[Please note: to make this easy, there are FULL SPOILERS for both the theatrical and “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. I quite enjoyed the theatrical release, and I reviewed that version here.]
After gaining traction online, the movement to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut came to fruition, and Zack Snyder’s originally intended version of Justice League was released in 2021. Featuring pre-existing and new footage of Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Barry Allen, not yet using his superhero name (Ezra Miller) the four hour movie was released onto HBO Max for streaming, and featured numerous differences to the theatrical release.
+ the added material just adds so much more characterisation to almost everyone, including arguably the two biggest character overhauls, that of Steppenwolf and Cyborg. Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) now feels like a fully fleshed out character with his own motivations and desires, and the interplay between Steppenwolf, DeSaad (Peter Guinness) and Darkseid (Ray Porter) makes it clear that Steppenwolf is not the useless big-bad the theatrical release may have made it appear. For the heroes, Cyborg almost becomes the star of the show, with an extended backstory sequence being one of my personal highlights, and the relationship between him and his father, Silas Stone (Joe Morton) acting as the emotional crutch of the film. Ryan Choi (Ryan Zheng), also appears, as do archival footage/voices of Superman’s father Jor-El (Russel Crowe) and adopted father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner). Even Granny Goodness, one of Darkseid’s lieutenants appears, though I don’t know who played her
+ specifically in regards to action scenes, the film is bigger and better. Barry Allen gets a spectacular showcase of his Speedforce abilities before we are otherwise introduced to him; the Amazons on Themyscira have a huge battle scene, as well as that island hosting the flashback battle of Darkseid’s first failed invasion (and Darkseid appears, thought younger and inexperienced); the Superman monument battle has some more scenes and actions, and; the final battle is longer, with Batman actually having an effect on the battle. None of this quite reached my favourite point of the whole movie, though: Wonder Woman rapid fire deflecting the bullets in her opening scene
+ characters cut from the original appear, including Vulko (Willem Dafoe) with Aquaman, before his appearance in the Aquaman solo film; Iris West (Kiersey Clemons) in the aforementioned scene with Barry Allen; along with Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) and the much advertised Joker (Jared Leto) in the extended “Knightmare” scenes. They aren’t all homeruns, but just having them appear shows that they still exist, and would have set up their future appearances
+ the new tone of the movie fits in significantly better with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman before it. I HATED the Whedon-esque one liners in the theatrical version of Justice League (“Do you bleed?” / “Something is definitely bleeding.”), and I am thrilled to say this felt important and the stakes felt real
– the movie is long, and I don’t believe there would be many people who would want this four hour beast to have been the one shown in cinemas. Simply in regard to movie length, only the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition comes to mind as being longer than this one. Obviously some stuff had to be cut for a theatrical release, and this could easily have been three or three and a half instead
– there was also some stuff I’d have liked to be kept. Batman telling Flash to “Save one person” before the battle under Gotham Harbor was a nice touch, and helped further build the relationship between the team. I’d also have liked the scene of Bruce Wayne needing Diana to help him pop his dislocated shoulder back in to be kept
– I didn’t much care for the new take on the Knightmare sequence. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dream (premonition?) sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and this again felt out of place. If it had happened earlier in the movie, as part of Cyborg’s dream, rather than Batman, maybe I’d have cared more for it
> Wonder Woman 1984 was not a good movie, and soured me on Gal Gadot, but dammit if Gadot didn’t win me over again in this. I wasn’t originally on board with her casting at all, and would have preferred Gina Carano (who now has her own things to deal with after The Mandalorian) but Gal Gadot is growing on me as both an actress and Wonder Woman
Should you see this film: As said, I wasn’t entirely against the theatrical version of Justice League. It was clunky and overly comedic, but the film had some upsides. That said, this just blows that offering out of the water. If you can handle the length, this is the definitive DCEU movie so far (up there with Man of Steel, which is fantastic, fight me). And if you can’t handle the length, watch it in two sittings instead.