Four hours of epic slow-motion fight scenes, witty quips, and in-depth lore after, we emerged from the Zack Snyder’s Justice League with tear-stricken smiles on our faces and a genuine longing for something more.
For fans—and even many DC Extended Universe (DCEU) creators—Joss Whedon’s 2017 Justice League simply did not exist; it just vanished into oblivion after letting down the millions of DC fans and casual moviegoers who lined up to see what was one of the most anticipated superhero movies of its time. After the catastrophe that Joss Whedon left in his midst, fans and supporters successfully coaxed Warner Bros., Zack Snyder, and HBO into releasing the Snyder vresion—an embodiment of Zack’s original vision for what was the first of the Justice League trilogy. And in summary, all those years of lobbying and waiting paid off. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was everything we hoped it would be.
Spoilers from here on out.
But the thing is, the Snyder cut—no matter how much we loved it—is not canon. During a DC Cinematic Cast interview with Zack, he revealed that for Warner Bros., the Whedon version will remain to be canon in the DCEU: “I famously said, and it’s true—this isn’t controversial—this film, my Justice League, is not canon. Canon, for Warner Bros., is the Joss Whedon version of Justice League. That’s, in their mind, canon, and what I’m doing is not. Everything I’m doing is not. And I’m fine with it, because I feel like the only way I could’ve made this film with autonomy is because of me admitting and agreeing that it is not canon.”
And that’s the thing that really broke our hearts. There’s so much to say in praise of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but probably one of the things that stood out the most is its storytelling. Snyder had a story tell, and he has the unique voice and all the elements to tell that story well.
Many would agree that the Snyder cut should be canon—and not just because it was eons better than the Whedon version. In fact, there are many things set up by the Snyder version that will only help the DCEU create better movies and titles moving forward.
One of the biggest reasons why the Snyder version had to be four hours is long is because Zack wanted to tell the story of his characters first before just throwing them into the screen. This was largely missing or diluted from the Whedon version.
Cyborg, for one, had the most fleshed out back story and motivation in this version. In the Whedon one, you’re expected to warm up to a half-human half-machine who is also emo and has daddy issues. I mean, why won’t you rejoice in the fact that your dad turned you into a cyborg to save your life? But in the Snyder cut, you get a richer backstory of a teenager who has lost everything—his career, his mother, his body—all because of a workaholic father who can’t make time for his big game. And then you get that moment of redemption, where Cyborg’s father offers up his life to help his son save the world. Now, you’ve finally got a character who knows why he wants to offer up his life to save the world.
Needless to say, the backstory was also amazing at allowing Ray Fisher’s acting prowess to shine, turning from this bright-eyed kid into a devastated person who’s at a loss after losing everything.
Ezra Miller’s Flash in the 2017 version was heavily criticized for his slapstick comedy—an attempt to make Justice League lighter, the way Marvel does it. And when you have fans coming from Grant Gustin’s Arrowverse Flash, it’s going to be even trickier. In fact, Justice League was meant to be a setup for an upcoming standalone Flash movie—and having an unlovable and almost annoying character did not make that easy for DC.
But now, you have this movie introducing a Flash persona that actually makes sense. You have a Flash whose comedic value was set up properly, saying only the right jokes at the right moments. He is not just a failed attempt at comedic flair anymore, but a lovable character on his own. He is not just the youngest member of the group, with arms flailing around and uncalled-for scenes with Wonder Woman (if you didn’t watch the 2017 cut, you’re better off not knowing this scene); he is a Flash that knows how to up his game when the stakes are high, eventually becoming the very key that enables the Justice League save the whole planet.
And speaking of back stories, even Steppenwolf was made much more engaging and terrifying in this film. His CG rework was certainly a welcome change, and the way he flexed his strength during the longer Themyscira sequence made Steppenwolf almost like a video game boss worthy of fear and excitement. On top of that, the introduction of Darkseid and his quest for the Anti-Life Equation not only makes for a richer back story to Steppenwolf and the old gods, but it also opens up the possibilities for Justice League 2 and 3.
The way this film effectively sets up for sequels and standalone character movies is probably what makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League the most canon-worthy. It doesn’t make fans sigh in frustration in anticipation of more money-milking endeavors; instead it makes fans excited for the possibilities of more story and more amazing content.
The Flash, for example, was made much more compelling in the Snyder version, making us actually want to look forward to the standalone Flash movie. The Flash here was given the opportunity to explore the extent of his abilities. The fact that he actually can enter different dimensions and even reverse time made much more sense and was given more gravitas, especially when these became the key to resurrecting Superman and saving the world.
This also opens up the DCEU to exploring the fulfilment of the Knightmare sequence, where Batman is left to team up with Cyborg, Flash, Deathstroke, and Joker in an apocalyptic world where Wonder Woman is dead and Superman is broken. This whole sequence was so much cryptic to watch, and makes for a great prelude to a darker sequel. The sequence was made so well that it gives just enough hints to make fans wonder, theorize, and excited.
In summary, there’s really no reason not to make Zack Snyder’s Justice League the canon film—except maybe for hurt egos or pride. But what is probably the biggest lesson here is that for the DCEU to succeed and take off, it’s got to do what Star Wars is only starting to learn now: to listen to the fans, to give their franchise to people who know what they’re doing, and to embrace your own brand and flavor of storytelling without trying to adhere to some blockbuster formula set by other studios.
So yeah, DC, stop trying to be Marvel. You’re not. And that’s good.