Zack Snyder's Justice League

In what will surely go down in history as a textbook example of a successful online campaign to release a much-wanted movie, the #releasethesnydercut movement ultimately convinced Warner Bros. to complete and distribute director Zack Snyder's original vision for his DC Comics Extended Universe ("DCEU") team-up flick, Justice League. Snyder's departure from the project during production led to the hiring of Joss Whedon to oversee final work on the movie for its November 2017 theatrical debut, writing and directing new scenes on the way to a two-hour cut. That version largely left audiences cold, particularly fans of Snyder's previous DCEU films, despite co-star Gal Gadot's wave of popularity from her Wonder Woman solo film a few months earlier.

Almost immediately, Snyder loyalists began demanding that his grander efforts be revealed. We had heard for a long time that the footage necessary to piece this together in any traditional way simply did not exist, and that the cost of the new special effects would be prohibitive. But given Warner's then-new HBO Max streaming service and its desire for big, tentpole exclusives, the announcement was made that Zack Snyder's Justice League would finally see the light.

Reportedly made at a cost of more than $70M—on top of an estimated $300M to deliver the theatrical JL—this new version required over 1,000 brand-new visual effects shots in addition to many more that needed to be revised and updated to fit Snyder's aesthetic, which included a highly unusual 4:3 aspect ratio. The director composed his shots with an eye on an IMAX theatrical release, and so the entire movie is presented pillarboxed, rather than with the shifting ratio of so many other modern blockbusters, among them Snyder's own recently remastered Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition. Some new scenes were also shot during the lockdown, among them a lengthy and wildly self-indulgent epilogue.

Instead of focusing solely on evil Steppenwolf and his plans to unite three powerful alien artifacts and use them to take over the world, the story now casts him as the humble servant of the far more dangerous Darkseid, seen in flashbacks as a remote supervisor of sorts. Once again, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) must bring together a crew of sometimes-reluctant heroes to meet the otherworldly threat, even going so far as to resurrect a certain deceased Kryptonian to help. We go deeper on the characters this go-around, with Cyborg (Ray Fisher) in particular enjoying a tremendous increase in screen time. Occasionally, it can feel like a bit too much, but considering how this was made largely in response to fan demand, Snyder apparently held nothing back, as evidenced by the four-hour runtime. He also proudly proclaimed that he did not use a single scene from Whedon's reshoots.

Of course, this led to a re-evaluation of the Joss Whedon-ized Justice League, which I didn't hate then and still don't. But it now comes off as slight, and even downright breezy in comparison with this R-rated rebirth. The sheer scope of The Snyder Cut makes me wonder what it would look like on a 40-foot screen, and yet the unhurried pacing of the six titled "Parts" (not to be confused with scenes/chapters) make it feel at home on the small screen, like episodes of an exceedingly well-produced mini-series. Underneath all of the frequent nonsense, tedious dialogue, and impossible physics, there's a pretty solid superhero story struggling to punch its way out here, and there's no denying it's the proper culmination of the trilogy begun with 2013's Man of Steel.


The finished creation was produced at 4K resolution, which is often astounding, not only in the level of detail in the costumes and environments but also the lighting and compositing of what could have easily wound up looking like a videogame. The entire movie is more somber visually, and Snyder's very deliberate color choices are exquisitely rendered. Shadows are rich and nuanced, as they must be. HBO Max's streaming version featured Dolby Vision high dynamic range versus this HDR10-only disc, but the highlights are more pronounced here, notably on Cyborg's inner glow and Flash's, well, flashes.

Owing to the length and the high bitrate, the movie is split onto two 4K platters, these in addition to the two included regular HD Blu-ray versions of the movie. There's no digital copy, ostensibly to help maintain HBO Max's streaming sanctity for this proprietary title. Both formats deliver a wonderfully immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack that revels in the possibilities of a 360-degree spread, giving us armies and crowds and swarms of flitting parademons and even a police siren that resonates most realistically through the home theater. Boom tubes—Steppenwolf's preferred mode of transportation—could be boomier in their LFE, but the surround mix is second to none. An entirely new score has been composed by Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL), further adding to the filmmakers' intended transformation. Fun fact: At just shy of four full hours of music, this broke Ben-Hur's record (by quite a lot), becoming the longest musical score in the history of film.

The only extra is a previously released 24-minute featurette spanning Zack Snyder's involvement with the DCEU. It isn't much, but it's extremely relevant. Absent is the black-and-white version, dubbed Justice Is Gray, still exclusive to HBO Max. I can certainly appreciate the thinking behind releasing Zack Snyder's Justice League to 4K physical media since we comic book aficionados tend to be collectors, often completists, and this premium A/V presentation of an epic reclamation earns a place on our DC shelf.

Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray
Studio: Warner Bros., 2021
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
HDR Format: HDR10
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos with TrueHD 7.1 core
Length: 242 Mins.
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ciarán Hinds

David Vaughn's picture

Although it's long, it needed to be to tell a story that actually has character development and a plot you care about, unlike Whedon's version. I'll never watch the original again, that's for sure. My only gripe is the 4x3 formatting, which is so last century!