Zack Snyder’s Justice League is good, not great… but it IS a better film than the Whedon version. By far. I’m still convinced he could have done this in 2 and a half hours. A good storyteller knows how to tell a good story; a great storyteller knows how to edit a good story.
The most improved aspect of the Snydercut is a better drawing of the characters and their motivations. In 2017, Whedon was brought in at the last minute to re-write the theatrical Justice League and was forced to bring it in under 2 hours. It shows. It shows in the pacing, the shallowness of the characters, and the horrible CGI. (Most bad CGI is the result of a rush job. CGI takes a lot of work, sometimes more work than old-fashioned special effects.)
So, why is Snyder’s version better than Whedon’s – who did such a great job on the first Avengers movie? Here’s my take.
There’s a fundamental difference between DC and Marvel. Warner Brothers obviously thought that bringing in Whedon to “Marvelize” Justice League would result in an Avengers-like blockbuster. It wouldn’t… it can’t… because DC and Marvel’s superheroes are different.
Marvel (and the MCU) sees its heroes as recognizably human with human flaws (even if they’re the god Thor). DC’s heroes are more mythically “gods,” not humans (especially Superman and Wonder Woman), with more god-like motivations and drives. The DC take has always been a modern recasting of ancient Greek gods. Zeus and Athena wearing capes and spandex.
Zack Snyder got this, and that’s why his take is decidedly un-Marvel.
The argument can be made that Marvel has had more success with its heroes because they’re more appealing to a general audience. Marvel makes it easier to identify with its heroes because we see ourselves in them. DC does not. (Not even Batman, who has lost his humanity to his drive to seek vengeance on criminals).
There’s nothing wrong with DC’s gods-in-human-form vs. Marvel’s humans-with-godlike-powers. It’s a legitimate character choice… but it comes with the drawback that it won’t bring in the same size audiences as Marvel. That’s just the way it is.
If someone complains that Snyder’s take is more turgid and more removed from humanity… well, yes. But at least it makes its heroes different from Marvel. It’s not trying to do a Marvel knockoff. It’s not dressing up Iron Man in a Batman costume or Captain America in a Superman cape.
The situation is similar to the difference between the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. JJ Abrams’ attempt to Star Wars-ize Trek led to disappointing results, albeit entertaining ones. And while Star Trek, when done right, won’t ever result in Star Wars-size audiences, it has led to a longer-running, creatively-richer franchise. Star Wars is more mythical… Trek is more based on humans and their ingenuity and ability to improve themselves enough to explore new worlds.
The best things about the Snydercut? Hans Zimmer’s Superman theme, The Flash’s gee-whiz reactions, and Superman’s delayed — and delayed, and delayed — final arrival to the big fight. It takes too long to get there, but once it does, it’s the film’s best moment.
But it IS too long. Perhaps HBO Max should have gone with its original idea and made it a limited series. It looks like Snyder would have made it easy since the 4-hour film is divided into several parts, like episodes. In the final analysis, the Snydercut’s biggest problem is that it’s too much to digest in a single viewing.