My (Non-Spoiler) Review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Henry Diep, Staff Writer

The long-awaited ‘Snyder Cut’ of DC’s Justice League (2017) was recently released on HBO Max after almost four years of complaints from fans, and to say that it’s just a slight improvement over the original theatrical cut is simply an understatement.

If you don’t know what the ‘Snyder Cut’ is, it’s essentially Director Zack Snyder’s original, four-hour-long version of the movie Justice League before he stepped down as director mid-production for family reasons. After he stepped down, Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon—director of Marvel’s Avengers (2012)—to take up his mantle and made some major directing changes, including cutting the run-time down by half to just two hours long.

The result of all these changes by Warner Bros. and Whedon resulted in a rushed, poorly-paced mess of a movie that most viewers viewed as a major flop for the iconic Justice League’s first and highly awaited appearance on the big screen. In addition to all the important scenes being cut out, the theatrical cut of Justice League lacked cohesion, a strong, consistent tone throughout the movie, and well-developed characters that the audience actually cared about—among a multitude of other things.

About a year ago around this exact time, I wrote a piece about the DC Cinematic Universe in which I talked about how bad the original Justice League (2017) was and briefly mentioned the clamor around the potential release of the ‘Snyder Cut’ (which you can read here), but that was before Warner Bros. released any official confirmation on whether or not they planned to release the movie. At the time, there was only pure speculation and hope.

But lo and behold, just a little over a month later, Warner Bros. put out a statement announcing that the ‘Snyder Cut’ would in fact be released within the following year. DC fans and Snyder fans (and comic book and movie fans in general) all over the world rejoiced. There was obviously still a great deal of haters and doubters (as there are with any fandom or project), but this was the glimmer of hope that many fans had been waiting for and it did not disappoint.

I don’t want to get into all of the specific details due to spoiler reasons, but Vox’s review put it best: “What Snyder built is a much better movie, so much that I wanted to go back to my review of the original cut and dock it a few more points.”

The added two hours in run-time definitely makes for a more complete, comprehensive, and well-paced film. As important scenes crucial to character development and plot/worldbuilding that were initially cut out of the theatrical cut were added back on, Zack Snyder’s Justice League does not feel nearly as rushed and has a lot more depth to it.

In the original movie, the three newly introduced heroes—Cyborg, Flash, and Aquaman—felt more like unimportant and irrelevant side characters, whose character developments are limited to the extent of their brief backstories when they are being recruited to the team, rather than actual main characters. However, Snyder was not wrong when he stated that Cyborg was in fact supposed to be the ‘heart’ of the movie in the original cut. 

Both Flash and Cyborg go from irrelevant to fan favorites in the ‘Snyder Cut’ as Snyder gives the audience characters that they can actually care about and form emotional attachments with. Not only do they get more screen time and thus a larger opportunity to charm audiences, but changes in the plot from the original movie give them more important and emotionally significant roles in the movie. 

The ‘Snyder Cut’ especially does a great job of including and making use of most of the characters in the film. In the original, it felt like everything could have been done by the overpowered Superman, and a lot of the other heroes were neglected, but in Snyder’s version almost every character is significant to the plot or action sequences in one way or another (for the most part).

Steppenwolf and his backstory are also much improved, so that he’s not just a one-dimensional villain, and we finally get introduced to Darkseid on the big screen (NOT a spoiler by the way) and he actually plays a pretty significant role in the movie as the overarching big bad instead of just being a singular cameo. The plot, in general, is more well-developed and has more nuance to it, and the ending is just so much better than the original that it makes me question why Whedon and Warner Bros. decided to change it up in the first place.

The much-improved pacing also gives way for plot events to flow more naturally instead of feeling forced, especially the more emotionally charged scenes. The tone also stays relatively consistent throughout the movie, which was a big critique of the theatrical cut due to the clash in directorial visions between Snyder and Whedon. The theatrical cut felt like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to have a darker, moody tone or a more light and humorous tone, so it made for a really sloppy movie. The ‘Snyder Cut’ is 100% all Snyder and is untouched by Whedon, so there’s a more clear and distinct tone established.

The movie also just looks better aesthetically. If there is one thing Snyder excels at as a director, it’s cinematography. For one, the infamous CGI mustache scene with Superman at the very beginning of the original movie and that horrific CGI red sky in the final sequence are no longer (thank God). But in addition to that, the movie just looks much cleaner and more polished. Snyder really nailed all the shots and the outcome is a much more beautiful, visually pleasing, and cinematic movie, from one slow-mo shot to the next (a Snyder specialty).

But with all this being said, does this mean the ‘Snyder Cut’ was a perfect or even amazing movie by any means?

Obviously not; it’s definitely not a film masterpiece by any means and it still has its flaws. Some of the characters are still not completely fleshed out or super relevant (namely Aquaman), and even a four-hour run-time can’t solve all of the problems that come with trying to introduce three essential, big-name main characters in a single movie without their own stand-alone movie first. Without giving anything away and going into specific problems I noticed throughout the movie, the plot is still relatively basic, the movie is still a largely cookie-cutter superhero movie (as are most superhero movies), and some of the heroes weren’t fully utilized to their greatest potential, among other problems.

However, given how bad the original film was, the improvements that the ‘Snyder Cut’ makes are undeniably apparent and present. It is generally just a much more enjoyable and all-around complete film; despite it being an imperfect film, I would say it is definitely worth a watch—whether you’re a casual movie viewer or the most hardcore comic book fan.