Well, it’s finally here. Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been dropped on HBO Max. So now we have two versions of the same movie but they are poles apart. Practically, they are completely different films with only their title being in common. So one is two hours long and the other comes in at a whopping four hours. But there is much more to what sets them apart. What separates them from being a ridiculed rehash and a dark immersive epic. Let’s take a look at nine of those key differences.
Before we get into the plot details and character changes, let’s begin with what hits you immediately. The tone of the Snyder Cut is a quantum shift from the Joss Whedon version. The 2017 release was aiming for that lightweight adventure that is more akin to the MCU. Ensuring guaranteed “family fun” with 2-dimensional characterisation and “PG” rated action. Sparing the popcorn audience from any ‘unnecessary’ exposition. Anyone who knows Snyder’s work, especially his superhero films, know this is not how he does it.
Zack’s exploration of the DCEU has always been with a more darker and serious tone. This began with ‘Watchmen’ (which had another 3 and a half hour ‘Ultimate Cut’) which is probably the most sardonic and cynical superhero story ever. This would be followed by his venture into the DC icons – Superman and Batman. Both ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ would take the source material very seriously. Very little leeway for humorous banter here. So we can’t be surprised at how the Snyder Cut has turned out. If Ingmar Bergman had every delved into the comic universe then it wouldn’t have been much different. But this does mean it’s an acquired taste and certainly not for everyone.
Whedon vs. Snyder
Whedon had reshot 80% for his version and none of this has been used here. All the glib humour and clunky dialogue has gone and replaced with what was originally shot. The language is more grown-up now with even F-bombs being thrown about. All the main characters have a clearer story arc and a deeper sense of purpose within the film. While some show their damaged personalities and relationships.
A good example of these changes is when we see Wonder Woman rescuing the school children from the gunmen. This is a longer and more violent scene. Her removal of the bomb plays out to a better finish and there is a positive and empowering moment with the children.
Another strong example of the more serious tone is the attack on the Amazons by Steppenwolf. This is much more emotionally gruelling as many Amazonians fall in trying to protect the Mother Box. The stone temple, where it is kept, is destroyed and falls into the sea along with many warriors.
Another important factor that strengthens this tone is the change to the soundtrack. Danny Elfman had scored the 2017 edition which highlighted the vision they had for the direction of the first film. Elfman perfectly exemplifies the “goofy” comic origins of the medium. His work with Tim Burton on his ‘Batman’ films and his wonderful theme for ‘Men In Black’. They epitomize what he can do with these projects when they are played tongue in cheek. This has now been replaced by a more darker and operatic score written by Junkie XL (Thomas Holkenborg). This instantly changes the dynamic of the movie and creates some memorable scenes. It’s as if Richard Wagner has spun an operatic finale to his career.
Bruce’s initial meeting with Aquaman now becomes more meaningful to both characters. The White Stripes punchy rock song has been lifted and replaced with something more sombre from Nick Cave. Snyder would personally pick specific songs for the movie as their lyrics struck a note with the scene.
Victor Stone becomes a centre stage to the plot of the movie. Unlike the 2017 version, where almost all backstory had been removed, we now get to see his troubled past. We see his origin story of how he loses his mother and almost his life. We see more of his father, Silas Stone, who is able to save him by turning him into a cyborg. Though the method will have far-reaching consequences for them all. In the end, his father will try to reconcile with Victor but it will be too late for both of them.
Zack had stated that, for his Snyder Cut, Cyborg/Victor Stone would be central to his story. This has certainly provided a stronger foundation to the plot of the film and puts a lot of depth to Ray Fisher’s character.
The main villain from the original release has had a major reworking. His look and armour have been remodelled and more to what was originally designed. He is no longer the “Head Honcho” and instigating the attack on Earth by himself. Now he has a more complex personality and subservient to someone else. He is serving his penance for a “betrayal” committed and must conquer 50,000 worlds to appease his Master. The Mother-boxes do not belong to him and he uses his parademons to smell them out or people who have come into contact with them.
His demise is different too. Instead of being attacked by his own parademons he is gruesomely defeated by the Justice League. Stabbed by Aquaman, punched by Superman before being decapitated by Wonder Woman! This is not PG material.
Following closely with the source material from the DCEU, the major villain makes an appearance. We now see who Steppenwolf is obeying and trying to appease. We get a better backstory for his prior attack on the Earth as he fought the Gods before and lost. So, now understand his overriding desire to conquer the Earth – this is personal!
This early battle is of epic proportions as Gods from all epochs are fighting together. Even Zeus plays his part in fighting them off!
Unlike the 2017 version, where the defeat of Steppenwolf brings the threat to an end. We now see that Darkseid has not finished with us yet and plans a full invasion. Here we see other new characters who are his minions, including DeSaad.
6. Black suit
The way the Justice league make the decision to revive Superman is different too. It is now undertaken as a group discussion and decision and fraught with apprehension if they get it wrong. How they gain entry into the Kryptonian ship is better explained. Cyborg uses his access into STAR Lab’s computers leads to an evacuation. Silas Stone discovers their presence and does all he can to assist them in their cause.
Superman’s late return to the story saw a subtle change in colour. Rather than the bright red/blue uniform, he is wearing a suit of all black. This was a major sticking point to the studio before. They were uncomfortable with this dark look and insisted the Man of Steel should look as he normally does. But Snyder, wanting to pay homage to a critical 90’s comic book, “The Death of Superman”, made sure this was restored.
7. No more Russians
Not surprisingly, the end of the movie is drastically different too. This is now played out as a cataclysmic struggle between titans. Which means there is no appearance of any stray Russian families. This would be one of the most bizarre story arcs in the Joss Whedon version. Putting an unknown family into the most irradiated place on Earth with no other purpose other than for Superman and The Flash to rescue them. A complete distraction to the main action, this has now been removed. We now have a better-structured finale that ends with a better resolution.
There is now an extended epilogue to the movie. If it’s good enough for “The Return of the King” it’s good enough for the “Justice League”!. Here was get a frightening look into events that are yet to happen. In a desolate world, we find a heavily armoured Batman accompanied by an equally ravaged band of heroes. These include Cyborg, Mera (The Amazonian), The Flash (even more armoured than Batman!) and Deathstroke. But the biggest shock is seeing that a part of Batman’s allies is The Joker. Jared Leto would once again don the makeup and still be a thorn in Batman’s side. We find out that many superheroes have fallen as Darkseid and his armadas have destroyed the world. But things get worse for them as Superman makes a sudden appearance and he is not part of their clique!
Luckily Bruce Wayne wakes up just at this point so this might just be a bad dream for him….or is it a premonition of things to come.
9. Martian Manhunter
After Bruce wakes up, we get another major difference to the 2017 rendition. One of the Green Lanterns, Martian Manhunter, appears to Bruce and warns him that they face a bigger danger and he wants to help him fight it. Earlier in the film, we discover that he had visited Lois Lane disguised as Clark’s mother. He implores her to get back to the Daily Planet and start reporting again.
The story has been carefully crafted to set up an exciting sequel but this may never happen now. If the Snyder Cut is a roaring success then, just maybe, we might have a conclusion to the epic tale.
Thank you for reading about nine key differences in Zack Snyder’s Justice League compared to the original cut. Do you agree with our thoughts? What did you make of the movie? Let us know in the comments below.
Love DC? Check out our thoughts on who’s been the best Joker HERE.
Check out IMDB information on Zack Snyder’s Justice League HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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