It’s been a long time coming for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. For years the fabled Snyder Cut existed only in fans’ wildest imaginations (and Zack Snyder’s screening room). March 18 was a day of vindication for many who believed and supported Snyder throughout his controversial run with DC, but for someone looking from the outside in, was all of the excitement surrounding its release worth it?
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a major redaction and extension of 2017’s Justice League film that was highjacked by Joss Whedon and Geoff Johns after Snyder was forced out after a family tragedy. The original cut was an attempt to undo the progress made by Snyder with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to replicate the lighter tone that’s worked so well for Marvel Studios, but ultimately it made the original cut a lifeless hack job of what could have been. In the end, Snyder’s loyal army of fans mixed with Warner Media’s desperate need for HBO Max content led to Snyder getting the chance to fully edit and release his definitive creative vision of the film, and what a difference a true filmmaker makes.
Zack Snyder’s four-hour magnum opus is a perfect example of what makes DC Comics so special. DC’s bold and different interpretations of classic characters sets the company apart from Marvel, which specializes in long established and defined character traits. This makes Marvel far more mainstream because fans are not divided in their preferred interpretations of certain characters, but it allows DC to create films like Zack Snyder’s Justice League that push the envelope with bold storytelling. This inevitably divides mass audiences, but it’s what makes DC unique in a competitive blockbuster market.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (AKA The Snyder Cut) is a massive expansion and improvement not only on 2017’s theatrical cut (AKA Josstice League) but also on the universe that Snyder so cleverly yet controversially laid in Batman v Superman. It also beautifully sets up a journey deeper into the Snyder-Verse, and with any luck, HBO Max will embrace this story for future projects.
The Snyder Cut’s greatest achievement is taking a film that originally felt like a lifeless, thrown together blockbuster into a true Zack Snyder work of art (for better or for worse). Snyder’s version expands on the characters and their mythologies in a way that was generally ignored by Josstice League. Ezra Miller’s The Flash and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg are key examples of Zack Snyder’s superior vision.
Originally portrayed as the team clown, Miller’s portrayal of the fastest man alive gets a massive retcon in this version. He still serves as the comedic relief for the most part, but his dramatic and grounded intentions behind his actions make Barry Allen a complex character who is poised to become one of the most important members of the team.
Ray Fisher’s Cybrog also proves himself as the heart of the film and the main character arc that guides the audience through this adventure. His internal journey from monster to hero is one that is surprisingly relatable and sympathetic to a lot of people, and its general exclusion from 2017’s theatrical cut was criminal for its disservice to the character and to Fisher himself.
Pretty much every other character is better in this version of the film. Wonder Woman stands out because of a welcome return to the warrior goddess version of the character that was reimagined (with lackluster results) in her recent sequel Wonder Woman 1984. Snyder also manages to expand and deepen Ben Affleck’s Batman, but the full payoff for his character is teased for later down the line. Finally, Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman is the only character, in my opinion, that is not massively changed or improved in this version. James Wan’s tone for the character is a complete left turn from this version of the character, so its perceived quality will vary from person to person.
Overall, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is far more stylistic, unique, and fleshed out, but it’s important to remember that because it’s a complete representation of Zack Snyder’s artistic vision, it inevitably also represents Snyder’s greatest flaws as a filmmaker. Snyder always manages to impress with his distinct visual style and unique take on classic characters, but he so often falls into the classic trap of “flash over substance.”
Batman v. Superman is a perfect example of Snyder’s inability to create a substantive story for mainstream audiences. His story telling is very niche and often takes a backseat to flashy VFX and unique cinematography. Some love the Batman v Superman style of flashy visuals and niche philosophy. Others, like me, grow to love it overtime once the initial shock wears off and the audience changes their internal expectations. Still, while Zack Snyder’s Justice League manages to improve on his general storytelling, Snyder still tends to favor flash over substance, which will surely prove to be divisive especially with mainstream audiences.
Overall, I would categorize this version of Justice League as the best film Zack Snyder has ever made. Still, remember who Snyder is and his general filmmaking style. If you love his style, you will love this movie. If you hate his style, you may struggle to get through or enjoy it. Still, you should still give this one a shot because if there is any hope to get you on board the Snyder train, it’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Filmnetic Grade: A