To begin, lets get this out the way, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League is better than the “Joss Whedon Version.” I’ll obviously explain why but it begins with the fact that Zack Snyder is afforded much more time than he (or Whedon) would have been afforded originally. Had Snyder finished his version of Justice League, as he had intended, it would not have resembled what he presents here and may have even fallen into some of the traps that Whedon’s version of the film did.
Instead, due to fan furore and HBO Max’s streaming service, Snyder is allowed a four hour cut of what his Justice League would have been and to his credit, he uses every moment he can for the better. What that time allows for is much more character development than before. Justice League introduces two new heroes to the DC Cinematic Universe (would have technically been three had Aquaman’s solo movie not been released since the “Snyder Cut”) in Cyborg and Flash. Unlike Whedon’s version of the movie, here we get some development, back-story and an impressive showcase of their talents.
This goes for everyone else too. Each character, bar Ben Affleck’s Batman and for obvious reasons, Henry Cavill’s Superman, gets their moment to shine. Gal Gadot effortlessly stops a terrorist attack in a sequence which showcases why she was the best aspect of Batman V Superman, Flash helps people in a traffic collision and Cyborg gets an extended sequence which showcases his “powers” and how he could use them.
In fact, its Cyborg that benefits the most from this new version of Justice League. Little more than a supporting character with plot-expediating powers before, Cyborg gets a back-story, an origin and a significant plot which puts him front and centre with the others. That’s not to say the other Justice League members don’t get the same treatment but having already seen Wonder Woman’s home and Aquaman’s origin in their own movies, all the Snyder Cut does is bulk out the importance of these characters and why they should care about this new threat.
That threat is Darkseid. A character barely glimpsed in previous versions, here he gets a full Thanos-style ominous presence across the whole movie. One sequence gives the historic altercation with Darkseid and explains the “Mother-Boxes” and is a very cool battle scene which builds a character we will potentially never properly see again.
Luckily, Snyder’s cut also does a great job of developing the original villain too. Steppenwolf, played by Ciaran Hinds, was little more than a voice-less thug in Whedon’s version but here he gets the same character development afforded to the heroes. His intentions are explained, there are attempts to garner sympathy, or at least understandable motive, and he is built as much more of a credible threat to the united Justice League than he was in the first movie.
This is seen best in the finale of the movie, which sees the team coming together and each successfully playing their part. In the original version, this felt like “Superman will save us” and you wondered whether the Justice League as a team did anything at all. Here, there is reason for each person to be involved and it feels much more like a team effort to stop the threat rather than everyone else just keeping the villain busy before Superman showed up.
The finale I am referring to happens with still 20 minutes left on the run-time. Snyder was afforded his “cut” and alongside the positive changes, delivering some much needed character development for all the main characters, this also gives us a bizarre “Epilogue.” You can tell which the original ending was, with each hero getting their parting shot as a nonsensical monologue plays over the scenes but then we get two to three extra scenes which pointlessly tease movies which will never happen.
This feels like Snyder’s revenge ploy or at least his “this is what you could have had” to the fans. Some are minor and hint at something which could have played out in future movies. One particular scene (the only one which was actually shot for this cut in particular) is so huge on potential story and very cool moments that its infuriating that it was included, particularly when Warner Bros. have been firm that this is the last of Snyder’s DC movies. It is an example of this version not being Snyder’s original vision but more an indulgence, one he would certainly not have been afforded had he been the director for the full, original version.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an improvement on the original and rectifies the errors that the original had. This is mostly in character development and world-building, which sees Cyborg and the villain, Steppenwolf, reap the most benefits. There are also improvements to the story too, which makes this movie feel more like a Justice League team-up than a one-man show. Its just a shame that with extra runtime, Snyder allowed himself to over-indulge, particularly in the end, when there are no plans for a pay-off.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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