By The Washington Post · David Betancourt
What a difference an extra two hours makes.
Much of the superhero-loving fandom has already taken multiple streams of "Zack Snyder's Justice League," a.k.a. The Snyder Cut,the four-hour epic that dropped on HBO Max Thursday. There is no denying this is a very different movie from the Joss Whedon-directed theatrical version of "Justice League" that debuted in 2017, from its visual effects and its music to the character who saves the day.
There's more edge in the Snyder Cut, but its extra layers of darkness also reveal a heart to the story that many weren't expecting to be there. Even if this film is indeed the end of the DC Comics-inspired Snyderverse, it is without doubt the director's uninterrupted vision.
Here are the six most significant differences in the Snyder Cut.
- Black-suited Superman
Superman is back in black.
One of the most striking visual differences in the Snyder Cut comes when Superman shows up to help balance the scales in the Justice League's battle against Steppenwolf. Gone is Superman telling Steppenwolf he believes in "truth and justice" when he finally arrives; instead, Superman swoops in to save Cyborg from a mighty swoop of Steppenwolf's ax, proving he is the Man of Steel when the ax clangs against his shoulder and does no damage.
"Not impressed," Superman says to Steppenwolf.
What is impressive is the all-black Kryptonian suit, with a black cape and a silver House of El "S" on the chest of the suit. Henry Cavill hinted at this look in a social media post when "Justice League" was in production, but it was one of the many things Warner Bros. and DC decided against for the theatrical release - instead they used an even brighter red and blue suit than the one that appeared in "Man of Steel" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
The all-black suit is a nod to early 1990s"The Death of Superman" comic book story line, which saw Superman return from the dead with a similar look.
Steppenwolf's look has become much more menacing and alien and a lot less humanoid. In the theatrical release he is the main antagonist, but with only the slightest mention of why he is truly trying to take over earth. In the Snyder Cut, with his new armor that looks like a suit made of razors, Steppenwolf's true mission is to get back into the good graces of classic DC villain Darkseid, who debuts in this version.
The Snyder Cut's Steppenwolf is given a much more brutal ending. When he fails to stop the Justice League, they toss him around, one punch after the other, until Wonder Woman decapitates him with her sword. It is a sharper send off than Steppenwolf being dragged away by his Parademons in a boom tube.
DC's answer to Thanos is the almighty Darkseid, ruler of the planet Apokolips. Many fans thought Darkseid's absence in the theatrical cut was a major swing and miss - they thought his presence would be the reason the Justice League had to unify, but instead all the pressure was put on a much less intimidating Steppenwolf. And let's face it, Darkseid is who fans wanted to see the Justice League face off against. Not one of his minions.
While the Snyder Cut does not have a true battle between the Justice League and Darkseid, there is one epic stare-down after Wonder Woman sends the head of Steppenwolf through a boom tube where Darkseid was monitoring things.
"Justice League" was always meant to be a prelude to a bigger fight between Darkseid and DC's top heroes in a sequel. Instead, the Snyder Cut gives us Darkseid's initial battle against earth and a premonition of what he could do to the Justice League in the future. And yes, Darkseid's lethal optical Omega Beams make an appearance.
- The Martian Manhunter
A green Justice Leaguer shows up in the Snyder Cut, but it isn't the Green Lantern. Instead, it's the Martian Manhunter, a popular character from comics and animation who was hiding in plain sight in Snyder's first two films of this trilogy. General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) was actually J'onn J'onzz of Mars the entire time. Turns out he had much more in common with fellow alien Superman than they realized when the two first met in 2013's "Man of Steel."
In the Snyder Cut's epilogue, the Martian Manhunter visits Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and tells him there are bigger threats coming, but that he would like to help. It hints at what would have been a much bigger role for the Martian Manhunter if a sequel to "Justice League" had been made.
- The Flash
The Flash (Ezra Miller) is the team's goofball in both versions, but to say his role in the new one is different is a bold understatement.
For a split second in the Snyder Cut, the bad guys win when Darkseid's three Mother Boxes merge and set off a planet-destroying explosion that hints at extinction for all on Earth. But the Flash is so quick, he vibrates through the moment at super-speed, moving so fast that he slows time down.
Next, the Flash tells himself he has to break his unbreakable rule and move beyond the speed of light so he can manipulate time and reverse the destruction. It's a world-saving moment you'd expect from one of the Justice League's heavy hitters (Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman), but DC's fastest man alive has the Snyder Cut's biggest surprise.
Zack Snyder told The Washington Post that Cyborg (Ray Fisher) was always meant to be the heart of "Justice League," and the Snyder Cut is proof of that. Whereas the theatrical cut gives Fisher a limited role and tries to turn him into a live-action version of the Cyborg from the animated "Teen Titans Go" at times, the Snyder Cut establishes "Justice League" as a Cyborg film.
Cyborg is relied on to counter the seemingly unstoppable technology of the three Mother Boxes (with a very cool assist from the Flash) but not before he must conquer his demons and realize that he does have something to offer the world, despite thinking that same world turned him into a robotic monster.
There are also touching moments between Fisher and veteran actor Joe Morton, who plays Cyborg's father, Silas Stone.
Seeing Snyder's original vision for Cyborg and Fisher's execution of that role makes it easier to understand why there were initially plans for the character to have his own movie and appear alongside other Justice Leaguers in their films.