A few quick notes on the Snyder cut of Justice League.
First, there is no doubt Snyder’s version is better. I actually cared about Cyborg and Aquaman as characters this time around. And the Flash’s whole arc is much better. Even Batman and Wonder Woman seems far more fleshed out this time around.
One thing I really liked about the Whedon version was its treatment of Superman. Superman is a superhero among superheroes and past movies (made by Snyder!) didn’t treat him this way. Yet Snyder’s treatment of Superman was just as good as Whedon’s in its own way. Superman was still clearly the ‘big gun’ here — maybe even more so than in the Whedon version.
Where Snyder improved things was he didn’t try to make Steppenwolf into the ‘big bad’ and made it clear that was Darkseid’s role. Steppenwolf is just the lackey, albeit a very powerful one. Yet Steppenwolf, in this version, comes across far more terrifying than the original version because he seems unstoppable at accomplishing his goals. He simply finishes what he intends to do then escapes each time. The League is, together, roughly on level with him. But they just aren’t enough to literally ‘stop him’ from accomplishing his goal of bringing Darkseid.
Wonder Woman’s comment (from best I can remember it) “I’ve never seen something so strong… well.. maybe once…” to which Flash responds “Yeah, Superman” makes it clear that the whole movie is about getting Superman back in time to save the world. (“This cape charges back,” says Batman.) The League is (mostly) so convinced that Superman will be required to save the day that they risk everything to bring him back.
So the League knows upfront that if they can get Superman to fight, it will be over for Steppenwolf. In fact, it’s made clear that that Steppenwolf (as well as the Mother Boxes) also know that it’s game over should Superman show up. And so, not surprisingly, when Supes does finally enter the fight the battle is decisive in favor of Superman. However, unlike the original movie, we’re graphically shown what would have happened had the rest of the League not been there. Despite Superman overwhelming Steppenwolf, he still needed the others to ultimately save the day.
These improvements fix the problem of the original where it seemed like we brought together the whole league to fight a single villain that wasn’t even up to Superman’s level. Many referred to the original as “Justice League: What Happens When Superman Shows Up to Bail Them Out.” This time around, we know that’s the case upfront — but we have every reason to still be worried because of the omnipresent threat of Darkseid himself — a villain that seems beyond even Superman’s powers.
However, before we declare Snyder the winner here in a battle of directors, I want to point out that the problems of the Whedon version were all too apparently caused by Snyder himself.
Snyder set up far too many plot threads (in this or past movies) that couldn’t possibly fit into a single theatrical movie. As good as the Snyder cut is, its pacing (clocking in just over 4 hours!) is far more appropriate for a TV miniseries than a theatrical movie. It's even split up into episodes! There is no way this story could have been told well in a 2-hour movie or even two 2-hour movies.
Watching the Snyder cut really highlights the problems Whedon must have been facing when he was brought into ‘fix’ the mess Snyder had made out of it. Snyder never seems to have realized the impossibility of making his story work in a single theatrical movie. And in the end, he wasn’t able to do it either and just turned it effectively into a mini-series that ran more like a tv show than a movie.
A very good TV show, of course.