This of course is the movie most of us never thought would be made. After 2017’s theatrical cut flopped at the box office, Snyder’s most devoted fans began an online campaign for his version of the film to be completed and released. And it looked like a pipe dream to be honest. I for one did not think that a shelved version of a box office bomb from a director who’s name was mud with most of the more vocal and trusted media folks had any chance of seeing the light of day. And I was wrong, thanks largely to the creation of HBO Max.
You see, streaming services need one thing and one thing only: more original content. Yes the archives are nice to have access to but what’s been borne out is that original content drives the train. So that’s what created the opening for Snyder to finish the film as he originally shot it. Which was a source of much online controversy. Some saw it as a victory for online bullying from fans and that it will only encourage more. I think that if there was no HBO Max we’re not here, period, so as obnoxious as some of Snyder’s most zealous supporters have been I don’t think you have to fear them taking this show on the road for other films. This is a special lining up of the dominoes that isn’t gonna be replicated regularly.
As for this movie, there were some questions. First off, just how different was it going to be? Whedon reshot most of what Snyder did and added several things. Snyder said he didn’t use any of Whedon’s new footage we didn’t know just how much he actually did when he bowed out, and there were conflicting reports. Obviously at double the runtime something was going to be different. The other question was would it be better? Even people who liked his previous films had real things they took issue with. Would he finally deliver a film that would emerge relatively unscathed?
Ok so for the first question the answer is a resounding yes. Whedon inexplicably trimmed down all the big action set pieces and in doing so removed a lot of the details and context from them. He also removed a lot of the fleshing out of Cyborg and the Flash’s characters and added in some things that felt very forced including the parts where Henry Cavill’s mustache was covered up with some unfortunate CGI effects. The villain Steppenwolf is presented different here as well in that he is clearly shown to be working for Darkseid as a subordinate and in the vague role Whedon had him in. So while the overall story is the same Snyder did indeed make a different movie.
Was it better? Hell yes. Whedon was under a mandate to keep it to two hours so he trimmed a lot and pieced what was left with a bunch of stuff he came up with. And I can say with no hesitation that none of the things he added in helped one iota. Martha Kent’s Freudian slip calling Lois Lane thirsty and the Flash falling on top of Wonder Woman in creepy fashion were super weird and cringey so not seeing them here was addition by subtraction. The Russian family rescue side mission that was part of the finale in Whedon’s version, a completely tacked on piece that did not fit anything, was also removed and thus improving the quality of the film.
Then there were the battle scenes which went from ok in Whedon’s version to properly epic here. I get that you had to cut something to meet WB’s runtime demands and that was the easiest thing to do but there really was a lot lost there. And the big finale was like night and day between the two versions. Flash had a much bigger role and Superman’s return to the fight had a much more magical introduction. Finally, Cyborg’s story was straight up butchered by Whedon but was properly restored here. He was very much the heart of the film in both versions but it was fully realized here and not just in pieces.
Did I have any issues? Well, it’s a four hour movie. That’s always gonna be an issue. Makes rewatching more difficult if nothing else. But beyond that my only problem was with a superhero cameo that came about midway through, because it was essentially a ‘ok, and why didn’t you help out?’ situation. Which if we’re gonna be honest can apply to a lot of superhero movies. It was just a bit more glaring than usual here.
The other thing is that after further review the Knightmare future scene in the epilogue can go. Yes it ended up being a dream sequence but if Zack was allowed to keep going it would have been reality. And for me to finally get the fully actualized Superman as promised and then not even get a movie to play with him before going straight to a corrupted, evil Superman is doing too much. I know some people did not like WB saying the Snyder verse is done but if that’s a reason why I get it. While I very much enjoyed his vision it is time for the regular Superman to hang around onscreen.
I give it a 6/6 (great) for overall quality and 3/4 for enjoyment because of the run time, for a total score of 9/10. Four hours is a task no matter how good the film is. But Snyder crafted a great narrative build over four hours and made a truly unique kind of super hero movie. I came out of this more excited than any other DC film during the Snyder era, actually wanting more of this world he created.
Now is this clearly his take on these characters and their world? Yes. He’s made choices along the way from characterizations to superhero suits (Flash…..yeahhhhh…..) to killing off characters (Jimmy Olsen, really?) that are a bridge too far for some people. But there’s more than one way to make superhero movies and no one way is 100 percent right. As for the discourse over it, what can you do? The people who have been digging their heels in for three years to either praise it or bury it sight unseen are not going to change their minds.
As for the future, well…… WB doesn’t really have a central vision for how they want to do their DC films. Clearly there are people there who wanted Marvel movies with DC characters and that clashed with how Snyder gets down. The result is that we have this, which appears to end his work on a high note, but of bunch of other movies that are just kinda existing in the aftermath of the fallout from his previous films. That whole thing is a mess but here he finally delivered his kind of superhero movie in a form that is both unique and more palatable to a mass audience. How much more we get to see of what he initiated is up in the air right now. But no matter what, this movie right here was worth it.