A vast improvement over the 2017 theatrical cut, Zack Snyder mixes together the heavy mythological aspects of these characters with organic heart and humour to create a superhero epic that is definitely worth watching, if you have four hours to spare.
I want to preface this review by stating I watched this film four times within the first few days of release. I realise that this was sixteen hours of my life I spent watching just one film during dissertation work, but I do not regret it at all. I am a big fan of Zack Snyder’s work, always appreciating his unique visual style and an undeniable passion for all of his filmmaking. This may not be for everybody, but it has always worked for me. I love his previous DC entries and I remember how excited I was to see his Justice League back in 2017. The film that released in theatres then did not live up to the hype. So, without the studio interference and awful rewrites from Joss Whedon/others, how does this compare?
A quick answer to this is simply that the Snyder Cut is infinitely better in pretty much every way. The theatrical cut has the same barebones story points as Snyder’s (Bruce Wayne gathers a group of superheroes to take down a malevolent evil), but that in no way means that they are the same film. As a superhero team up blockbuster, there are some story elements that may seem obvious, but the difference in this film compared to it’s counterpart Marvel is that it has a truly ‘epic’ feeling. The biggest comparison I can make to how this was taken away in the theatrical cut is the use of The Flash during the final battle of the film. Originally, he was just used to push a truck full of civilians, but what he does here (without spoilers) is actually important to the story and incredible to watch. For any fans of DC and their characters, this film really holds up the mythological and larger scales that the characters have always had. As a huge DC fan, it was everything a fan would want to see. It’s telling that original creators of the comic characters such as Marv Wolfman (creator of Cyborg) have expressed their love for this film. This has more of the heart and humour that people had always asked for in Snyder’s DC films, which makes all the additional and alternative humour from Whedon’s rewrites make even less sense.
There are conflicting reports on how much Snyder footage made it into the theatrical cut, with the cinematographer claiming it to be 10% and Snyder saying 50% (although Snyder has admitted he has never watched the theatrical version). But either way, it is immediately obvious how much more care and development is given to the characters here. As mentioned earlier, The Flash is given more to do, but the most important addition is Cyborg. In the theatrical cut he isn’t really given much to do, and we never get enough time to get to know him as a character. According to Ray Fisher, every single scene of his in the theatrical cut was a Whedon reshoot. But here, he is given plentiful time to breathe, and provides one of the most heart-warming scenes of the film early on. The same can be said for Superman, with most of his scenes also being reshot by Whedon. Wonder Woman (in addition to the Amazons in general) also have more to do. Here she feels empowered, as opposed to objectified. There are no gratuitous ass shots or a gag where The Flash falls on top of her chest in this version.
The main villain of Steppenwolf has a more detailed motivation too, and it does make him a more sympathetic antagonist for the film. He isn’t too innovative or special as a superhero antagonist but he does the job, and the CGI and character design for him in general is also far improved. With Steppenwolf’s backstory also comes a lot of setting up for future instalments, namely being that of the big bad of the DC universe, Darkseid. His presence is really felt despite not having much screen time, and I do hope that the enormous support for this film across social media convinces Warner Bros. to continue it further.
All in all, the Snyder Cut is a far and away improvement of the theatrical cut, and a great superhero film on its own terms. With a consistent tone, un-forced humour and real character development and motivations, this is a truly epic blockbuster that has re-sparked my love for DC. The four-hour run time can be a lot, and there are definitely some scenes that could’ve been cut or altered to make for a shorter release, but you rarely feel this length when you’re watching it. Most importantly however, knowing the personal reason why Snyder left the project in 2017 and who he dedicated this new version for, it made the whole experience even more powerful.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder, is distributed in the UK via Warner Bros Picture, and is now available to stream on NOW TV/Sky Cinema, certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: