There is so much baggage, backstory, self-mythologizing, and overly amplified discourse surrounding the fated “Snyder Cut” of DC’s Justice League that I don’t care to touch with a 10-foot pole. So let’s just suffice it to say that I never believed the hype of the Snyder cut, and that if you are amped for the four-hour-long version of the DC team-up movie, then you are probably going to get everything you want from this HBO Max release.
2017’s Justice League is credited to Zach Snyder, who had to step away from the project early in post-production due to a family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the project, which led to massive reshoots, leaving many to believe that Snyder’s authorship over the property was compromised in the shakeup. This 2021 version is, in many ways, an entirely new film (which is an impressive feat in its own right). It is also a four-hour epic that arguably does the expositional legwork of four movies.
Snyder’s Justice League is divided into chapters, which adds a bit of structural integrity to the unwieldy narrative. And the first two hours or so does carry a massive narrative burden in that it has to establish the backstory for characters who never got such a proper introduction in previous films (including the original cut of Justice League). This exposition is, strictly when comparing to the 2017 film, much appreciated. This film does take its sweet time, but at least it attempts to thoroughly convince us of these characters’ motivations and emotional stakes.
And while the visuals, the writing, and the action of this 2021 cut fall into similar pitfalls of the 2017 film, the Snyder cut is far less dull and lifeless than the Justice League of 2017. That superfluous entry in the current DC franchise felt both inconsequential and radically over-stuffed with universe-changing stakes. Zach Snyder’s Justice League, at over twice the length, justifies its existence (and is also radically over-stuffed).
As I said, fans will likely drool over this film. And for good reason. It seems like exactly what the doctor ordered after the underwhelming Justice League and the recent critical head-scratcher that was Wonder Woman 1984. I would have personally preferred a happy medium between the the theatrical and director’s cuts—something less indulgent that nevertheless maintained the narrative stakes. But this movie isn’t here for me, the casual watcher who doesn’t follow this fictional universe very closely.
All the same, it is not a stretch to say the Snyder cut is bloated. The first two hours do a fairly good job of establishing the eponymous group of superheroes and the emotional baggage that ultimately unifies them. The second half stretches out the material from the original film and tacks on an extended epilogue (that is wearing far too many hats in terms of dropping Easter eggs for future films). The overall effect is that of an intriguingly ambitious project that becomes a slog as it heads into the climax.
Ultimately, Zach Snyder’s Justice League accomplishes exactly what it set out to do when Snyder first hinted at its existence. In some ways, this is the definitive text of the DC extended universe. It is the realization of Snyder’s vision for this world, and he clearly had a lot that needed realizing. It’s hard to fault the film for its unabashed ambition. That said, this thing is bound to alienate the uninitiated, casual viewer.
Justice League: C+
As always, thanks for reading!