‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’: New and improved

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After much anticipation, the revamped version of the much-maligned 2017 film “Justice League,” nicknamed “The Snyder Cut,” has finally been released on HBO Max.  

Before we dive into the new release, I must explain the background behind “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” While the 2017 “Justice League” was in production, the death of Zack Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, led him to leave the production. Joss Whedon replaced him as director. Whedon is known for directing the first two “Avengers” films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as many other TV projects. Whedon ended up rewriting most of the film, cutting almost all of the scenes that Snyder filmed and doing many reshoots to recreate the film as his own. Whedon also has been accused of workplace harassment through his direction of the reshoots and through his work on many other projects. The 2017 film was heavily criticized by critics, many saying it felt as if they watched one movie made by two different people. 

After the controversial production and consequential poor reception of the film, many fans of the franchise called for the release of “The Snyder Cut.” These fans yearned to see the original vision that Snyder had for the film, much of which was already shot but was removed on the cutting room floor. Gaining enough momentum, Snyder and Warner Bros. came to an agreement to do a few reshoots in late 2020 and release “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on their HBO Max streaming service in early 2021. 

So now here we are, in a world with a new, redone version of “Justice League.” The question is, was it worth the fans’ fight for? 

In short, yes it was. 

While this is by no means a perfect film, it is far and away significantly better than the product put out in 2017. You can see the difference in three key ways: writing, character development and visual consistency. 

In terms of writing, the 2017 film really struggles with its story structure and dialogue. The story is close to incomprehensible at times, with oddly placed scenes and questionable pacing. The film had a significant amount of footage shot, but was cut down to be less than two hours – “The Snyder Cut,” by comparison, is close to four hours. This makes the film feel as if we’re missing scenes that bridge the gap between certain parts of the movie. “The Snyder Cut,” on the other hand, is a much more cohesive movie. There is a clear line of events, with distinct first, second and third acts: overall, a significantly better plot structure. In fact, unlike the first film, it uses setup and payoff in an effective way, using its first act to set up the conclusion in a satisfying and clever way. The dialogue is also much improved from the 2017 picture. Though not all the lines are perfect, the overall writing of the characters is incomparable to the previous movie.  

In terms of character development, “The Snyder Cut” is also on another level than the 2017 movie. Unlike the initially released version, which really rushes through its first act, this movie takes its time to build its characters, making them more interesting in the process. You connect to the characters in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” which is something you cannot say about the original film. The three characters that make the biggest jump are Barry Allen/The Flash, Victor Stone/Cyborg and the villain of the movie, Steppenwolf. The arcs of these particular characters are what make this film significantly better than the original movie. 

The last key way “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” improved upon the previous film is in terms of visual consistency. Now, whether or not you love Zack Snyder’s visual style is your own opinion, but you cannot deny this whole film was made completely by him. The previous movie clearly had two separate directors, with some scenes employing Snyder’s darker visual style while others having Whedon’s bright, more colorful visuals. This film is much more consistent, and though you may not love his style, you can’t deny this is Snyder’s vision. 

Though “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is much improved than the original movie, it has its struggles. While the character development is great, it makes you question why some of these characters couldn’t have had their own solo films before this movie. That would’ve helped decrease the runtime of this film, which is a bit long, though it is well-paced. Also, this movie feels a little overindulgent at times, giving viewers more than necessary. This film includes many characters – possibly a bit too many – padding the runtime and making the entire DC Extended Universe’s story a bit more muddled. Though, there is debate over whether “The Snyder Cut” is canon. 

Overall, while the movie isn’t perfect, it is significantly better than 2017’s “Justice League, making this movie earn a moderate recommendation. 

Rating: 3.95 out of 5 stars

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