“You said the Age of Heroes would never come again.”
“It will. It has to.”
When was the last time you saw a multi-million dollar budget film? If the past few years of film have taught us anything, it’s that the companies and producers behind your favorite franchises have realized one thing: the trick to selling a money-making product is to disguise it as a movie. In 2017, Warner Bros. attempted to do this with the film Justice League and failed miserably. Shoved into theaters after piles of production problems, the film was a failure. It was received poorly by fans and critics alike and made just $17 million more in its total box office numbers than Avengers: Infinity War did on opening weekend.
When we see things like this happen, we should be happy, but here something was different. During production, original director Zack Snyder left the project after the loss of his daughter and was replaced with Joss Whedon, director of Marvel’s The Avengers. Upon his arrival, Whedon rewrote and reshot major parts of the film, which led to nothing but disaster. When news spread that Snyder’s original version had been seemingly disrespected, fans on Twitter united under the hashtag #RealaseTheSnyderCut.
It seemed like a dream, something that would only be found with the Knightmare sequences within Batman v Superman. It was never going to happen. Then on May 20, 2020, it was announced that yes, there was indeed a “Snyder Cut,” and it would be available on the new streaming service HBO Max. This leads us to March 18, 2021, when Zack Snyder’s Justice League was officially released. The fact that this actually happened is evidence that maybe there is still hope for the film industry.
Over and over, it seems that studios don’t care about how good a movie is, but only how well it financially performs. Here, the only way they can make a profit is from HBO Max subscriptions. It’s clear this was a passion project, in a way it’s the highest budget fan film ever made. I say that because Snyder refused to get paid to finish this film and see his vision be made. He didn’t hold back anything either. The original was only 2 hours long, whereas this new version was just over 4 hours long.
So, was it worth the wait? I would say, absolutely. It fixes nearly every problem the original version had. It gives us much-needed exposition surrounding basic facts about the film, and it’s clear Snyder took the criticism of his previous films in this universe (Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) and applied them here. There are several examples of this throughout the film, but my favorite would be the added character development to Cyborg. In the 2017 version, there were maybe 34 and a half seconds to expand his character, or at least it felt that short. With this new version, we see his entire origin story. We witness his life before he was turned into half man-half machine, the good he does with his new powers, and the distant relationship between him and his father.
To me, the score, 4:3 aspect ratio, cinematography, editing, color grading, acting, sound design, dialogue, character development, and overall epic scale found within Zack Snyder’s Justice League make this well worth the 4-hour runtime. There was something special about this movie to me, and while watching it I couldn’t quite put my finger on in. Thinking back it’s stupidly simple: it reminded me why I love this unique and creative artform. On the flip side, this is not a perfect film by any means.
I can’t in good faith sit here and write about how it’s the greatest film ever made, because it is not. Most of the mistakes or problems I saw were small, but still very present. I think what makes this film different is how even though I didn’t love everything about it, I know they were Snyder’s choices, not the studios’. A similar example can be found within easily the most debated film in modern history, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I fundamentally disagree with nearly every choice made in the film, especially the treatment of Luke Skywalker, but I respect the fact that Rian Jonnson was able to have his vision be shown. I will always stand behind a director having their vision being presented on-screen over what a studio wants.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is more than just a film, it represents hope within the film industry. An idea that I thought had been forever lost, that films are still being made by artists who love their craft and want to tell stories that move audiences in different ways, not just by studio heads. I use the word artist instead of director or filmmaker because film is simply another way to convey emotions. Film should be a synonym for “art,” not “product,” and with this new directors cut Zack Snyder exemplified that.