The Snyder Cut: Justice for ‘Justice League’

The highly-anticipated HBO Max exclusive doubles the original DCEU film in length without adding much substance, aside from eternal cliffhangers generally suited for more hardcore fans

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The Snyder’s Cut of Justice League left fans wondering if four hours was just too much DCEU (HBO Max/Warner Media)

Cole Sullivan

I’m not going to lie—I watched the original “Justice League” when it debuted in theaters Nov. 2017, and it didn’t impress me. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t love it. The film just felt empty, like something was missing.

That version of “Justice League,” produced by Joss Whedon after original director Zack Snyder left the production team to deal with family issues, ran for two hours and aligned more closely with Warner Bros. executives’ vision for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) franchise. But it performed poorly both at the box office and in the eyes of critics. Since that bombshell, equally unimpressed fans of the film and DC in general have clamored for the release of Zack Snyder’s cut, what many would consider to be the definitive, “true” version of the film. After a yearslong campaign by DC diehards, that version was released this past Thursday as an HBO Max exclusive with a four-hour runtime.

This updated release of the 2017 film revealed much about the current media landscape and the influence fans can have on major production studios—the fact that it was released at all is huge. While most fans are now marginally satisfied with the end result, and I’ll admit I thought this version was better, it turns out there was a reason Warner Bros. pared down the original film. The Snyder Cut felt almost as empty as the original, and said emptiness was spread out over four hours instead of two.

Sure, there was more action, and we got better establishing character moments for Flash and Cyborg. But some of that extra runtime was also devoted to characters and story elements that never really seemed to matter, mostly because they were obvious setups for future films that now will likely never come to fruition. The introduction of Deathstroke, the development of Darkseid and the inclusion of Martian Manhunter and of Jared Leto’s horrendously overacted Joker all seemed to add unnecessary time to an already very long movie. It should’ve been more focused, so as to keep the viewer engaged for its entirety. Instead, I was often more than a little bored.

Some of the additions gave the film more room to breathe, though, which I appreciated because the first film rushed to its conclusion faster than a speeding locomotive. The Snyder Cut dwells on certain moments a little longer, but often these moments are too dark—both visually and tonally. Whether it’s Cyborg watching his father die, the fallout of Superman’s death, Batman’s general existence or the hopelessness our heroes experience in their fight against evil, this film can drain the life out of a room in much the same fashion as its main baddie Steppenwolf.

Hope is only found when Superman is revived, which embodies one of the film’s biggest issues: Superman is the only one who can save the day. That was the case in the original “Justice League” and is still the case in the Snyder Cut. Superman feels like the only character that truly matters when faced with a planetary-level threat like Steppenwolf, and we know that he will win in the end simply because he is Superman, which is a problem that will always plague the character. He’s just too perfect. The primary conflict can only be resolved by him, even if the overall story does have a few more twists and turns than the original.

All these problems together mean that the film just isn’t fun. There are a few laughs, mostly thanks to the Flash, but the Snyder Cut, just like the originally released version, is one emotionally dark scene or heavy action set piece after another until the film ends. I’m glad I watched it, but I don’t think I would ever watch it again or recommend it to anyone that isn’t a big enough DC fan that they would have already watched it on their own time. This makes the new era of DC films as a series very different from MCU films, which are much more palatable for a general audience (all the while satisfying comic book fanatics and adrenaline junkies alike).

The Snyder Cut was definitely better than the original, but no matter how you cut it, “Justice League” will never be a great film and it’s probably not worth watching if you aren’t already familiar with the material. It’s a shame that we will never get to see the DC universe that could have been had the Snyder cut been the first and only release, but at least we got this.