Spike’s Review of the Snyder Cut of Justice League

Every single person who asked for this to be released owes me four hours of my life back.

The “Snyder cut” of Justice League is a four-fucking-hour travesty of filmmaking that sits enthroned on the delusions of uncountable fuckboys who can’t tell quality from a grey filter and who spent years begging to be allowed to be subjected to the most utter piece of shit that has been produced by a major studio in years. I didn’t like it very much.

This review is going to contain a lot of spoilers for Justice League’s “Snyder cut,” which is four fucking hours long in which nothing fucking happens.

The plot of this movie is that Superman died in slow motion and now a guy in a metal bodysuit named after a rock band is trying to find some magic boxes to destroy the Earth with, so Batman and Wonder Woman get the Flash and Cyborg and Aquaman, fail to protect the boxes and then bring Superman back to life. Then they fight the guy in the bodysuit, who spent four fucking hours threatening to summon his boss Darkseid, which he does, but they then don’t fight Darkseid and it’s very anticlimactic. Despite the world being in danger and the characters ostensibly being in mortal peril, there is never once, at any point in the four fucking hours the movie plays, any sense of tension, stakes or a shred of emotion displayed by any of the actors.

If you were on the internet between 2017 and 2021, you probably heard people begging Warner Brothers to release the Snyder cut. Zach Snyder was the movie’s original director, and due to a legitimate tragedy that happened in his life (I say “legitimate” here to make it clear that I’m not making fun of his daughter’s suicide, it’s genuinely horrifying and my heart goes out to him and his family), he had to withdraw from the project and the studio got Joss Whedon to take over. I didn’t see the theatrical version but by all accounts it was a tonally inconsistent, muddled mess full of Whedon’s particular brand of misogyny and with a lot of humour forced into the narrative where it didn’t belong. On the grounds that Joss Whedon “ruined” the movie, fans wanted Snyder to be allowed to release it true to his vision.

His vision, as it turns out, was heavily grey-tinted and very dour and fake serious, not to mention way too fucking long to air in a theatre ever, desperately unfun and drawn out, full of unnecessary melodrama that people easily fooled could think made the film serious. Oh, and with its own brand of misogyny to replace what they removed from Joss Whedon’s work.

Let’s start with that, shall we? This movie has four female characters (I’m not counting the Amazons, who are just there to be violently, brutally murdered in an excruciatingly drawn-out sequence that really lingers as it jerks off over all the women being killed). Wonder Woman is the only one who has more than five minutes of screentime. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Wonder Woman, I think she’s a cool character and her steadfast calm works really well in relation to the various other male characters, who all seem to exist to be angry and useless. The other three characters are Lois Lane, who does nothing for three hours except have occasional scenes of being sad that Superman is dead, Martha Kent, who is only in three scenes and doesn’t speak in two of them, and Aquaman’s girlfriend, whose name I don’t know and is also only in three scenes. None of these women talk to each other any point in the whole movie, and Martha and Lois have one scene together which they both hug Superman. That’s it.

Passing the Bechdel Test isn’t a marker of quality, and not passing it isn’t necessarily a sign that something is bad, but it is a red flag, especially when Snyder put all the Amazons in slutty battle bikinis despite them having had quite sensible armour in the Wonder Woman movie (which was directed by a woman). You see Wonder Woman’s ass so many times in this movie I didn’t even realize she had a skirt on, and the fact that she’s literally never allowed to talk to any other women is definitely a problem. There’s one scene where Martha and Lois do talk (about Superman), but at the end of the scene, Martha walks away and is revealed to be Martian Manhunter in disguise, meaning that Zach Snyder thought audiences would find it easier to accept a shapeshifting alien randomly going and talking to Superman’s girlfriend than two women talking.

It’s not Zach Snyder’s fault that there’s only one woman in the core Justice League roster. The problem here is systemic. But watching this movie, I walked away from it (many times) thinking that he did everything he possibly could to ensure that that systemic problem was perpetuated as hard as it could be through his shitty four-fucking-hour cockfest of a film (and I don’t mean that as a compliment). That said, Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill both spend significant of their screentime shirtless, which is a positive element. I personally am not into either of them, but I know a lot of people are. I do have to say that, though obviously lots of people and specifically lots of women were very into that, the male semi-nudity never once feels objectifying or sexualized in the way the female semi-nudity always does. It always feels like a male power fantasy, just like the way the women are all dressed, which sours it for me a little. But by all means, if you think Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill are hot, please go right ahead and enjoy those scenes.

Incidentally, there was literally no reason for Martian Manhunter to be in this movie. He doesn’t do anything except give Lois a terrible pep talk and then show up in the tedious epilogue (which he isn’t even the worst part of) to tell Batman that he’s going to join the Justice League (then fucking off without actually joining the Justice League). He was clearly only here so that he could set up a future movie, which was also the case with the whole rest of the epilogue, but hopefully none of those movies happen, because this one was such a massive pile of shit.

I think that’s the main problem with this movie. There are so many problems that it’s hard to narrow down one main one, but just the sheer number of unnecessary scenes is really the thing. It’s so easy to see how this could have been a movie with a regular runtime, because there’s so many scenes where nothing happens. No character movement, no plot movement, nothing. The villain has several pointless meetings with a wall of CGI, all of which boil down to “Hey, you found those boxes yet?” “Nope, but I’m torturing a lot of people and I’m sure I’ll find them soon!” “Okay! Don’t forget you’re on Darkseid’s shit list!” and they go on for several minutes each and maybe, if I’m being generous, maybe the last one was necessary to the plot. The Flash has two introductory scenes before he meets Batman, one of which is fucking terrible and one of which is completely pointless and exists only so that you know he has a fraught relationship with his father (just like every other character in this movie). Almost all of Cyborg’s solo scenes are basically pointless to the overall plot, which I feel bad saying because Ray Fisher seems really nice and I know Joss Whedon was shitty and racist to him, and cut basically all his scenes from the theatrical version, but if his scenes in the Snyder cut were any indication, that was a good call. It’s okay for some characters not to be main characters, and Cyborg clearly wasn’t the main character of this movie (though he could have been, if they’d given him better material and an actual character arc). And I’m not saying “hey, the only Black character in the movie shouldn’t have had any scenes!” What I’m saying is, “Hey, maybe someone could have tried writing the only Black character in the movie something meaningful!” But Zach Snyder chose not to do that.

Cyborg’s disability narrative is tedious and terrible. It’s rested on the assumption that being disabled is bad and that because he now has a disability his life is basically over. That’s a tired trope about disabled people that’s repeated time and time again in media, and it’s the worst part of his canonical backstory. Snyder had the chance here to do something more interesting with that, but he didn’t, and that’s disappointing but not surprising. Cyborg is also a supercrip; a disabled person whose disability is “acceptable” to the audience because he got superpowers out of it. He can’t walk on his own, but he has an indestructible metal body with an endless power source that shoots lasers, can hack into and control any computer on Earth, and can fly and stand up to Superman in a fight. It’s one of those things that sounds cool—they gave the disabled character all these powers!—until you realize the that the optic is that it’s only okay to be disabled if you’re special in some other way. If you think I’m full of shit, I encourage you to learn about literally the entire history of disability studies, which will back me up on this. I will say that his final big scene where the evil boxes are psychically telling him that they can “fix” him and he tells them he’s not broken is well done. I thought that was one genuinely good moment in the film.

It was also one of the only good lines in the film. The dialogue throughout Justice League is ceaselessly terrible, when it’s present. The characters hardly ever talk except to give obvious exposition (and when they do that it’s often things the audience already knows; we were told about the magic boxes like three different times), and when they do talk, it’s almost entirely vaguely ominous bullshit that someone obviously thought was clever. Lines like “come back to the living” and “maybe these barbarians don’t use gates” are obviously meant to sound profound and thoughtful and deep, but they’re actually just really fucking stupid and it’s unclear how the actors, many of whom are clearly trying hard, are able to deliver them with a straight face. It’s deeply impressive that they’re all good enough actors to be able to pretend that these lines actually mean anything.

The fact that people obviously think this movie is thoughtful and deep is one sign that the writing is good in a way, I guess, because it’s successfully tricked a lot of people that it is those things without actually being those things. It’s a talent Zach Snyder legitimately has as a director. I haven’t seen all his films, but the ones I have seen have ranged from acceptable (Watchmen) to bad (The 300), to fucking terrible (Army of the Dead, Sucker Punch, Justice League), and all of them are visually very attractive and emotionally very empty. He’s clearly figured out a formula to trick people that that isn’t true. A grey filter and some vapid pseudointellectual dialogue and a lot of people who have daddy-themed angst can only go so far, so there’s something about the way he combines them that tricks people into thinking he’s a good storyteller, so kudos to him for being the best con man in Hollywood, I guess.

Did you know that the phrase “con man” originates as a short form of “confidence man”? If you do something with confidence, you can trick people into thinking you’re not full of shit. Snyder’s career in a nutshell, but also this movie in a nutshell.

But this isn’t a review of Zach Snyder’s career, it’s a review of his heinous four-fucking-hour movie. It’s broken into six parts plus a prologue and epilogue, and nothing happens in any of the first four parts. In the fifth part they bring Superman back to life and fight him for two seconds (but it’s all in slow motion, so it takes about eight minutes) until Lois reminds him that she’s available to have sex with and Superman stops being a bag of dicks. The fact that Lois was willing to let the world end so she could fuck Superman is 100% fair and valid of her, of course, even if it does make Superman late to the final battle. The sixth part is the final battle, in which the Justice League struggles against bodysuit guy until Superman shows up and kills him in two slow-motion seconds, somehow granting everyone else more powers in the process. During the whole final battle, a portal is opening so Darkseid can come through and destroy the Earth, which, after three hours and forty-five minutes of this garbage fire, would honestly have been a blessing.

Darkseid doesn’t come through. He just kind of lets the portal close after being hyped for the whole movie and fucks off, decreeing that he’ll try again in a future film that I pray to every divinity ever discovered by the human race never happens. This move effectively renders the whole movie as nothing but a prologue to another movie in the future, and that’s just a shitstain move on Zach Snyder’s part, honestly. Like, they didn’t have to fight Darkseid, that’s fine, save him for a future flick. But in that case honestly not having him in the movie at all would have been better, because you spend four fucking hours feeling like he’s going to be the final boss and then all he does is stand there, because he’s aware that he’s the final final boss and that it’s not time for him to fight the Justice League yet. It’s really annoying.

The final part is the overly long epilogue, in which first we see Lex Luthor on a boat hanging out with Slade Wilson to set up another Batman sequel that won’t happen, followed by an extremely lengthy flash-forward/dream sequence in which Darkseid has won, Superman has turned evil and the Earth is a postapocalyptic hellscape where only the Justice League (minus Aquaman and Wonder Woman but plus Slade Wilson) seems to have survived, and then they unfortunately run into the Joker, played by Jared Leto in not only the worst performance of the film, but one of the worst performances that I’ve seen in a film in a long time. He’s trying to be Heath Ledger by way of an edgy seventh-grader who identifies with the Joker because he’s chaotic and taking a detour through someone who got lost on the way to acting class and ended up getting mugged in an alley instead. Now, I fully admit that I don’t like the Joker as a character, so I’m biased here, and I’m willing to give a little bit of benefit of the doubt here because they filmed this scene for this cut of the film and I guess there were logistical issues (or maybe just “Jared Leto is a creepy asshole who shouldn’t be allowed around other people” issues) and Leto isn’t actually in the same space as anyone else and is basically acting on his own, but it’s so unwatchably bad, and so terminally long.

The only good thing about this epilogue is the framing of the Justice League as modern divinities. Superheroes really are our modern mythology, and it’s clear from this scene (and pretty much no other in the movie) that the film is aware of that to some degree. There’s something about the way Batman and the Joker talk to each other and the way Superman’s entrance is shot that makes it clear that these are the mythic heroes of our time, and I do appreciate that.

I think part of the reason why I appreciate this scene is also because it’s one of the only seen where the near-emotionlessness of the movie makes any sense. Batman and the Joker are acting out a mythological script, not a drama, and that feels like it’s okay that they’re barely emoting. Over the rest of the four fucking hours, hardly anyone does any emoting for any reason. Cyborg seems vaguely upset when his dad gets incinerated, and Wonder Woman seems mildly perturbed by the deaths of countless amazons, but that’s about it. One of the things that was said about this movie was that unlike Whedon’s version, it was tonally consistent. And that’s true! It’s got exactly one tone all the way through and that tone is very flat and dour, both from the characters and the cinematography.

Another thing that was said about this cut was that every character had their own defined arc and that nobody feels superfluous. This is not true. Most of the characters actually feel superfluous for most of the movie. Wonder Woman is just there to give exposition. Aquaman is just there to be hot, and his arc is deciding that he wants to be Aquaman, which he already is. The Flash’s arc is that he starts the movie unemployed and gets a job (offscreen) at the end? He has no apparent emotional growth over the course of the movie. The culmination of his storyline is him using his powers to turn back time, but he’s never shown being afraid to use his powers or anything, he just has a rule about not turning back time because it’s clearly stupid, and he breaks it to save the world. That’s not an arc, that’s an inciting incident that takes four fucking hours to get to. Cyborg’s arc is that he learns not to hate himself for his disability or his dad for saving his life, which is legit, but his character is so unnecessary to most of the movie that it feels pointless and the fact that he ends up in the apartment where he started isn’t satisfying, because he only became interesting when he started hanging out with the rest of the Justice League. I guess Batman’s arc is that he wanted to make the Justice League, which good for him? It can’t be his relationship with Superman, because after Superman comes back they don’t talk ever, so there’s no emotional resolution to that. Superman’s arc is that he comes back to life and decides to keep being Superman, which again, not an arc, especially because it happens in like fifteen minutes. I know some of this stuff is continuing on from the previous movies and that’s fine, but it’s really just a sign that the movie needed to be trimmed. The mistake here is assuming that all six of the main characters needed to be the main character. It’s okay in an ensemble for one character to be central, and Snyder refusing to let that happen muddles up the whole narrative. As much as I don’t find Batman interesting, if the movie had been mostly focused on him, that would have worked much better. I actually think the Flash would have been the ideal main character, because it’s his powers that eventually fix everything, but he shows up too late in the story for that to work.   

Really what this all comes down to for me is that Zach Snyder shouldn’t have been allowed to make this movie. I don’t have a problem with him having been allowed to come back and cut the movie the way he’d wanted it, especially since the Whedon version was so widely panned. But it’s clear that he was just given way too much leeway with this. No director is allowed to just do whatever they want, they’re all subject to editing and expectations from higher up and all that, and it doesn’t seem like he was in this case. Directors’ cuts of movies have been around forever, but this is something else. The fan clamouring for it makes it feel like Snyder is some visionary genius who should be allowed to just do whatever he wants without oversight. It’s very clear that when he works without oversight, he produces abject garbage. He needed someone or several someones to tell him to tone it down and rein it in, which would have happened if he’d produced this movie theatrically. The Snyder cut isn’t the movie that would have aired in theatres, and it just kind of pisses me off that he got these special privileges and used them to make such a piece of shit film.

A list of other things that bothered me in no particular order:

  • The Atlanteans randomly making air bubbles to talk to each other so the studio can save on CGI animating Jason Momoa’s hair
  • Wonder Woman just strolling into an archaeological site and stealing an obviously valuable thing without anyone noticing in broad daylight
  • The Flash stealing the hotdog
  • The Justice League disappearing silently on Commissioner Gordon when Cyborg makes robot noises every time he moves
  • The Flash’s shoes exploding when he runs but not the rest of his clothes when he later has a suit that we’re specifically told reduces friction so it can’t catch fire
  • Wonder Woman just having known that this crisis might potentially happen forever and never mentioning it to anyone
  • The unnecessary existence of Willem Defoe’s character
  • The fact that the Greek gods literally exist and helped fight Darkseid’s army the first time but nobody asks for their help
  • Cyborg’s dad’s objectively pointless sacrifice
  • The one note that was sung every time Wonder Woman did something, and really the soundtrack in general, that’s not how leitmotifs work
  • Martian Manhunter being around but not helping literally at all
  • The fact that nobody noticed an entire town being swallowed by an alien placenta cocoon
  • The Flash’s voiceover as he runs to turn back time, ruining what could otherwise have been a good scene
  • The Ryan Choi character being there to set up a future Atom storyline that will never come to pass
  • The Flash’s super healing not activating until it’s convenient for the narrative
  • Batman’s prophetic visions/dreams (maybe this was explained in another movie, though?)
  • The Flash and Cyborg commenting how they could dig up Superman’s grave instantly but then not doing it because of sombre atmosphere I guess
  • Lois getting coffee in slow motion
  • The “he’s never fought all of us, not together” line, when he has actually done that, ten minutes ago
  • The Aquaman suit doing nothing for Jason Momoa’s ass
  • Superman torturing the shit out of the villain for several minutes
  • Not technically a complaint but I found out three days after I watched the movie that Ciarán Hinds played the villain, which is such a waste of a great actor
  • Cyborg’s weird gif of Superman when they decide to bring him back to life

There are about four fucking hours worth of others, but you get the point.

This isn’t about me not liking superhero movies. I think superhero movies are fine. This is about this particular superhero movie being poorly written, badly characterized, under-edited and overall completely unnecessary. Zach Snyder needs someone to take him by the face and gently tell him no over and over and over again until he learns that he’s only going to be told yes if he does something right.

But since that’s not going to happen, this is going to be the last time I’ll see a DCEU movie (with the possible exception of Wonder Woman 3 if they make one). If you’ve never seen a movie in this franchise, the “Snyder cut” of Justice League is the best possible reason not to start now.

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