Justice League: The Snyder Cut
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
I won’t lie to you, I’m a fan of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). What they did over the course of a decade was a staggering achievement from a writing perspective (from any perspective, really). All those people (actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers etc.) were able to keep a reasonably coherent vision and push a narrative not through a single movie but through 22 (at the time of Endgame). It’s astounding when you sit down and think about it.
So you can understand my reticence when DC (and apparently every other studio with an IP) tried to jump on the bandwagon.
DC’s properties (on the big screen at any rate) have always been best served as standalone features with little to no interaction between superheroes. My theory has always been that the DC roster is so damned OP (overpowered) that having more than one on screen at any given time pushes the boundaries of the believable (yes, even for a superhero movie).
Regardless of that, what DC (and everyone else) seemed to miss was the fact that the MCU took time to set up. They gave their big players a chance to develop, to have backstories, to be people. They didn’t try to fast-track the process and grab the big payday (the ensemble movie) at the end of the rainbow.
It was slow, it was deliberate; there was room for error and course correction.
Maybe DC thought they could get a pass based on the brand identity their heroes possessed. Superman is (arguably) the most recognizable comic book character on the face of the planet, with Batman (again, arguably) being a close second.
Everyone knows who they are and what their backstories are. So throwing them together in a movie with no preamble should’ve, theoretically, worked.
The problem is the over-arching world they were dropped into. Christian Bale’s Batman and Christopher Reeve’s Superman could never coexist in the same universe. Thematically, they are worlds apart.
RDJ’s Iron Man and Chris (Jesus, there are a lot of Chris’) Evan’s Captain America, on the other hand, were structurally built to do just that. By putting them in the same universe (stylistically and thematically), it allowed the characters to mesh seamlessly once they got on screen together.
Henry Cavill had one movie to establish his character and the world it lived in. Ben Affleck had nothing, and neither did Gal Gadot.
And that’s just for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (sounds like an old school boxing poster, doesn’t it?). DC threw all these characters, who we didn’t really know (thematically), into a blender and prayed for the best.
Yeah, it made gobs of cash, but it wasn’t good. It was laughable in a lot of places (“Martha,” anyone?). But rather than throttle back and course correct, DC pressed on, confident it could pull out a win in the end.
Zack Snyder (not his biggest fan, BTW) was handed an impossible task. Create the DCCU on a truncated timeline with a fraction of the total production cost (comparing the entire DCCU with the entire MCU). I’m sure he did the best he could with what he had, but nothing really clicked for me.
Then came Justice League… First of all, if Zack Snyder ever reads this, I want to apologize for what happened to him. Nobody should ever have to go through that for the sake of profits, and what Warner Brothers did actually pisses me the fuck off.
Go look it up if you’re interested, it’s not the point of this post.
When Zack Snyder got kicked off production of Justice League and Joss Whedon got brought in, it seemed like a no-brainer. Highly respected (at the time; not so much these days) and known for spinning gold, Joss Whedon took the reigns and shat out the original cut of the movie that everyone loved to hate.
The two directors couldn’t have been further apart in terms of creative vision. Joss tried to apply his brand of wry comedy and storytelling to a movie (and a universe) that really had no place for it. Reshoots and poor editing left it a bloated, choppy mess that had no idea what it wanted to be.
Add to that the fact that three new main characters were shoehorned into it, and it was doomed to fail. Critically, anyway. Once again, it still made the aforementioned gobs of cash.
In the end, however, it seemed to be the death knell of the DCCU for a long time.
Fast forward to 2021, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League is released on HBO.
At first I couldn’t have cared less. How much better could it be? Plus, I wasn’t into the idea of a four-hour runtime. In my mind, if a movie had to be four hours, cuts needed to be made.
Then my wife talked me into it, and we sat down on the couch to watch.
We aren’t doing a play-by-play here; that’d take way too long. This is more a deconstruction of what I saw Zack Snyder’s vision to be.
The first two hours of this movie are all setup. They are there to get you acquainted with the characters you’d spent maybe fifteen minutes with prior to Justice League (JL), and to introduce the rest of the cast, whom you’ve never met before.
(For the sake of argument, pretend that this movie goes where the original cut goes in the DCCU theatrical release timeline)
Zack Snyder was clearly very aware of the issues his previous movie had, and was trying like hell to correct it in the best way he could. If they weren’t going to give him standalone flicks to introduce characters, he was going to take his time on the setup with JL.
In short, it worked. You got to know everybody and felt something akin to a connection with them. Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller (Cyborg and Flash, respectively) give standout performances in Snyder’s cut, whereas they were merely window dressing in Whedon’s.
In addition, these first two hours establish baddies, stakes, and history (what is it with comics and magic boxes?) that were totally absent from the Whedon cut. This version even has you feeling for Steppenwolf, who was simply idiotic in the original.
The last two hours are where things really kick off. Battles are had, plot points are wrapped, baddies are defeated, and everybody gets to go home. It’s the “movie” within the movie. The epilogue also sets up potential sequels and introduces more characters to play around with in the future (Spoiler: Deathstroke looked badass, BTW).
I realize this is an incredibly vague “yada, yada, yada,” but again, we aren’t doing a play-by-play.
If this was Snyder’s vision all along, I feel like it still would’ve failed. Four hours is an incredibly long time to be sitting in a movie theater. However, getting to experience it on my couch, it was actually pretty damned good.
Granted, there’s the excruciating “Snyder slo-mo”; minutes upon minutes of a camera slowly wrapping around a scene. But given what he did with Flash (clearly his favorite character), I’m inclined to forgive a good chunk of it.
The soundtrack was a little weird – jarring in some places. Some people could’ve been recast (looking at you, Amber Heard, among others). I still don’t think Amy Adams and Henry Cavill have a smidgen of on-screen chemistry.
But all in all, I’m inclined to take the bad with the good.
Is it a perfect movie? Not by a fucking long shot. Is it better than what we got before? Without a damned doubt, and by a wide margin.
If you’ve got the means to watch it, I’d set aside an afternoon (yes, an entire afternoon) and plunk yourself down with a lot of popcorn.
It’s not the same airy kind of fun you’d expect coming off the MCU, but then, it’s DC; I don’t know what you were expecting. It is, however, still a good time and well worth it to see the kind of vision Zack Snyder had in mind when he first set those cameras rolling.
If nothing else, it’s a movie all those involved can now be proud of.