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.
Jungle Cruise – Review
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.
SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.
To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.
The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).
But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.
Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).
As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.
What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.
But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.
Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.
While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.
Characters and performances
One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.
When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.
Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.
And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.
This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.
It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10
Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.
Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.
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