The Snyder Cut was released on March 18, 2021, and directed by Zack Snyder. It is a recut of the original Theatrical Cut of Justice League that was released by Joss Whedon back in 2017.
The film follows six members of the justice league: Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman. These characters start at many different places but eventually come together through the efforts of Batman and Wonder Woman.
The team unites in order to face the threat of Steppenwolf, a cosmic demon who seeks to terraform the earth and possess humanity in hopes to please his dark master. He seeks three boxes. These boxes are machines left from when his master, Darkseid, attempted this feat many years ago. If Steppenwolf can collect all the boxes, he can create “unity”, which will allow his plans to come to fruition. The heroes must stop him before he can find these boxes and destroy humanity.
Overall, the Snyder Cut is a solid film. Scenes are well connected, events have buildup and tension, and there is emotional investment from the members of the league. It is very different from the Theatrical Cut.
Most of the scenes from the two cuts are similar, but Snyder’s version went into more detail. The film connected the boxes to the death of Superman, gave Steppenwolf scenes to search for the boxes, developed the emotions and struggles of each of the characters, and made the audience wait for the final arrival of each hero which made the events that much more satisfying.
The scene where the Amazonians, Wonder Woman’s people, defend one of the boxes is a great example of the differences between the cuts. At the core, the same thing happens in both films. Steppenwolf arrives at the stronghold protecting the box, and the Amazonians fight to stop him only to ultimately fail. However, the Snyder Cut takes far more time for the scene. First of all, the film takes time to explain that the only reason Steppenwolf is there is because Superman’s death caused the protective casing for the box to crack, allowing Steppenwolf to detect it. The Theatrical cut left out this detail.
The scene itself is much slower, showing the Amazonians desperately sacrificing themselves in order to stop this beast. The scene is intense, as it takes the time to show each character’s struggle to keep the box out of Steppenwolf’s hands. It is far more emotionally charged than in the Theatrical Cut, which gives their eventual failure that much more of an impact. The film does not hesitate with the violence either. Amazonians are decapitated and horses are thrown around like nothing.
The biggest changes between the cuts are focused on the characters. Snyder takes time to explore what each character is struggling with, and he gives them time to work through their issues. Their motivations make sense, given their experiences. In Whedon’s version, it seems that most characters just show up where they need to be. I was taken out at many points of the Theatrical Cut because I felt like the characters’ actions only served to move the plot forward.
Snyder takes time to explore why characters are acting in the way that they do. Batman is pressured to get the team together because he feels partially responsible for the death of Superman, back in Batman VS Superman. The Cyborg is apprehensive to join at first, due to his family difficulties, and every action he makes in the film is directly tied to his relationship with his father. Aquaman is difficult to get along with and serves as negative energy to the group. He does not feel like he belongs due to his half-human, half-Atlantean blood. He learns to connect with the group over the course of the film, and he is openly enjoying his time with them by the end of the movie. The Flash is struggling to be accepted. He has difficulty with social interactions and is pressured by his father to start living for himself. He joins the group to meet new people and ends up bonding with them. He starts out unsure but ends up playing a critical role in the eventual final battle.
However, Wonder Woman did not get much additional characterization in the Snyder cut. Other than the obvious threat, she did not seem to have much investment in the story. Her actions were predictable and lacked depth. I would have liked to see her more involved, potentially butting heads with Batman at some points. Superman also did not have much characterization, but he was not in the movie for very long.
In the Theatrical Cut, Whedon added scenes following a Russian family where Steppenwolf set up his stronghold. He also added more comedic lines from the characters here and there. It seems in an effort to lighten the tone and add some humanity to the film. However, many of these scenes do not work for me. They do not fit the mood of the film and sort of take away from the threat of Steppenwolf. Most of the jokes fall flat as well.
There are jokes in the Snyder cut, but they are far more dialed back. The dialogue serves to show what the characters are feeling, rather than to make the audience laugh. Flash still makes jokes that are difficult to laugh at, but it feels more earned, as the film takes the time to establish that in his personality. Aquaman still has quips, but they work a lot better, as they only start to show up after he begins to connect to the other team members.
Both cuts suffer in terms of the villains. In the Theatrical Cut, Steppenwolf wants to destroy the world, but his characterization ends there. He has more depth in the Snyder Cut, as he is trying to prove himself to his master to regain his favor. This is not super interesting, but it is at least something. However, his master Darkseid is just as two-dimensional as Steppenwolf was in the Theatrical Cut. His main motivation is to control the universe, which is why he wants to destroy Earth. It was nice to see more characterization for Steppenwolf, but Snyder more or less just moved the issue to another character.
The Snyder Cut did lose me at points. Snyder continually would tease things to come in future films. Martian Manhunter, another member of the Justice League in the comics, showed up at points and did not contribute anything to the movie.
This problem was more severe in the epilogue. Snyder includes scenes with Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, and The Joker. These scenes do not connect to the main film and bog down the ending. The longest scene in the epilogue is a continuation of Batman’s nightmare scene from Batman VS Superman. This nightmare is a fictional future in which Louis Lane, the love interest of Superman, dies. This causes Superman to turn evil and join Darkseid, which leads to an apocalypse. This scene could have connected to the movie, but the focus was on an argument between Batman and The Joker. It just seemed like an excuse to get the characters together rather than a scene that served a purpose.
The total screen time for the Snyder cut is 4 hours and 2 minutes, which is nothing to scoff at. However, the film is divided into six sections. This, along with its digital release, allows viewers to split up the movie and watch it at their own pace. Also, the epilogue scenes and the credits account for the last 30 minutes.
The film is definitely designed for a specific audience. If you are not familiar with Zack Snyder’s work, his films typically focus on the spectacle and drama over the story and smaller details. The Snyder Cut is not a smart film, but rather a film centered on characters, visuals and experiences. Some scenes and character actions start to fall apart under scrutiny, as Snyder was more focused on creating the spectacle.
His films commonly have a dark and gloomy tone, dramatic visuals, brooding characters, violent action scenes and a great deal of slow motion. The Snyder Cut has more than enough of these things. I personally enjoyed it, but it is not for everyone.
If you were disappointed by the Theatrical Cut and have enjoyed some of the previous installments in the franchise, I would recommend you check out this movie. The Snyder Cut connects well with the previous film, Batman VS Superman, and does a good job of respecting the characters.
However, for more casual fans or newcomers into the franchise, I do not think it is worth the four-hour run time. Also, for fans that prefer more substance in their films over experience, I think this film would not be enjoyable.
Snyder was the original director of the film. However, he butted heads with Warner Brothers about the tone. His previous two movies in the franchise, Man of Steel and Batman VS Superman, were not received in the best light. Snyder left the project before the film was completed due to family conflict, but Warner Brothers was already likely planning to remove him. Whedon was brought in to finish the film, and he cut the footage and had extensive reshoots. The result was the Theatrical Cut back in 2017.
After rumors of the so-called “Snyder Cut” went through various circles, a movement began to form, calling for the release of Snyder’s original vision for the film. This led to Snyder’s return to the project and the new cut released this month.