“Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Justice in Gray,” otherwise known as the “Snyder Cut,” has been the subject of much anticipation and skepticism since the theatrical release of “Justice League” in late 2017. After fan outcry and thanks to HBO Max, this allusive cut finally gets to reach audiences, and with a four-hour runtime, director Zack Synder left nothing on the cutting room floor.
“This allusive cut finally gets to reach audiences, and with a four-hour runtime, director Zack Synder left nothing on the cutting room floor.”
This movie has been talked about in film and geek social circles alike. Snyder, the original “Justice League” director, had to leave the project during production due to the very tragic passing of his daughter. Warner Bros then hired “Avengers” director Joss Whedon to take over until the film was finished. The film ended up being a box-office bomb compared to other films of the same genre, making only $1 million a day according to Forbes. With a 40% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear that many fans and critics were disappointed in the final product.
After seeing Snyder’s “Justice League,” it seems that hiring Whedon might have been a mistake. While Snyder’s filmography has never featured exemplary stories and characters, his cut of “Justice League” shows that he has learned a lot from past criticisms. Whedon, however, seems to still have a signature style of fast quips and one-liners, which gets a little annoying and terribly predictable.
These two directors have drastically different styles of filmmaking and it shows when watching the theatrical cut of the movie. Whedon’s lighthearted approach stands in stark contrast to the darker tone that Snyder associates with his work. Fans of Snyder’s previous work will definitely be satisfied, and those who aren’t might be pleasantly surprised.
It’s worth noting that this cut of the film does have an R rating and a four-hour runtime. This is something that Snyder fans will surely love, but perhaps is too long for the casual viewer. The rating is only relevant in a few scenes and the runtime is aided by the movie being split into chapters, so it’s easy to split up the watching experience. In a four-hour movie, there are obviously things that could have been cut out, but that’s not the point of this release. This is all very much for the people who wanted to see Snyder’s uncut and unfiltered vison for these characters, and not a lot of it is boring.
There are plenty of things in this film that just weren’t in the theatrical cut. For example, the character of Cyborg becomes the heart and soul of this movie, while in the Whedon cut, he is barely even around and his role was cut significantly. Cyborg and his father provide the main emotional beats in the “Snyder Cut” and are essential to the main storyline.
Louis Lane and Martha Kent also get much more agency and emotion in this version of the film. Louis Lane in particular is made to be much more than a pawn to Batman. Wonder Woman becomes fiercer and holds her own much more, as the action sequences that showcase her power were cut from the original release.
While no one wants to be accusatory here, the question does need to be asked as to why the storylines of the characters of color and women were cut and changed the most. After Cyborg actor Ray Fisher claimed that studio executives were racist and that Whedon’s behavior on set was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable,” suspicions were raised, to say the least.
All of these cuts that reduce characters to plot devices just seem petty. One can’t help but question the motives of both studio executives and Whedon. It’s not a good look, and it has only been amplified by all of the inclusions that Snyder’s “Justice League” has in comparison. Why would so much character development and emotion be cut when it served the plot and characters so well? No one outside of the film’s production knows for sure, but it is definitely suspicious.
While Snyder tends to take the more doom and gloom approach when it comes to his films, this movie isn’t without humor. There are some funny bits that don’t come off as forced or irritating. These moments are very much earned and aren’t out of character, either. They provide cute little moments that feel refreshing, especially with the dark tone that Snyder has set.
The main antagonist Steppenwolf’s motivations are clearer and more understandable, rather than being evil for the sake of being evil. The Oedipus complex of the bad guy is no more as viewers actually understand his motives beyond finding boxes that he once weirdly referred to as “mother” in a very breathy voice. This makes the action a lot more exciting. The stakes feel higher because of a more complex and intimidating villain, and that only makes these sequences more intense to watch.
Characters such as The Flash and Superman become way cooler as well. There is a Flash scene toward the end of this movie that will have comic book fans leaping with excitement, and Superman’s entrance into the final fight is so much more satisfying. You can’t help but wonder why it was ever changed in the first place.
The controversial 4: 3 aspect ratio serves the film well. The theatrical version changed this by zooming in on the screen to fit a more traditional look, leaving out a lot of the intended image that Snyder filmed. The aspect ratio makes the Snyder cut look otherworldly by making the screen appear taller and making the heroes and villains look more powerful and intimidating.
Is this cut of the film perfect? No, it really isn’t, but it is a vast improvement over the theatrical version. There are some sequences that run a little too long and others feel a little hashed together, but this is the most unfiltered Snyder film that anyone will probably ever see. Even if Snyder’s “Justice League” is a whopping four hours long, it rarely ever gets boring and can be easily enjoyed by watching it in parts like a miniseries. It’s a pleasant surprise and a nice improvement from not only the theatrical cut, but from Snyder’s past films as well.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5