Never has the anticipation of a director’s cut been this demanding for a long time, especially when there hasn’t been a ton in recent memory. Many thought Zack Snyder’s Justice League was just a made-up myth that wouldn’t come true. But at last, we finally see the true version of the DC team-up they promised us for years.
What’s the Story: Determined to ensure Superman (Henry Cavill)’s ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions. The task proves more difficult than Bruce imagined, as each of the recruits must face the demons of their own pasts to transcend that which has held them back, allowing them to come together, finally forming an unprecedented league of heroes. Now united, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) may be too late to save the planet from Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), DeSaad and Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter) and their dreadful intentions.
Here’s a little backstory to fill you in: Zack Snyder would have completed Justice League and it was meant to be the DCEU’s equivalent to Marvel’s The Avengers, depending on if was originally going to be two movies or not. But it went in a different direction when he had to step down during post-production after the death of his daughter, though some rumored he was fired. Joss Whedon came in to finish reshoots and do some rewrites that later went from a four-hour movie to a mandated two hours without the knowledge of the problems that occurred while filming, and caused some controversy over his behavior with cast and crew on set. Eventually, we got it in theaters in November 2017, and it was a letdown on all fronts. I thought it was alright at first, but after re-watching it recently to prepare for this, I now see it as a rushed and poorly constructed movie, which led to a dismal 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and underperforming at the box office.(Original Grade: B-; New Grade: D+).
Fans and stars have been clamoring to see the actual cut for years now, and it came true last summer that Snyder is working on it and making it four hours long to want his passion project to come to life. Though I’m not the biggest fanboy of his, you couldn’t get me excited about this since it was probably gonna be like most director’s cuts that improve on a film slightly. However, knowing he never laid his eyes on what *we* saw, maybe something cool would come from his mind to give the movie and comic book geeks what we deserved. Honestly, the “Snyder Cut” is the best film he has done inside the DCEU and it totally took me by surprise.
The hype was present when those trailers came out. But it was insulting that a lot of footage from them didn’t appear in the final product. This was made for Snyder to put everything back in place in a more understanding plot to follow while also restoring the mistakes that made little sense from before. The story itself is the same, but it doesn’t feel rushed and actually has sequences that connect without seeing them as botched. It’s all presented through six parts. Some might not want to do it all in one sit-through. I, however, made it through it all since I had enough time before going to work in the afternoon with one break. Certain scenes from before are the same with an added touch of new dialogue or better color grading. That made the difference so much better with not making the entire movie look sanitized.
Then there are the added new scenes that make sense to have more context and have a purpose. I couldn’t wrap my head around how moments just ends with any explanation to them. Unlike the original cut, Snyder and writer Chris Terrio made the effortless task of making everything worth caring for regarding the major characters we know from previous movies and/or comics.
The performances are improved much more since most of them were given poor material instead of potentially developing them for what’s coming. Ben Affleck just crushes it once again as Bruce Wayne/ Batman where he’s more ground here, and it’s just fantastic to see him more in this role since this might be the last time. We also got some good conversation scenes with him and Alfred (Jeremy Irons) that made their chemistry work better. Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot as Arthur Curry/ Aquaman and Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman get more to do this time around, serving a reason to be there, especially Aquaman.
The character I was very happy to get more to do was Victor Stone/ Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher. He got little to do with what we’ve seen previously since they left many of his scenes of backstory out. Now we do as we got a proper origin story of how he became who he is now, which made me cared for him, and it’s a credit to Fisher’s great performance. They even boosted the father-son relationship between him and Silas Stone (Joe Morton) more. I wish we were still getting that standalone movie. And Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/ The Flash is still the one who’s the comic relief of the team, but we see him as a likable and determined person, which includes the scene where he uses his powers to save Iris West (Kiersey Clemmons) or talking with his father (Billy Crudup) in prison.
Probably the most improved character was its villain, Steppenwolf. Even those who did like everything from before will admit he was a pretty terrible bad guy for our heroes to go up against with his bad CGI appearance and lack of motivation to make him the least bit intimidating. Thankfully, we have a Steppenwolf with a better CGI design and have a rational plan for wanting to take over the world and collect the three Mother Boxes. Not a great DC villain by any means, but it’s easy to not ignore him now. Darkseid also made his DCEU debut after being a no-show and will be, hopefully, a promising return.
Maybe I had to turn my brain off and view this as a new movie, and I did in hopes of the Justice League I imagined. I got Whedon wanted to make it a light tone, but it didn’t gain any favor with its sloppy editing and misplaced moments of humor that failed to be funny. Just in the first ten minutes, that was when I already knew the positive outlook on this would carry a glimmer of hope. Why these new scenes matter is because it takes more time to show more, which comes to life with the team dynamic this time.
At first, I just saw them as the iconic heroes who are just there without a cause why they’re teaming up. There’s more sense of them together with evidence of their interactions that are enough why they need their abilities to come together. They separated their introductions and use more time with them, along with being re-ordered.
Was I nervous about it being presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio? Yeah, since I thought it was only used for the marketing and didn’t know if we were going to see everything in the frame, but its IMAX framing wasn’t a problem once I got used to it with giving it a visually appealing look. The action was more exciting as these are Snyder’s best, despite the occasional slow-motion that was unnecessary. My favorite scene still made it in was with the resurrected Superman fighting the team, but more to it and without Batman making a dumb joke. The third act climax where they’re fighting off Steppenwolf and the Parademons had stakes this time where I was fully invested throughout the entire way through since they’re working together, which was best utilized here.
What else was great? We get a new musical score from Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a. Junkie XL, that made me want to listen to it again immediately. Danny Elfman replaced him in the theatrical cut, and the music he composed wasn’t one of his best. But Holkenborg brought it that hits harder than the music from Batman v. Superman. I haven’t listened to it all yet, but the track “At the Speed of Force” has been on repeat.
While it’s a surprise indeed, there were some negatives I took with me while I was watching. The four-hour runtime wasn’t that much of a chore since it moves, but certain scenes made me question if it needed to be in this. The CGI looks better aside from a few shots that needed more work, though there’s nothing horrible like removing Cavill’s mustache. I honestly wished they recast Amber Heard as Mera because she has no place in the DC Universe, which means they should find someone else for Aquaman 2, please and thank you. And we all know Jared Leto’s Joker would show up, and without spoiling, I didn’t see a point in bringing him back.
Never have I been wrong about a movie before it came out. Man of Steel has flaws, but it gets better upon reflections, and while Batman v. Superman has its moments, it’s still a disappointment. I believe Snyder has outdone himself to finish this the way he intended it to be, and it made me wish the studio were brave enough to show this, even though it would be impossible to release a four-hour movie in theaters. I thought saying the first cut was decent because I thought it would cheer me up after my dad’s death the week it came out; now it made me sadder. But not everyone will be on board with this, of course, but fans will be blessed with the expectations they’ll bring. If you’ve never been a fan of the director, you will not enjoy it. All I wanted was a good movie, and they delivered it. The high was still with me hours after finishing it.
Final Thoughts: Zack Snyder’s Justice League accomplished the impossible by being a far superior version of a film we could’ve gotten years back. While not a comic book movie masterpiece, it’s a lot of fun watching a cohesive story come together with fleshed-out characters, an amazing score, and action. Never thought I would say this in years, but Snyder did an excellent job. Grade: B+
Updated DCEU Rankings: