Release the Reasonable Length Cut
“The world has been so caught up with what Superman can do that no one has asked what he should do.”Senator Finch, Batman V Superman
“As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be.”Thanos, Avengers: Endgame
Okay obviously no sane person thinks that Warner Bros. should just keep releasing different versions of Justice League until everyone on Earth likes at least one of them. Obviously any sane person feels that the three (!) versions that currently exist are, if anything, one version too many (which one is extraneous is your choice).
But we’re on my blog so sane person ideas can wait outside.
And the way I see it, we have one version that’s of adequate length, does its best with the heroes, but has an incomprehensible villain plot and too much doofy nonsense and some Russian family that adds nothing; a second version with a better story, mostly better developed and delivered characters (except for Aquaman and Superman), but is four hours long and definitely doesn’t need to be; and a third version that’s just that second version in black and white, and the only good thing to say about it is that since there’s no colour anywhere, you can just assume Superman’s in his proper suit.
Honestly other than the Cult, who will accept anything Snyder does as pure genius regardless of quality, who is Justice is Gray even for. Who wanted that. Who got through Batman V Superman and felt there was too much colour. I mean I saw The Lighthouse too, Zack. Casablanca isn’t Casablanca because it doesn’t have colour, Zack.
So there’s the short but dumb one, the smarter, better, but aggressively long one, and the one for people who want to be huge nerds and extremely pretentious. None of these, I argue, are the best version of the movie. I think that, had cooler heads prevailed, there is a version that’s much closer to ZSJL that could have been released theatrically in 2017 and maybe been the hit the studio wanted and the fans deserved.
How to find it? We start with the three hour forty-three minute Snyder Cut, and see if we can’t whittle off eighty minutes without damaging the character arcs and plot too much. Yes, I said “three hours forty-three minutes,” not “four hours,” obviously we cut the Knightmare epilogue and the “Hey good job saving the world, see you in the sequel” lakehouse scene, obviously we cut all of that, that’s not even a discussion, I ended my rewatch before any of that happened and was much happier.
And while I definitely understand Snyder not wanting to use one second of the usurper’s footage in his “my pure vision” cut… I think we need some of it. Not much. The Terrio script is very clever. We’re talking a mild sprinkling of additional witticisms.
In this section we are going to hit some scenes that Ray Fisher called out, claiming that POC characters were cut or marginalized for racist reasons. I am too white and privileged to be an arbiter of what isn’t racist but I am a qualified arbiter over what scenes do or do not drive a story, and sorry Mr. Fisher, but many of them don’t.
First. Did we need 90 seconds of re-watching Doomsday kill Superman in extreme slo-mo then another three minutes of following his death-scream around the world to various Mother Boxes? I put it to you that we did not. On rewatch I fast forwarded through this and I will again any subsequent time, I’m not sorry. Frankly “the boxes wake up when Superman dies” is a bit of a double beat, they walk us through that later. I’m honestly fine starting with Bruce Wayne making his way to the Icelandic village. Lose that long, slow, kinda weird sequence and we’re already 5% through the needed cuts before we even get through the opening credits.
Ditch the weird, creepy singers from Aquaman’s intro. Get rid of them. That goes on for over a minute and did the movie precisely zero favours. Ditch the singers and we can put “I hear you talk to fish” and “That’s the opposite of what the expression is” back in and still cut a minute. 5.5 down, 74.5 to go.
Maybe I’m too good at reading into things, but for me, that Hippolyta fired a Special Arrow all the way to Delphi was enough of a message to Diana. I get that she found the arrow and said “Oh shit Apokolips is at it again.” The Snyder Cut thinks she needed to take the Special Arrow to a Secret Cave and put it in a Hidden Door to find a Significant Mural that spells out what’s happening. I don’t buy for a second that Young Diana learned about the threat of Ares but not Darkseid. Look 80 seconds isn’t a big savings but maybe we could lose those 80 seconds just the same? We’d only have to cut 73 more minutes and ten seconds and it gets easier before it gets harder.
Cut every scene of Vulko or whoever trying to talk Arthur into coming back to Atlantis. James Wan’s Aquaman did literally every frame of it better, in every way, I don’t need a worse version here to prime the pumps. Throw in every scene where someone makes an air bubble to talk to each other except the one from the Theatrical Cut, and the epilogue where Arthur says “I need to see my father” like it’s significant and not something he just does sometimes. Aquaman didn’t need your help setting the stage, ZSJL, especially since Wan did all of this so much better. That’s four minutes and 25 seconds saved. Also, while it might not save time, definitely replace the Snyder footage of Mera with Theatrical’s. Zack Snyder is a coward for making Joss Whedon be the one to tell Amber Heard that British accent wasn’t working.
The first Barry Allen scene, where he saves a woman from a car crash while applying for a dog walking job, can be cut completely. Yes, I do know that the woman is Iris West, his love interest in his solo movie, but her name is never spoken, we learn nothing about her except that Barry thinks she’s hot, and she never comes back and has no impact on the movie, even Barry’s arc. Not only does this do nothing for Justice League, it does nothing for The Flash, because this is such a nothing scene that they were basically going to have to re-introduce her from scratch anyway. And other than Iris, all it does is establish that The Flash is fast, something his first scene with Bruce accomplished perfectly. And literally all of his character backstory happens in his scene with his father. So cut this scene. That’s four minutes and 45 seconds saved and literally nothing lost. Also maybe we only need one key story beat based around people being terrible drivers.
I count six minutes and thirteen seconds of Lois Lane sitting around her apartment being sad, including the Martha Manhunter scene, that aren’t adding anything except making Lois look more pathetic than I like. If we must have “Lois visits the Superman memorial every day” instead of “Batman knows Lois is the key to calming Superman,” we only need that first scene.
Eleven seconds is a petty amount to pick a fight over but come on, visualizing the stock market as a bear fighting a bull is a such a cartoonish oversimplification that Schoolhouse Rock is saying “It’s not that simple.” I thought I might be able to shave more time off “Victor discovers his powers” but honestly no, I can’t, I have no further notes on that sequence, it’s legit good.
I suggest that Steppenwolf only needs to call home with a progress report once, not three times. And maybe we rework the conversation a little so we’re not saying that Darkseid found the Anti-life Equation 1000s of years ago, suffered a massive defeat and lost three Mother Boxes, then forgot where that happened? Nobody wrote it down? Maybe Steppenwolf is the one who finds Anti-life. Lose the first two conference calls with a bored Desaad and that’s another three minutes, ten seconds. Plus another 13, maybe 15 seconds if we skip the bit where Darkseid didn’t make a note of on which planet he lost three Mother Boxes.
Oh absolutely cut Victor’s premonition about the events of Zack Snyder’s Justice League Part II, we are cutting every second of Knightmare nonsense. Throw in Bruce remembering his dream about the Knightmare future and we’ve shaved two minutes forty three seconds, plus lost “The future is has taken root in the present,” the dumbest line in the whole movie (other than anything Jared Leto says).
Cut “How will the new Batplane fly? Oh, Victor figured it out,” plus some pointless Bruce’s premonition stuff, and there’s another two minutes 26 seconds. Throw in reactions to the Mother Boxes joining and Superman picking an outfit, because there’s one right answer and it is absolutely not dressing like General Zod because that utterly undermines the Jor-El and Pa Kent speeches that play under the scene, and there’s another two minutes, twenty-seven seconds.
There’s an entire subplot about STAR Labs building a superlaser that can turn certain alien objects into the “hottest object on Earth,” and I have so many questions. Why would you do that, what is this for, how is any human-built room able to contain something hotter than lava, why would someone who can pick up the Hottest Thing On Earth like it’s nothing be affected by heat vision… they dump eight minutes and forty seconds into this plot all so that they have a way to track the Mother Box at the end. Well, just dump all of that and use the Whedon scene where Victor finds the box through their connection, time saved. Yes, we have now all but eliminated Ryan Choi, known to comics fans as the third Atom and Arrowverse fans as the Paragon of Humanity, but sometimes a cool character gets cut if they don’t do anything and aren’t helping the story. Just ask Michelle Monaghan, whose entire role in Constantine was cut down to one closeup and two words. It happens.
This also means cutting the death of Silas Stone. Which we should. We absolutely should. I don’t know why “Noble self-sacrifice” is such an oft-used tool in Zack Snyder’s storytelling toolbox, but he pulls it out in every movie he’s ever made. Leonidas and most of the 300, Jonathan Kent in Man of Steel, Superman in Batman V Superman, Rorschach in Watchmen, multiple people in Dawn of the Dead, Babydoll in Sucker Punch doesn’t technically die but getting willingly lobotomized into a human sex doll is close enough, he even pulled this shit in his cartoon movie, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, and now Silas Stone. Frankly I think Doom Patrol has a better take on Silas and Victor, a strained relationship that they’re both trying to navigate and improve is a better long term choice than just killing Silas to recreate the death of Pa Kent, down to its utter needlessness, like that wasn’t controversial. There are other ways to wrap up a conflict than stoic self-sacrifice, Zack. Victor and Silas reconciling and giving Victor a comics-accurate chest piece was a better end-note for them, Zack. Look, I don’t expect everyone to be as good as Doom Patrol… but I do expect everyone to try, especially when we’re talking something as easy as “Just don’t kill Victor’s dad.”
And on that note… I get that Terrio and Snyder saw Victor Stone as the heart of the movie, I get that, I also kind of get why maybe the studio thought one of the more iconic League members (ie. any of them) should be the central character instead, but my only note on Cyborg As The Heart is that, to be frank, having the closing monologue be Lois Lane writing an article about heroes makes much more thematic sense than Silas leaving a recording for Victor. Victor’s not so much the heart that the end of his arc sums up the whole danged movie. And having Lois tie everything together makes Lois something greater than the sex doll that keeps Superman from turning evil. Bring back Lois’ end-speech, is what I’m saying.
On the subject of the denouement… between Arthur meeting with Vulko and Mera, establishing that Ryan Choi likes nanotech, and Darkseid plotting his next move, and we can shave off another three minutes and twenty seconds. And definitely use the Theatrical version of Lex and Slade’s meeting.
Hm. I’ve only whittled it down to three hours precisely, plus credits. Plus/minus the difference in length between “Let’s form an Injustice League” and “Go do the second season of Arrow but with Batman.” Unexpected. Well… I’m happy with this three hour Justice League movie, but a skilled editor could maybe shave it down more and not sacrifice much more than all the slo-mo. That would be between said editor and Zack Snyder. My point is, it’s possible.
But as long as I’m dreaming maybe we could take another look at the soundtrack? Scale back the ancient lamentations on every Wonder Woman scene, replace some of the weirder needle drops? There are some weird needle drops. Like… lyrically they’re so aggressively on-the-nose The Vampire Diaries is rolling their eyes at you, but tonally they’re weird fits. Aquaman walks into the raging seas to some generic brand Tom Waits? I preferred Iggy Thump. You couldn’t find something up-tempo for the first time Barry uses his speed on screen? (We’re cutting that scene anyway, but still.)
Next Page: The ideal Justice League sequel plan