How 'Zack Snyder's Justice League' compares to the original 2017 flop

·Contributor
·10-min read
Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)
Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)

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If you’re worried about watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League because you’ve already seen and disliked Joss Whedon’s version which tanked at the box office, you can totally relax. This isn’t a typical director’s cut, with a couple of new bits and some extended sequences. The Snyder Cutwhich lands on Sky Cinema and Now on 18 March – is essentially an entire new film.

(Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the film for Warner Bros. after Snyder departed due to a family tragedy, and oversaw extensive reshoots for the film. However Zack Snyder retained sole director credit for the 2017 film.)

You can also stop worrying about the extended run time. Yes, it’s four hours, but it flies by faster than a speeding bullet. And it should embarrass an alleged bully. Forget the Mother Box, this film is a Pandora’s box for studio-mandated reshoots.

It’s actually pretty staggering how transformed the Snyder Cut is: From the opening epic moments where Superman’s scream spreads across the world (allowing us to check in with all the important folks we’ll be following for the rest of the story), right up until the bonkers final sequence (which we won’t spoil here). Everything feels different.

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The biggest difference – and probably the 2017 version's biggest mistake – is the way Snyder rescues Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher. It’s almost impossible to put into words just how much Whedon messed up what he had on his hands here. Cyborg in his version was a moody supporting player. Here, he’s a shooting star.

Watch a trailer for Zack Snyder's Justice League

Justice League is Cyborg’s film. He has the most significant and heroic arc. If this movie had been released in this form originally, Warner Brothers would have had a lucrative spin-off franchise on their hands. A silver-plated licence to make money.

More importantly, pretty much every single structural issue of the 2017 version is down to the way it deleted Cyborg from his cut. Cyborg isn’t extraneous, he’s the connective tissue of this story. You remove his triumphant journey from the tale, and you destroy the whole point of the telling.

We didn’t just lose a bit of backstory via a football match as implied at the time. Yes, the other version did cut Victor Stone’s family (his mum completely, his dad mostly), which were important driving factors, losing a beautifully shot sequence.

Ray Fisher's Cyborg plays a more central role in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)
Ray Fisher's Cyborg plays a more central role in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)

But it also diminished Cyborg’s power (literally, there’s a stunning restored sequence where we see how significant Victor’s strength is, both physically, and morally). This diminishing took place on just about every level, whether that’s in terms of action (seriously, there’s some jaw-dropping new action beats here) or the emotion of the character.

Cyborg’s relationship with his father — and the loss of his mother — connect to his overall journey, but they aren’t just aspects of the character’s origin story, they deliver key turning points in the team’s fight against Steppenwolf.

But it’s not just the plot beats, it’s the hero moments. If you were a director, what would you prefer the first time Cyborg meets Wonder Woman - stepping out of the shadows in a hoodie, or flying in like next-level Iron Man? Can you guess which you get here?

Batman (Ben Affleck), Jim Gordon (JK Simmons), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) facing Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)
Batman (Ben Affleck), Jim Gordon (JK Simmons), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) facing Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)

If there’s an opportunity to diminish Cyborg’s emotion or agency (even when rescuing his father), it’s taken in the 2017 cut.

But if the 2017 film didn’t just cut Black people from Justice League, it also weakened women.

It probably goes without saying that Zack Synder has cut the moment where Flash falls into Wonder Woman’s breasts. But that’s the tip of the Sword of Athena when it comes to Diana’s empowerment in this new take.

From her opening moments, the difference is stark. Even the shot of her standing on the Statue of Justice at the Old Bailey is changed. In the Whedon cut, it’s a side-pan, in Snyder’s version, we travel from the ground up for the reveal. In terms of cinematic language, one suggests she’s an equal, the other looks up at her as a God. This perspective continues in her first fight scene.

Wonder Woman takes centre stage in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)
Wonder Woman takes centre stage in Zack Snyder's Justice League (Warner Bros)

Now, we get wailing on the soundtrack, before Wonder Woman’s theme kicks in on a moment of action (not just on her standing on the statue). The initial threat from the terrorists is more intense, but a lowly henchman doesn’t deliver a hit to Diana’s head in Snyder’s version, instead, she takes them all out effortlessly. Beautifully.

Even something as simple as the moment where Diana defends the children from bullets was choppily destroyed in the recut. In Snyder’s version it flows, it’s goosebump-inducing. And it ends with Diana calming the school kids, so at ease, so likeable.

‘Can I be like you someday?’ one little girl says now.

‘You can be anything you want to be,’ Diana replies.

Batman’s important, sure. He’s still the leader of the League here. However, it’s a responsibility he shares with Diana. In the Snyder Cut, she’s the one who does the detective work that introduces Darkseid to the universe, and she’s the one who brings the problem to Batman. It probably goes without saying that he no longer gets his original intel from graffiti left behind by an exploding bug man.

Steppenwolf and his Parademon army (Warner Bros)
Steppenwolf and his Parademon army (Warner Bros)

The restored Darkseid backstory, delivered by Diana, is one of the most epic sequences in the film. It contains huge fan cameos, and it’s absolutely unfathomable that it was cut to shreds. Truly. Darkseid is the DC universe’s Thanos, you’re going to get to him eventually WB, why not here?

Of course, Bats still gets to do some detective stuff - linked to Cyborg’s dad’s ultimate fate - but this is a more balanced narrative, with every member of the League getting their own important moments that push them forward, rather than just making them randomly show up.

Read more: ‘Justice League’ cinematographer hated Joss Whedon’s cut so much he cried

Back to the epic sequences. The Snyder Cut’s second most significant transformation is basically everything involving the Amazons. The Mother Box relay, which felt like a cloudy sports day in Whedon’s cut, has extreme weight and power. Where Steppenwolf once shrugged the Amazons off, here he has to survive major damage.

Themyscira constantly feels like Lord Of The Rings meets 300 in the Snyder Cut, and it’s an absolute joy whenever we return to it.

So, as we hope we’re making clear, the people who benefit most from the Snyder Cut are women and people of colour. Kiersey Clemons, who plays Barry Allen’s love interest Iris West, is both, and her role has been restored too. It’s a lot of fun, one of the most memorable ‘love at first sight’ set-pieces ever, capped by an explosion so well-timed, you half-expect Michael Bay to show up in the credits.

Batman and Wonder Woman enlist a team capable of protecting the world (Warner Bros)
Batman and Wonder Woman enlist a team capable of protecting the world (Warner Bros)

Snyder’s been compared to Bay before, of course, but here’s hoping his Justice League dispels the myth that he’s all boom and no heart. The quiet moments in the Snyder Cut are as impressive as everything else, with sequences existing solely for human drama (that were silently shoved into the opening credits in the 2017 version), giving the God-level action room to breathe.

This cut is wittier, its fight-sequences better choreographed, and — perhaps most importantly — its women are stronger.

What was Whedon thinking when he included the ‘I tried’ sign in his opening credit sequence? Did you really try, Joss? The rooftop sequence with Batman making small talk with a criminal? The Room style strolls beside the CGI lake? The bizarre brightly lit grading that made every character feel like they’re doing rubbish cosplay? Superman’s weird mouth? The alien probe jokes? THE RUSSIAN FAMILY? Was that really your best shot at ‘fixing’ what wasn’t actually broken? If you really did try, you failed.

Read more: Was 'Zack Synder's Justice League' worth the wait? What the critics are saying

Thankfully, Zack Snyder has triumphed, and the result is — in my opinion — one of the greatest comic-book films ever. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the reviews.

The atmospheric shot choices, the superb score, even the lightning-fast pacing (this film never feels slow), it’s all transformed. It means that even the stuff that we have seen before — such as the fight with Steppenwolf under Gotham Harbour — feels fresh and exciting (partly because people don’t suddenly stop what they’re doing to make lame jokes or have panic attacks).

Zack Snyder's Justice League - Key Art - (Warner Bros)
Zack Snyder's Justice League - Key Art - (Warner Bros)

It would probably take you four hours to read about all the big and small changes made to this edit, so you’re probably better off just watching it. But, before you go in, you should expect three things.

One, you’re going to fall in love with Cyborg, one of the greatest characters in the DCEU.

Two, you’ll be part of the next Snyder Cut movement ‘Release The Snyder Sequel!’ as this definitely sets up a Part 2 you’ll be desperate to see.

Finally, no matter how you feel about Man Of Steel or Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice (though there are Easter eggs for fans of both here), the Snyder cut’s biggest triumph will be in your inevitable reappraisal of Zack Snyder. He knew what he was doing all along.

Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Director Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill seen at Warner Bros. Pictures
Director Zack Snyder with the stars of Justice League in 2017 (Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Warner Bros./AP Images)

Let’s hope the next time a visionary creative comes through the doors at Warner Brothers, they trust and support them, and stand by the decision to hire them in the first place. Because, make no mistake, money was lost by tearing this version apart. It’s the cathartic ending of the trilogy, the Return Of The Jedi that would have put the previous two movies into context.

In trying to recut this epic mythic saga into a photocopy of The Avengers, WB ended up with its very own Howard The Duck.

But at least Joss can take comfort from the fact that his film is considered canon by Warner Brothers, with this version some kind of Elseworlds tale.

Just maybe don’t tell him that, for comic-book geeks and film fans alike, the Snyder Cut has now been released, and it’s so definitive, it’s never going back in its (Mother) box again.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is streaming on NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership from 18 March, 2021.

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