Justice League: is Zack Snyder's cut worth seeing?

The Flash (Ezra Miller), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in the theatrical version of Justice League

The original director's version of the DC film is a very different film from the one released in 2017: melancholic and bombastic, it has a much more striking antagonist in Darkseid.

After Marvel shaped its "cinematic universe" (a set of superhero films that exist in the same fictional universe and linked by strong continuity), the Warner company, owner of DC Comics, set out to do the same and commissioned the It went to director Zack Snyder, who had made a highly successful adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 and then another more contested Alan Moore's Watchmen, two universally revered comics.

Since Christopher Nolan had already done an extraordinary job with his version of Batman, Snyder began by reinventing DC's other iconic superhero in Man of Steel (2013), with the muscular rookie Henry Cavill in the central role. While the film did not replicate the success of Nolan's or Marvel's tanks, it had a favorable reception that gave the green light to an ambitious plan: a sequel that would lay the foundations for the formation of the Justice League (the group of the main DC superheroes, that is, the equivalent in this company of Marvel's Avengers) and, later, a trilogy of films about this group.

The sequel Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice introduced a new Batman in the role of Ben Affleck, introduced Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and hinted at the existence of other future superheroes such as Flash or Cyborg, while also staging the title fight, one of the most celebrated events among DC fans. In spite of everything, it was a fiasco both for the critics, who with good judgment tore it apart, and at the box office.

The film grossed about $ 800 million globally. If this exorbitant figure was a disappointment, it was due to the fact that the film had a cost of 300 million, another approximate outlay in advertising and the collection corresponds to subtract the share of the exhibitors. After doing the math, an amount that seems a superlative success only covers expenses, something that for one of the so-called “tentpole movies” is unacceptable. The metaphor refers to the central pole of a tent that supports everything: in the same way, these films have no other objective than to financially support their studio. If a tentpole movie does not generate considerable profits, it is a failure.

An internet myth

After the disappointment of that film, Snyder's credibility to carry out the "DC Expanded Universe" project was seriously undermined. The studio no longer trusted is the bombastic and dark vision of it, particularly when contrasted with Marvel movies, which maintain a much lighter and more humorous tone and consistently beat box office records. In the midst of this virulent dispute with the studio over creative control of the film, one of his daughters, Autumn, 20, committed suicide after a long depression. Snyder quit his job to stay with his family and the studio, not too shaken by this personal tragedy, saw an unbeatable opportunity to get the movie he wanted: Joss Whedon, the director of the first two Avengers films, took the place of Snyder in one of the movie team passes of the year. Whedon rewrote much of the script and re-shot more than half of the final footage, lightening the tone of the film with his characteristic formula of finishing each pineapple with a one liner, sometimes of highly debatable ingenuity. The result was a mix of Snyder's operatic pomposity with Whedon's adolescent lightness, and obviously it didn't satisfy anyone. The film was a certified failure that sealed the fate of this franchise. Shortly after birth, the Justice League was already finished. At least, until fans discovered that an alternate version of the film existed.

Apparently, when Snyder left the project, he took a copy of what he had done thus far with him on his computer as a memento, a curiosity to show to friends and colleagues. Some of the film's actors, such as Ray Fisher (Cyborg) or Jason Momoa (Aquaman) affirmed that he had seen that version and that it was openly superior to the one that had reached theaters. Thus was born the myth of the "Snyder Cut", a version of the director whose dubious existence was gaining traction in the networks until it evolved into a persistent claim ("Free the Snyder Cut!"). Eventually, the director confirmed that he had in his possession a montage of more than 240 minutes with only the material recorded before his departure from the project.

The requests from the fans became so overwhelming that the studio, already with a failure on its back, proposed to Snyder the release of the version of him as it was. The director perceived this as a trap, as a way of showing that it had not been a mistake to hand the film over to Whedon because what existed was far inferior, so, emboldened by the insistence of the fans, he made it a condition that let you finish the special effects and shoot some new scenes. He managed to get a budget of $ 30 million, which turned into $ 70 when the opportunity to premiere the film on the new streaming service HBO Max appeared. Finally, the "Snyder Cut" would be a reality, something that has rarely happened in Hollywood history: that a director expelled from a film can return years later to capture his vision (curiously, another film that involves the man of steel, Superman II, had a similar course: the original director, Richard Donner, managed, after the claim of the fans, to complete the film that had been taken from him). This 242-minute version, with more than double the footage that reached theaters in 2017, is the one that landed today on HBO Max in the United States and on DirecTV's on-demand services and, starting tomorrow, on Flow in our country.

The differences game

With the confirmation of the premiere on HBO Max, a new cataract of rumors and half-truths emerged, such as the one that the film would be in black and white and would be broadcast as a four-episode miniseries. While none of this turned out to be true, it is no exaggeration to say that this is a very different movie from the one that was seen in theaters four years ago.

Although not black and white, the colors are noticeably desaturated, not far from the gray palette (Superman's uniform here is black and silver). Curiously, and to give an effect even more archaic and nostalgic than black and white, the format chosen by the director is 1.33: 1, that is, the characteristic aspect ratio of silent movies (which looks like the old televisions, before the advent of panoramic) and that contrasts sharply with the dominance of CGI in the film, since they are forms separated by decades.

Snyder confirmed that he removed from the film any image shot by Whedon, something that can be seen in the recovery of the bombastic tone, underlined by a soundtrack in which the drama dominates (the themes of Nick Cave and the almost a cappella versions of “Song to the Siren ”by Tim Buckley and“ Hallelujah ”by Leonard Cohen suggest that the film is a long requiem). Although many of the central scenes are recognizable, they now have a development that gives them greater density and a feeling of melancholy that did not exist in the original. The 2017 version seems like a hasty summary of what they have in common. Of course, those who do not have too much tolerance for Snyder's rude tone will feel this new temporality as an unbreakable lethargy.

A substantial improvement is in the appearance of the villain Steppenwolf, who has a new uniform and a much more threatening presence but, and this is the most important thing, he is no longer the only antagonist: the film marks the entrance to the DC cinematic universe of the main characters of the "fourth world", a mythology created by the great Jack Kirby in the 70s with which the "king" of comics renewed the DC pantheon and originated its most enduring villain, Darkseid.

This character, who can now be described as the Thanos of the DC universe (although in truth he was created before), is an almost almighty entity that instead of looking for the gems of infinity looks for the equation of anti-life with which he could control to all living things. Darkseid was to be the main antagonist of the Justice League but under pressure from Warner to tone down the darkness he was abandoned. Here he re-enters him.

The film is divided into six parts and an interminable epilogue, the most inflamed moment of the film and that even introduces a new narrative line and new characters in an incinerated world. That final moment seals the funereal tone of the film, the sadness that the new extension lets out, permeating everything. This is, after all, a movie about death: Superman's for the characters and, by extension, his daughter's for the director. And also about the power of fiction, because it is the only place where such a thing can be fixed.