I’ve finished the entire film now, seen it multiple times, and formulated quite a few thoughts about it. Among them:
Thankfully, the random Russian family is absent from this cut of the movie, being one of Whedon’s many baffling creative choices – I mean, why give Cyborg a whole character arc when you can just show random nameless people that we don’t care about? In this cut, the Russian town is completely deserted, which seems like a more likely choice for Steppenwolf’s secret headquarters… and, somehow, makes the whole event seem much more sinister. It’s a mission of death, brewing and blooming in a place that is, effectively, dead.
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth is, by the way, a delight. The fact that he’s more prominently featured in the Snyder Cut is another point in its favor.
A pretty effective horror scene in which a hapless janitor finds a parademon lurking in the lab… very good at establishing mood and the sinisterness of the parademons. I honestly never felt that in the Josstice League cut.
The firing of the message arrow was longer and more ritualized here, giving more of a feeling that the Amazons are using magic, and very ancient means. It’s also specified that the arrow is an arrow of the goddess Artemis. Overall, it has a slight “lighting the beacons of Gondor” feeling.
It also leads into an excellent scene of Diana investigating the temple where the arrow landed, which – again – increases the feeling of atmosphere and menace considerably. In the Josstice League cut, she just saw it on TV and immediately knew what it meant. Here she knows its significance, but we see her uncovering what it means through non-verbal means and an Indiana Jones-style infiltration of an ancient secret chamber. Compared to the hamfisted dialogue of the Whedon cut, it’s refreshing to have a director assume his audience is smart enough to decipher what’s going on.
Ryan Choi is in this. If you don’t know who Ryan Choi is, he is the second person to assume the mantle of the Atom, a size-changing superhero. Basically, our dear Zack Snyder was laying groundwork for a future movie if the character went over well. But like most non-white characters, he was eliminated from the theatrical cut, which is a shame, because he has some good energy and works well opposite Silas Stone.
Something about Joe Morton apparently just says “genius scientist.” I have seen him in several roles, and the three most prominent ones – this one included – all cast him as a genius scientist.
He’s also our entry-way to Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, whom we first meet being emo in a hidden apartment. This was… about all the character development Cyborg had in the Josstice League cut – he was just emo and wooden for the whole movie, and then he just sort of decided not to be at the climax. It was truly abysmal, and I actively disliked the character of Cyborg because he was so poorly-written.
Turns out that was all Whedon’s fault. Again. Thanks, Whedon. Thanks so much.
Ah, slo-mo. It wouldn’t be a Zack Snyder movie without slo-mo.
A new scene also introduces us to Vulko, Aquaman’s mentor figure, who is rocking the Elrond hair here. He’s appeared in the Aquaman movie so his appearance is not a huge surprise, but it would have been a fun way to segue into Momoa’s own movie.
One contribution Snyder has made that I’m not really a fan of is the air bubbles that Atlanteans generate whenever they want to talk, and their apparent inability to communicate verbally without them. If they’re able to breathe water, they should be able to talk underwater. Especially since sound does travel underwater – Snyder could have had some fun with it by coming up with watery distortion.
I do, however, love the way that Steppenwolf communicates with DeSaad in this movie, in which a giant slab of stone in the middle of a nuclear power plant (no, I don’t know why it’s there) turns into a molten representation of whoever he’s talking to. It’s a very cool-looking visual representation of communication, more so than just talking through a portal or something like that.
The Snyder Cut also does something that Whedon’s never did: makes Steppenwolf a three-dimensional villain. One of the things I (and everyone else) hated about Steppenwolf was how thin and cliched he was – we’re simply informed that he conquers because… that’s what he likes to do. That’s his whole motive. Nothing deeper or more identifiable than that.
But in Snyder’s cut, you almost feel sorry for Steppenwolf. His motivation here is that he somehow betrayed Darkseid once in the distant past, and now he has to conquer worlds to be allowed to return home. It’s a simple motive – he wants to go home – but it’s one that we can understand and sympathize with, even if he’s still obviously evil.
Diana also gives a more elongated version of the “age of heroes” retelling, with some notable differences. For one thing, it’s worth noting that Whedon trimmed out the African and Asian warriors fighting for the kingdoms of men. More attention is paid to the Green Lantern who dies during the fight. We also see more of the Motherboxes and how they work, which makes them feel more like they aren’t just MacGuffins.
But the biggest difference is that it isn’t Steppenwolf who gets his butt kicked by Earth’s defenders – it’s Darkseid himself, albeit before he started wearing a shirt and calling himself Darkseid. He also is forced to retreat because Ares critically injures him, to the point where he’s bleeding all over the place. We also get an idea of how hard it is to hurt Darkseid – even in his youthful, less powerful days, it takes two or three Greek gods to take him down.
It’s interesting that despite the rather bleak depiction of Batman in Batman V. Superman, It’s Snyder’s cut that has Batman being more optimistic about humanity and the possibility of heroes coming together, whereas Whedon’s is all whiny gloom.