I must admit, that I had low expectations going into "The Snyder Cut," following the disastrous mess that was the 2017 theatrical release of Justice League. There was a time that I seriously doubted that a Snyder Cut even existed. And if it did exist, would the powers that be at Warner Brothers ever let us see it?
Thankfully, after much anticipation, (and constant Twitter teases from the director) the answers to both of these questions were yes. With the recent release of Snyder's four-hour-long epic, Zack Snyder's Justice League, on HBO Max, we finally get to see what all the fuss was about. And trust me, it was worth the wait.
The opening sequence is all that fans are going to need, to realize that Snyder's version is far superior in both storytelling, and character development, when compared to the version previously released in theatres.
The film opens with Superman's dramatic death from the conclusion of Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice. The scene is shot from a reverse angle and we
hear Superman's haunting death cry reverberating through the universe, waking the Mother Boxes and communicating to Darkseid that the Kryptonian is dead, leaving Earth unprotected.
Snyder picks up the threads of his previous films, something that Whedon failed to do when taking over directorial duties on Justice League, after Snyder was forced to leave the project midway through production, due to the tragic death of his daughter.
Picking up the breadcrumbs from Man of Steel, and Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice accomplishes several things that are vast improvements over the film's first attempt. We get a solid jumping-off point to the story that Zack Snyder wants to tell, and we see reactions from both heroes and villains, demonstrating how the loss of Kal-El will kick off the events to follow.
Ben Affleck's Batman gets an improved character arc, positioning the Dark Knight more solidly as the recruiter of the Justice League team in his efforts to make amends for his guilt of letting Superman down.
Cyborg gets perhaps the best character improvements and a well-deserved increase in screen time, adding to his importance in the film. We see more of his relationship with his parents, particularly his father Silas, as well as his struggles with his acceptance of his new half-man, half-machine existence. His powers are more clearly defined and it is better demonstrated how they fit into this world, with his ability to infiltrate, control, and communicate with any data or machine infrastructure, setting up his place in dealing with Steppenwolf, Darkseid, and the Mother Boxes, as part of the Justice League team.
Speaking of Steppenwolf, we get a version of our villain with an amped-up visual appearance (i.e. some badass mechanical armor) and a better explanation of what he is trying to accomplish. Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons aim to collect the three Mother Boxes to combine them into the Unity, claiming Earth for Darkseid. Any good story needs an antagonist with clear goals. Something shamefully missing from Justice League the first go-round.
As far as villains go, there was one, regretfully missing completely, in the earlier version. You know, Darkseid, the villain that previous films set up as the big, bad, Thanos type that was coming to Earth to wreak havoc for our Justice League heroes. Yeah, somehow in theatres he was nowhere to be seen. At least from what I remember, I could barely stomach watching the first film once, let alone a re-watch, so correct me if I'm wrong, Just please, don't make me watch the theatrical cut again.
Darkseid's appearance is foreshadowed nicely in the Snyder Cut with an extended scene of Diana at the Shrine of the Amazons. She discovers an ancient Greek depiction of Steppenwolf's invasion by way of a Boom Tube, as well as what looks to be the Anti-Life equation. Next, she sees the three Mother Boxes. And finally an eerie image of Darkseid, the true threat to Earth and the Justice League team.
Gone are the weak, cringe-worthy one-liners, replaced by a more serious tone, and a fantastic re-worked musical score that feels like it fits each scene perfectly. There are a bunch of cool Easter eggs strewn throughout the film. One, in particular, is seen in Barry Allen's new intro sequence, where a truck rolls into Central City that reads "Gard'ner Fox Produce" on its side, a nod to the comic writer that introduced the Justice League in The Brave and the Bold #28.
The battle scenes throughout the film are more epic, as seen in the Age of Heroes flashback fight, where we get a Lord of the Rings style battle for the fate of Earth.
Snyder uses several artistic techniques throughout the film that add to the movie's overall enjoyment, including some super slow-motion scenes and the director's choice to present the movie in a 4:3 aspect ratio, giving it a more comic book panel, top to bottom feel.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is essentially a completely new movie. One of my favorite writers, Elmore Leonard, says that in his work he tries to leave out all the boring parts. This is exactly what Snyder has done in re-cutting this film. The final product is a testament to what happens when a creator is allowed to carry out his or her vision for their art without studio interference.
If you are on the fence about watching "The Snyder Cut," like I was, I implore you to take the time and check it out on HBO Max. You won't be sorry.