintaining everything necessary for Snyder’s vision to come through. It is really tough to manage the full length and is almost certainly completely inaccessible/excessive to anyone but the biggest superhero fans. Gal Gadot is still pretty stiff as Wonder Woman and Ben Affleck’s Batman still has very little to do in the back half of the movie.
Also, the film’s epilogue includes slightly changed post-credit scenes from the original version and a completely new scene featuring Jared Leto’s Joker in an apocalyptic future dream sequence. These scenes really undercut the ending of the movie, which was strong and ended well, only now bogged down by teases for movies that will never come.
The Leto scene, being the one new scene filmed for this version, is particularly bad. Snyder said he filmed the scene just to get this version of the Joker and Batman to interact, and it shows. Affleck and Leto are so clearly filming their halves of the scene from different locations that they have absolutely zero chemistry, and Leto is simply terrible as the Joker.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a bit of a miracle. The vitriol that is still present from fans and naysayers of this movie alike can really put a bad taste in your mouth about this movie, but it defied expectations (including my own, though I fully expected a disaster). It was born out of demands from fans on the internet and terrible behind-the-scenes events, but it ended up being a really outstanding movie from a man who finally was able to finish sharing his vision.
Watch the trailer here: