IMDB may have the director of 2017’s Justice League as Zach Snyder, but that was far from his original film.
The origins of the “Snyder Cut” are now well known: When the film was being finished in early 2017, Snyder had to back out after the tragic suicide of his daughter, Autumn. Joss Whedon (who helmed the first two Avengers films for the MCU) stepped in, and the film was changed drastically. The film’s 4 hour run time was basically cut in half to two, the tone of the film was much lighter, and composer Thomas Holkenborg (better known as Junkie XL) was replaced by Danny Elfman.
The result was a film genuinely panned by most critics and the public (I thought it was barely passable), but then we got the famous #releasethesnydercut all over social media, and then HBO Max decided to release Snyder’s original vision of the film, all 4 hours worth of it. The result is clear, and, quite frankly, a much more effective film.
The basic premise is the same, as the story takes place after the events of Batman v. Superman (which I have not seen the director’s cut of, but can only imagine it is far better than what I saw in theaters), where the world is still in mourning of the death of Superman (Henry Cavill). This leaves Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck, in the “fine wine” aging process) looking to form a team to fight the oncoming evil: Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Arthur Curry/Aqua Man (Jason Mamoa), Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller). They find themselves up against the oncoming evil of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).
The cast of the film is so stacked I had to remind myself who the actors were in previous films: Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, J.K. Simmons (one of the few actors who can say they are in both the MCU and DC films) as Commissioner Gordon, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and the ever reliable Jeremy Irons as Alfred…not to mention Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, and Joe Morton.
Originally, I had decided to not watch the original film, which I had not seen since it came out, meaning I could not see all the differences there were. Still, the ones I did notice were, for the most part, an improvement, even the four hour run time (it is divided into six parts, revealing titles on the screen like that of a Tarantino film).
The tone of the film is vastly different. Whedon (who, according to star Ray Fisher, was not pleasant to work with) had his shorter version much more lighthearted, while Snyder’s was far from colorful (literally much of the color in shots seems to be lacking). The same is the case for the music. The 2017 film had a score by Danny Elfman, who is no stranger to the DC universe, as he did separate scores for both Batman (1989) and Batman: The Animated Series from the 1990s. Even so, picking him seemed more like a safe bet, while Junkie XL (who did the score for 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road) gives a darker, more visceral, in your face soundtrack.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is that of the character of Steppenwolf. DC villains on the big screen have normally been lackluster (I exempt any of Batman’s foes), and Steppenwolf from the 2017 version was one of the weakest we had. Here, with more screen time, we get to see more of his character this time around. We at least understand where he is coming from, feeling his threat when he is on screen.
Parents, the film has indeed changed from PG-13 to R. While I cannot remember if the shorter version had this much violence (there is a decent amount of blood, heads chopped off, etc.), it does seem like it got the R rating mainly for the four or so F bombs (and at least one scene of sexual dialogue). I would say High School and above.
While the film is indeed better than the 2017 version, it is by no means perfect. The run time is indeed too long, and the action scenes could have used a lot less slow motion (I guesstimate that 10-20 minutes of the film could have been clipped by speeding up much of the slow motion). Still, it is indeed clear to see that the Snydercut made the original go from a whispered “boo-yah” to an exclaimed “BOOYAH!”
(The only downside of this new cut is that Cyborg never does say this.)