The original "Justice League" (2017) was rejected by fans and critics ... but enjoyed by me. Although I acknowledge that it's a stinking mess, it has some very good bits. The original director, Zack Snyder, had to leave part way through the shoot, and was replaced by Joss Whedon. Fans clambered to see the Snyder version of the movie - and that's what we have here.
First off, this beast is four hours long. FOUR HOURS. I wanted to see it, but I didn't want to see it four hours worth - this one was a struggle to sit through.
Whedon is well known for his wry and/or dark humour. Something that's always impressed me about his writing is how much he can convey about character in a very short conversation. An example is Inspector Gordon's comment to Batman in the original (this is an approximation, from memory): "Millions in property damage - you haven't lost your touch. But it's good to see you working with others." Aquaman passes and says "Dressed like a bat. I dig it." Batman says to Gordon "It may not last." Not only does this tell you a lot about all three characters, it also tells you a lot about the history between Batman and Gordon - while providing a laugh. And it does it in three short lines of dialogue. This interchange isn't in the new version, and that's a loss. Among other things, Snyder simply isn't capable of such compressed writing - as shown by the distended run-time.
There are many, many comparisons between the two versions on the Internet. I know the 2017 version fairly well, and concentrated on comparing the dialogue I liked. This comparison may not be unique, but it's what I saw (and heard).
- People have talked a lot about how the Snyder Cut expands on character development - and yet it lacks two pieces with the Flash that I thought were character-defining. His early rant about the ridiculousness of "Brunch" is gone, and more importantly, his admission of fear (and Batman's brilliant response) when they went into battle with Steppenwolf for the first time is gone. To me, Snyder's take makes the characters far more uniform: "we're all stoic brave heroes going into battle." How is that better?
- But Snyder kept the Flash's comments about "Gorilla Sign Language" and "Competitive Ice Dancing," which is so goofy that I assumed it was Whedon.
- I totally agree with the removal of the Russian family living near Steppenwolf's base: that was 15 minutes of film that Whedon wasted. Weird how Snyder could remove 15 minutes ... and end up with a movie two hours longer.
- The reason that Lois Lane was at the monument when Superman was resurrected was very, very different: it was co-incidence in the new version (yes she's there every day, but at that particular time?), intent in the old one. In the original, she was there because Batman arranged for her to be there, to remind Superman of his humanity. I really liked Batman's line "I brought the big guns" (referring to Lois): it showed a shitload of understanding on Batman's part.
- Minor point: the bank has foreclosed on the Clark home, mother Clark left weeks previously, yet when Superman flies there it's clear that A) no one has moved in, and B) there's a very healthy early season corn crop growing there. Who planted it, who's attending to it? Mind you, this is a failure in both versions.
- I'm neutral on the removal of Aquaman's speech while sitting on the Lasso of Hestia: very Whedon, somewhat revealing of both character and weakness (he doesn't want to die), but perhaps a bit too goofy. Ultimately, it goes again to Snyder's vision of stoic heroes.
- In the original, the Flash tries for fist-bumps with Cyborg a couple times during the movie and is denied, and the things he says are both funny and revealing. All of which makes the fist-bump after the final battle very funny - which is completely lost in the Snyder version, although the fist-bump - now meaningless - is still there.
- Snyder has added multiple characters: Darkseid, DeSaad, The Martian Manhunter, The Joker. Of these, the latter two particularly felt like they were nailed on. The Martian Manhunter appears long enough to fake being someone else two hours into the movie, with no further explanation ... and then appears in the "epilogue" to say "I will fight for this world!" Can you say "blatant setup for another movie!"?
- Bruce Wayne still saves the Clark home with "I bought the bank," but "I don't know, it's like a reflex for me" is gone. Another Whedon line Snyder wasn't happy with? I liked it, so probably.
- The epilogue includes a ten minute post-apocalyptic vision that turns out to be a dream of Batman's. Batman is absolutely not one of DC's mystics: he's about technology, bitterness, and revenge, he's not Enchantress or John Constantine to be having visions. But they needed a chance to A) throw in Joker (who hadn't appeared in the first 225 minutes of the film) and B) set up evil Superman. Totally unconnected to the rest of the film, but hey, maybe it's part of the DC comics universe so ... it makes sense to fans?
- And, if as DC has declared, "The Snyder Cut isn't cannon," why the hell are we setting up Darkseid, Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, evil Superman, visions and alternate timelines that have essentially nothing to do with the main story?
I would have said the changes were a wash if he'd kept the run-time under 150 minutes, but the agonizing length and the new excessive stoicism of his heroes means for me, that with all its flaws, I'm going to prefer the original cut.