It’s been a rocky road, but Zack Snyder’s Justice League is about to premiere at last. Here’s how, and why, you should tune in.
The so-called “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s Justice League will arrive tomorrow, March 18. This four-hour definitive director’s cut will see Snyder’s full vision brought to audiences four years after its original theatrical version.
Justice League continues Snyder’s expanding take on the DC mythos, following Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films had surprised audiences with their darker takes on Kal-El, as played by Henry Cavill. Man of Steel scored a critical score of 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, while Batman v Superman descended to 28% and earned much criticism for its slow, humourless pace. Despite complaints about its length, an Extended Cut was released on home video to a more positive reception. Audiences had been forgiving of these first, foundational pieces of the DC Extended Universe, but Warner Bros wanted to course-correct.
Comic writer Geoff Johns and producer Jon Berg were recruited to oversee the DCEU and assist in rewrites for the original “crazy” Justice League screenplay, written by Snyder and Chris Terrio. Principal photography on this version wrapped in December 2016. The so-called “Snyder Cut” of the film, a production screener version without visual effects, totaled a whopping three and a half hours, but Warner Bros weren’t happy with what they saw. They brought in Joss Whedon to re-write scenes, and Snyder was set to direct these reshoots without postponing the original release date.
Everything changed, however, with the untimely death of Snyder’s daughter in March 2017. Snyder and his wife Deborah Snyder stepped away from the film in May, and Whedon overtook directorial duties. The end result was a theatrical version that met the studio’s mandates for a two-hour running time and a lighter tone, and followed the same basic narrative structure as the original version, but ultimately used very little of what Snyder shot.
When Justice League ultimately arrived in November 2017, it performed underwhelmingly in most departments, with a modest performance at the box office, a 40% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, and an audience score of 71%. What’s more, allegations later arose about Whedon’s unprofessional and abusive conduct on set, particularly toward Cyborg actor Ray Fisher. Whatever the shortcomings of the previous films, it was a disappointing—if not disastrous—outcome to a passion project years in the making.
Now, following a successful fan campaign supported by several actors, Warner Bros has given Snyder the means to complete his cut of the film as he intended, and the result is a four-hour director’s cut. In Canada, Crave subscribers with the Movies+HBO package will be able to experience Snyder’s vision starting tomorrow, while it will stream on HBO Max in the US. Home video versions may later be available in some regions.
It stars Ben Affleck as Batman, Cavill as Superman, Fisher as Cyborg, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Among its all-star supporting cast are Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, Jared Leto as the Joker, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, to name a few.
This long after the original theatrical release, and with the future of DC’s movie continuity moving in various different directions, does this behemoth still warrant a watch? For fans of Snyder and his interpretation for these beloved characters, certainly.
While Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were criticized for their changes, they were a bold new direction for long-running and over-familiar characters, all building toward a vision of a movie franchise that could rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Snyder’s unfortunate departure from the film and the subsequent dismissal of his footage meant devoted fans never got to see where he was truly going with it. Creators do not often get such an extensive second chance to realize their projects’ potential.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will bring a more cohesive conclusion to the current film trilogy and potentially change perceptions of the larger franchise. Though this version will not be considered canon to future films in the DCEU, its reception from critics and fans alike could inform how Warner Bros approaches its superhero franchises—especially with the success of Avengers: Endgame challenging their opinion about movie runtimes.
Plus, there’s one inherent upside: Cavill will not have his moustache horribly erased by CG in this version.
That being said, fans should temper their expectations if they truly disliked the other films in the current DCEU. One film, even uninhibited by the studio as this cut is, might not be enough to correct the entire foundation. Both cuts of the film are essentially taking the same route to the same destination, but making different stops along the way. Even if this cut is vastly superior in the eye, Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t going to be gospel, after all. Darkseid, one of DC’s ultimate big bads, may make his theatrical debut here, but it may mean nothing in the end.
The expanded version of Batman v Superman may be the perfect litmus test. If you thought it was better than the theatrical version, you’ll probably have no regrets if you take this dive.
If you do decide to give Zack Snyder’s Justice League a chance, be advised that it runs over four hours, but is technically broken into four parts and an epilogue, indicated by title cards. Don’t be afraid to press pause for snack or bathroom breaks.