Today is the day. Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally been released to HBO Max and people can now see the director’s four-hour magnum opus as he bids adieu to the DC Universe. And while a lot has been made about the restored scenes and characters that were left on the cutting room floor of the theatrical edition, I was most struck by the differences between shots that appear in both versions. Below you will find side-by-side comparisons of several of these scenes.
First up, this shot of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in an Icelandic fishing village recruiting Aquaman is a textbook example of how color grading can affect the mood of a given scene. Snyder’s use of shadows enhances the mood of this first super interaction and the deep blacks really pop when viewed on a 4K display.
The other thing you notice is the aspect ratio. The theatrical cut is presented in the standard 16:9 widescreen while The Snyder Cut opts for a 1:33 presentation (similar to the 4:3 box frames of most 20th century television — like those black & white episodes of WandaVision that everyone complained about). I’m of two minds about this decision. On the one hand, it makes sense since Snyder intended to project the movie on massive 70-foot IMAX screens. However, since it’s only available to stream, the effect of the IMAX framing is lost on most people’s widescreen displays. Clearly, the box frame adds more image at the top and bottom of the picture, but it’s an odd presentation no matter how big your TV is.
The scene below comes from the (sort of*) final shot of both versions. You’ll notice the biggest change (again, aside from the aspect ratio) here is the coloring of Superman’s suit. As I said in my review, this is one change that I think Whedon got right. I understand that a lot of fans have been clamoring for Henry Cavill in the black and silver (I guess Snyder stans are big Raiders fans), and while it’s canonically correct that resurrected Supes wears the darker colors, I still prefer my Man of Steel in red and blue. Moreover, this scene — the iconic shirt rip — should signify that Superman is fully back. His S-shield should reflect that too.
*Technically, the shirt rip is not the final shot of either Justice League. Though in the theatrical, it’s followed by a shot of Superman ascending up in the sky, plus the mid- and post-credits scenes. For Zack Snyder’s Justice League, there’s still 20 minutes of movie after this! And for what it’s worth, I would have preferred if the Lex Luthor and “Knightmare” scenes were saved for the credits because I think both instances not only undercut the power of Kal-El being the bookends to this film (and Snyder’s entire trilogy), but they also tease two movies audiences will never see. Namely, Ben Affleck’s shelved Batman movie and a Justice League sequel set in the dystopian timeline of Bruce Wayne’s dreams. And frankly, as much as I liked the Snyder Cut, I’m not sure I care for more evil Superman stories, especially after such a triumphant return here.
Anyway, see the gallery below for more comparison shots from both Justice League incarnations.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.