That’s the underlying and inevitable question at the heart of Zack Snyder’s Justice Leaguea.k.a. the Snyder Cut. The answer, for practical reasons, is obviously and definitively “yes.” Snyder’s version clocks in at four hours where the original 2017 movie only ran for two. Some scenes are extended, like the Amazon defense of Themyscira. And there are new scenes as well, including one where we see Aquaman’s reunion with a certain Atlantean.
But Snyder also takes some big storytelling swings that completely alter the story of the 2017 film. He introduces new characters, depicts some characters’ origin stories in new ways, and even changes the overall ending. The result, ultimately, is a stronger movie.
Here are the five most important and exciting departures that led the Snyder Cut to improve on the original.
It’s actually Darkseid’s invasion, not Steppenwolf’s
What makes the Snyder Cut work — and the biggest difference overall — is the overhaul of Justice League’s villain. In the original film, Steppenwolf wants to invade Earth and needs the Mother Boxes to do so. But the movie doesn’t really explain why Steppenwolf wants to turn Earth into a burning wasteland beyond wanting to turn it into a burning wasteland.
What is Steppenwolf’s motive for ruining a perfectly good planet? Why doesn’t he want to rule it? Isn’t a world full of human subjects more valuable than a hellscape? The original Justice League has no answers.
The Snyder Cut clears this up: Steppenwolf is nothing but a henchman, a herald of a bigger villain named Darkseid. With this shift, Steppenwolf is just out destroying worlds willy nilly, without much logic or thought. He’s not concerned with enslaving humanity. He just wants to make his boss happy and win his trust, which sort of makes Steppenwolf a more tragic figure. He’s demolishing worlds because it’s Darkseid’s will. And if you have problems with Steppenwolf’s destruction, as the Justice Leaguers do, you’ll have to take it up with the manager — which the team is getting ready to do at the end of the Snyder Cut, with the intention of clashing with Darkseid in a future movie.
Please welcome to the stage, the shape-shifting Martian Manhunter
Midway through the Snyder Cut, Superman’s mom, Martha Kent, has a heart-to-heart with Lois Lane, just like in the original. Ma Kent is basically talking Lois out of depression, as she hasn’t been going to the office or done much of anything since Clark died. Lois’s main passion has always been journalism, and the fact that she’s not writing stories signals her deep mourning. While it doesn’t inspire her to get back to work (she’s writing fluff pieces in the original movie, but not writing at all in the Snyder Cut), the chat does lift Lois’s spirits.
The change here is who is actually participating in it.
In the Snyder Cut, Martha Kent is actually J’onn J’onzz, the shapeshifting character also known as Martian Manhunter. The effect on Lois’s end is more or less the same, but from the viewer’s perspective, learning that J’onn is impersonating Martha gives us new insight into the character and how he’s been working behind the scenes all this time. His interaction and interference is a sign that he’s been keeping tabs on Martha and Lois for whatever reason, and he either sees Lois as important or has some platonicaffection for her.
What we don’t get is much of J’onn elsewhere in the movie, so we’re left to guess at his motivations. We don’t know why he didn’t help the others in their battle against Steppenwolf, nor do we know just what he’s capable of or what he’s seen. We also don’t see him use his other powers, like telepathy. His only other appearance comes at the end of the film, when he tells Bruce Wayne he wants to join the Justice League, but again, we don’t know his thinking.
Cyborg gets a story that’s actually worth telling
My favorite Snyder Cut deviation, and one worth the extra runtime, concerns Cyborg and how much deeper the new movie goes into Cyborg’s story with his father. In both versions, Cyborg and his father don’t get along, and that’s made more complicated when Dr. Silas Stone turns his son Victor into Cyborg to save Victor’s life.
Where the original movie barely traces the fallout of Silas’s decision, the Snyder Cut considerably expands Cyborg’s arc, showing not just how Silas often chose his work instead of supporting Victor, but also how Silas attempted to win back Victor’s trust. It’s a tragic story of a father who thought he was making the best decisions for his kid and a son who never felt like his father loved him.
After turning Victor into a superhuman, Silas tries to explain to him that doing so was a matter of life and death. Perhaps selfishly, he didn’t want to see his son die. Silas also tries to impart that, as Cyborg, his son is now capable of changing the world — and that he needs to act dutifully and use his new abilities responsibly.
Victor holds a massive amount of resentment against his father, who he already struggled to connect with, for turning him into this thing. The pair’s tumultuous relationship culminates at the end of Snyder Cut’s second act, with Silas sacrificing his life by superheating one of the Mother Boxes and allowing Victor, who can now track said box, an opportunity to save the world.
For Victor, saving the world is also about avenging his late father and coming to terms with their relationship, imperfections and all. And knowing that adds so much more to the character than we saw in the original Justice League.