Zack Snyder's Justice League (AU - MA15+/UK - 15/US - R) 

In a Word: Expansive

Zack Snyders Justice League

Jason Momoa as Aquaman/Arthur Curry, Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) and Ray Fisher as Cyborg/Victor Stone. PICTURE: Courtesy of HBO Max

The 2017 theatrical release of Justice League was a disaster. It left audiences unsatisfied and fans bewildered with its paper-thin character development, goofy attempts at humour, a thoroughly boring villain and confused plot. Four years later, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a bold attempt to redeem this heroic tale.

While the original theatrical version ran exactly 120 minutes, this new director’s cut clocks in at 242 minutes. And it’s not just time that has been added, Snyder's version features deeper character development, enhanced action sequences, whole new plot arcs, the introduction of new villains and heroes as well as a different 4:3 aspect ratio that was intended for Imax theatres (which works perfectly on an iPad but will be a little strange on a widescreen TV).

"The story of this film’s creation is an unlikely tale of loss, grief and ultimately redemption. It is thrilling to see the original creative vision realised in all its glory."

There is also more graphic violence and the inclusion of several f-bombs that takes the new rating far beyond PG. I was literally stunned at how different this version of the film was. It is essentially a completely different film, and it is worth exploring the story of how this latest version came to be.

After the disappointing response to Batman v Superman, the executives at Warner Bros began to doubt Zack Snyder’s vision for Justice League. Even though the film was already shot and edited, they began imposing demands that included a running time of no longer than two hours and a command to inject more humour. The embattled production reached a critical point in March, 2017, when Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, committed suicide. Zach lost the will to fight the studio and surrendered creative control to their new appointment, Joss Whedon of Avenger’s fame. Whedon wrote and shot 80 new pages of script and kept approximately 10 per cent of Snyder’s film which resulted in the Frankenstein’s monster that is the theatrical version. 

The critical and box office bomb that was 2017’s Justice League fuelled an online movement to release the 'Snyder cut'. The petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures and had the support of many actors including Ben Affleck (Batman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), Ciaran Hinds (Steppenwolf), and Ray Fisher (Cyborg). It seemed a pipe dream that would never happen until the formation of the HBO Max streaming service that needed tentpole titles to attract subscribers to the platform. Suddenly there was a green light to approve the $US70 milliion that it would take to complete the special effects, reshoots and post production to restore the original vision of the epic film.

Snyder even declined to take a fee for this new version to ensure creative control and the film now features the dedication “for Autumn” and a movement to raise funds for suicide prevention. Perhaps the most poignant addition is the inclusion of the song Hallelujah in the closing credits which was Autumn’s favourite song. It is sung by Allison Crowe who performed that song at her funeral.

The story of this film’s creation is an unlikely tale of loss, grief and ultimately redemption. It is thrilling to see the original creative vision realised in all its glory. It certainly isn't perfect - some scenes are clunky with exposition, others are gratuitous in spectacle and there is a fair share of brooding melodrama. But for all its flaws, the story’s expanded scope has done the impossible: it has transformed a failed film into an epic adventure filled with legendary heroes that will delight fans and fuel hope of a better future for the DC Universe on screen. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is available on HBO Max in the US and Binge or Foxtel in Australia.