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Zack Snyder's Justice League review: Super long, super flawed

The Snyder Cut of Justice League improves the story of one character — but is that enough?

Snyder Cut Justice League review: Super long, super flawed
(Image: © HBO Max)

Our Verdict

The Snyder Cut is going to be great for everyone who blasted social media with demands to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, but it should have been shorter.

For

  • Cyborg's story is better
  • Better than 2017 version

Against

  • Way too long
  • Tons of green screen
  • Takes a while to set up

The Snyder Cut, aka Zack Snyder's Justice League, is a four-hour film that feels like the cinematic equivalent of a Man Vs Food challenge. Are we supposed to try and finish it all in one bite? What exactly will all that movie do to your brain? 

Well, since I needed to finish watching the movie as soon as possible for our The Snyder Cut review, I actually took on the behemoth in one evening. And, shockingly, I plan to do so again. Here's why.

The Snyder Cut will surprise you

Let's get this out of the way first. WandaVision isn't the only comic book content streaming in an old-timey aspect ratio, as Zack Snyder's Justice League (the film's true title) is presented in 4:3, which means you get big black bars on the sides of your image on widescreen TVs. 

Snyder did this because he planned the movie to fill the entirety of a gigantic IMAX screen (which it isn’t likely to be doing during our ongoing coronavirus pandemic). This ratio takes some getting used to, but it's not exactly the movie's biggest problem. 

A four-hour long epic, in 6 parts and then some

The Snyder Cut begins with four-plus minutes of Superman's scream, which sounds more like a groan when it's stretched in slow-motion. This moment may have relevance to the storyline, but it's not one of the film's segments that benefits from being in slow motion. The noise coming out of Kal El's mouth just makes you wonder if that's how you'll sound at the end of the movie. Oh, and if you're wondering why it starts off like this: it takes place in the immediate aftermath of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (so brush up on that movie if you need a refresher). 

The Snyder Cut, if you didn't know, is being presented in separate sections, each with their own titles:

  • Part 1: Don't Count On Me, Batman — 9:38 
  • Part 2: The Age of Heroes — 37:39 
  • Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son — 1:09 
  • Part 4: Change Machine — 1:52
  • Part 5: All The King’s Horses — 2:22 
  • Part 6: Something Darker — 2:53 
  • Epilogue: A Father Twice Over — 3:34 

As you look at those time-stamps, you'll notice an average time of 30 to 40 minutes per segment — about what a TV episode runs these days. But I don't think this would be better as a mini-series, though, as the dividers don't necessarily feel like moments that would have you excited for more in the way each WandaVision installment ended. 

Instead, I suggest ignoring the different chapters and breaking up your Snyder Cut viewing into your own pace. Oh, and yes: you've heard right — the epilogue is bonkers. We'll cover that in a separate spoiler-rific article once the movie is out, to avoid spoiling it for anyone.

What's new in The Snyder Cut

There are three main changes to Justice League in The Snyder Cut, the first (and most important) being that this is now Cyborg's movie. While actor Ray Fisher's well-publicized issues with Warner Bros. and Joss Whedon took the early set of headlines during the run-up to the Snyder Cut’s release, the focus of the fans will likely set on how his portrayal of Victor Stone makes the movie a bit more enjoyable.

Snyder Cut Justice League review: Cyborg

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Cyborg's the only character who has a full narrative arc in the movie, even though his story starts in earnest after The Snyder Cut has done a fair bit of world building. But that long delay makes the first part of The Snyder Cut feel a little weak. Having watched the original Justice League, I recognized bits and pieces here and there, but only with Victor Stone's origin story did I feel like I was getting something new. And those pieces made me root for his character, a former football star with a tragic backstory involving his parents (a DC prerequisite, I wonder?), who goes on to have world-bending powers. 

The next big change is that we finally see and meet Darkseid. For those who skipped the original Justice League, we learn that the main plot — shiny and spiky alien villain Steppenwolf invades Earth to find the three Mother Boxes (magical Macguffins), only to have Earth's mightiest stop him — was Darkseid's plan all along. A grimy dark-looking New God, Darkseid looks a bit like Thanos, but without all the gold. And he's kept to a few scenes, so don't expect a ton of him. 

Darkseid’s fight against Atlanteans, Amazons, Zeus himself and a Green Lantern is a pretty neat scene though. But unlike Cyborg, Darkseid doesn't actually add much to the Snyder Cut. He's got a cool factor, in a way, but he doesn't increase the dramatic weight of the story or make you feel more for his emissary Steppenwolf. 

Snyder Cut Justice League review: Steppenwolf

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Lastly, the Snyder Cut also brings in The Joker, as was teased in Jared Leto's appearance in a trailer — along with another DC hero, whose role has been leaking out ever so slightly. I won't explain much about why either is here, because both details are pretty spoilery, but each makes me wonder about future Snyder DC movies. The director has already established that this movie is not canon, but it does feel like we're on the verge of the DC movies getting more complicated. 

We know there will be three different men playing Batman (Ben Affleck, Robert Pattinson and Michael Keaton) in to-be-named movies, and the way The Snyder Cut teases what could come next suggests a Snyder Universe that exists as an alternate timeline, depending on how successful the films are. 

The Snyder Cut feels very familiar, though

While we get more of Cyborg and a few other characters, The Snyder Cut is still telling the same overarching story of attempted world-annihilation. This time, though, there are a lot more moments. A prayer is made for an arrow sent to warn Wonder Woman of impending doom, for example, in a scene that maybe didn't need to be there. And this feeling will happen a lot. 

That's where the movie's run time begins to become a problem, as some folks may pause The Snyder Cut and never come back. I bet some audiences will find themselves wondering if a certain moment was in the original or not, because a lot of the film feels very similar to Justice League — giving more context that is ultimately unnecessary. But that's what makes Zack Snyder's Justice League true to its name. 

Snyder Cut Justice League review: Batman

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Snyder Cut is the most Snyder-esque a film has been, from its never-ending run time to its love of violence and earnest tone. And your appreciation for Snyder's aesthetic will make or break your enjoyment of The Snyder Cut. Can you revel in moments such as Willem Dafoe yelling "TAKE UP YOUR MOTHER’S TRIDENT!" at Aquaman? Do you enjoy the tunes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds being stretched out over emotional moments? Do you love to see superheroes beating the crap out of the comic book movie equivalent of The Wizard of Oz's flying monkeys? Oh, and do you love green screen scenes? A ton of the Snyder Cut looks like it was shot on a soundstage, which makes you feel a bit detached in the later hours.

And then, of course, you get more of Snyder's love of slow motion action scenes. While these can be a bit corny at times, Ezra Miller is best as The Flash when seen through these moments where time slows down for everyone but him. 

Snyder Cut Justice League review: The Flash

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Jason Momoa fans should not expect much more Aquaman, though, which will be a tad bit disappointing, but the character feels a little more complete since his solo movie came out between the original Justice League and The Snyder Cut. 

The Snyder Cut review: Verdict

At the end of the day, The Snyder Cut is going to be great for everyone who blasted social media with demands to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Those folks are getting the film they wanted: a Justice League that's chock full o' Snyder's preferences. The Wonder Woman in The Snyder Cut, for example, moves and fights more like Superman than in her solo movies. As this Snyder Cut review has shown, the movie is largely for the fans of the director and those who appreciate his sensibilities. 

Snyder Cut Justice League review: Cyborg near the end of the movie

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Anyone who wasn't rabid for The Snyder Cut — say the folks who are curious and still stuck at home because we're in a pandemic — may not find its charms to be as great. It's still a flawed movie, as the story of Steppenwolf and the three Mother Boxes still feels a bit trite, but at least Cyborg is there to make you feel something. 

That said, I wish The Snyder Cut could have been something between the 4-hour indulgence it is and the original flawed mix of visions from Whedon and Snyder. That hypothetical movie, if it could have been a bit shorter and better paced, would have been a lot more engaging. I'm still planning on watching it with all my friends this weekend on a group call, we're going to laugh at its insanity, relish its earnesty and have a fun time. I just hope people have their expectations set properly.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is an editor writer at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and Apple. Prior to joining Tom's Guide — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and looking for the headphone adapter that he unplugged from his iPhone.