The thought of sitting through a four-hour DC movie is daunting for even the most serious of superhero fans, given the mediocre track record the franchise sports when it comes to the big screen.
When Joss Whedon took over as director of the original “Justice League” after Zack Snyder, the director of DC movies such as “Batman v Superman” and “Man of Steel,” stepped down to deal with a family tragedy, the movie — for lack of a more civil description — turned into an absolute disaster.
Whedon, best known for directing “The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” tried to give “Justice League” a Marvel vibe, adding in quirky dialogue, banter and an oversimplified happy ending. The result was a plot that felt like a half-baked, hollow imitation of the formula that has made Marvel movies so successful.
Fans of DC were understandably disappointed, and on the second anniversary of the original “Justice League,” Twitter exploded with the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. What seemed like an impossibility became reality thanks to fan pressure, and work on the final version of the Snyder cut began in earnest.
Warner Bros’ decision to release their entire slate of 2021 movies directly to HBO Max gave Snyder a unique opportunity. While the re-release of “Justice League” in theaters would likely have never gotten the green light (especially given its four-hour runtime), the ability to stream it directly to HBO Max during a pandemic made it a financially viable undertaking.
So, how did the movie turn out?
“Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” while not perfect, was ultimately a success beyond anything most DC fans could have expected.
Despite the increased run time of over two hours from the original, the movie never lulls unnecessarily or slows down long enough for you to lose interest. While it may not be great for people who aren’t fans of superhero movies or are easily distracted, for superhero fans the neverending plot actually feels like a good thing.
Snyder’s cut takes out the quirkiness Whedon added in and instead uses the extra runtime to expand on characters’ backstories, weaving a much darker and more complex world than the original.
Shockingly enough, only 4 minutes of footage in the movie was newly shot, with the vast amount of time and money spent on Snyder’s cut going to editing and special effects. It’s a bit disconcerting that such a good movie was left on the cutting room floor, making you wonder just how many bad movies over the years were a few creative differences away from being great.
After watching Snyder’s cut it becomes clear where Whedon’s went wrong, and Snyder took the exact steps needed to correct the movie and really bring his vision to light. Better fight scenes, more complete characters, a sinister villain and a story darker than anything Marvel has tried all work to set Snyder’s cut apart from the original.
The movie isn’t without flaws, however. It’s clear that Snyder’s vision of the superheroes doesn’t fully line up with the comic books or that of most fans, which can be a bit unsettling if you think there’s a “right” way for certain heroes to act. In addition, Batman’s suit looks like it walked straight off the set of a 1990s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which makes it hard to take him seriously throughout the movie.
Nevertheless, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” was met with almost universal approval from critics, at least in comparison to the original.
Unfortunately for fans of the “Justice League” movies, after Whedon’s movie flopped in 2017 Warner Bros. announced that there wouldn’t be any sequels in the near future and seem to be sticking to that as far as the “Snyderverse” goes as well.
Snyder said that there were originally supposed to be two sequels to his cut of the movie, but that Warner Bros. hasn’t expressed interest in turning his cut into canon or continuing the series.
With that being said, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” wasn’t supposed to ever see the light of day either, but fan pressure can make great things happen. It remains to be seen whether that same pressure could persuade Warner Bros. sometime in the future.