Where does one begin with this 4 hour epic? Do we discuss the runtime? Ah, I know. The comparison to the theatrical release. The version that was, without a doubt, butchered by Joss Whedon. Reportedly he had reshoots for 75% of the film. The result was a complete tonal difference from Snyder’s vision, like a Batman the quips jokes in the face of danger. Then we had his misogyny at play when Flash clumsily fell on top of Wonder Woman and his face landed between her breasts. Just not a good time. So much character development was cut in favor of constantly moving the narrative forwards. Cyborg and Flash’s entire origins and personal growth were cut, and Flash was reduced to a side gimmick to deal with a Russian family while a major battle is happening.
Snyder’s vision is immediately restored in the opening credits with a dark scene unfolding showcasing Superman’s death from the previous movie, and the shockwave from his death cry cascading across the planet. It sets up purpose as to why these dimension hopping soldiers of destruction invade Earth. The stage is shown for how truly powerful Superman is. The fear he brings to his enemies. From there, the plot establishes each of the superheroes. Arthur Curry is a kind man who helps those in need and he’s idolized by those he helps. And true to his character, not yet grown, he is not beholden to the surface or the oceans. He is his own man. Wonder Woman is a force for good who is not scared of killing her enemies or those that wish to do harm. Nor is she afraid of brutalizing them in defense of the innocent while still inspiring young girls to be anything they aspire to.
The Flash is a young man, Barry Allen, who takes random jobs here and there to fund his tuition for being a criminal justice student. He does so in order to find a way to save his father from prison, for a crime he did not commit. Barry is lighthearted and full of empathy and wonder. His powers are showcased in a short scene in which he saves a young girl from a car accident. This scene helps establish who he is, and provides a feeling of an origin. Cyborg has his entire arc reinstated. A young man lost in the world, feeling like a monster and resenting his father’s choices. His mother dead in an accident and him left clinging to life. His father breaking every ethical and moral scientific law to save his son however he can. Both Flash and Cyborg are similar in that they yearn for their fathers. This feeling is easily identifiable with, and helps humanize these otherwise otherworldly characters.
The movie does a phenomenal job at bringing all these different characters together for a singular purpose of defending the planet. Each character has a soul to them, they feel fleshed out and not merely caricatures of the comic book characters they represent. They have depth, and growth in an arc. Even Batman! “Faith, Alfred. Faith.” A man who previously would take even the smallest chance that someone could be his enemy and acted on it, rather than having faith that they could be a force for good. Talk about a turnaround. Together, they save the planet from the villain Steppenwolf and we, the audience, have a blast watching this wild ride.
Steppenwolf has actual purpose this time around. He is no longer a creepy dude that calls those boxes “Mother.” He merely wants to get back into the good graces of his Master, Darkseid – A god of destruction and death from another dimension. To that end, he strives to find the three Mother Boxes and to reunite them to create a calamity known as the unity – a cataclysmic event to scorch the planet and purge it of all life. Therefore making way for Darkseid to come and claim his grand prize. Even Steppenwolf’s appearance is a huge step up, wearing armor that seemingly reacts to his thoughts. The theatrical cut feels like an afterthought of bad CGI.
The movie itself is presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio which gives the appearance of old cartoons. It invokes a similar feeling to watching animated shows on a Saturday morning. The score is heavy rock interspersed with each of the character’s themes. It gives weight to each battle, no matter how small and gets the blood pumping in anticipation. There are several scenes across the entire movie that serve no purpose in moving the narrative forwards but instill a sense of lore and weight for these characters. It helps establish and maintain the mythic feeling of several such as the Amazons or the Atlanteans.
Even Superman is changed, maybe not for the better but definitely more nuanced in that he’s a man (alien) reborn and thus no longer what he once was. This is even symbolized through the black costume he wears. He toys with his enemies and brings them extra agony than they would get normally. He’s got a bit of darkness in his heart and Lois Lane is the only thing that brings him back to the light.
There are plenty more references and nuances to be found within the movie that brings joy to fans, and continues to help establish this universe of superheroes. Overall, it’s a great and markedly improved version compared to the theatrical. It’s got heart, soul, and purpose. But is it what fans truly want of their childhood heroes? I’d say it’s not, but it is a great vision to have seen come to fruition. Zack Snyder definitely put his own twist on these characters and for this movie, it works. For the comic book characters that were represented, I’d say it’s a departure. That being said, did I enjoy the movie? Yes, I did. Despite its length, it held well. It had merits. It even set up the possibility for more. Would I want to see this reality explored further? No, I would not. Would I recommend this movie for fans of DC superheroes? Yes, I’d say definitely watch it and forget there ever was a theatrical cut.