Justice League review: Triumphant Snyder Cut is everything fans want, destroys Whedon Cut

Zack Snyder’s Justice League: HBO Max tease extended film

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Sometimes hopes and dreams do come true. Not only has the Snyder Cut finally been restored and released, it exceeds our wildest hopes. There are no spoilers here, but some reveals based on the trailers, previous DCEU films and what we know from the comics. Prepare yourselves for a dazzling, dizzying ride that is Snyder’s best film to date. It explains why actor Ray Parks was so furious with Whedon and Warner Bros, delivers ‘Black Superman’ and exposes what a catastrophic misstep the previous theatrical release was. 

When he returned to this project, Snyder bullishly swore he would not use any of Whedon’s reshot footage.

Not only does this thankfully remove the sexist and misjudged banter between Wonder Woman and Aquaman, but it also completely excises that painfully naff comedy Russki family trapped in the shack under Steppenwolf’s dome.

Presumably, studio suits felt the film needed more ‘human elements’ for the audience§ to relate to. What they utterly failed to understand is that we didn’t come here for that. We want epic, stirring waking dreams, like an ancient saga passed down by storytellers by firelight.

The Snyder Cut proves that all the best moments from the Whedon Cut were Snyder’s anyway. Dry wit and darker themes that don’t patronise the audience.

What blows the mind is why they junked so much of Snyder’s original designs. His Steppenwolf is a magnificent creature, glittering in rippling metal spikes. Compared to Whedon’s cartoon catastophe. But this Steppenwolf is also textured, desperate to regain the favour of Darkseid and almost grovelling when he speaks to Desaad. 

His fortress base in Russia is a beautiful twisted and dark baroque creation of blacks and golds under a glowing ruby lattice dome. A far cry from Whedon’s garish purple abomination with those embarrassing psychedelic flowers.

The visuals are Snyder’s usual darker, muted tones but they are gilded with epic panoramas and exquisite costumes, most notably a ravishing array of capes on everyone from teh Amazons to Darkseid’s main henchman Desaad. 

The restored original score by Tom Holkenberg, aka Junkie XL, is majestically magnificent. Bombastic in all the right places to blast goosebumps in every nook and cranny of your quivering body, it also finds calm catharsis in the quieter, tender character moments. I’m a fan of Danny Elfman, but Warner Bros’ decision to bring him in with Whedon just demonstrates how misjudged that entire reboot was.

Studio suits somehow decided that Snyder’s DCEU needed Marvel make-up over but ended up with something more mangled than marvellous. Marvel ad DC on the page and due big screen are two different beasts, both wonderful but very distinct in tone and texture.

Across four glorious hours, Snyder’s story has room to breathe. It is perfectly paced and divided into six ‘chapters’ so you have a moment to nip out for a cuppa (or something stronger).

But every single character and scene benefits from the love and attention lavished on them. 

No need for Sadfleck here, his Bruce and Batman both thrive here. Indeed, every single character is given greater depth and nuance.  Barry’s manic ticks are humanised by scenes with his father and the introduction of Iris West. The Amazons and Atlanteans have added scenes – complete with amber Heard’s rather odd, thankfully ditched, British accent. The opening scenes where Steppenwolf comes for the Themiscyria Mother Box are vastly expanded, layering in greater dimension to the sense of tension, danger and terrible loss of life. 

Henry Cavill’s Superman has always been more nuanced than many give him credit for but he demonstrates the intelligence behind this square jaw and hairy pecs here. The scene in the Kent farm cornfield perfectly sums up the two versions of the film and how Warner Bros and Whedon fatally underestimated the audience. In the theatrical cut, Lois asks him blankly what it’s like being brought back to life. “Itchy,” he says, “ I mean, honestly, weird, in so many ways.” It’s toe-curlingly adolescent. Then she launches into an explanation of how badly she handled losing him. It’s all tell rather than show, not trusting the actors or the audience. Snyder’s Cut relies on silences and quiet brief phrases, communicating so much more with so much less.   

The biggest winner, though, is Ray Parks.  His feud with Joss Whedon and the powers at Warner Bros is well-documented. Frankly, if even some of that stems from his fury and devastation at how his scenes were hacked, trashed and discarded by Whedon, then I’m with him. Cyborg made no impression on me in the theatrical release. The Snyder Cut restores his humanity and his heroism. He is central to the final scenes and Parks is allowed to demonstrate that he is a talented actor and not just a grump in a metal suit.

By now, everyone knows that Jared Leto returned to film new Joker scenes. Anyone who has seen the trailer and the previous Snyder films is expecting some exploration of the Superman Knightmare scenario. I won’t spoil the long, bleakly tantalising end credit scene, but tis and some earlier foreshadowing in the film,  give a fabulous hint into what Snyder’s original plans were for a three-film arc.

I would like to say that I couldn’t find any flaws with teh Snyder Cut, but unfortunately I have one huge issue with it. For four blissful, blown-away house I was at there thinking, for God’s sake why isn’t this  on teh biggest screen they can find? 

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