- There are light spoilers ahead for “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” out Thursday on HBO Max.
- The four-hour film shares alternative dialogue and hours of footage cut from the original release.
- It’s a superior film that the fans always deserved. It ends on a cliff-hanger, warranting a sequel.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
HBO Max is finally releasing the long-fabled “Snyder Cut” of “Justice League.” But is it worth your time to watch the four-hour, two-minute, R-rated movie?
If you’re a fan who hated 2017’s theatrical release of “Justice League,” then the answer is a resounding yes.
The director Zack Snyder and his producing partner and wife, Deborah Snyder, stepped down from the film after the death of their daughter. The “Avengers” director Joss Whedon stepped in, taking over the film with heavy reshoots and rewrites. After the theatrical cut flopped, fans heard rumblings there might be a different version of the film and never stopped asking for it, using the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut.
This week’s release ends the more than three-year journey to get Snyder’s original vision of his film to the screen.
A concern of early skeptics was why anyone would bother to remake a “bad film.” How different could it possibly be from what we already saw if Snyder filmed only one new original scene for the HBO Max cut?
It turns out, very.
Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ is a drastically different movie, with all of the bad parts of the 2017 cut removed
Like the original, the film follows Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) as they work to assemble a group of rag-tag heroes – Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa). They team up to protect Earth from the movie’s villain, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), an 8-foot (2.44m)-tall exiled alien who’s just trying to impress his old leader.
While the shells of the films are similar, just about everything under the hood has been altered. That includes the film’s main villain. (Now, the heroes are also trying to stop the invasion of a looming god, Darkseid, who was hinted at in “Batman v Superman.”)
Gone are the red skies. Gone is the cringeworthy dialogue between Lois Lane and Martha Kent. Gone is a gross moment in which the Flash falls on Wonder Woman’s breasts. (Yes, this is a thing that actually happened in the theatrical cut.)
Henry Cavill’s mustache-gate? Goodbye. Everything with Cavill in his newly teased black suit is fantastic. The “Man of Steel” theme makes it sing. In fact, the entire score has been replaced by a new one with the original “Justice League” composer Junkie XL. Wonder Woman’s theme also gets an unexpected update that presents her as more of a god among mortals.
Oh, and that random Russian family that needs saving from the parademons that had no emotional connection to the heroes or villains? They’re gone, too.
If I had to estimate, maybe 25% of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” borrows from the theatrical version. The rest is fresh footage that Snyder previously shot that was never used. Only one new scene was filmed. Within that previous footage, there are still subtle dialogue changes and additional takes embedded in this new cut.
Yes, it’s long – but it’s justified
Is the Snyder Cut an exercise in excess? Sure. There are a few scenes, including one with the Amazons and another with women singing, that could be cut by a few minutes.
But that won’t matter to fans like me, who will be happy to see just about every loose thread from the original movie tied up.
Snyder most likely thought this could be his final opportunity to deliver any story with these characters in the DC Universe. So for fans of Batfleck, you get to see more of his version of Bruce Wayne. An intro scene with Barry Allen meeting his future love interest is also a highlight.
Any DC fan watching the original film was probably angry knowing that the film’s villain, Steppenwolf, wasn’t a real “big bad.” He’s merely a servant to one of DC’s greatest villains, Darkseid. The Snyder Cut fixes that.
The film delivers a more cohesive villain storyline that has direct ties to the end of “Batman v. Superman.” Steppenwolf’s arrival no longer feels random. Though there’s a greater understanding of our villains’ motivations, general viewers may compare the gathering of three machines called Mother Boxes as a less interesting acquirement of the Infinity Stones in Marvel’s most recent franchise.
Snyder didn’t leave anything off the table, including a newly filmed scene between Batfleck and Jared Leto’s Joker. Will some wonder why that’s in the film? Of course. To an outsider, it may seem like an odd, out-of-place moment, tacked on as a third or fourth ending to an already-too-long film.
To the die-hard fans, this is the Batfleck/Joker scene they’ve been waiting to see since Leto was first confirmed to play the Joker in December 2014. Batman and Joker’s relationship is an integral, obvious relationship to see on-screen. It was odd we never saw them have one conversation together. In the film’s production notes, Snyder said he was righting a wrong.
With his version of ‘Justice League,’ Snyder is righting many wrongs
It’s clear Snyder understands these characters and their motivations in a way that Whedon and even Warner Bros. did not. The film reinstates diverse heroes erased from the original film. Ray Fisher’s Cyborg now has a fully-fleshed-out backstory, which explains he’s just as powerful as the gods he fights alongside.
Not only do we get one additional superhero whom fans have been waiting to see for years, but there’s a hint at a second one as well by restoring Zheng Kai’s cut scenes from the 2017 film.
In addition to the new villain, entire characters and cameos that weren’t in the original film but would have set up “Aquaman” and “The Flash” are here as well.
Some of the best restored moments are with Wonder Woman, including a slow-mo framed shot of the Amazon warrior jumping up into the sky to stop a bomb and a small moment between Diana and a young girl that will become a favorite. (Honestly, it’s so good you have to wonder why anyone would want to cut it in the first place.)
Snyder portrays women to look like strong warriors without ever feeling the need to call them gorgeous as a gag, suggest they’re “thirsty,” or by making them the butt of a joke.
Most important, Snyder didn’t forget the fans who helped will this movie into existence. After Barry meets Bruce Wayne, look out for a small acknowledgment, thank you, and call to action.
HBO Max will have a dilemma moving forward. Fans will demand a sequel.
However you feel about the Snyder Cut, one thing’s certain. After its release, HBO Max and Warner Bros. will have an interesting dilemma on their hands.
The four-hour extravaganza ends on a cliff-hanger that warrants a sequel. Fans will ask for more, and they have already started to by using a new hashtag, #RestoretheSnyderVerse.
It’s not as if there weren’t plans for a sequel.
In the film’s production notes, Snyder confirms he was planning second and third “Justice League” movies. An official exhibit for the film in Dallas features artwork for Snyder’s planned trilogy.
If successful, the Snyder Cut may set a precedent for other streamers and studios to consider longer films or director cuts of their projects.
Critics may say this film is unnecessary, but it’s one fans deserve
I expect critics to say this film could have been three hours long. They’ll most likely say the first half is slow and not too much happens. Critics have never been kind to Snyder.
Those critics aren’t necessarily wrong, but anyone making that argument doesn’t seem to understand the point of this movie’s existence.
Snyder isn’t getting paid for this film. There is no sequel in store (as of this review publishing). This could have been an eight-hour film and it wouldn’t have mattered. The stakes couldn’t be lower.
This movie was willed to life by the fans and made for fans, who will leave this film largely satisfied and hungry for more.
More than three years later, justice is served.
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” streams on HBO Max on Thursday, March 18. That evening, Snyder will host a live watch party on Scener starting at 7 p.m. ET.