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March 18, 2021


written by: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder, and Will Beall
produced by: Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven
directed by: Zack Snyder
rated: R (for violence and some language)
runtime: 242 min.
U.S. release date: March 18, 2021 (HBO Max)


It doesn’t take much to say that “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is a better movie than the debacle Warner Brothers Pictures released in 2017, since the bar was quite low to begin with. Despite being credited as director on “Justice League”, Snyder had to understandably bow out (along with his co-producer wife, Deborah Snyder) during post-production after the tragic death of his daughter, and the studio hired two-time “Avengers” writer/director Joss Whedon to finish the feature. The result was a creative and aesthetic mess and a financial flop, hurting any chances of expanding the DC Extended Universe on the big screen. Now, after much outcry and online petitions from disappointed Snyder fans (along with members of the cast and crew), for the studio to release the “Snyder Cut”, we have a course-correcting 4-hour/6-part endeavor (including an epilogue) for DC Comics fans. While it is entertaining and slightly more fulfilling, it also showcases the best and worst of a stylistic filmmaker.

If it were to play in theaters this “Snyder Cut” would have to play as a one or two-night event, considering its length, which is why it’s wise to release it on HBO Max where the viewer can determine when and how many intermissions will break up such a commitment.

Obviously, going from a 120 minute runtime to a whopping 242 minutes, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, much has been added, but the big question will be whether or not it’s worth it. This cut is undoubtedly different, but the curious draw for some will be if it is better and how much it veers from the previous storyline written by Whedon (who apparently had added roughly 80 pages to the script) and Chris Terrio. The story is essentially the same with additional moments of characterization and new action sequences stretching this behemoth every which way.

Right from the start, the “Snyder Cut” feels different, with an opening that certainly has more dramatic weight. The awkward Whedon opener, in which Superman (Henry Cavill, in bad visual effects that attempted to cover up his “Mission: Impossible” mustache) is recorded taking questions from a young fan is gone and replaced with unfiltered Snyder that revisits the ending of his last DC feature, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.



A teary-eyed Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) looks on as Superman’s fatal cries in the wake of his Metropolis smackdown with Doomsday reverberates throughout the world – literally. From the Gotham City apartment of Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, the Last Son of Krypton’s final moments can be felt. Such powerful waves mysteriously awaken three alien cubes called Mother Boxes, which will bring yet another threat to the planet in the form of Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). This towering antagonist, supported by hordes of bug-like winged Parademons, seeks to combine all three scattered boxes to a “Unity” that will allow his boss, Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter), to claim Earth and turn it into the equivalent of a global fire pit.

Knowing he will need help opposing such a formidable force, Bruce embarks on creating a team of warriors to fight the growing threat. He seeks the aide of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazonian goddess from Themyasicra and the two split up to recruit metahumans such as Victor Stone, Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa), hoping they will agree to protect the world and prevent apocalyptic destruction. Despite some initial resistance, the team must come together – with the help of Alfred (Jeremy Irons, benefiting from extra screen time), Bruce Wayne’s sardonic assistant – to hopefully retrieve and destroy the Mother Boxes before the supervillain can eradicate all of humankind.

Whedon’s “Justice League” was brisk and rushed, with moments of comedy that felt forced rather than organically earned. The tone is different here, imbuing most of the ambitious marathon with Snyder’s “dark and gritty” trademark and his exhaustive use of slick slow-motion action. It’s been reported that Snyder has not used any of Whedon’s previous footage for his cut, but that’s hard to believe considering a good portion of the movie includes recognizable shots with the rest feature scenes fleshed out by Snyder.

Much of what Snyder (who co-wrote with Terrio and Will Beall) adds consist of cohesive transitions that offer greater character arcs for Aquaman and Flash, but especially Fisher’s Cyborg, who is plagued by cliche father issues. While it is interesting to see these powerful heroes through the eyes of this young man – whose father, Silas (Joe Morton), a S.T.A.R. Labs scientist does some Dr. Frankenstein work on his son, replacing most of his body with advanced cybernetic parts derived from one of the Mother Boxes that was found and examined – his character arc still feels like a “tortured man” in a machine (think Paul Verhoeven’s classic “Robocop”). So, while Fisher is good here and his backstory being realized is welcome, nothing new or different is offered.



Other additions are either extensions of action sequences from the 2017 release or omitted scenes that feel inserted just to provide time for actors that were excluded from Whedon’s movie. Granted, it’s great to see Willem Defoe briefly once again as Vulko (in scenes shot before his character’s introduction in “Aquaman”) for some of the new Atlantis scenes, alongside Mera (Amber Heard, who oddly tries out a British accent), but all it really does is add fat to the story. As for the additional Barry Allen/Flash material, it’s mostly problematic and could’ve been saved for his own movie. Some of that has to do with how Miller still seems miscast as the speedster, coming across as a slacker who adds nothing more than comic relief. While there are attempts to expand on his desire to connect with his imprisoned father (Billy Crudup) and we unnecessarily follow him through a job application process which is where he winds up saving a young driver (that’s an underutilized Kiersey Clemons playing Iris West, Allen’s flame from the comics) from a motor vehicle collision.

Since none of this adds to the overall story, it would typically be left on the cutting room floor, but this is Snyder’s world and we’re just guests. Apparently, no one is holding him back, so he supposedly includes everything frame he and cinematographer Fabian Wagner (who also lensed Whedon’s movie) shot. None of that is surprising, considering such an expansion in length is bound to have footage which will simply feel like empty calories rather than anything that adds dramatic heft.

Some of what’s been removed from “Justice League” is curious. In Whedon’s movie, Diana vehemently disagreed with the idea of resurrecting Clark Kent/Kal-El’s body, when Bruce plans on using a combination of Mother Box technology with the abilities of Cyborg and Flash, yet that’s nowhere to be found here. There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for such an omission. They only member of the team with hesitation is Aquaman, but he winds up just going along with it. There are also scenes removed from the climactic battle at the end, like the oddly placed break where Flash and Superman evacuate Russian villagers, making room for more battlefield action with the Parademons.

Like “Justice League, the “Snyder Cut” still suffers from predominately a lame antagonist in Steppenwolf, who despite some visual polishes, still feels like a badly-rendered video game villain from the 90s. The big difference now is that an added dimension is given to the character’s motivations are how it’s revealed that Steppenwolf’s at the lower end of a chain of command that wasn’t revealed in Whedon’s story. There are scenes where the villain reports to Darkseid middleman DeSaad (another CGI creation, voiced by Peter Guinness), with updates on the status of his Mother Box procurement, and there is minimal screen time given to Darkseid, who is indicated as the ultimate threat pulling the strings. While clearer motivation for Steppenwolf is a plus, the way in which both Desaad and Darkseid are visually depicted is straight-up awful, with both characters rendered in a dark and muddy manner, making them almost indecipherable.

Darkseid could be the Thanos of the DCEU, possibly even more powerful than the full-realized Marvel threat, but since there is no build-up to him and he barely registers as a threat here (apart from a slo-mo flashback scene where fans of the comics will recognize his trademark Omega Beams), therefore it’s hard to see him as an urgent threat. His obsession for the “Anti-Life Equation” is mentioned, but what is or does is never described in satisfying detail and winds up being an element that could’ve easily been left for another movie.

As in “Justice League”, it takes roughly 150 minutes for Superman to show up and while Snyder and his writers have never had the right grasp on the DC icon, it’s no fault of Cavill’s. Given the right material, the actor could indeed portray the man that Ma and Pa Kent raised with commendable morals and values in Smallville, but we unfortunately haven’t seen that yet in any Snyder entry. The melee between the Kryptonian and the newly formed superhero team is still pretty much the same, once again ending with the world’s most powerful being getting calmed by Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who reconnects the alien with his human roots. Clark’s brief return to his family’s farm and his reunion with Martha Kent (Diane Lane) is more meaningful this time around, with Cavill given a chance to emote more than just one or two facial expressions. It’s not entirely an enrichment of Superman’s subplot, but at least his presence here has a bit more personality and he doesn’t come across as stiff and, well, jerkish, as the character has in previous Snyder installments. It’s also the first time we’ve seen the character donning the dynamic black suit from the comics. It’s surprising that Warner Brothers agreed to feature the character sans his recognizable red, yellow and blue colors.



It’s a challenge to endure four hours of any movie without compelling characters or captivating drama. No amount of visuals (or in this case loud noise) or hyperactive battles featuring character cameos for DC fans can replace a story that’s unique or different. Snyder prefers to go overkill on the digital content and his penchant for slo-mo antics (it feels like 45 minutes could be shaved from the runtime if all the tired slo-mo was removed). While the camaraderie between team members is more established and believable, there’s just too much going on here for one super long movie.

On that note, more needless beats are included in Snyder’s “Epilogue”, which offers a handful of endings and hints at possible movies that will likely never get made. A more expansive scene is included with Jesse Eisenberg‘s Lex Luthor meeting mercenary Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) on a yacht and a long-haired Joker (Jared Leto) shows up an extension of Bruce Wayne’s nightmare vision of the future, last scene in “Dawn of Justice”. Both scenes are needless and add to the bloat.

Another change from “Justice League” is the score by composer Tom Holkenberg (aka Junkie XL, who also worked on “Dawn of Justice”), who replaced Danny Elfman’s forgettable score. The composer was originally replaced by Elfman and then rehired to complete a 54-track soundtrack that also somehow seems unremarkable, but then again it could’ve been drowned out by all the noise Snyder produced.

Regardless of how anyone lands on either of the two Justice League movies, one can admit it would be fascinating to see a documentary that details the unexpected journey (with all it’s twists, turns, pauses, and restarts) that transpired. It could even include the rumored black-and-white version of this cut, culminating in a full kitchen sink approach.

Snyder is a stranger to the “less is more” approach and Warner Brothers ponied up $70 million to give him carte blanche to bring all of his vision to completion. Congrats to him. Without question, there are improvements here, yet there are definitely parts that would’ve made for great “deleted scenes” and even some that could’ve been shelved for another movie altogether. But, this is free-range Snyder, made by a specific artist for a specific audience with an acquired taste.



RATING: **1/2



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark Pracht permalink
    March 18, 2021 8:52 am

    Couple of thoughts….

    Whedon did extensively use a lot of Snyders battle sequences for the climax, re-color times to be “brighter,” and then re-shot studio mandated additions (such as saving the Russian family).

    Also – the Anti-Life equation has always been a undefined maguffin. If Jack Kirby, who invented the thing, never found any need to explain it, I can see why Snyder would opt to let it continue to be mysterious.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      March 18, 2021 11:34 am

      I figured Whedon had to have used Snyder’s footage…so that means that Snyder just used his existing footage that Whedon used for this Cut, in addition to all the other reshoots and extra scenes.

      As for the Anti-Life Equation…it’s been incorporated in different ways over the years by comics writers and briefly mentioning it during a 4-hour movie won’t really matter for non-comics fans, but it’s such a huge thing that it easily could’ve been put on hold until the next opportunity to feature it more prominently. But then again Snyder has cut as if this is his last shot at DC material, therefore he’s included everything.

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