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‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Messy Superhero Epic Out Now on Digital

When DC’s Justice League hit theaters, it was very different than what the original director intended. Zack Snyder’s Justice League, also known as The Snyder cut, makes up for it and expands the flick to four hours of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League fighting the good fight. The Snyder Cut was released on HBO Max in 2021, and now you can finally buy your own digital version of the four-hour film.

Did I mention it takes four hours?

This Extended Director’s Cut is Snyder’s re-edited version of 2017’s Justice League, which has been attributed Joss Whedon after Snyder resigned mid-production due to personal tragedy. Three years later, Snyder dusted off the original footage, shot some new stuff, and then put it together into a four-hour edit. Officially titled “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” this epic release was initially available exclusively on HBO’s streaming service other blockbusters from Warner Bros and DC Comics spinoffs. You don’t need to subscribe to HBO Max, however, as you can also purchase it on Blu-ray Disc or as a digital purchase.

As in the theatrical version, Snyder’s Justice League sees Batman recruiting superpowered sidekicks Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash to track down their fallen super-friend, Superman, and thwart an alien invader. Super powers and soul searching follow.

The greatest strength of this and all DC films is the cast of heroes. GalGadot‘s smoldering Wonder Woman, Henry Cavill‘s edgy Superman and Ben Affleck‘s world-weary Batman fills in the comic book costumes perfectly. Next to them, Jason Momoa, Ray Fischer and Ezra Miller Give outstanding performances and breathe life into lesser-known characters. It’s entertaining to spend time with this league of heroes hitting, posing and bouncing off each other.

The funny relationships between heroes formed a large part of Whedon’s euphemisms in the version of Justice League that made it to theaters. However, a segment of fans quickly rallied to recreate the original director’s vision with an online campaign for #releasethesnydercut. Somewhere between a grassroots movement of comic book fans and a slapping howls of harassment against critics and DCthe Snyder Cut controversy has become an odd juncture in the online culture wars recently complicated by Allegations that Whedon committed bullying on set and new revelations that Much of the #releasethesnydercut campaign was fueled by fake social media activity.

So yes, this film has a lot of baggage, but life is too short to go into it here. I won’t be combing through the differences between the two versions either. Instead, I’ll take a look at whether the Snyder Cut stands alone as a cohesive storytelling experience.

It’s not spoilers to say that the new cut begins with a synopsis of a previous 2016 film Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which means you don’t just have to think about the Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies that have come out since; you have to think back five years to an even earlier film in the series. Look, I forgive you for not remembering the specifics of what’s happening or why Lex Luthor is hanging out in some sort of CGI paddling pool. Actually, to save you some trouble, I’ll tell you upfront that Lex Luthor isn’t mentioned again in the main storyline of this film, so including him in the intro is just unnecessary and confusing.

After ten seconds, I already have that annoying feeling, all too common in today’s continuity-obsessed blockbusters, that I need to pause the movie and check Wikipedia to see if I’m missing something.

This sombre prologue tells you very clearly who this film is for right from the start. Do you know the details of Zack Snyder’s films well? Welcome on board. Are you one of the other 99% of moviegoers who kinda liked the Wonder Woman movies and just want some superhero escape while you’re sitting at home with only streaming services for company? Screw you! Watch Batman Forever you braggart!

The Snyder Cut isn’t meant to be fun. It’s full of serious people saying serious things. Granted, the theatrical cut’s stream of self-assured jokes came perilously close to ridiculing fans for taking this stuff even a tad seriously, but there’s got to be a middle ground between Whedon’s goofiness and Snyder’s leaden approach. When the Snyder Cut makes an attempt at humor, it plays like someone who’s heard a joke once but didn’t really understand why everyone was laughing. In this version, Ezra Miller’s performance as Flash is still a whimsical highlight, but his dialogue often feels forced and odd rather than nerdy and endearing.

You can tell this is serious stuff by the heavy-duty textural touches, like Norse villagers singing ominous songs, or stark black title cards, or flashbacks and dream sequences and multiple voice-overs from multiple dead fathers. And sooo muuchhh slooo-moooo. Immerse yourself in your emotions as Lois Lane drinks coffee in slow motion in the rain while Nick Cave plays, or get back in your emotions as Aquaman drinks whiskey in slow motion in the rain while, uh, more Nick Cave plays.

All of this contributes to the excessive running time. I, for one, enjoy spending time fighting crime with each and every Crusader. But the film is also bloated with countless frippery that any responsible editor would cut without hesitation. We probably didn’t need Commissioner Gordon in a subplot about Batman as a suspected kidnapper who is then completely forgotten, or a recurring theme about poverty and displacement unconnected to absolutely nothing (especially incongruous when one of the heroes is the literal billionaire Bruce Wayne ). And we really didn’t need a scene where Alfred shows Wonder Woman how to make tea.

Zack Snyder in the early stages of directing Justice League.

Warner Bros.

But despite its length, the Snyder Cut presents nothing significant or significantly new. For an example of how a revised version can deepen a story, see Bladerunner. The legendary Director’s Cut added intriguing nuance and ambiguity to the question of whether the hero was human and really added an extra dimension to the film even if you’d seen it before.

But the four-hour Snyder Cut of Justice League essentially feels like the same movie as the two-hour theatrical version, just longer. At times it feels less like a story and more like a free-roaming video game where you wander the DC Universe and interact with non-playable characters.

And don’t even get me started on the attached mini-movies designed to create sequels that will never come. These throw a bunch of fan-pleasing DC characters on the wall and look cool, but are frankly incoherent nonsense.

On the plus side, some storylines are expanded through the film, with varying degrees of success. The extended story borrows heavily from Fisher’s cyborg, which is good because he has an intriguingly conflicting relationship with his superpowers, which undoubtedly make him the most interesting character on the team.

We also learn that the villain Steppenwolf is a subordinate of a cosmic conqueror named Darkseid. In theory, this might add a fun nuance: the Marvel movies showed how bad guys can be developed into personalities with understandable conflicts that mirror the dilemmas of the good guys. But in practice, this just means that the Justice League’s existing over-CG-ed gray beast type is now subordinate to another CG gray beast type, which in turn is subordinate to yet another CG gray beast type.

And I’ll spare you some Googling here: Don’t get the dialogue wrong, it’s just that one of these gray CG baddies is called “DeSaad” and the other is called “Darkseid”. Ridiculously similar names like this are the kind of clutter you take out of a movie, not add back on purpose.

By the way, are you impressed that we made it this far before we even mentioned the M-word? Like it or not, Marvel is setting the bar for superhero blockbusters, and DC has been catching up for a decade. Justice League has attempted to do in one film what the Avengers series has unfolded over several years, and it just isn’t the same. But Snyder, Warner Bros. and DC aren’t doing themselves any favors either by telling a story so similar to what happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The warring heroes collecting magical alien artifacts are basically the same as Infinity War and endgameand Darkseid is essentially Thanos without character development. Heck, Snyder even throws in a moment that seems to unleash the Hulk’s signature (“I’m always angry”) from the first Avengers film — ironically written and directed by a certain Joss Whedon.

So after all the excitement and online battles, we can finally compare the versions of Snyder and Whedon. And we can officially confirm that the Snyder Cut, no matter how awesome it seemed in the fevered imagination of the fandom, is just as messy as the cinema cut. Which version you prefer is entirely up to you – I’m not going to make any judgments as to whether the 2-hour or 4-hour version is better.

But I’ll say this: at least one is over early.

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