Ever since “Justice League” released back in 2017, fans have been craving to see Zack Snyder’s unaltered version of the superhero film. A fan campaign called #ReleaseTheSnyderCut began to pick up momentum, and more than three years later, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” has arrived.
Clocking in at four hours and two minutes, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” features 150 minutes of content that hasn’t been seen before. In addition to reviving scenes that hit the cutting room floor after Joss Whedon took hold of the project, Snyder filmed new scenes that brought back Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke and Jared Leto’s Joker.
No matter how the critics feel about Snyder’s film, they all seem to agree on one point: it is superior to the 2017 theatrical version of “Justice League.” The film currently sits at 75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with 101 reviews. Here’s what critics have to say:
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, who described the original 2017 film as an “adequate high-spirited studio lark,” wrote a significantly more positive review for “the thrillingly restored four-hour-long director’s-cut version.” Rooted in comic book convention, Gleiberman said the newest DC Comics’ installment achieved a genuine sweeping transcendence on a similar level as “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man 2” or “Black Panther.” He also compared the tone of the film to Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
“The new movie — and make no mistake, it really is a new movie — is more than a vindication of Snyder’s original vision,” Gleiberman wrote. “It’s a grand, nimble, and immersive entertainment, a team-of-heroes origin story that, at heart, is classically conventional, yet it’s now told with such an intoxicating childlike sincerity and ominous fairy-tale wonder that it takes you back to what comic books, at their best, have always sought to do: make you feel like you’re seeing gods at play on Earth.”
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson said that this version of “Justice League” is quite different from the Whedon-tweaked version of four years ago.
“The pacing has changed; entire plot threads have been jettisoned or threaded back in,” Lawson said. “Its characters are more morose, as originally intended, and the stakes have been deepened by the looming of an apocalypse that presumably would take place in a sequel, which now may never come to be. Unless, of course, Snyder’s cut is so popular that the studio has no reasonable option but to make it.”
Without the mandate of squeezing the story into a two-hour movie, Snyder had the time to thresh out his team of heroes. According to Empire Magazine’s Amon Warmann, one of the most notable differences is the way Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is portrayed.
“Where in 2017 his arc was significantly cut, here he is the heart and soul of the movie, with greater focus being placed on his strained relationship with his father Silas (Joe Morton) to occasionally moving effect,” Warmann said. “The fleshed-out through-lines simply allow the story as a whole to breathe: small character beats add humanity (a scene involving Jeremy Irons’ Alfred, Gal Gadot’s Diana and some tea is charming), extended scenes (there’s a surprising amount of the original cut here) provide clarity, and the absence of the broadest humor in the Whedon cut helps keep the tone consistent.”
Slate’s Karen Han said that any film that takes great risks will be more interesting, even if it fails, than a film that takes no risks and succeeds at mediocrity.
“As Snyder proves, a movie with a clear director’s touch is more compelling than a movie that’s been made by committee,” Han said. “Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ is more, more, more in a way that most films wouldn’t dare, and, after a year of no theaters at all, a movie that makes me long to return to a multiplex — to see more movies that commit so completely to a vision that it’s impossible not to be swept away.”
All three of Snyder’s superhero films, including “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” had mixed receptions and underperformed at the box office. No matter how much time Snyder spent tweaking his final four-hour finale, there were always going to be the critics and fans who would remain unimpressed. Collider’s Matt Goldberg said that Snyder makes a massive demand of an audience’s time and patience, but fails to earn it.
“It’s not that a 4-hour superhero movie can’t or shouldn’t exist as much as ZSJL never makes the case for why it needs to be four hours,” Goldberg said. “No matter how much of your audience’s attention you’re demanding, you always have to make the case that what you’re presenting is worth that attention, and a good editor knows that not every moment is golden. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, and the problem with ZSJL is that it seems built to keep in everything. This approach not only kills the pacing, but it also makes it difficult to latch onto any kind of thematic or emotional arc.”
While Uproxx’s Mike Ryan said he didn’t enjoy what “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” had to offer back in 2016, at least it was one person’s vision of what a Batman versus Superman movie should look like.
“And that pretty much sums up what we get in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’: one person’s vision of what a Justice League movie should look like,” Ryan said. “Whether that vision is for you or not, well that is between you and your god. (If you are a fan of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ I imagine you’ll be pretty happy with ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League.’) And it’s a far superior film than the version that came out in theaters in 2017 — but it would be kind of surprising if it wasn’t. That’s a pretty low bar.”
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