Top 10 Takeaways from Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Like many of you, I didn’t think the day would come when Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League would see the light of day. The cynic in me hoped that it didn’t exist, that the hopes and dreams of the annoying Snyder superfans would be crushed and they’d finally shut up about it. But alas, the universe has granted their wish, and the Snyder cut is here in all its four hours of Snyder-glory. Matt and I prepped ourselves by watching the Whedon version the night before. having seen both cuts back to back, I noticed a handful of key differences that I think are worth noting.

Improvements

  1. Cinematography:
    1. I hate the visual style of the theatrical cut. I didn’t realize I hated it until the film reached its third act, when the Justice League was fighting Steppenwolf’s monsters against the backdrop of a hideous ruby red sky. Upon rewatching the theatrical version, I can confidently say that, yes, it is an ugly movie. Whedon and Snyder have conflicting color tones, and they don’t blend at all in Whedon’s cut. I’m not even a huge fan of Snyder’s dark metallic visual palette, but his style is already so ingrained within this franchise that simply splashing some color over it highlights the tonal mismatch. The cinematography in Snyder’s version is much more natural, more consistent, and, as a result, much easier to look at.
  2. Cyborg’s characterization:
    1. This is perhaps the biggest revelation to come out of all this. Cyborg, a character whose backstory was rushed and whose presence felt so shoe-horned in in Whedon’s cut, is brought to new life in Snyder’s cut. There is so much more of him here. Whereas in the original cut he came off as a sulky teenager being grumpy about being a cyborg- though in all fairness being made into a half-man.half-machine from parts of alien technology without your permission would make anyone a little peeved-here, Cyborg has so many more dimensions to him. The film takes the time to explore his complex emotional state, his strained relationship with his father, elements of his past. You connect with him more easily. He feels like a real person, less like a mere character.
  3. Villains:
    1. Let’s stay on the characterization train for just a bit longer. Like Cyborg, the handling of the villain characters is proven to be drastically different from Whedon’s cut. Steppenwolf in particular is a big improvement over Whedon’s Steppenwolf. The sound design on his voice is still fantastic- every time he speaks, I can feel his voice reverberate through my entire body. But here, the character has a bit more dimension and a lot more presence. His new design makes him look intimidating, a feature that was sorely lacking in Whedon’s version. Snyder’s Steppenwolf is primal, preferring to get down to business rather than spew monologues. His flying creatures look more horrifying as well. My boyfriend pointed out that it looks like Snyder muted the red glow around their chests, leaving all the nefarious light to pour through the eyes, making them ten times creepier. And on top of all that, the buildup to Darkseid was really good.
  4. Narrative flow:
    1. Despite the four hour runtime, the film maintained a steady pace until the very end. I was never bored. Even having seen the theatrical cut, I still found myself so invested in the story that time didn’t seem matter. The entire narrative is restructured. Scenes are placed in different spots, moments are given more time to sink in, new scenes are added to juice up the story, and some small portions of dialogue are retooled. The result is a stronger narrative.
  5. Little things
    1. Henry Cavill’s bulbous upper lip is fixed. Maybe I’m wrong, but this time around, I didn’t notice it at all. Also, the Flash’s run looks better in Snyder’s cut. It’s a testament to how much editing can make a difference. My boyfriend and I always thought the Flash’s slo-mo run looked weird in Whedon’s cut. His action scenes are edited much better here, and his running scenes looked less awkward.

Not So Great

  1. Lois Lane
    1. Amy Adams is fine as Lois Lane. To be honest, I admire Adams more as an actress than I like the character of Lois Lane, namely because I don’t find Superman or the characters associated with Superman very interesting. With that being said, I couldn’t get invested in Lane’s character here. Aside from her being the key to restoring Clark’s memories after he’s resurrected, she feels kind of pointless here. Most of her scenes consist of her sitting or lying around, looking sad or gazing depressingly at things that remind her of Clark. My guess is that Snyder wanted to shine a light on the grieving process, and if that indeed was a goal of his, then kudos. And if there were only one or two scenes like this, I wouldn’t have a problem. My gripe is with the fact that there are multiple scenes like this. After a while, it just felt repetitive.
  2. Martian Manhunter
    1. For a four hour movie already brimming with characters, the inclusion of Martian Manhunter felt a touch excessive. Don’t get me wrong, the character looks cool. And it was nice seeing how he was meant to fit within the overall DCEU. Ultimately though, his appearance felt a bit much. It’s the same argument pointed at superhero sequels like Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spiderman 2. Just one too many characters.
  3. Slo-Motion Extravaganza
    1. Zack Snyder sure does like him some slo-mo, doesn’t he? I have a love/hate relationship with slow-motion editing. It works in some cases. It’s needlessly awkward in others. In this film’s case, the slo-mo is just effective enough. It magnetizes the epic nature of the shots and it is beautifully rendered. With that being said, why is it listed under the “Not So Great” section? Excessiveness. There is an abundance of slow-motion in the first act, to the point where it’s kind of funny. Every five minutes or so, it seems, there’s a slow-motion sequence with a cool song serenading in the background. The frequency of this lessens as the film goes on, but for the first part of it, you’d be convinced that the reason why the movie is 4 hours long is because of all that slo-mo in at the beginning.
  4. Epilogue; Parts 1,2,3, maybe 4
    1. The structure of the epilogue is the very definition of putting all your eggs in one basket. This is the point where you start to feel the film’s runtime. Just when you think it’s wrapping up, it keeps on going. It’s as if Snyder couldn’t decide on which post-credits scene to use so he threw in all of them. And the scenes themselves aren’t bad. Some are new, some were extended versions of scenes present in the theatrical out. They do a good job building up the anticipation of what the next stage of this franchise might look like. Unfortunately…..
  5. We May Not Get More
    1. The Snyderverse seems to have hit a dead end. Overall, The Snyder cut of Justice League is far superior to Whedon’s theatrical cut. The story is better told, the vision is more consistent, and it doesn’t feel as generic as the theatrical version did. Most significantly, the buildup of the surrounding mythology is very solid. At this point, however, with the trajectory of the DCEU having shifted and given Snyder’s insistence of his being done with this franchise, there’s a good chance we won’t ever see the outcome. It’s disappointing. But at the end of the day, we should be thankful that Snyder got the chance to fully realize his vision and be impressed by how well his vision turned out. 

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