Justice League vs. Zack Snyder's Justice League
I'm sure many of you have been waiting for a post like this so let's get straight into it.
In my previous post, I reviewed Zack Snyder's Justice League and how it was as a movie on its own. Now I'm going to do a comparison post with this movie and the 2017 cut of Justice League we got in cinemas.
Which cut does the movie more "justice", shall we say? Let's dive in. I'm the Media Man and this is my comparison between Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League...
Section 1: Best Story
The plot of both these films is that Batman and Wonder Woman team up to recruit other superhumans that we teased in Batman v Superman to combat the alien invasion of Steppenwolf and his Parademon forces who are coming in to find the three Mother Boxes in order to finish something they started many eons ago, but with the world still hurting from Superman's death and the growing threat of Steppenwolf's forces, their task is far from easy.
Despite the plot being the same here, it really shows how two different directors can have such wildly different ways of telling the same story. Zack Snyder's Justice League is much longer and has a lot more depth and context to many of its scenes and what the characters go through while Joss Whedon's Justice League is much shorter and has a lot of the depth and context removed as a result of the shorter running time or downright replaced with inferior new scenes that don't hold anywhere near as much weight as they do in the Snyder cut.
Some examples I can give include the way the climax is handled. In the Snyder cut, the action feels much more intense as a result of the higher age rating and there are real stakes for our heroes. Not only does Superman's presence not equal an automatic win for the League, but they actually lose for a brief moment which leads to The Flash having to break the one rule this one time to save everyone and prevent victory for Darkseid. Compare that to the Whedon version where the stakes feel much lower because the characters are quipping like they're MCU characters instead of the actual characters they're meant to be and the moment Superman shows up, it's game over for Steppenwolf while The Flash's big epic moment is taken away and replaced with him pushing a truck to save the random Russian family. Yeah...see what I mean by how execution is what ultimately makes or breaks a story?
Also due to the Whedon cut being trimmed down ludicrously from the Snyder cut, the film just feels so hollow compared to the Snyder cut as so many important character moments are just gone and the film feels so incomplete as a result. Gone are the big important character arcs for Cyborg and The Flash. Gone is that sweet scene with Cyborg using his powers to help the struggling woman. Gone is The Flash having the most epic moment in superhero movie history. Gone is Silas Stone's heroic sacrifice. Gone is Steppenwolf's motivation and the reasons behind his motivation and his relationship with Darkseid. Gone is Darkseid in general! It's just ridiculous how Whedon felt all that important stuff had to go and he went and replaced it with meaningless stuff that added nothing to his cut of the film or presented pre-existing scenes with the context and weight behind them all completely gone. Like instead of all the awesome stuff we got in the Snyder cut, what did Whedon give us instead?
Jokes about "brunch" and Steppenwolf being tall, Darkseid being name-dropped with no actual presence, a pointless argument between Batman and Wonder Woman that was completely unnecessary, an opening scene with Batman vs. a Parademon that wasn't at all missed when the Snyder cut dropped it, a random Russian family living in an area that's supposed to be abandoned due to being too toxic to live in and a random mid-credits scene with The Flash and Superman having a race. I think the only Whedon addition I think is genuinely good is the "Everybody Knows" sequence as that's an effective montage showing how the world's in mourning from Superman's death and the song itself is pretty decent if repetitive in its lyrics but once again, I can't say I really missed it when the Snyder cut left it out. I'd happily lose the "Everybody Knows" scene if it means losing the rest of the other unnecessary additions Whedon and Warner Bros. put in to replace all the good stuff we lost from the Snyder cut.
I also found myself thinking the humour was much better in this movie too. The theatrical version does have some funny moments, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the humour used there feels more like jokes that the MCU heroes would make rather than these characters, particularly Batman's "Something's definitely bleeding!" quip or The Flash's awkward brunch comments or even Superman and The Flash saving people in a way that's played more for laughs than as a serious moment. The humour in the Snyder cut feels more in line with how these characters would make jokes and as a result, it doesn't feel tonally off-balance and fits in better with the tone of the Snyder-verse. That and we have some genuinely funny lines here and there such as:
Flash: "Wait a minute...you have a satellite?"
Batman: "I have six."
Batman: "Any luck?"
Alfred: "If by luck you mean there's a chance in hell we'll get it flying today, then no! No luck!"
And I know I especially laughed when in the aftermath of the Superman battle, Aquaman gave The Flash a death glare and pointed at him as if to say "You! Not one word about this or you're gonna meet every piranha I know!" and the Flash can only feebly apologize for crashing into him during the battle. While the Whedon version has its funny moments too, I feel like the movie didn't really suffer from their absences in the Snyder cut, which shows just how unnecessary they really are when you can leave them out and replace them with other funny scenes that are better suited for the DCEU's characters and how they use humour.
When it comes to story-telling, one of the most important ingredients in the concoction that is the story for me is pacing. Pacing can make or break a story and with these two movies, the Snyder cut is living proof of how pacing really broke the theatrical version. The Snyder cut is over four hours long and thus has much more time to devote to fleshing out its story and characters while the theatrical version is only 120 minutes, which does it no favours as it had to cut down to the point it left out so much of the film's story and character development and thus, we're left with a hollow husk of a movie that just lacks most of the substance it needed to be truly grand. It's like if you find two carcasses in the desert and you find one that still has some meat on it while the other is nothing but bones. The Snyder cut is the movie with all the meat while the Whedon cut is the movie that has only bones left.
Now of course, the Snyder cut has problems which I detailed in my review previously so I'm not gonna say it's flawless while the Whedon cut has all the problems. It's just when you compare these two films, the Snyder cut's flaws are much smaller by comparison and the Whedon cut's flaws are so much more noticeable.
So the movie with the superior story is by far the Snyder version.
ZS Justice League: 1
Justice League: 0
Section 2: Best Characters
If there's one thing that benefitted from the Snyder cut's extended run time while suffering from the theatrical cut's reduced run time, it was the characters of this movie.
I'll start off with each Justice League member. Batman in the Snyder cut is a more dignified character with better dialogue and a more badass outing as the Dark Knight as he takes on Parademons with just his gadgets and his vehicles and has a lot of starring moments, be it his assault with the Batmobile or when he takes control of a Parademon weapon. In the theatrical version, he has his badass moments there too but is made more of a joke with some out-of-character quips he makes and being over-shadowed a little by everyone else. He also gets a pointless argument with Wonder Woman that was completely unnecessary and leaving that out of the Snyder cut certainly proved to be for the best with Batman.
Wonder Woman is honestly not too different between the two movies although she too benefits in the Snyder cut from losing that unnecessary confrontational moment between her and Batman and she gets a lot of extra scenes that show more sides to her character that the Whedon version felt the need to remove for reasons that wouldn't make sense even to Bat-mite, namely that sweet moment where she checks on the schoolkids and teachers after saving their lives. Why the theatrical version left that out is a mystery to me. Same goes to why they felt the need to subject her and The Flash to the "man falls into woman's chest" joke too.
Aquaman is just as superfluous to the plot in the theatrical version as he is in the Snyder cut but in both versions, he does get his time to shine. While I found the Lasso of Truth moment with him in the Whedon cut quite funny, I found his angry stare and point at The Flash in the Snyder cut even funnier. Like Batman, I feel the Snyder cut had a more dignified portrayal of Aquaman, especially when they dropped Batman's stupid comment about if he really talks to fish. Aquaman's been a joke for too long now guys, we don't need in-universe comments like that.
And now for the ones that really differ greatly between cuts. The Flash and Cyborg. Both of these two feel like they go on totally different journeys in the Snyder cut compared to the theatrical version. The Flash and Cyborg are considerably more fleshed out in the director's cut thanks to more time being allowed to develop them and they have some of the Snyder cut's best moments such as the struggling woman scene with Cyborg or The Flash's epic run in the climax. Both these characters undergo arcs that see them as stronger, different people at the end of the movie with Cyborg coming more at peace with his new gifts and The Flash finding his place in the world and realizing he's one of the best of the best. What do we get with these two in the theatrical version? No arcs and the two being the same characters they were when they started out and their epic moments are completely taken away with The Flash especially looking like a total joke and Cyborg not having the impact he should've had. The Flash and Cyborg REALLY got the short-end of the stick when Whedon and Warner Bros. got involved and it shows with how much better both of them are in the Snyder cut.
Superman's not in either version much but once again, he's got a far more dignified portrayal in the Snyder cut whereas in the Whedon cut, he's made to be much quippier than he should be and takes a moment out of the fight to save civilians and its done in a way where it looks like he's competing with The Flash for some reason. It also doesn't make any sense that there are civilians to save since Steppenwolf's base is supposed to be set up somewhere toxic and thus there shouldn't be any life there at all so Superman's portrayal in the Snyder cut also makes more sense too. It also helps that the Whedon version made him too overpowered to the point it's game over for Steppenwolf once he arrives whereas the Snyder version shows that just because Superman's here, doesn't mean the heroes will still win and thus he doesn't make the rest of the League redundant. Also his moment with Lois feels much stronger here as Lois coming in to calm him down was down to her being there at the right moment and it all being down to her instead of being a contingency on Batman's behalf.
In fact, Lois is even given more heartfelt moments and time to grieve for Superman as opposed to the Whedon cut where we have her talk with Martha Kent and it's played more for jokes than to be as sombre and heartfelt as it was here. Why does Joss keep taking heartfelt moments or dark scenes and putting in jokes when we don't need them? These moments are NOT missed at all in the Snyder cut.
And then there's Steppenwolf...what else can I say? Every superhero fan on the planet has already compared the two versions masterfully and detailed beautifully why he's better in the Snyder cut than the theatrical version. He suffered as much as The Flash and Cyborg did from the movie being cut down so heavily and the Snyder cut presents us with a far more compelling antagonist who has a more badass defeat whereas the Whedon version gives us a one-dimensional alien invader who has a really embarrassing defeat. There's no contest, Snyder's Steppenwolf is the superior villain here! Also the Snyder cut gives Darkseid an actual presence here and a really intimidating first impression whereas the theatrical version gives us a single name-drop and that's it. There's far more weight behind Steppenwolf's proclamation of "For Darkseid" than in the original. Hell, his dialogue tends to be better in the original version too with more menacing lines and only speaking when he needs to instead of monologing whenever it's convenient for himself.
With far more badass and dignified portrayals while also having more complete stories to them, it's no wonder that the movie with the superior version of the characters is once again, the Snyder cut. I may as well be comparing apples and oranges with how different these characters feel between versions...
ZS Justice League: 2
Justice League: 0
Section 3: Best Cinematography
Now this'll be an interesting comparison as I'm going to be comparing two different directing styles.
For both movies, they do a solid job on depicting a big epic action-packed superhero flick with a lot of giant battle scenes, CGI and effects and some big locations to film in. But which movie looks the best in terms of cinematography?
Well for starters, I'll give the Whedon version credit for looking more colourful at least. Zack's movies always have a habit of using saturated colours and while it does give his movies a pretty unique look, it can at times make everyone look a bit brown at times. The Whedon version at least looks more colourful so the superhero costumes pop out way more than in the Snyder cut with the reds on Superman, Wonder Woman and The Flash's costumes looking much more striking.
But being more colourful doesn't mean that the Whedon version's the better looking movie. As many have pointed out, the Whedon version suffers so much from special effect failures due to the extensive reshoots and not as much time to polish the effects as a result. While I feel people exaggerate how bad the effects in the Whedon cut are, the Snyder cut is definitely the more polished looking movie of the two. Case in point, Steppenwolf's design. Steppenwolf in the Snyder cut looks more convincing due to the realistic lighting effects used on him and his shiny armour to make him look as if he's really there and the texture on his skin looks so real that it feels as if you could touch him. The Whedon version on the other hand looks less convincing due to less realistic looking lighting effects and at times he can still look like a CGI character. The Snyder Steppenwolf design also looks more creative and alien whereas the Whedon Steppenwolf just looks like a generic deformed human so the Snyder Steppenwolf is more interesting to look at, even if the spiky armour is a little over-the-top. Oh and we don't have Henry's infamous moustache being patched over with CGI too, that helps. XD
The action scenes in the Snyder cut also have more of a flow to them and look more exciting to watch as a result whereas the Whedon cut suffers from trimming down certain scenes a lot to fit the run time and thus the action scenes don't look as neatly edited together as a result. The editing is more choppy as a result of trimming down so much to fit the run time in the theatrical version. Case in point, the stare down with Steppenwolf and Wonder Woman. There's a tense few seconds that pass before he reaches for his axe and Wonder Woman attacks whereas the Whedon version barely allows any time between these moments and so the scene feels more rushed as a result. The movie in general has a lot more weight behind certain scenes or moments because the Snyder cut has more time to breathe and has no Executive Meddling to trim it down so much. Like how is it I feel more emotions watching the Amazons vs. Steppenwolf in the Snyder cut than I do in the Whedon cut? Because the scene is less edited down and given more lingering moments to let the atmosphere and the weight of the situation sink in as a result so you're actually able to feel something.
The Snyder cut is also able to use its cinematography in a way to visually tell its story at times, namely Cyborg's scene with the struggling woman. The whole sequence is done with barely any dialogue at all and is told with Cyborg merely going through footage of the woman's life to get the full story. It's brilliantly done and put together in a way that it tells us a whole story without needing to spell anything out to us and all showing us great camera work and the right shots to use to put it to together. The Whedon cut doesn't really do anything that impressive with its cinematography. We don't get visual story-telling like this to really show off what the director and cameramen can do with their work, we just get by-the-numbers cinematography that does what it needs to do and that's it. It's still competent film-making, don't get me wrong, but if you don't do anything unique or interesting with your cinematography like in the Snyder cut, you just end up blending into a whole lot of other action movies as a result. Also, the Snyder cut is able to give us more amazing moments to look at whereas the Whedon version either trims down some of these moments so they don't look as cool or replaces them with inferior scenes that look so boring by comparison. I mean who wants to see The Flash going for the most epic and eye-popping run of his life when we can watch him push a truck with a random Russian family, right? (sarcasm)
Both movies have good cinematography to them but while the Whedon version looks more colourful, the Snyder version is more visually interesting to watch due to its more creative cinematography, more polished effects that make everything look more real and convincing, better editing to give the action scenes more flow and better pacing to let the scenes breathe some more. Once again, I'm going to give the point to Zack Snyder's Justice League, but I still give credit to the Whedon version for doing the most of what they could do with what they had and making a decent looking movie despite everything behind how it turned out.
ZS Justice League: 3
Justice League: 0
Sorry to be so predictable but yeah, Zack Snyder's Justice League wins. It's by far the superior cut of the movie and the one we should've gotten back in the day. While both movies will have their fans and detractors, I can say that I'll happily take the Snyder cut over the original any day. It's just the better movie of the two thanks to its more complete story, solid character arcs, improved visuals and overall making for a more fulfilling experience. The original version just feels worthless now we have the Snyder cut, but that's just my opinion. No disrespect to anyone who loves the Whedon cut.
And that's it for this post. I hope you enjoyed the comparisons between the two movies and feel free to share in the comments below which movie you think is the best.
Next time, I'll be reviewing Batman's latest movie at the hands of director Matt Reeves. See you then...