Zack Snyder’s daughter passed away late in the production process of Justice League. Joss Whedon stepped in and finished up the film for the 2017 release to a lackluster critic and fan reception. I do not recall much about the 2017 version of the film other than Gal Godot being the high point and my resulting expectations for Wonder Woman 1984 being set very high.
Zack Snyder’s opinion on Whedon’s work was public knowledge and eventually, Warner Brothers handed all the existing footage and massive budget back to Snyder to make what he originally envisioned. None of the live-action footage was recaptured, but about 50% of the 2021 movie is new footage. The 2017 version of the film was 120 minutes, the 2021 version is 242 minutes. You may be asking, if no new footage was filmed how did 50% never seen footage turn into more than double the movie? SSSSSSSLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWW MMMMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIIIIOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNN.
This film could have been closer to two hours had Snyder not made every scene slow motion. There are tons of slow panning shots of static characters with their hair blowing in the wind. When Flash, Ezra Miller, is running near the speed of light, he is doing it in slow motion. In the X-men/MCU quicksilver moves at normal speed during his super runs. Many times, during the movie it feels like Snyder dragged out the movie for the sake of dragging out the movie.
Whedon injected some comedy into his version of the movie, but most of that is gone. This is a dark tale with dark characters being dark. The color pallet was a huge change between the two versions. Whedon’s film was warm and colorful, with lots of yellows and oranges. Snyder cranked up the blue tint making all the lighting harsher and flattening all the color. The color change has an unsettling and unhappy effect on the film, so it is effective for Snyder’s vision of darkness and sadness.
Cyborg, Ray Fisher, was a new edition to the DC Universe in Justice League. Whedon just popped him into the story without too much of a back story. Snyder fully explored Cyborg’s creation, motivations, and vulnerabilities. Snyder’s version spends a lot more time with Cyborg and it is a highlight of the film.
Where Cyborg’s role is ramped up, Lois Lane, Amy Adams, spends less time on screen. We spend less time sitting with her sadness and eventual joy when being reunited with Superman, Henry Cavill. There is not much time spent in Iowa on a farm, which was the right choice. Gone also is the horrendously awful CGI coverup of Cavill’s mustache.
While there was no new live-action footage, all the CGI for the film was redone; not touched up, but redone. Steppenwolf, the main villain who travels to earth, gets an entirely new look. His armor is constantly moving and is a bit distracting. It is more elaborate and feels like a Snyder jab at Whedon for not ramping up the pizzaz on Steppenwolf’s outfit.
There is no getting around how long Snyder’s version of this movie is. It is a nice concession to the audience to split it up into sections, six in total plus an intro and an epilog. I watched through in one sitting, but it did take up my entire afternoon. The slow-motion gets irritating if you want to get through the film, but if you watched 1 or 2 parts at a time, I don’t think it would be so bad. This version of the film would never have been shown in theaters. At most, it could have been shown 4 times per day per screen, which just does not make it profitable enough for pre-pandemic theaters. Snyder also chose to format the film in 4:3, which is not the IMAX ratio. It is unforgivable to put black bars on the side of my wide-screen TV in 2021 for a film that everyone knew would only be shown in homes. I don’t remember enough about the 2017 film to make a direct comparison, but this version seems less forgettable. I understand the character motivations more on both sides of good and evil now. I wonder if we will ever see a theatrical edit of the Snyder cut of Justice League.