The Backstory:

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the third of an intended five film arc, beginning with Man of Steel, continued in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then carrying on through a Justice League trilogy. Principal photography began in April 2016 and wrapped the following December. Sometime in 2017, Snyder presented a picture locked cut at the final intended runtime and insider reports said that the film was called “unwatchable.” As far as we can tell, this cut was the initial “Snyder Cut” and had a runtime of 214 minutes.

This is different from the workprint, which ended up being approximately five hours of footage cut together. From there, it was cut and tweaked to get that three and a half hours, unwatchable, cut. “Unwatchable” was probably the phrase used since it was never going to be released to theaters at that length and cutting it further to a more manageable two to two-and-a-half hours would have made it incomprehensible. There were rumors that perhaps it could be split into two films.

In the meantime, Joss Whedon had been hired to do rewrites on the script and help with extensive reshoots. Snyder was expected to shoot the scenes Whedon wrote, but then Snyder’s daughter committed suicide in March 2017 and two months later he left the project while still in post-production. Whedon was then given full control over the production, adding nearly 80 pages to the script and reportedly only used around 10% of the footage Snyder filmed. The two-hour runtime was mandated, and Warner Bros. refused to push back the release date so executives could keep their annual bonuses with the additional concern about what new owners AT&T would want to do with the project and the studio. The final version was released on November 17, 2017.

The tone was a dramatic departure from the previous DC films directed by Snyder. Colors were brightened, more humor was added, and a number of new scenes were intended to humanize the heroes and raise the stakes for the final battle. You can see what I thought about the end result here. The tagline for my review says it all: “Justice League is a film that somehow manages to get worse every time I see it.”

And that was even before we found out Whedon was a massive douche.

But it wasn’t just me. The film was a critical failure and a box-office disappointment, bringing in a total gross of $657.9 million when the break-even point was at least $750 million after the $300 million budget and then marketing and theater shares were added in. This was such a shortfall that despite the film no longer being a strictly Zack Snyder production, Warner Bros. decided to move away from the idea of a shared Snyder-verse of interconnected films to instead focus on stand-alone films and individual franchises.

Since then, both Jason Momoa and Patty Jenkins have said publicly that the Whedon cut is non-canonical and both Aquaman and the two Wonder Woman films are maintaining the Snyder timeline.

Almost immediately after the failure of Whedon’s cut – or the Josstice League, as some started calling it – Snyder fans began petitioning for a release of the “Snyder Cut,” gaining over 180,000 signatures. The movement then created the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media and we were off to the races. Eventually, even members of the cast would show social media support for the movement, despite the fact that, as Snyder confirmed in March 2019, that a “Snyder Cut” existed, but it was a workprint with unfinished effects. Then-WarnerMedia chairman Robert Greenblatt approached Snyder with an offer to release his 214-minute cut unfinished, but Snyder objected.

Then, in February 2020, Snyder says that chairman Toby Emmerich reached out to him and after negotiations, an agreement was made. At some point between April and May 2020, the director let the original cast know that Zack Snyder’s Justice League was underway once again. On May 20, 2020, Snyder took the opportunity of a Q&A session after a streaming watch party for Man of Steel, to tell fans that his cut of Justice League was be released on HBO Max in 2021.

What was originally expected to cost another $20-30 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing, jumped to a whopping $70 million after at least one new scene needed to be shot involving some of the main cast, as well as Amber Heard as Mera, Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, and to the surprise of many, Jared Leto reprising his role as Joker. Leading up to the release, there were questions as to whether the film would be released as a single unit or would be broken up into a four-part mini-series, as the final runtime was just a little over four hours total.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released on March 18, 2021 on HBO Max as a single film. A black and white version, entitled Justice in Gray Edition is also scheduled for release in the near future.


The Movie Review with SPOILERS:

If you happened to click on any of the links up at the start of this and checked out my previous reviews of this franchise, you will be well aware that I am not a Zack Snyder fan. I think that visually, he is a spectacular filmmaker. As a writer and director, I think he’s got issues that make each of his films play out as angsty, steroided-up teen male fantasies that are a lot more homoerotic than he probably consciously understands. I say probably there because if the homoeroticism was intentional, one would imagine there might be a gay character somewhere in his oeuvre other than the queer-coded monstrous villains. Despite not being a Superman fan myself, I thought that Man of Steel was a horrible misfire and misunderstanding of the basic elements of most of the characters involved, and Batman v Superman was a train wreck that even a director’s cut couldn’t save. Sure, the Ultimate Edition was better, but that’s just because character motivations were revealed and a few of the additions made Superman seem like less of a pouty dick.

I don’t even consider the theatrical release of Justice League to be a Snyder film. Shit, it’s barely a movie.

To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this at all. Knowing that it was four hours turned what should have been fun into a chore I began to dread. Dr. Girlfriend was having none of it, so that meant working it into my viewing schedule after she went to bed or when she went to work over the weekend when I was off. Luckily, Snyder had decided to break the film up into chapters and the first two took up the first hour of the film. Unfortunately, Snyder has chosen to keep the aspect ratio suitable for IMAX viewing, which translates to approximately 4:3, or what we used to have before everyone switched to widescreen TVs. This means there are black bars on each side of the screen but there is still actually more picture on your set.

To recreate the IMAX experience, I recommend sitting about a foot away from your TV.

If you haven’t already, grab a cool drink, settle into a comfy chair and buckle up. This review is going to break down a lot of the changes between the releases and dig through each chapter to expose the good, the bad, and the ugly.


“Part 1: Don’t Count on it, Batman”, begins right where Batman v Superman left off, with the murder of Superman (Henry Cavill) and a blood-curdling death scream that awakens the Mother Boxes. It is simultaneously operatic in scale and hilarious. You really don’t even need to have “A Zack Snyder film” come up on-screen. It’s a much more effective opening than the Superman’s CG upper lip opening of Josstice League and sets the tone for everything that is about to follow. We later learn that it was only Superman’s presence that kept the Mother Boxes from summoning Darkseid (Ray Porter) and Steppenwolf. I’m not sure what kept them silent for the MILENNIA between Darkseid’s original defeat and Superman’s arrival.

I don’t think Snyder does either.

Have to say though, that the shot of Lex (Jesse Eisenberg) communing with Steppenwolf is straight garbage CG. Lex is supposed to submerged in water but is clearly just superimposed on the shot and the liquid just fades around him. Just put Eisenberg in a pool, dudes.

Anyway, the Mother Boxes start calling out to Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) before the credits have even stopped rolling and we get CG set after CG set as we visit Atlantis and Themyscira. I have the same complaint about the Amazons here that I did in the theatrical release. Their costumes are sexualized in a way that just isn’t done in the Wonder Woman films. It’s all bare midriffs, arms and legs. I don’t even think Snyder is aware of what he is doing. He just wants to see powerful bodies, male and female.

We then cut to Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) arriving at the fishing village under Aquaman’s protection. It’s an impressive feat in and of itself, as the village is completely isolated, and despite an offer of tons of cash, Arthur/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) declines, takes off his sweater and Jesus Christ poses into the ocean as village single ladies sing in tribute and one lucky winner gets to sniff his sweater. This scene does a good job of mythologizing Aquaman, but at the same, again borders on parody. It’s so goddamn earnest that I don’t want to laugh, but it’s just funny.

And I just want to point out that Bruce Wayne/Batman seems to have some sort of speech impairment. He doesn’t get enough air into his lungs when he speaks. He should see a speech therapist about that.

Anyway, we then discover that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) has been visiting the shrine to Supeman’s death EVERY DAY and we know it’s serious because Nick Cave plays on the soundtrack. This is essentially Lois’ function in the film until she is needed to calm the savage beast of Ressurrected Muscle Jesus. We then shift to see the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who stops a group of murderous terrorists with extremely stupid motivations, by pretty much murdering them all.

Seriously. She kills the shit out of them.

At the same time, we also get a moment or two focusing on Diana as an inspiration to little girls and it’s a nice touch. Diana gets a meatier role in this version, instead of pining away for the boy she loved who died a hundred years ago as she does in the Whedon cut. She also doesn’t really mother the “boys” of sooth Bruce’s aching body. She’s not their mommy or their nurse. She’s a bad ass monster-whooping machine.

This serves as connective tissue to bring us back to Themyscira, where we get our first big battle as Steppenwolf and his Parademons arrives to fight the sexy ladies. I didn’t like the new design for Steppenwolf when I first saw it, but it is extremely impressive in action. The spikes that make up the entire armor move as he flexes, and it is a fantastic effect. He’s also much larger in scale than he was in the previous cut.

The ensuing extended battle is also much more violent and gory than in Whedon’s version. It’s mostly CG so it all still looks like a videogame cut scene, but it’s exciting and does a good job of raising the stakes in a way that the Josstice League didn’t really do. But at the same time, this version is essentially a lot of sexy ladies riding horses against a very CG landscape until they are violently murdered. It’s a step up, but still not what it should be.


“Part 2: The Age of Heroes” opens with Steppenwolf setting up shop outside of Chernobyl and sending his Parademons out to find the other Mother Boxes. This is where we really start to see some of the additions that Snyder brings (or rather, some of the subtractions that Whedon inexplicably cut from the theatrical version). There’s a little more set-up for Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Diana gains some insight into the actual Big Bad of the piece, Darkseid. But before anything can start to build, we get a return to Aquaman, where we get a second shot of him pulling his shirt off and posing, this time to another Nick Cave tune. Snyder loves looking at Momoa’s body, as do we all. Not sure why he’s so somber about it, though.

This shift in attention to Atlantis telegraphs what and who’s coming next, although it does give Snyder the opportunity to bring Vulko (Willem Dafoe) into the mix, and more Dafoe is always welcome. We’re also introduced to the Snyder fix for figuring out how characters can talk underwater. Air bubbles. Whenever Atlantean characters want to talk there has to be a method for creating an air bubble. It’s a tedious and annoying workaround that really isn’t needed. We’ve already suspended our disbelief enough to accept Atlanteans, why not just let them talk and add some reverb or something? Snyder also falls short of the Aquaman feature film’s embrace of the kookier aspects of the character, and we get nothing fun like people riding sharks or octopus drummers.

Anyway, Vulko tries to get Arthur to do what it will eventually take a whole nonsensical feature film to do, and then we discover that Steppenwolf has a past with Darkseid and that he is so diminished that the boss won’t even take his calls. The middleman, Desaad (Peter Guinness), establishes that Steppenwolf is a prideful dipshit, desperate to regain his status in Darkseid’s court.

Meanwhile, Diana shows up in the Batcave to give Bruce the skinny on what’s happening. This is shot in a way that almost entirely keeps her in a submissive position. Sure, it’s better than the Whedon cut, but somebody still thought it would be good to keep shooting Bruce from below and Diana from above.

Anyway, this allows us to see Darkseid’s original attempt to conquer earth millennia ago. A shorter version of this was in the theatrical cut, but Steppenwolf took Darkseid’s place. Here, the CG artists just swap in Darkseid – who fights bare chested and sexy, like any good Snyder warrior man. While a computer-generated battle plays out, Diana drones a metric ton of exposition, and I’m sorry. As much as I dig Gal Gadot as Diana, she isn’t the one who should be delivering five or ten minutes of monologue. The action isn’t bad, and we get humans, Amazons (before their enslavement – was that canon before this?), Atlanteans (before they went underwater, of course), some Greek gods, and a Green Lantern (Yalan Gur, for all the nerds out there) for good measure, all fighting Parademons. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lord of the Rings or those old Kate Upton Game of War commercials from nearly a decade ago. This flashback didn’t look all that much better, since at least Game of War used a LOT more practical effects for the battle scenes.

And that’s your first hour and eight minutes. It’s tedious and boring more than anything else, with ponderous dialogue and an over-reliance on CG settings and massive expositional info dumps set to slow-motion CG action sequences. In other words, it’s a standard Zack Snyder film. The strange thing about this first hour is how closely it hews to the Josstice League when it comes to the narrative beats. There’s some slight shuffling and the streamlining of the actual story, and the scenes are played bigger and run longer without really adding anything to the experience except a gut-wrenching earnestness.

Nearly every single thing that was cut and reshot for Whedon is inferior to Snyder’s original product. Even so, this first hour is still fairly boring and doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the accursed theatrical cut.


“Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son” opens with a new introduction of Flash (Ezra Miller) that is ridiculously annoying, and kind of pointless to the actual narrative of this film, but serves to introduce a character that will eventually have a part to play in the Flash solo film, if that ever comes to fruition. But it does give us a brief moment of Miller snatching a hot dog wiener out of the air in slow motion as it floats towards his face. Oh, and he also creepily plays with the hair of a woman he’s only seen for a moment beforehand, also in slow motion. If you aren’t a fan of the Flash comics or the Flash TV show, you aren’t going to know who this mystery woman is. In fact, unless you check the credits or the Hollywood press, you still might not know who she is. She is Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), Barry Allen’s love interest and eventual wife. But here, she doesn’t even get a line of dialogue or an on-screen name.

It really feels like the only woman in this film who isn’t a mother or a love interest, is Wonder Woman. Is there just no other role for a woman to play in the Snyderverse? Hell, so far, Iris and Superman’s mom – what was her name again? – haven’t had a single word of dialogue. And Lois has just pined for her lost man and brought coffee to a cop. This is disappointing but not surprising. It is a Snyder film, after all.

Anyway, the first half of this chapter is devoted to fleshing out the backstories for Cyborg and Flash. It’s effective, but Victor is maybe given a bit too much power, too soon. Right out of the gate he has the power to essentially launch every nuclear missile on the planet, control the stock market, and is, essentially, the God of Technology – not that any of that comes into play. It’s an interesting take on his power set that ultimately doesn’t really get utilized or addressed.

I really don’t even see why most of this sequence is presented this way. Victor’s origin story basically sets him up as a Robin Hood-type even before the accident that killed his mother and destroyed most of his own body (in a car crash scene, literally minutes after the car crash scene that introduces Flash). He hacked the school network to change a student’s grade who he felt didn’t get the help that she needed from the professor. Then he hacks a bank to give a massive cash dump to a woman who’s down on her luck. They’re interesting character moments, but they don’t really relate to anything going on in this film. And good luck figuring out a timeline for this sequence. Days seem to pass, but then again, they don’t. It would all work better with more coherent organization, or maybe if it were spread out a little bit.

If anything, this chapter is where I began to fully realize that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is objectively better than the Josstice League, but that may only be because it’s got more space to flesh out all these characters that Whedon didn’t get. Although I shudder to think what a four-hour Whedon cut would have looked like.

We hit the two-hour mark – after a failed attempt by Wonder Woman to recruit Victor and Steppenwolf’s attack on Atlantis to steal the second Mother Box – and we’ve hit the halfway point. If this were cut down to an hour for a theatrical release, it would be just as fragmented and nonsensical, just with more sincerity and fewer bad jokes. The stronger approach might have been to actually go all in and expand it into two or three actual episodes of a four-or-five-part series. That would give more time to flesh out Cyborg and Flash and particularly, their individual supporting casts.

The battle in Atlantis is cool, but short. There’s a bit of gore and Mera (Amber Heard) tries to suck the blood out of Steppenwolf in a nice strategic moment (she can control water, and, I guess, blood). But then it’s all punching and posing and the bad guy gets away with the Mother Box. This still is not a very good story at this point. It’s just a CG monster hunting for McGuffins, fighting our heroes in big CG action sequences, then escaping with the Boxes. Lather, rinse, repeat for two hours. Again, a four or even five part prestige series would help alleviate the weight of these repetitions, spreading them out a bit so that they don’t feel so immediately doubled or tripled down.

The main structural difference in the two feature cuts is essentially that Snyder gives these events twice the runtime and fills in motivations and establishes character in your typical Snydery ways: With lots of angst, masculine posturing, and sad songs.

It’s so goddamn earnest it hurts.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Mera has an English accent for some reason. Despite not having the accent in either the theatrical release or the Aquaman solo film.

Ah well. At least the color desaturation means that her hair isn’t cartoon red in this cut. Also, it seems that when they can’t produce an air bubble to talk in, Atlanteans chitter like dolphins. I guess that makes sense, but IT. IS. SO. FREAKING. FUNNY. Y’ALL.


“Part 4: Change Machine”

Jim Gordon (J.K. Simmons) has lit the Batsignal and for no real reason, we get a hero shot of Batman perched above him for an uncomfortable length of time before Wonder Woman and Flash also show up on the roof of Gotham Central. Cyborg then arrives and uses his super computing ability to figure out where Steppenwolf has taken all the kidnapped scientists, including his father (Joe Morton). The scene ends with a joke I would have sworn was Whedon’s, where everybody but Flash vanishes, and he mugs before following them.

Is anybody else amused by the fact that Flash is never the first one to arrive anywhere in this film?

Then we get a thirteen-minute fight sequence that could possibly have served as a final battle if the film were split into two. The action is more brutal than the theatrical release and Wonder Woman plays a much larger part. Unfortunately, Flash doesn’t. And while we lose one of the best moments of the Josstice League, where Batman calms Barry by telling him to just save one person at a time, we do get a nice use of his speed saving people from falling rubble before he and Cyborg rush back inside just in time to get trapped under Gotham Harbor or whatever. Steppenwolf escapes and Aquaman joins the team.

This is followed by Steppenwolf discovering that the Anti-Matter Equation is on Earth, which would have made a solid final scene (even if it does re-use the close-up image of a massive CG hand – Steppenwolf’s this time – grabbing a handful of dirt from the flashback to Darkseid’s original defeat). Then, when Cyborg shows up with the third Mother Box, it would fit nicely mid-credits with the first communication between Steppenwolf and Darkseid becoming a perfect post-credit stinger.

Of course, this raises the question of how the hell does Darkseid not already know that this is the planet where heroes rallied together and handed him his ONLY DEFEAT all those centuries ago? Surely somebody put a pin in an intergalactic map or something, right? That makes no sense.

Anyway, this isn’t actually the end of the chapter, and instead we get another infodump as Cyborg tells everyone the history of the third Mother Box. Turns out Nazis found it (kind of like the Tesseract), but the Allies intercepted it and stored it away Raiders of the Lost Ark-stye until Victor’s dad started tinkering with it. This is where we get some nice body horror as Victor relives his origin story and we watch the Mother Box create his Cyborg body. Painfully.

It’s from this point on that the Snyder Cut starts pulling everything together, fixing most of the major criticisms that people had of the Whedon Cut. We get a walkthrough of the formulation of the idea to resurrect Superman, which was totally cut from the theatrical cut. There’s actually a justification for using the Mother Box, guys! It actually makes sense this time!

We do lose the Aquaman magic lasso confession scene from Josstice League. That’s kind of a shame. It actually was funny.

The chapter nearly closes with a scene between Ma Kent (Diane Lane) and Lois that was cut from the theatrical cut to be replaced with the absolutely atrocious scene between them at the Daily Planet. Remember that? The one that was filled with bad jokes, a sexist rival reporter, and a general dumbing down of both characters? Yeah, the Snyder version is maybe the best written piece of character work in all three Snyderverse films.

It’s kind of undercut by the revelation that Martha Kent was actually the Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix) trying to inspire Lois to get back to work, because the world needs her too. Um, okay. This is another one of those moments that could have easily been cut, but Snyder is playing to the fanboys out there. He wants to include as many nods to expanding the DC Universe as possible, but this is the first time it feels like it’s being done out of spite toward Warner Bros. and as a way of firing up his #ReleaseTheSnyderCut minions.

It’s a tease of something that Warner Bros. has already said, and has been saying for a year, won’t be followed up on. Practically all of the Epilogue serves the same function. But we’ll discuss that in a bit.


“Part 5: All the King’s Horses”

This next half hour is devoted to the resurrection of Muscle Jesus. There’s more bad dialogue (“This red cape charges back,” “I’m always dressed,” etc.), but it is markedly better than the quips of the theatrical cut, and we get more detail about how the Justice League actually gets Superman’s body to Star Labs. It throws a bit of a heist motif into this chapter, which works really well to allow for moments of character development and bonding.

It also ends up allowing for a nice moment where Victor and his father get to do the silent head nod, bro-acknowledgement of affection as the team takes Superman’s corpse to the Kryptonian ship that Star Labs has been studying. The ship starts waking up when it recognizes Kal-el’s body is onboard, which is a nice touch that also allows us to see that there’s a whole wardrobe of different Superman suits for him to choose from.

This sequence also fixes another one of the theatrical cut’s missteps, as in a bit of overdubbed dialogue from Flash, he mentions that as he approaches the speed of light, time starts to do weird things. It’s a little thing, and probably something that was recorded over the phone during the time of Covid that helps to establish not only what happens as Superman is reborn, but also foreshadows the grand finale. The first ending of the film, anyway. There are quite a few after that.

Along the way we also get a cut scene to Lois taking a pregnancy test. How long has Superman been dead? It doesn’t matter. It never comes up again. Although apparently at one point, Snyder intended Lois to have Bruce’s baby. Yes. While feeling intense guilt about the death of Supeman, Bruce was macking on the dead guy’s lady.

Maybe it’s a good thing Warner Bros. isn’t moving forward with more Snyderverse.

Anyway, Snyder also adds new visions of the Knightmare future to add to the scenes we saw in Batman v Superman, this time with some major spoilers for the fates of the planet, Diana, Aquaman, Lois, Superman, and the Green Lantern, Kilowog (for some reason). In these scenes, the threat that Darkseid represents is truly brought home and while the future vision in Batman v Superman didn’t do much for me, this time, I’m all in.

I kind of need to see the Knightmare on-screen.

Anyway, then Superman is revived, and we get another extremely strong scene that was dumbed down, softened, and shortened in the Whedon Cut, as an amnesiac Superman kicks the asses of the rest of the League. This sequence makes it clear that if Superman were to go rogue, there’s not a damn thing they could do to stop him. Which makes that Knightmare vision all the more unnerving.

As with the theatrical cut, some of the strongest scenes in the film are included here (particularly, the moment when Superman sees Flash and Flash can’t believe it) but without the horrible jokes that Whedon added, and then, to make things even better, once the scene ends, Steppenwolf doesn’t just steal the final Mother Box off-screen, making our heroes look like dipshits. Instead, we get to see Cyborg’s dad make the ultimate sacrifice and Victor gets some motivation to become the hero his dad always thought he could be.

This brings us to the final hour.


“Part 6: Something Darker”

This will probably be a pretty quick take. Most of the events of this final chapter sync up with the theatrical cut, except, again, it’s not as dumb, soft, and abbreviated as the Whedon cut. We also don’t have that stupid Russian family living in a radioactive zone defending themselves with bug spray, and when Superman does show up, there are no distractions. He’s there to kick the living shit out of Steppenwolf. Period.

We also get glimpses from around the world (i.e. Atlantis, Themyscira, and Gotham City) as the Mother Boxes begin to synchronize and form The Unity. Things look bleak, and our heroes do everything they can, as violently over-the-top as they can, to punch a hole in Steppenwolf’s defenses so Victor can get on-sight and jack in to the Mother Boxes in an attempt to stop the Unity. It’s loud and action-packed but somehow manages to be easier to follow than the theatrical cut, while also making their attack plan clear and almost intelligent.

And then, when Superman arrives in all his Goth Muscle Jesus glory, shit gets serious. As opposed to many of the Snyder CG superbattles, there’s a solid weight to Superman’s punches and I cringed every time he unloaded on Steppenwolf. The best part of all was that they didn’t actually win and everybody dies.

You saw that spoiler alert up top, right?

But in what is one of the biggest and best superhero moments in the DC film canon, Flash saves the day by rolling back time (a nod to Donner’s Superman?) and allowing the team to utterly defeat Steppenwolf while Darkseid watches, in the most over-the-top superhero victory I think I’ve ever seen. These motherfuckers didn’t come to play. It definitely earns its R-rating.

I can’t even begin to comprehend how Whedon could have thought that the stupid bullshit he put together, where Flash is a joke and Steppenwolf is defeated by his own fear, was a worthy ending when he literally had this ending shot already and at his disposal (But that’s really the question about every single one of Whedon’s cuts). That was a stupid cartoon ending, while this is a visually stunning epic climax that pays off everyone’s heroism and completes the narrative arcs of both Flash and Cyborg.

It’s simply bad ass. Even the big CG battle with the CG Parademons feels earned this time, thanks to the time put in to build the characters and establish their arcs. And that “Come get some, bitch” look the League gives Darkseid before the Boom Tube closes is gold.

Then we get the iconic Superheroes Looking Out Over the Battlefield shot that is the perfect close, especially after three and a half hours.


“Epilogue: A Father Twice Over”

But wait! There’s more! Nearly a half hour more!

As with the close of the first two-hour block, the Epilogue opens with a series of scenes that would serve as perfect mid and post-credit scenes, with Cyborg, Aquaman, the future Atom, Ryan Choi (Ryan Zheng), a Hall of Justice, Flash, Superman’s family, Batman and his giant tank, Wonder Woman, and Superman with his black suit (still?). Honestly if it ended there, this would be solid.

But we still get the Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) scene from the original release, although with a tiny tweak or two that would have led to the now-defunct Batfleck movie. I guess that’s okay, since it was already there in Whedon’s cut. It doesn’t have to be here, but we’re already embracing Snyder’s excess, so okay. Why not?

But then we cut back to the Knightmare world, a post-Darkseid Earth and everything has gone to shit. We get Batman, Cyborg (with a strange hump under his cloak that turns out to be a massive chain gun), Deathstroke and his cool new mohawk, Mera and her accent, along with a weird armored-up Flash and the surprise mystery guest who isn’t really a surprise, Jared Leto’s Joker.

The wasn’t sure what to think about this, but after dwelling on it and watching it again, I have to say, I think it was awesome. I was never a fan of Leto’s Joker, but this wasn’t the same character, really, and it was nice to see him play off of Affleck’s Batman for the first time. I think there was a strong possibility that together they could bring the Batman/Joker relationship to new heights. Especially if they explored the whole Joker-killing-Robin storyline that Justice League 2 was supposed to address. The relationship is tense and teeters on the edge of murderous violence with every sentence. And you know what? I’m there for it.

He also provides the necessary exposition to let us know what the hell is going on. Apparently, because of Batman, Lois dies horribly, and this is what turns Superman’s allegiance to Darkseid, and thus the apocalyptic world of the Knightmare. But before anyone can do anything, Superman arrives and prepares to murder them all.

But wait, it’s just a dream and Bruce Wayne wakes up to find the Martian Manhunter floating outside his house and it’s kind of hilarious that he’s just so jaded at this point, that Bruce just rolls with it. It’s an odd, but not terrible ending. Especially for the fifth or sixth ending. Apparently a version of this was shot with an actor playing Green Lantern John Stewart but the studio stood their ground, denying the usage since WB has Green Lantern projects in the works. So adding in Martian Manhunter works, but it would have been nicer to actually get a real introduction.


My Conclusions:

Watching the end again for this review/commentary, I can’t help but question what the hell Snyder thought he was accomplishing by ending this film on not just one cliffhanger but at least two or three? Was this just him wanting to complete his vision of the film as he originally saw fit, before whatever happened at Warner Bros. to turn the majority of the suits against him, or is this him dogwhistling to his most dedicated, most toxic fans?

The suits at Warner Bros. have made it clear, even after the relative success of Zack Snyder’s Justice League for HBO Max, that there is no intention of carrying on with the Snyderverse from this point on, despite the clear intent of Snyder to plant seeds for a number of future potential projects. Knowing this, why wouldn’t Snyder wrap up his film with a nice, tidy bow that would stand the test of time.

Or better yet, go all in and make this HBO Max’s big prestige TV mini-series to rival Game of Thrones or The Stand. That epic, operatic vibe is already there, and by simply fleshing out characters like Martha, Lois, Iris, Mera, and the Martian Manhunter, another hour of content could have easily been produced to bulk up that first half, expanding the opening two hours to three and then keeping the back half practically the same. Not only would that have made the final work stronger, since building character relationships with loved ones automatically increases the stakes for the heroes heading to the climax, it would also have helped hide some of the more repetitive visual and plot elements. HBO Max could have had a similar weekly build-up of hype that Disney+ just got with WandaVision and will be cashing in on with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, Secret Invasion, etc. moving forward, instead of dominating one week and then dealing with the inevitable ramp up of fan demand for more (and WB suits putting their collective feet in their mouths).

Without a doubt, ZSJL is the better film than Josstice League could have ever hoped to be. Given over three years of critical commentary on the original release’s shortcomings, another 70 million dollars to complete the effects and shoot new scenes, and being allowed an essentially unlimited runtime, there’s no conceivable way that this version couldn’t succeed. And it does succeed, if only out of sheer operatic bombast. If this film had to limit itself to way the theatrical cut did, it would be a horrific mess and quite possibly be even worse than what we got in 2017.

This film could literally only exist in this current confluence of events. If Covid hadn’t shut Hollywood down, halting production on nearly everything Warner Bros. had in progress, a film completely shot and sitting on a shelf (or hard drive) wouldn’t have been given a second look. If Warner Bros. weren’t launching their new streaming service HBO Max with almost no new content, would they have listened to the vocal fanbase? And after the horrible press that hit them after announcing their entire 2021 slate would be simultaneously released to streaming for no extra charge, how much good press is bought by allowing a visionary director free rein to finish his masterpiece?

And then, Snyder goes over-budget to film a brand-new scene that sets up a post-apocalyptic future that Warner Bros. had no intention of ever financing. That’s not just passive-aggressively jabbing the suits who meddled with him in the first place. That’s aggressively mobilizing his most rabid and toxic fanbase into making a potentially bigger stink about a sequel than they made about the Snyder Cut in the first place. #RestoreTheSnyderVerse is already a thing.

It’s diabolical.

And entirely uncalled for.

And the worst part for me, is that I had no interest in the Snyder Cut. I had actively dreaded it. But now I want a sequel, too. I’ve been roped in with the deplorable online community to want something that I’ll only ever get if excessive pressure is put on the people in charge at Warner Bros. I don’t give a shit about those people. I don’t really care if they get abuse from fans. But I never wanted to be on the side of those assholes who would harass WB executives in order to squeeze more Zack Snyder work from them.

Why do I want more Zack Snyder? It’s a world gone topsy-turvy!

Maybe we will eventually see something new on HBO Max. I’d watch a Knightmare series religiously.


TLDR:

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is without a doubt, better than the 2017 Joss Whedon atrocity. But that is given the benefit of years of critical commentary to listen to, another 70 million dollars, and an unlimited runtime. If this were cut down to two hours and released theatrically, it would also be a monumental clusterfuck, just in different ways. Nearly everything that was cut and replaced in the theatrical version was better in Snyder’s original. The story beats are essentially the same, but with more room to breathe, characters that were shorted in the original get a chance to really shine, particularly Cyborg.

Some of the bad jokes we blamed on Whedon were actually Snyder’s, so if any apologies are owed Joss, its for that. But fuck him since he’s apparently a giant sack of racist, sexist shit.

If you’ve got four hours and love the previous Snyderverse films, you’ll love this with every inch of your cold, black heart. If you hated the previous Snyderverse films, eh, it’ll be okay, but not really worth four hours. Maybe spread it out over a couple of days. Somewhere in there is a two-and-a-half to three-hour movie that might solidly wrap up the series, but that’s not what we get here.

What we get here isn’t bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.

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