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Zack Snyder's Justice League First Reviews: The Bigger, Better, Clearer Version We Should Have Gotten

Critics say the "Snyder Cut" is a significant improvement over its theatrical predecessor, with smarter storytelling, more compelling characters, and a better grasp of what it's trying to accomplish.

by | March 15, 2021 | Comments

You asked for it, and now it’s here. After all the fan campaigning and all the reshoots, the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League arrives on HBO Max this Friday, March 18. And while it’s not expected to officially change the direction of the DC Extended Universe at all, if the public reception is as positive as the first reviews of this director’s cut, then it’s likely to influence the franchise forever. According to experts, the new version of the 2017 superhero team-up is not just a lot bigger, but a lot better, too. Let’s get right into the details, shall we?

Here’s what critics are saying about Zack Snyder’s Justice League:


Is the Snyder Cut better than the theatrical version?

I am happy to report that the intended vision is miles better than what audiences were subjected to back in 2017.
– Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color

It finally becomes possible to see Justice League for the grand epic it was meant to be.
– Angie Han, Mashable

No one can deny the chasm in quality between Snyder and Whedon’s vision.
– Dewey Singleton, AwardsWatch

Snyder’s version is a better film, yes, but it’s no Superman swooping in at the last minute to save the day either… [it] isn’t immensely better.
– Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

My mindset on this movie has changed from “a disaster” to “a competently made, interesting misfire.”
– Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Yes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is better than the theatrical cut of the film. Just about anything would have been. But the new edit also isn’t quite a movie.
– Joshua Rivera, Polygon

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is just another bad Justice League.
– Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly


Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Photo by HBO Max)

What’s different?

The cut also benefits from the inclusion of a lot more hope and optimism than the previous version, with the heroes working together with much more unity and purpose.
Nicola Austin, We Have a Hulk

A more hopeful Batman means that tone is lighter and more optimistic.
Amon Warmann, Empire Magazine

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is mostly the same 118-minute movie but with two hours of deleted scenes and poor pacing.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes


Is it just more movie?

While more isn’t always better, that axiom is challenged by the subjective truth that this redo is an impressive improvement over the original release.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

The defining problem for Zack Snyder’s Justice League: the director’s vision adds a lot more stuff but rarely does more add up to anything of meaning.
Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation


How does the longer runtime affect the film?

The film’s chapter breaks are very effective, allowing the narrative room to breathe while also embodying the spirit of a tried and true superhero comic event, which needs multiple issues to tell its massive narrative.
Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com

Overall the film benefits from its extended running time, but it still can feel like a slough, especially in the first half.
Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

This version running four hours is the very definition of indulgence, especially how much of the “new” footage is not new but merely extended.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes

There are very few movies that justify an over three-hour run time, and, unfortunately, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is not one of them.
Kaitlyn Booth, Bleeding Cool


Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Photo by HBO Max)

Is it just for fans?

Perhaps the most general audience-friendly film Snyder has made in his career, Justice League seems to have something for everyone.
Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate

This epic should open with a disclaimer: “This movie is intended FOR THE FANS ONLY.”
Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation


Is the plot easier to follow?

The most striking thing about Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the fact that everything that didn’t make sense three-and-a-half years ago now does.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

From the moment the film begins, it is clear that it is something much more cohesive with a specific plan of attack for all of the heroes in the film.
Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color

The massive differences serve to better establish the story… It sets the stage for the main antagonist in Darkseid, as well as provides a much clearer idea of what’s happening and why.
Shah Shahid, Comic Years

The point is not to shovel plot information at the viewer. The point is to create a fantastic world where metaphors are real, and to give you time to roam around in it and savor all the details.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

I’m actually not clear on why Steppenwolf was banished in the first place, and this is one of the areas where I feel that Snyder’s version is actually worse than the original.
Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire


Do the characters feel more developed?

The character work is easily one of the biggest pleasant surprises of the movie, as is the further exploration of Steppenwolf.
Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com

The character development helps immensely… While watching Snyder’s version, I had a lot of, “ohhh, I see, that makes sense now,” moments.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

It allows for time to see these characters when they aren’t superheroes, and makes them more human as a result.
Karen Han, Slate

Snyder’s priority is in giving each character time to look cool as hell, but not necessarily in making the audience like them any more — except for Cyborg.
Joshua Rivera, Polygon


Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Photo by HBO Max)

Do any characters stand out?

Far and away, Cyborg [is] the best part of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate

Fisher’s performance is the best in a film filled with strong acting.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

This is a star making performance from the actor.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

If there’s any reason to see this beyond curiosity, it’s for those wanting a Justice League movie where Cyborg is the (eventual) central character.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes

The extra Cyborg scenes make him a more relatable character, they are also rather dull at times.
Kaitlyn Booth, Bleeding Cool


Does it fix the villain problem?

Steppenwolf is among the characters who are fleshed out. Now he’s less ‘standard CGI villain’ and more of a depressing dope who just wants to impress Darkseid.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Steppenwolf never feels imposing… The big bad getting chewed out by his boss doesn’t exactly establish a terrifying villain.
Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation

The extra scenes explaining Steppenwolf only underline that he’s still a total dud.
Angie Han, Mashable


Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Photo by HBO Max)

How is the tone of the film?

This new cut also wisely removes much of the original’s cheesy, ill-fitting jokiness, making for a smarter, more even experience.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

A lot of the vaguely Whedonish wisecracks have made it intact; turns out the Flash’s awkward sense of humor was a rare element that both filmmakers could comfortably get behind.
Angie Han, Mashable

There’s also a sense of levity, with moments of humor… the tone isn’t quite the upbeat camp of Super Friends, or the stoicism of Snyder at his most serious, but something comfortably in the middle.
Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com


How does the movie look?

The filmmaker’s knack for striking visuals shows in the action set pieces, which play crisper and cleaner this time around.
Angie Han, Mashable

This has to be one of the most visually spellbinding comic-book movies ever made.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

The superhero version of a symphonically grand, late-period silent epic… just scene after scene of impeccably composed panoramas.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com


What about the visual effects?

The visual effects are particularly impressive in bringing both Steppenwolf and Darkseid to life, especially in the intricate detailing and purple hue of Steppenwolf’s armor.
Nicola Austin, We Have a Hulk

Outside of one or two brief moments, the visual effects within that aesthetic are near-flawless, especially when it comes to Steppenwolf and Darkseid’s visual design.
Jenna Anderson, ComicBook.com

We’re far too often treated to some pretty abysmal CG and digital matte work… the inconsistent quality of effects here is enough to threaten whiplash.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

While there were some nicks and scratches in the heavy CGI moments, given that the team only had seven months to create 3,000 shots during a pandemic, this can be forgiven.
Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate


Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Photo by HBO Max)

And the action scenes?

They’ve been staged with a supreme conviction that’s more Seven Samurai than super invincible.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

In some instances, both action and quiet moments happen simultaneously, giving us a roller coaster of emotional reactions.
Shah Shahid, Comic Years

The action is free of any tangible stakes. There’s plenty of comic book action unfolding but it’s all weightless.
Sean Mulvihill, FanboyNation

The final battle buries weightless digital oblivion under one laughable plot twist.
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly


Is the new score by Junkie XL better?

In many ways a character of its own, Junkie XL’s score is masterful.
Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate

Junkie XL’s score is a rousing, ethereal mix of synth-fueled adrenaline and choral beauty alongside earlier Hans Zimmer tracks.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Mostly, it works as a backing track for Snyder’s visual excess, but it’s still forgettable.
Joshua Rivera, Polygon


Justice League

(Photo by DC Entertainment)

How does it measure up against the Marvel movies?

It comes closer to delivering the DCEU’s equivalent of The Avengers than anyone could have expected.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

This cut is an ensemble picture that does as good a job as MCU’s Avengers films of depicting a band of heroes as strong-willed, fully-rounded individuals.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

Justice League accomplishes in four hours what those films did in nine.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

[The climax] may not be as all-encompassing as “The Battle of New York,” but it is close to the epic Justice League finale we wanted in 2017.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes


So it was all worth the fuss, then?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one of the best comic book films of all time.
Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBook Debate

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is one of the best superhero films ever made.
Dewey Singleton, AwardsWatch

The superhero movies that have achieved a genuine sweeping transcendence can just about be counted on one hand… to that hallowed list I would now add Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

This four-hour cut is the kind of brazen auteurist vision that Martin Scorsese was calling for when he complained (rightly) that most modern superhero movies don’t resemble cinema.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com


Zack Snyder’s Justice League premieres on HBO Max on March 18, 2021.

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