Before I elaborate on Zack Snyder’s filmography and give an extended review on the “Snyder Cut,” I would like to emphasize that this is a spoiler-free article. However, the first half of this piece will contain spoilers for “Watchmen” (2009), “Man of Steel” (2013) and “Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice” (2016). However, it will not contain spoilers for “The Snyder Cut.” Now, onto the retrospective review!
It is strange that we have entered a new year full of movies slated to be released. Films originally scheduled to be produced last year are either coming out in theatres this year or via a streaming service. However, if there is one movie many are intrigued by, it’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
But John, didn’t Zack Snyder make a Justice League movie back in 2017, and it was a colossal disaster? Yes, and no; the backstory of “Justice League” is an odd one, and many still discuss it today. The story regards the financial success and the critical divide of Snyder’s last DC Comics outing, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and decided to make a Justice League trilogy with the goal to release next year.
He was hard at work on the project, and many fans were very excited. However, things took a turn for the worse when Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, died tragically during the filming process of “Justice League”. Zack had to make the ultimate decision to step away from the project to be with his family and heal. Due to this, Warner Brothers Studios decided to hire Joss Whedon, director of “The Avengers” and the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” to finish where Snyder left off and give Whedon a producing credit. Following this, the WB decided to cut the planned trilogy and make it only one film, which was shorter than two hours.
Upon release, the film was critically panned, as it felt like two different people created one movie, mostly being perceived as Whedon’s version over Snyder’s. A group of Twitter users created the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut in 2017, fighting long and hard for WB to finally release the original cut. And after three years, it is finally here on HBO Max!
I applaud this decision because it goes the extra mile when advocating for artistic integrity in the film industry rather than just simply pleasing fans. Personally, while I hate “Justice League,” I think Zack Snyder is one of the best filmmakers in the industry today, and people do not give him enough credit! Before I dive into the Snyder Cut, I think it is best to explain why I hold this opinion towards Zack Snyder. I will be covering three movies of his: “Watchmen” (2009), “Man of Steel” (2013) and “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016).
“Watchmen” was Sydner’s second DC outing, which retold the iconic graphic novel by Alan Moore. Like “Batman vs. Superman,” the film is unanimously divided among the comic book community. Some claim it’s a masterpiece, while others think it completely botches what makes the original novel so good. While I understand its criticism, I have to disagree because I believe it was a masterpiece. The comic book and the movie act as two separate beasts of themselves. The comic glorifies violence and sex used throughout the comic book, which caused many fans to just want to see their beloved heroes kick ass and take names.
However, that’s not the case. While you do get the fighting and romance scenes, it is a somber story about grief and coming to terms with those you loved. Additionally, it raises the question, “who will watch the civilians without the heroes?” It truly deserves the hype surrounding it. Snyder understands what makes the comic so great and places it into a modern setting.
“Man of Steel” was the first entry in DC’s latest cinematic universe. It is the classic retelling and recasting of Superman. This is the best interpretation of the origin story archetype since it covers the rise and fall of a beloved national hero growing, accepting and learning the powers he has encompassed within him. Snyder plays this film out like a traditional origin story, but throughout the 143-minute runtime, he incorporates more philosophical and religious meanings behind these iconic heroes. Is Superman a hero or a godlike being?
Towards the end of the film, Snyder intended to portray two gods fighting for humanity and one “perfect world,” thus creating the ideology that Superman acts like a God. It is a beautiful, meditative approach towards the origin story trope and places an icon we all know and love into an emotional journey about heroism and self-sacrifice.
If people asked me what my favorite comic book movie of all time is, I would give them the same answer. “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is the reason why I love Snyder as a filmmaker and why I still hold out hope for the massive overabundance of comic book movies we see today. As I stated before, the film focuses on two people’s fights and three people fighting one monster.
However, this film places the morality between our heroes. Sure, they have the powers and technology to take out these villains of mass destruction, but at what cost? That’s what Snyder answers in this film. I consider this to be the sequel for “Man of Steel,” as the events in this film correspond with the events included in the previous movie. Zack Snyder is a fan of source material for heroes and includes special references in films to make people who understand the reference feel as though they are a part of a secret club.
The final act is Snyder’s chance to go all out with his comic book accuracy and action. Creating some of the best moments in the genre, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a giant leap forward in blockbuster filmmaking with bold and innovative ideas that take an abundance of risks. Upon displaying these iconic heroes as philosophical entities while also combining George Miller/Mad Max, a metal grunge level is added to the movie. It is a marvel this film was released by a massive studio and was well earned at the box office. It shows that mainstream audiences will flock to any big-budget spectacle, even if it throws a few curve balls with its presentation and story structure.
And now, let’s talk about “The Snyder Cut.” The film stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill. It repeats the story of the “Justice League” and how they must destroy the almighty Darkseid in order to save the world. This cut is an additional two hours from Whedon’s version, but it does not use any of the footage from that version. This means this is an entirely new film that is told by a singular visionary.
Was the wait worth it? In my opinion, absolutely! This is in my top three comic book films of all time. Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” is the definition of a comic book movie. It lives and breathes everything comic and does every character justice, no pun intended. This film truly places Snyder’s DC Extended Universe trilogy into perspective. Man of Steel, being a “Fellowship of the Ring”-esque setup film, builds the world of Metropolis and Krypton.
Justice League feels like Snyder’s “Return of the King,” as they are similar in the amount of audacity and soul. You can tell this was done by one true visionary.
While this is not Snyder’s most thematic release, it is a movie about the grief of a traumatized man after his daughter’s death. It feels like a cathartic experience for Snyder, allowing him to relate to these heroes. The newest change in this version of the film is the additional 4:3 aspect ratio. This allows the audience to witness the full image and not the typical 1.85:1 ratio that is seen in other blockbusters. The aspect ratio change is wonderful since it lets you witness everything on the screen.
The film’s humor lands and feels so right when used. It does not feel out of place, like Marvel’s version. You sense the League’s chemistry and root for everyone here.
Ray Fisher’s Cyborg shines here, allowing for more character development. He is the heart and soul of this movie, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. Everyone performs extremely well and is given an individual moment to shine. One moment of the film that I consider to be my favorite part of any comic book film is the four-hour-long runtime. It felt justified, and I did not sense a drag since there was always an exciting highlight within each act.
The score by Junkie XL is unbelievable, creating some of the most emotional moments in the genre. Sure, the story is the same plot as the 2017 film, but there is so much added weight to everything.
I am speechless by Zack Snyder’s “Justice League.” I already knew Snyder was one of the many visionaries of the blockbuster era of filmmaking, but this movie is well worth the wait. Everything works so well as he creates thematic stories that are relatable for watchers. I hope this pushes Snyder to make parts two and three to this story!