You’ve probably heard about #ReleaseTheSnyderCut which has been all over the internet for years. Why? After the 2017 release of Justice League, fanboys have trolling this movie for years, saying that Zack Snyder (the original director) had an original cut that was far superior to the theatrically released Joss Whedon-directed version. Rumors shot around, snippets of Snyder’s ‘directors cut’ scenes popped-up on YouTube, and even websites were dedicated to signing petitions to, you guessed it, having Zack Snyder’s version finally restored and shown. Well, it worked!
After years of bitching, moaning, and signed petitions, and Snyder finally giving in to a HUGE fanbase, he relented and sought the rights to his version, complete with the necessary budget (a paltry $70 million) for adding extra scenes for continuity. Enter the streaming service, HBO Max who would gladly hand over the money, knowing that millions could only watch this four-hour restoration on THEIR channel! So, that means if you saw the 2017 theatrical release, you’re gonna see a whole lotta extra goodies in this version, which was Snyder’s original magnum opus vision that was supposed to part of a three-film saga. Below is my original film review when it came out, but here are the added bonuses you’ll be seeing in his new four-hour extravaganza.
The character of Steppenwolf is more badass, having more sharp, edgy metallic ‘spines’ to his body and, this time, we get to see his boss, Darkseid (Ray Porter), who is like a cousin to Thanos, and Darkseid’s cronie, DeSaad (Peter Guinness). And be prepared for color-shifts. Snyder hated all the color-washing in the third act (red/orange Russian skies), so that’s color-corrected. Plus, Superman’s suit is now his famous comic-book black suit after he’s resurrected. He even pays a visit to Alfred at Bruce Wayne’s home. And, I made a complaint back in 2017 in my original review about no backstories. Well, this movie’s got ’em, but no one more than Victor Stone/Cyborg, who is actually the focal point of this movie.
Other notable changes: the film is shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means it’s NOT widescreen, but boxier, which I didn’t care for. Also, the musical score is different and sometimes not for the better. However, many things are missing and for the better, like the whole Russian family sub-plot is gone, Aquaman sitting on Diana’s truth-rope, Barry’s “brunch” line, Superman and Barry’s friendly race, and almost all the humor.
But what’s added is substantial, like: Barry dramatically saving the life of Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) in a car crash, the introduction of J’onn J’onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix), who was in Man of Steel, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) who has a conversation with an escaped Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg), Steppenwolf talking to DeSaad about his past with Darkseid, and so much more.
In this four-hour opus, we really get to see the tragic life of Victor Stone, his painful estrangement with his father (Joe Morton), how much of a jerk Arthur Curry is with everyone, and Zack Snyder’s love of slo-motion. This movie also fills in the holes the Whedon version had and gives us Tarantino-like chapter title cards. Steppenwolf is even explored more in-depth and his relationship with Darkseid, almost making him sympathetic. A whole new exciting ending to kicking Steppenwolf’s butt is here, including a lead-in to what was supposed to be a sequel.
But the best is saved for last, as the epilogue dishes up a (possible) alternate timeline: a post-apocalyptical world, conquered by Darkseid, and Batman actually teamed up with the Joker (Jared Leto)!! That scene alone is with the four-hour wait. All in all, if you can sit through all four hours, as I did, you’ll find this version a much more satisfying, coherent, grittier, and cohesive one than the 2017 film. HBO Max was hoping to get their money back with new subscribers with this and, I for one, was one of them.
**Streaming exclusively on HBO Max
Justice League (2017)
The flip side of those MARVELous Avengers, these DC heroes are here to save the world from an intergalactic threat. It’s Batman and his friend, Wonder Woman, who meet up with the new kids on the block, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Oh yeah, then there’s this guy in the blue tights that everyone said was dead. . .
It’s bad enough that Thanos wants those damned Infinity Stones to rule the world (sorry, wrong universe), here comes a new intergalactic baddie to ruin your weekend: it’s Steppenwolf (no, not the 60’s rock band, silly!), a CG alien (Ciaran Hinds) that comes here (along with his legion of bug-like Parademon soldiers) to snatch ‘n’ grab three super-powerful ‘Mother Boxes’, which can transform Earth into his home planet. Ickk! Meanwhile, Batman (Ben Affleck) is very concerned. He knows some sort of an attack is coming and is in dire need of allies, since Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead and buried. Luckily for him his fighting pal, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who is saving people in London, is just a phone call away.
And allies they’re gonna need when Steppenwolf wreaks havoc getting Box #1 from Themyscira. Bats and Golden Lasso assemble a makeshift team, but it isn’t easy. The Flash (Ezra Miller) is a wise-cracking kid who just wants to have some friends, Aquaman/Adam Curry (Jason Momoa) is a reluctant hard-core ocean prince with a passion for adventure, and young half-man/half-machine Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is coming to grips with his new metal body and cybernetic interface.
After Steppenwolf acquires Box #2 and trounces our DC heroes, a deadly decision is made: use the old Kryptonian ship from Batman v Superman to resurrect you-know-who. It’s a sticky situation as no one knows exactly what will happen (I mean, how often do they bring dead superheroes back to life?) This is BIG news to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), needless to say. In the middle of all the ensuing chaos, Steppenwolf nabs Box #3 and, making his camp somewhere in the remote Siberian backwoods (because… reasons), he decides to create his empire. I guess he likes the scenery. Batman and his new League crash the party, trying to take back those Boxes. Mayhem and destruction ensue, while an innocent Russian family scurries for safety.
With more fun and less emo than the previous Batman v Superman epic, the script by Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio (BvS:DOJ) packs quite a wallop and alot of info in the short 2hr running time, which is unfortunate, as I would’ve like to have seen more of the backstories of Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Yes, they’re ALL getting their own feature films eventually, but at least give me more than a taste here. As generic as the plot and villain are (and they are VERY generic), the LOTR-ish story is about as standard as Steppenwolf; a boring A-typical intergalactic bad guy with a poorly rendered CG face. Forget him and go with the Supers!
Once again, Gal Gadot steals the picture with her likable presence, as does the overly-eager Ezra Miller, who offers the comic relief. Mamoa is outstanding with his macho wit and charm, and Fisher just oozes tortured teen angst as Cyborg. And I gotta admit it, Affleck makes a formidable and true Batman, even though it’s been reported he wants to give up his cowl. Real shame. Another sad note was director Jack Snyder, who had to leave this project when his daughter died, making Joss Whedon the new director. Not that Whedon isn’t good, mind you, but I would have liked to have seen a completed Snyder film with his mark on it.