Is The Snyder Cut A Better Movie? It’s Complicated.
The much anticipated and highly debated Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the director’s cut is finally out on HBO Max.
For most people, you fall into one of two camps, the Snyder fans who have been campaigning and clamoring for this movie since Snyder revealed years ago that it existed. And then those on the other side who probably weren’t fans of the original Justice League and felt there was no saving it. For these two sides, it doesn’t matter what Snyder does, they’re going to love it or hate it.
But what if you fall somewhere in the middle? What if you don’t have strong feelings one way or the other? You liked some of what the first Justice League was trying to do, but you could also tell that it has its problems as well. Does the Snyder Cut fix those?
It’s a complicated answer. For myself, I fall somewhere on the scale between the middle and the side that thought the first Justice League was a bad movie. It had some great ideas but between Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon, and Warner Bros meddling it fell short of what it could have been. I didn’t think the issues the movie had could be fixed by adding in a few more hours of footage, but I was willing to give it a chance.
I’ve said in the past that if Snyder actually does a good job on this movie, I’d be one of the first ones to admit that I was wrong. So here it goes…
I was wrong. Kind of.
The Snyder Cut Is Not a Good Movie
Before we get to what I was wrong about, I want to talk about the problem that persisted throughout not just the original Justice League, but also the Snyder Cut. It’s something that’s difficult to articulate in one sentence, but it’s easy to spot at the moment. It’s something skin deep in the film that can be waived off once or twice but can’t be ignored when it permeates the first half of the movie.
“Wouldn’t it look cool if…” is what I call it because I envision the inception behind these moments starting with that phrase. A scene is written, but Snyder thinks it needs something more. Something that would make a beautiful still or an entrancing clip. The one undeniable talent that Zack Snyder has is that he can take any moment and present it as something majestic and nearly transcendent in the moment.
For example, the truck driver in Central City reaches for the half-eaten burger he dropped on the floor as he careens through a red light, the sunbeams bouncing off a sesame seed as it loosens itself from the bun.
Another is when all the young ladies of the remote fishing village begin to chant and sing in concert with one another as Arthur Curry sheds his sweatshirt and disappears beneath the still waters. Bruce stands in confusion as they carry on their hymn of thirst, one of the girls retrieving the soaking wet shirt from the beach, cuddling it in her arms like a lost child, breathing in the scent as though she’ll never savor it again.
“What the f#$k is she doing?” my girlfriend asked. “I don’t know. But it looks cool?”
The first half of the movie is filled with moments like these, from the Amazon’s sealing Steppenwolf inside the vault (which has a skylight) just to drop it in the ocean, as if that was ever going to stop him.
Or Martha Kent showing up to share a loving moment with Lois Lane over their shared grief, to push her back into the world of the living. Which is something Mrs. Kent absolutely would have done and should have done, but it wasn’t her. What stake did this mysterious new player have at this moment except to be there because…it would be cool.
From the questionable music choices ranging from randomly inserted melancholy hymns to interspersed rock chords moments before a fight, when the movie wasn’t showing off super-heroics it was too busy trying to be a highfalutin work of art.
Visually, Zack Snyder nails every frame. In practice? The first two hours of this movie were painfully long. Like, Lord of the Rings Extended Edition long.
Speaking of LOTR, Zack’s version of the Justice League may actually have tied the Lord of the Rings for the number of times it could have and should have ended.
The Snyder Cut is a Good Justice League
So what did the movie do right then? It actually did the one thing right that I didn’t think it was capable of doing. The first Justice League movie lacked a soul, a real motivation for any of the characters to be there outside of the fact that they’re heroes and this is what they’re supposed to do.
One of the biggest glaring plot holes of the first film was the choice to resurrect Superman. With all the heroes gathered, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince argue the merits of the idea. Barry, Arthur, and Vic mostly watch from the sidelines as Bruce, the man who attempted to kill Superman one movie ago, wants to bring him back using an unproven and so far evil alien technology. Diana thinks it’s a bad idea because of course, it is.
The Snyder Cut gives us a reason to take this course outside of, “We need Superman so let’s risk it.” That reason is one of the best parts of the new Justice League, more Cyborg (Ray Fisher).
Cyborg is the heart of this movie, he’s the soul of this team and he provides the motivation for the whole movie. If you’re unfamiliar with the origin of Cyborg, he was fatally wounded in a car accident and his father used the Motherbox to save him. In the Snyder Cut, Cyborg explains that the Motherbox isn’t inherently evil, it’s just technology and at its core, it’s a change machine. This machine has the power to bring Superman back.
At this moment instead of arguing with one another, the soon-to-be Justice League all arrive at the same conclusion as the audience. “If it was used to bring Cyborg into this world, it can be used on Superman too.”
Without going too deeply into more spoilers, there are a few other key scenes that in the original cut made you scratch your head, thinking, “But wait a minute…” and led to more than a few Buzzfeed articles with titles like, “Here are 10 Plot Holes in this movie…”.
The last act of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is where the movie really shines, as it lets every member of the League be a hero. In the original, they all fought the Parademons, attempted to save the world but they just weren’t strong enough without Superman. He, of course, shows up in the nick of time and single-handedly beats the crap out of Steppenwolf and the world is saved.
The final act of Snyder’s Cut is much different, every hero has a purpose, every hero has a strength and everyone gets their moment. Superman is the weight that tips the balance without being the only reason they win the day.
Should You Watch It?
If you’re a Snyder fan, then you likely already have. If you’ve already made up your mind that it’s going to be terrible, then you’d just be hate-watching (like my girlfriend did) and nothing will change your mind. Even when they did something at the end of the movie that my girlfriend suggested they do at the start, she still found a reason to turn her nose up at it.
But if you fall somewhere in the middle and you’re just wondering if the four hours are worth the investment, give it a try. The one thing I will caution and the one downside is that all the dumb stuff is in the first half of the movie, but when it finds its stride and remembers it’s a superhero movie it is a marked improvement from the first go around.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now on HBO Max. Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller.
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