The day is finally here! You can watch Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max. We know you're excited to get started on the over four-hour epic, but before you begin, we thought we'd do a post talking about how we got here. We're also going to talk about the differences between Joss Whedon's Justice League and The Snyder Cut, so bookmark this page to come back to later as well.
If you're here and you have no idea why The Snyder Cut is so important and talked about, let's start by giving you some context.
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What is The Snyder Cut? A Little History...
Zack Snyder took over the DC Universe just as Marvel was becoming the box office champion. His goal was to come in and help guide Warner Bros. into creating a shared universe while launching new iterations of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash, among others. It was a big job, but Warner was coming off unprecedented success with Nolan's Batman trilogy. They weren't going to let Disney make all the money now.
The initial idea was to approach the material in a much more "real" way. Snyder launched a controversial take on Man of Steel, one which focused on Superman's look and feel in our world. A man who was treated like an alien and a god. Reviews were generally favorable, but everyone wanted to debate that final scene, where Superman breaks General Zod's neck. Metropolis was destroyed in an overt 9-11 metaphor, and people were left shaken.
The next movie in Snyder's oeuvre was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was the movie meant to introduce us to both Batman and Wonder Woman and show the existence of Cyborg and the Flash as well. It smartly dealt with the aftermath of Metropolis' destruction and the rise of Lex Luthor.
This movie was not as well-received, with people thinking it was dour. But when the director's cut was released, audiences warmed up to the film, finally grasping the answers to questions the theatrical cut left out and feeling like the movie earned Superman's sacrifice and the much meme'd "Martha" moment, where both heroes evoke their mothers, turning them away from each other and toward a common enemy.
This brings us to Justice League. It was supposed to be Snyder's third movie in his trilogy, and the biggest one yet. He had grand ideas, but behind the scenes, the vision at Warner Bros. was changing.
The script was altered behind the scenes, and Snyder frequently butted heads with Warner executives. Then, tragedy struck. While Snyder was in production on Justice League, his daughter passed away. He knew his family needed him, so he stepped away from the project. Executives hired Joss Whedon to come in, and the movie went forward.
But the drama was not lost. Whedon rewrote large swaths of the script. The cast of the movie also alleged that Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg, was subject to abuse from Whedon along with others.
In Fisher's words, “You could tell very quickly that [Whedon] was very upset that people did not like Avengers: Age of Ultron very much.”
Fisher continued, “This is what I gathered from the first conversation that I had with him. There was a bit of this sort of egotistical narcissism that ended up going into everything that he was trying to do. You can see it in some of the scenes that were produced. Flash falling on Wonder Woman’s [chest] is something that he yanked out of Age of Ultron and just copy-pasted here. In my first conversation creatively with him, he kept accidentally calling Diana ‘Natasha,’ which is crazy stuff.”
The movie came out to lukewarm reviews. The tone and visuals were distinctly un-Snyder-like, and he largely disassociated himself with the film, claiming there wasn't much of his work that hit the screen. The movie performed poorly at the box office and looked like it would fade into the annals of history...
Fans of Snyder's previous vision decried the Whedon version and posted on forums and social media, demanding Warner release The Snyder Cut, a version of Justice League that used only Snyder's work. Snyder himself claimed most of it was there.
But no one ever thought Warner would put the time and money into finishing that movie.
Then HBO Max became a thing.
How Streaming and Fans Revived The Snyder Cut
In order to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+, Warner Bros. entered the fray with their own service, HBO Max. It took all the content from HBO, plus movies from Warner Bros., Studio Ghibli, and TCM, and put them onto one service. This was a great idea, but subscriptions were very slow. They trailed behind their rivals and were doing terrible.
They needed a way to draw people to the service, to keep their parent company, AT&T, happy. Well, for the past few years, millions of fans had #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trending online. The new executive team at WB decided to engage with Snyder and see what it would take to make this a reality, so he headed back into the edit. This time, revitalized.
Warner Bros. decided to move ahead with the film in February 2020. By May, Snyder announced that the original cut would be released as Zack Snyder's Justice League via HBO Max. They hoped this would draw new subscribers and offset the $70 million it took to complete the visual effects, score, and editing of the new film. The cut was originally planned to be released as both a miniseries and a four-hour film, but plans for the series were scrapped by January 2021.
The film is dedicated to Snyder's daughter, Autumn, whom he lost during the original's production.
Early critic reactions of the film shows it is considered to be an improvement over the 2017 theatrical release. But that is a subjective take.
The biggest question is, what makes The Snyder Cut different?
The Snyder Cut Runtime
So what are the main differences between Whedon's version of the film and Snyder's version? Right off the bat, the runtimes are drastically different—Whedon's clocks in at a little under two hours long. Snyder's is a four-hour and two-minute affair.
What's The Snyder Cut's Aspect Ratio?
There's also the aspect ratio. Snyder's Justice League is in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio as opposed to a more standard widescreen format of 1.85:1. TheSnyder Cut's framing was done to better fit IMAX formatting.
In Snyder's words at last year's JusticeCon, "I really started just, compositionally, really falling in love with that concept. Superheroes tend to be, as figures, they tend to be less horizontal. Maybe Superman when he's flying. But when he's standing, he's more of a vertical. Everything is composed and shot that way, and a lot of the restoration is sort of trying to put that back. Put these big squares back."
What is The Snyder Cut Rated?
The movie also will have a vastly different tone. It received an "R rating" for violence and profanity, whereas Whedon's film was PG-13.
What Are the Chapters in The Snyder Cut?
The movie is split up into six chapters that break up the story. Here are the titles of each section.
- “Don’t Count on It, Batman”
- The Age of Heroes
- Beloved Mother, Beloved Son
- “Change Machine”
- All the King’s Horses
- “Something Darker”
The Differences Between The Snyder Cut and Justice League
Perhaps the biggest difference between The Snyder Cut and The Justice League is all the new footage. Reports say 80% of the shots in Snyder's movie are new. There's also the addition of new characters like the Joker, and new story beats that flesh out the backstory for the Flash and Cyborg.
We also get Superman in his black and silver suit, which was not in the first iteration. The new footage is especially apparent in the last third of the movie. Almost nothing from the climax is the same. There's no Russian family, Superman and Flash don't run off to help people, and Darkseid actually shows up via Boom Tube and throws down.
In Snyder's words, "A very small portion of the movie is the new stuff that I shot… First of all, let’s just clarify, there are like two bits that I added. One bit that I had really sort of hoped to shoot in post but never got the chance to and then one, that scene, with Jared. This whole little piece with Jared. The truth is, the rest of the four hours of the movie are really just what I shot."
Snyder went on to say, "Like 80-something percent of the movie has never been seen by anyone, visual effects-wise, and that’s not even including the scenes that you guys have never seen that don’t have visual effects. That part’s really exciting and I can’t wait for everyone to experience this giant scale adventure the way I intended everyone to experience it."
The Opening Sequence of The Snyder Cut
I'm here to tell you, Superman's badly CGI'd upper lip is not in this version of the movie.
Instead, we open on his death. This death is directly tied to the plot. We see that heroes all over the world hear his cry and by the mother boxes, which now know they don't have a Kryptonian protecting them.
Character Introductions and Arcs
One of the things I appreciated about Snyder is that he put a lot of effort into making each of these characters pop. We have new introductions for most of them, and suddenly they all have cohesive arcs. While we meet Wonder Woman in the same ways, she's the core of the exposition in the story, investigating and researching how to beat Steppenwolf.
With Aquaman, a lot is the same, but there are way fewer quippy one-liners from Batman. The main change is with Cyborg, who now has a distinct origin story. We see his football career and accident, giving context to his father's struggle later. He also is way more of an asset, working to resurrect Superman.
The same goes with the Flash. We know how Barry is making his money, walking dogs, and doing side gigs. Over the course of the movie, all these side characters not only learn how to harness their powers, but we see them struggle with the burden of having them.
The Villains in The Snyder Cut
Steppenwolf is back with a character redesign that makes him way more menacing. In addition, we actually get a look at Darkseid and see that he has attacked earth before. This gives way more motivation to why he sends Steppenwolf back to get the mother boxes.
We see a lot of Darkseid in visions and in the "History Lessons" portion that was also in Justice League, though it is shorter here. We learn that Darkseid's plan is to control the minds of people on earth, and that he thinks Superman could be vulnerable to that control.
As you saw in the trailers, this movie has the Joker in it. He appears in a sequence where we go into Batman's mind. We see an alternate reality where Darkseid wins and runs the Earth. Superman is on his side, and Batman runs the resistance. He wants to send the Flash back in time to stop this from happening, which explains the "Am I too soon?" scene in Dawn of Justice when the Flash speaks to Batman.
Many people are buzzing that this could be a tease for the sequel, but I think it was more of a scary vision that shows Batman what's at stake.
What Are the Main Takeaways from The Snyder Cut?
At the end of the day, this four-hour version provided much more context to the heroes, their journey, and the world. While I think the major flaw is the length, it is presented in chapter format, so there was ample time to pause, grab snacks, or go back for context.
The visuals are stunning. While the IMAX format looked a little boxy on my TV, I got used to the aspect ratio and found it engrossing. The money spent on the budget definitely hit the screen. Characters feel fresher, designs are more thought out, and this feels like a complete vision.
This is a work of expression. It's a noisy and auteurist take on heroes, villains, and comic book movies in general. Every character is dealing with something relatable, and their burdens make us care about them more.
It's not a perfect movie, but it is interesting to see what we didn't get, and interesting to watch something that doesn't feel like a movie or a TV show. It's truly an immersive experience with a production story that only adds to what we see on screen.
What did you think of The Snyder Cut?
Let us know in the comments.