4K Blu-ray Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The web that led to the Snyder Cut being made is a tangled one, and I won’t delve into too much of it here and kind of give the Coles Notes of it all. Basically, after the poor reception of Batman V. Superman in theaters, the studio weren’t overly happy with the direction that Justice League was heading. Director Zack Snyder wanted it to be the major epic it deserved to be, and the studio wanted to change the vibe of the Snyder-verse. Now, to be fair, the Ultimate Edition of Batman V. Superman (which adds 31-minutes of story and character development to the original theatrical release) is fantastic. It was simply another movie that suffered due to the desire to bring down the theatrical runtime so that more showings could be held in a day, and in turn, more money can be made. I do get that making money is the endgame for studios, but when it comes at the cost of the film itself – and then blaming the film for the failure that making those changes caused, well, it seems counterproductive.
So when Snyder had to step away from the director’s chair of Justice League for personal reasons, Joss Whedon was brought in to replace him. Whedon was tasked with re-writing parts of the script, as well as doing various reshoots to help change the film’s tone and also bring it down to a more theatrical-release friendly 120-minute runtime. He did both of those things, and while the film did gross over $650 million, it was still viewed as a box-office disappointment due to the enormous production cost, and what was expected in terms of potential returns.
I did give the film a positive review; however, in hindsight it wouldn’t be as glowing. I always thought that Warner Bros. should’ve taken their time with the DCU and not tried to instantly catch up to where Marvel was with their cinematic universe, but by this point it was what it was and audiences were being introduced to 50% of the Justice League in the flagship movie itself, instead of properly introducing them in independent films beforehand. It wasn’t a terrible movie, it just wasn’t great and the changes that were made hurt the overall film, including the complete deletion of Darkseid, a character Snyder had set up to be the big bad. Instead we were left with Darkseid’s lackey Steppenwolf as the main antagonist, and almost zero mention of Darkseid himself. Steppenwolf was just a complete dud of a villain, and a strong villain is incredibly important in a superhero film – especially one where you have all of your franchise players teaming up to take on said villain.
So the film came and went and the DCU started going in a different direction after it didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped; though the rumblings of a potential Snyder cut of Justice League kept appearing and an online groundswell began to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. Now, I won’t get into the toxic side of this fandom, which I don’t believe should reflect on those who had only positive intentions towards wanting to see Snyder’s original vision to see the light of day. Toxic fandom is rampant across the board these days, it’s unfortunate and it should not be given a voice. So when Warner Bros. finally listened to this cry for the Snyder Cut to be released and said they’d do so, in no way do I think they were listening to or bowing down to those who chose to use this movement to express their toxic nature.
Come 2019, Snyder again teased the existence of his original cut, and with the backing of the actors in the film, who also spread the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag through their social media, Warner Bros. finally decided to do just that – and more. With HBOmax on the horizon, WB viewed this as the perfect film to release and bring eyes to the streaming service and in 2021, after reshoots and an additional $70 million onto the budget, The Snyder Cut was released on HBOmax. Now, The Snyder Cut is available on 4K Blu-ray to add to your collection, and this review is aimed more towards those who may not have watched the film yet, or to those who may still feel scorned by the 2017 release and didn’t want to just watch a longer version of the same movie. Let me tell you that you’re safe, this is not the same movie at all, and you, in fact, owe it to yourself to pick up a copy and watch it.
Yes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an absolutely magnificent superhero film. It differs so greatly from the Whedon release (which some fans have nicknamed the “Josstice League”) that you should have no hesitancy in watching the Snyder Cut if all that’s holding you back is fear that it’s just the 2017 version, but two hours longer. Yes, the Snyder Cut is 4-hours total, and while some did find it to be a bit too long, I thought it was perfect. Okay, perfect may be a strong word, but I didn’t find any parts to be unjustifiably long. Sure there’s loads of slow motion, but it’s vintage Zack Snyder so it’s to be expected.
For those who do still think 4-hours is too long that’s okay, as Snyder actually broke the film down into seven chapters, and while I watched the whole way through without issue, each chapter ends at a point where stopping for the night and picking up the next day should be just fine. So why is it two hours longer, and how is it that much longer without being the same movie if Whedon didn’t come in and reshoot the entire thing? Well, there are scenes that overlap, as the framework for Snyder’s version was used in 2017; however, now there’s just so much more depth, and the introduction of Cyborg, The Flash and Aquaman don’t seem as jarring because they’re actually given time to grow.
We also see the return of Darkseid which, in turn, makes Steppenwolf a far greater villain overall. Now, the disgraced Steppenwolf’s motivation to bring together the Mother Boxes to regain favour with his boss makes sense, and there are plenty of extra scenes that build him up so that when he and the Justice League do battle the audience are actually invested instead of simply checking off the “good guy vs. bad guy climactic battle” checkbox. Plus, Darkseid! We actually get to see a solid amount of Darkseid, as well as the inclusion of Martian Manhunter (Joe Morton) and it’s all amazing.
The amount of scenes that add character depth to everyone involved is what’s best about the Snyder Cut. There are plenty of extended action scenes, but the amount of moments that just allow these characters to get fleshed out is exactly what fans were hoping for. Obviously each hero getting their own film (or at least all but one, who could’ve been the focus of joining the group here) would’ve been ideal, but it is what it is at this point, and the Snyder Cut actually delivers in the best way possible given the way the DCU was built.
The biggest frustration this film will bring is the knowledge that it’s clear that at least one more major Justice League film was being set up with how this one plays out. Once it ended I only wanted more. I wanted to see that one more movie that capped everything off. That would’ve been wonderful, but at the same time, I’m honestly just grateful that Warner Bros. allowed the Snyder Cut to be released, and invested even more to make it the best version of Snyder’s vision that he could make. Now, at least, fans are able to watch both Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: The Ultimate Edition, then cap it off with this 4-hour masterpiece of superhero filmmaking and be satisfied that while the Snyder-verse may not continue, it at least received the send-off it, and the fans deserved.
4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:
The most notable thing about the Snyder Cut is Snyder’s decision to use a 1.33:1 aspect ratio for the entire film. This is usually reserved for IMAX films, but it’s how Snyder envisioned the film and to their credit Warner Bros. gave him complete control at how this film was put together. I hadn’t known about it before watching it when the film was first released, so I was a bit taken back by the black bars on each side of the picture, but it quickly becomes obvious why the choice was made and the film is better because of it.
On the picture side of thing, those who know the DC Snyder-verse know that he uses darker tones, but even with that being the case the 4K delivery of the movie looks near flawless, with just crisp, clean visuals, and colours popping even if they don’t appear that often. The darker scenes showcase deep blacks and the textures are immaculate. The entire presentation is elevated nicely with the HDR10 boost, as the Snyder Cut becomes one of the reasons to upgrade to 4K if you have yet to do so.
The Dolby Atmos audio is superb, as this version of the film is just packed with a fantastical score and constant sound effects during action sequences. The dialogue is clean, and the entire mix comes together harmoniously. This is a top tier 4K release and is highly recommended to add to your collection.
The Road to Justice League – This is a 24-minute feature that has the cast and crew touch on the trilogy that creates the Snyder-verse, along with some behind-the-scenes footage. It`s an easy watch, but it`s pretty by the numbers in terms of content. With this being the only feature on such an anticipated movie, a deeper look into how it came to be, the journey and so forth would`ve been welcome. I feel as though this is a movie that will end up with at least one more big release down the line that will find itself with more special features. But one can`t be certain there, and it`s unfortunate we didn`t get to see more on this release, as there`s lots that could`ve been covered.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Directed by: Zack Snyder. Written by: Chris Terrio. Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Mamoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Joe Morton. Running time: 242 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on 4K Blu-ray: Sept. 14, 2021.