The first instinct to the news that HBO Max would be streaming a four-hour Justice League Snyder Cut was pure unadulterated WHAT THE SHIT THIS IS GONNA BE A CRAZY TRAIN OF EPICALLY BLOATED PROPORTIONS! And, for the most part, that’s still what people are expecting. It’s what we were expecting. But upon taking a whole work day off just to be able to sit through all four hours and two minutes of this monstrosity (I had to stop the movie five times: three times to pee, once to fix myself lunch, and once to answer a call from my mom telling me she got her second COVID vaccine yay!), the Snyder Cut is actually…. not terrible.
It’s everything you get in a Zach Snyder film all rolled into one: really pretty choreographed fight sequences, emo musical interludes, artsy CGI, and super slow motion shots galore! It can also be maddening from time to time, but not enough to where the film turns into a wet paper bag of shit which, if we’re being honest, and considering Snyder’s track record, is what we all expected going into it.
Inevitably one can’t watch The Justice League Snyder Cut without comparing it to the 2017 theatrical version, Justice League: Dawn of Joss Whedon Throwing Up In His Pants And Fucking Up the DC Cinematic Universe In The Process.
But here’s the thing: The Snyder Cut is vastly superior in every way to the 2017 theatrical version. Which is to say, under Snyder’s vision and direction, the story is no longer an incoherent mess. Low bar, we know. But still.
Below is our mostly spoiler-free review of Justice League Snyder Cut. If you want to go into it totally fresh, maybe skip this part and come back when you’re done watching it in a week:
What The Hell Is A Snyder Cut?
Well, if you know, feel free to skip this part. If you don’t know, here’s what it is: Director Zach Snyder was pegged as the DCU’s main overall visionary and cinematic architect. He began with Man of Steel (2013), followed by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and was set to make a couple of more movies, which included Justice League. Unfortunately, Snyder and his movie-making partner wife, Deborah, had to leave Justice League mid-production following the tragic death by suicide of their daughter. The movie was shelved, but because Warner Bros. and DCU are money-grubbing fuckwads who didn’t want to postpone the release date, they refused to wait for the Snyders to return, so they hired director Joss Whedon to complete the project. Whedon is known as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the writer/director of the first two Avengers movies. He’s also known for being a very large asshole. Because critics complained that Snyder’s DC movies were too dark, the DCU folks were hoping Whedon’s reshoots and reworking of Snyder’s vision would liven things up, make things brighter and funnier and less broody and less gritty and oh no Batman said “fuck” let us all commit ritualistic sepuku!
Instead, Whedon’s version gave us an incoherent film with enough plot holes to fill the American Airlines Arena, some misogynistic moments with Wonder Woman (ohhh girl super hero is hawt), and Henry Cavill’s stupid CGI face because, at the time, Cavill was filming Mission: Impossible and was required to sport a mustache and Tom Cruise wouldn’t let him shave it for Whedon’s re-shoots, so Whedon’s clever idea to get out of that pickle was to CGI the mustache off Cavill’s face, thus making Joss Whedon the first director in movie history to make Henry Cavill look like a weird ugly person just like the rest of us. The movie was rightly critically panned and made very little money (by blockbuster standards). So, in came the Internet Nerds demanding Warner Bros. allow Snyder to release his version of the film and, by some crazy happenstance, they actually said OK and he did. Anyway, there you go. All caught up.
So what’s Better About the Syder Cut?
Can you elaborate?
Yes! Here we go:
The story makes sense. As mentioned above — and cannot be stressed enough — the 2007 version is an incoherent mess of a movie where the studio heads seemed more concerned with making it more FUN! and less somber sad face emoji. The problem was, a portion of Snyder’s film had already been shot, and since Whedon has his own version of how things should go, the movie turned out to be a mangled uneven turd. The overall plot in the Snyder Cut remains the same, but the story makes way more sense now. For example, we now know why the Mother Boxes are a thing that matter (although, at one point in the movie, the Flash calls them the “Doom Boxes,” which is way cooler than Mommy Boxes). The villain Steppenwolf’s motivation for being such a huge douchebag is more fleshed out. Where in the 2017 version he was just some guy with a giant axe and a stupid name who wanted to collect some magic boxes for reasons, here we get to the why. Why does this noseless asshole need those boxes??? The short answer: He’s a middle manager for an evil conglomerate looking to save face for the evil conglomerate’s big boss after screwing things up so badly on some previous jobs.
The character arcs. Each of our heroes — Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) — gets their own arcs to flesh out who they are and why they matter — particularly the Flash and Cyborg, who are now more than just mere comedy relief sidekicks. Like the MCU’s Avengers, we’re shown independent superheroes who carry around their own human baggage — from Batman’s guilt over being such a dick, which led to Superman’s death, and his relationship with butler/surrogate dad Alfred (Jeremy Irons), to Wonder Woman dealing with her guilt in abandoning her people for the greater good of humanity, to Aquaman’s resentment over being half man-half Atlantian, to Cyborg mourning the loss of his mother as well as his own identity, to the Flash trying to find a way to get his imprisoned dad (Billy Crudup) out of the clink, to Superman wrestling with love and existentialism. These are fleshed out characters with real shit going on in their respective lives. And, as the story moves forward, each of these superhumans has to figure out where and how they fit into this world-saving team assembled by the one guy with zero superhuman abilities. The Snyder Cut is a heavily character-driven film, which is pleasantly surprising.
The CGI Is Vastly Superior. Where the 2007 version had CGI that looked cheap and cartoonish, the Snyder Cut’s CGI looks fresher, cleaner, and more realistic. Steppenwolf (Ray Porter) has been given some cool gleaming battle armor to wear, which shows off his tight glutes and his sick traps. He doesn’t look like a waxen claymation character anymore. The action sequences are more fun to enjoy because you’re not distracted by bad visual effects.
What Are the Best Parts of the Snyder Cut?
Here are the best parts of the Snyder Cut, ranked.
- The scene that introduces us to the Flash is remarkable. Cut from the 2017 version, the audience’s introduction to Snyder’s Barry Allen is like a mini movie onto itself. From the opening moment showing us a truck rolling into Central City (the set up), to Allen — a man who can run at the speed of light — running late for a job interview (our hero in distress), to the set up of him eventually saving a pretty girl from certain death (ah, love), to the payoff at the end of the sequence (happy endings are the best). The entire scene is about five minutes long, but encpomases everything you look for in a good story: action, comedy, romance, a beautiful musical interlude, and more comedy. And it’s cool as shit to see just how fast The Flash is and how he sees the world at superspeed. It’s the best moment in the entire four-hour flick.
- Seeing Our First Glimpse of Other Cool DC Characters (SPOILERS AHEAD). They’re short cameos, but it was very nerd-boner cool to see a Green Lantern make an appearance, as well as a big Martian Manhunter reveal. That’s all we’ll say about that.
- The Appearance of Darkseid and DeSaad. More stuff we didn’t see in Whedon’s version for some inexplicable reason: the biggest bad guy in the DC Universe, Darkseid makes an appearance and is integral to the plot. While he was merely mentioned in the 2017 version, here Darkseid has full scenes where he shows up, gets into a big battle with the human race, says ominous shit in a cool deep voice, and threatens to totally muder everyone in the face because he’s pure evil. Cooler than that, though, is the appearance of one of Darkseid’s chief lieutenants, DeSaad. DeSaad is a creation of comic book king Jack Kirby from his Fourth World meta-series. In the movie, he communicates with Steppenwolf from the fiery planet of Apokolips and looks and sounds cool as shit doing so.
- Cyborg. Ray Fisher is a great Cyborg (and also a great human for being one of the first people to call Whedon out on his bullshit, at the expense of his career, maybe). In the 2017 version of Justice League, Cyborg’s presence was barely explained. He was a modern day computerized Frankenstein who could hack into the Internet and that was that, no need for more info. But in the Snyder Cut, Cyborg plays a huge part in pushing the story along while giving his character arc more heart. In the Snyder Cut, Cyborg is no longer reduced to being just the token black guy that says “boo-ya.” He’s a character you root for, a character that grows.
- The warriors of Themyscira are treated with much more respect. The 2017 movie Wonder Woman established that the Amazonian warriors were the ultimate in badassery. No men allowed on their island because men suck. But when 2017’s Justice League rolled around, they were reduced to being a bunch of women who got beat up by Steppenwolf and were mad that Diana was no longer around (weird how that happened under Whedon’s watch). In the Snyder Cut, the warriors of Themyscira are defeated in battle against Steppenwolf, but give him a really good fight. You’re reminded as to why they’re total badasses even till the very end.
- Batman’s dream sequence from Batman v Superman is explained in a way that makes sense. One of the most confounding things about the insufferably bad Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the lack of explaining what the holy shit balls was going on. None more so than Batman’s dreams where he had visions of a dystopian world where he wore a trench coat and goggles over his Batsuit and where Superman was a psycho murderbot for some reason and where the Flash tells Bats that the key to stopping Superman was Lois Lane. Then Batman would wake up from his dream and that would be it. It was weird and confusing, but the whole thing is explained in the Snyder Cut. Batman v Superman is still a garbage movie, though.
- Joe Morton! The greatest Fish Out Of Water actor ever gets plenty of screen time and we, as a society, are all the better for it.
- Jeremy Irons is a GOAT. ‘Nuff said.
What was bad about the Snyder Cut?
- It’s four hours and two minutes long!!! Snyder had always intended for his movie to be long, but we doubt the original vision called for four whole hours and two minutes. And what’s with the extra two minutes?? DOSSS! When HBO Max announced it would be streaming the Snyder Cut, the original intent was to release it in small doses, like a mini-series. And a series broken up into four one-hour episodes would’ve been nice, all things considered. As it is, though, it’s one long-ass movie (broken up into seven parts). Longer than Lawrence of Arabia, or any of the Godfathers, or The Irishman, the Snyder Cut is a slog. Still, there are times when one might binge watch an entire show in seven hours, so it’s not impossible to get through. Plus, the action and story never wane, so you should be fine watching it in one sitting, if you so desire. Just be prepared to stop for several piss breaks.
- Superman’s Return Feels Unearned. The Snyder Cut opens where Batman v Superman ends, with Superman’s death as he saves the world from Doomsday. So as Justice League Snyder Cut begins, Superman is dead and everyone is sad. There are memorials erected all around the world and people are talking about how when he died, all hope died with him. This premise would work fine if it had been established better in previous movies. But Man of Steel and Batman v Superman showed us that people kinda hated Superman. He was treated like a sort of piraha. They picketed against him, and hated him for wrecking buildings. Bruce Wayne wanted him dead. Everyone in those movies were all, “man, fuck that Kryptonian guy,” which makes sense because he’s an alien with super abilities and America hates that shit. So it’s a little weird that now, all of a sudden, everyone is all boo-hoo Superman is dead. The sadness and the loss of hope isn’t earned in this movie. Although, like with everything else, his return from the dead is handled way better in the Snyder Cut than in the 2017 version.
- Ben Affleck still looks like a mannequin. And he still acts like one too.
- The stakes never feel all that high. It’s tough to watch any DC movie and not compare it to the MCU movies, but alas. The battles in the MCU sometimes spilled out into the streets, where buildings toppled and civilians were killed. In one of the movies, an entire country was lifted up off the ground and dropped. So when Thanos gets his hands on the dreaded Infinity Stones, there’s an actual sense of fear and tension there. This is a murderous bastard and all of humanity is gonna get killt. But you never really get that with Steppenwolf or Darkseid in this movie. Sure, it’s implied. But there are zero civilian casualties, which takes away from the stakes a bit. They probably did this following the strange backlash they got after Man of Steel’s final battle scene basically decimated all of Metropolis.
- Snyder Slow Mooooo. It’s a Zach Snyder movie (a four hour one, at that), so you’re going to get the inevitable Zach Snyder slow motion scene. There’s the slow motion falling spent shell, slow motion fighting, slow motion flying, slow motion waves, slow motion hair, slow motion kissing, slow motion musical interludes, slow motion jumping, slow motion running, even — seriously — slow motion sesame seed falling off a hamburger bun.
- Not enough Willem Defoe. Always a cinematic crime.
It’s a shame that Warner Brothers and DC have decided to move forward with their movies without Snyder’s vision being realized. The Snyder Cut ends with an interesting set up for a big battle where the Flash might have to use his powers of speed to manipulate time, and where Batman and the Joker have to work together. This would have inevitably ended with a movie where our heroes have to face down Darkseid in one giant battle ala Avengers: End Game. Instead, we’re left to wonder what could have been. Unless, of course, this movie gets a billion downloads and the Internet Nerds badger the DCU studio heads to re-hire Snyder to get back to realizing his vision. But, that’s probably a long shot.
All in all, Justice League Snyder Cut is a ballsy attempt at telling the stories of some of the most iconic superheroes in the history of the genre. It often falls short, but not enough to where it’s a forgettable piece of crap — which is what most people were probably expecting. It’s a decent enough movie to waste a day, if not a weekend, on. And, if nothing else, it stands as a testament to the artist fighting relentlessly for his vision, and winning! Also, it’s four hours of really pretty images to look at, so there’s that.
Chris Joseph (@ByChrisJoseph) is a host of the Five Reasons comedy podcast, Ballscast. He’s written about sports and movies for Deadspin, Miami New Times, CBS Sports, and several other outlets.