In November 2017, there was Justice League in theaters, which was officially directed by Zack Snyder, but was actually rewritten and edited by studio Warner Bros. and Joss Whedon. Ultimately, a financial disaster, given the stakes. In March 2021, there’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a magical directorial cut born thanks to the enthusiasm of fans, the perseverance of filmmakers, and the birth of HBO Max, Warner’s SVoD platform. Discussed, mocked, fantasized for years, the Snyder Cut is available for purchase digitally from March 18, and for rent from March 31 in France. After mixed initial reviews, the time for a verdict has come.
Two hours for the cinema version, four hours for the Snyder Cut (cut into six parts, plus an epilogue): Justice League is surprisingly filled with scenes being added, extended, modified, refitted, and of course pulled. A lot of the bad stuff has been cut, many of the scenes that were expected (and seen in the 2017 promo) are back, and lots of new elements improve the plot. Enough to turn a mediocre film into a smash hit? No.
Zack Snyder and the studio, however, didn’t skimp on the means to take the cut (70 million to continue post-production and shoot some new scenes, with an estimated budget of 300 million for the theatrical version). But Justice League Zack Snyder bore the scars of defeat in battle, and a scheduled defeat. Between the original Justice League project in two parts, and the ambition shown in the Snyder Cut of an expanded universe tucked away in the closet, this extended version should provide plenty of reason to rejoice and lament.
Since not everything is saved in the build of this long version, that will remain as a textbook case. Mother Boxes’ plot remains very flat, although Steppenwolf is less transparent and weak. The screenplay still doesn’t shine with its subtlety, even though many issues are resolved. The characters are overall underutilized, though Cyborg’s improvements balance things out. The artistic direction has been fine-tuned, but there are visual effects and musical choices to make you wonder. There’s less humor and more gravity, but there are still moments that make you smile or roll your eyes.
Is Zack Snyder’s Justice League no worse, or really better than the film’s Justice League? This is a question that has been hanging on for four long hours, and not sure that the answer is the one expected.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League begins with a cry of pain that reverberates across the planet: Superman at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This wave provides the first melancholy tone of a film that, this time, assumes more simply the darkness of the situation. The Man of Steel had disappeared and with him, an idea of hope had flown. This desperation eats away at Lois and Martha, motivates Bruce to right his wrongs, and opens a loophole for Steppenwolf: with no Kryptonians on the horizon, no unity between people and heroes, Darkseid’s emissaries have a boulevard to defeat Earth.
At the best of times, Zack Snyder thinks of the sorrow of this world. In a simple montage effect that connects a melancholic Icelandic song with Martha’s silence, or in a collective thrill when the evil one’s plans end in disaster, he plugs the entire universe, and connects the dots all over the world. a symphony between these characters, human or superhuman. It is loneliness that connects them (they are all orphans or almost, deep down), and it is he who must overcome to face Steppenwolf (the inevitable tension within the group, sadly barely deepens here).
If the duration of this Snyder Cut can be broadly questioned, it allows for something all too rare in a program of this type: to stop at looks and faces, to leave a little room for silence.
In the bonus game, Cyborg is definitely the big winner over the long version. From elaborately lavish bodywork, he becomes a complete character, with a past, present, and future unstuck. Beyond the expected flashback on a soccer field under the snow, Victor Stone gains a human dimension thanks to his anger and pain. The danger level of his powers is made explicit, as is his relationship with his father.
And Silas Stone, played by Joe Morton, is widely back in the spotlight in the Snyder Cut: the hero’s father has a major role in the plot, which makes it possible to correct at least one deviation from the cinema version.
Steppenwolf is another winner of the long version. The villain doesn’t just win a cheesy makeover to dress his face in a half cakeatang (which remains there): he now has an identity, and a different dimension from the series B dolls, even with some trinkets to have more characters. Darkseid’s uncle in the comics is still too common to remember, but he has at least one reason to exist in Justice League. It gets a lot more personal motivation (mostly via Zoom conferences with an underworld dimension), and deserves a worthy climax to replace the disgusting sketch from the cinema version.