Zack Snyder’s Justice League recently released on HBO Max, giving us the vision that the original director had for the DCEU’s premiere superhero team. The Snyder Cut added over two hours worth of footage, completely changed certain plot points, and gave the film an overall darker tone, both in content and in look. If you haven’t seen the Snyder Cut and want to know if you should spend the time watching it, Dallas has written a great, spoiler-free review that clues you in on the main points of the movie without giving away the major surprises. Go read that first, then see the movie, then come here.
Okay….did you watch the movie?
This is your last chance…..
I am seriously about to drop some major bombs here, plotwise…..
Very well, you have been warned…..Onward!!
Due to the length of the film, I ended up watching it in two installments. The first viewing took me from the beginning of the movie all the way to roughly the halfway mark, where the newly assembled Justice League meets and discusses using the Mother Boxes to ressurect Superman. In this first half of the film, the story did not shift all that much from the theatrical version. Steppenwolf gets a new look and is still the big bad, although his master, Darkseid, does get a moment to shine in a flashback scene.
The new version also shifts focus a little off of Batman and more on the other members of the Justice League. We actually see a lot more backstory to Cyborg, including how he gets his body. I appreciate this in that it shifts my view of Cyborg’s father, Dr. Stone, from mad scientist to desparate father. Cyborg’s state is the result of his father trying to save his life, not trying to play around with an alien technology. As such, it makes Cyborg’s “boo hoo I’m a monster now” monologues more pathetic than sympathetic. I found myself feeling more sorry for Dr. Stone than Cyborg.
The Flash gets a spot light moment in a rescue scene involving Iris West. I absolutely love this scene in that it illustrates to us just how fast the Flash is. At not even half his top speed, he is able to (1) see what’s happening, (2) settle on a solution, (3) look longingly into a beautiful woman’s eyes, (4) grab a snack for the dogs, and (5) get back inside to impress his future boss. The cinematography allowed us to move at Flash speed for a moment in time that really drives home just how fast this hero is.
Another expansion I enjoy is seeing Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in action, taking down a terrorist cell trying to send Britain back to the Dark Ages. The fight choreography combined with the music makes for an amazing fight scene that, honestly, none of the other League members live up to. Not even the final battle with Steppenwolf grips me to the extent that this fight does.
Aquaman’s backstory is explored a little bit further, but they save much of that for the Aquaman movie. My only issue there is that Mera suddenly has an accent change. The more British accent does make her sound more royal and separate from our normal world, but it is little jarring having seen Aquaman and been used to her with a more American accent. (In hindsight, I kind of wish they had kept the British accent for Aquaman.)
After my first viewing, my attitude was kind of “meh” about the Snyder Cut. I certainly appreciated the expanded story and extra fight scenes that made the content seem less rushed, but there wasn’t much to make me prefer this over the theatrical version.
And then I watched the second half.
And my brain exploded.
Seriously, this is your last chance. If you haven’t seen this yet, leave now.
Okay, here we go.
First of all, MARTIAN MANHUNTER!!! The scene where Martha and Lois meet and discuss their lives without Clark is just as touching, albeit in a different locale. I watch Martha leave and expect the end of the scene…and then her eyes glow red. To anyone who has followed DC in the screen, both small and large, you know that glowing red eyes means shapeshifting martians. One of my biggest complaints about any modern Justice League iterations is that in the origin stories they trade Martian Manhunter for Cyborg. Snyder makes up for this in bringing in MM as an unseen angel, trying to make sure that Lois steps up and becomes what we need for Superman’s future. His conversation with Batman at the end feels a little awkward to me, but it’s cool to see MM showcase more of his abilities than just shapeshifting.
Darkseid actually gets quite a bit of time in the spotlight. We see him on this throne on Apocalypse, an alternate future where he kills the Justice League, and even get to hear him discuss his big McGuffin that long time fans of the character would recognize — the Anti-Life Equation. The way Darkseid comes across in the film makes him seem like a genuinely scary character. He’s not sympathetic, he’s not understandable, and he doesn’t have a disturbingly rational sounding argument. He’s simply a bad guy who wants to conquer, and he’s powerful enough that you think he can pull it off. It’s actually very refreshing to have a villain that you’re supposed to hate instead of be able to kind of get (I’m looking at you, MCU Thanos people). My favorite line in the film actually belongs to Darkseid. “Ready the armada. We will use the old ways.” That gave me goosebumps and made me afraid of for the DCEU’s Justice League all at once. Forget gauntlet-powered snaps. This guy is someone that will give you nightmares.
The final fight in the Snyder cut is, honestly, far superior to the theatrical version. I appreciate several things about it. First of all, Batman’s practical approach to the fight. Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Superman, are all fighting Steppenwolf, and Batman is fighting parademons. This makes sense. The superheroes who actually have superpowers take on the cosmic bad guy with the really big axe, and the normal human uses tools to fight the grunts. I know, I know…Batman is supposed to be this awesome guy who tangle with superpowered villains and still win, blah blah blah. But this Batman makes sense. He knows he’s not the big guns, and it doesn’t bother him. Twice in the movie, he tells the superpowered heroes to do things only superpowered heroes can do while he serves as the “distraction.” This isn’t him whimping out or being a coward. This is him being a strategist, recognizing the strengths and limitations of his team and putting them where they will do the most good. That’s an intelligent Batman. That’s the world’s greatest detective.
The other part about the final fight I enjoy is Flash’s chance to shine. We see him use his speed to travel back in time to save the day. This, again, drives home just how powerful the Flash is, and it sets the stage for a possible Flashpoint movie! The monologue his gives as he runs, telling his dad the things he wishes he could say, is a tear jerker. In that moment, the Flash stops being the joke of the team and becomes the linchpin.
All of these are cool, but the crown jewel of the Snyder Cut is the set up for the DCEU’s version of Injustice. In that sequence, we see exactly why Lois is so important, why a future Flash traveled back in time to warn Batman, and why Batman’s nightmare had Superman ruling over an Darkseid-conquered Earth. The planet is a wasteland, and Batman has teamed up with Deathstroke (a former enemy), a battle-hardened Flash, and a vengeance-seeking Mera. But the HUGE surprise is when we learn that Batman has also teamed up with none other than the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Jared Leto’s iteration returns to give us a chilling conversation with Batman about failures and threats. It makes me disheartened to hear that Snyder has no plans to finish his trilogy, because this scene sets up what would have been an epic tale that would at least match and possibly even dwarf Avengers: Endgame.
All in all, despite the very long runtime, the movie is packed full of story that makes a complete, heroic, and even epic tale that the Justice League deserves. I used to always say that DC got animation right, but Marvel was king when it came to movies. Snyder’s original version, had it made it to the screen, would have made me change my mind. It is everything that we would hope a Justice League movie would be. My hats off to Warner Bros for listening to the fans and producing it.
Stay Devoted, fellow Geeks. Peace and love.