Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment where a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a random event that may or may not occur. In simple terms, if you place a cat and something that could kill the cat (a radioactive atom) in a box and sealed it, you would not know if the cat was dead or alive until you opened the box, so that until the box was opened, the cat was (in a sense) both “dead and alive”.
The road to Zack Snyder’s Justice League was a long and tumultuous one. No matter what people make of the finished product, it’s hard to dissociate it from not only everything that happened since Snyder left the project in May 2017 but also from everything that, for the time being, doesn’t seem to be happening in what concerns the so-called Snyderverse. So being, all events, from Snyder leaving the project to the movie Joss Whedon ended up releasing in theaters, from Snyder Cut‘s HBO Max release to the apparent lack of a final chapter to the story, helped to shape the, if not lasting, at least the immediate impression made by the four-hour epic.
Due to all of this, and much like the thought experiment that serves as the title to this article, the Snyder Cut seems to be in a situation/state that allows for apparently opposing conclusions to be verified and, for the time being, to surface as legitimate and valid outcomes of the entire endeavor.
Unlike what Marvel has mostly been doing for over ten years, out of the six Justice League members only one had a solo movie as its introduction into the cinematic universe. Wonder Woman and Batman were introduced in Batman v Superman while Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman (even if briefly featured also in Dawn of Justice) got their first real chance to shine in Justice League. Considering what it takes to introduce a character in a meaningful way, it becomes apparent that (with 2017’s Justice League being “exhibit number one”) with a regular theatrical release’s runtime this strategy is a hard one to pull off, validating the MCU strategy over the one DC went for. Even when introducing T’Challa and Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War, their presence wasn’t meant to be as prominent as some of the others in order not to do the characters any disservice.
But Snyder’s Justice League, with the help of the extended runtime that streaming allows for, was able to do a great job introducing both Cyborg and The Flash (but mostly Cyborg) even in such a packed script, by making them the heart of the movie (mostly Cyborg). It showed how meshing the origin story of a character (often of the most intense parts of one’s journey) with the continuing growth of others allows for a big emotional payoff, by having different personalities in different stages of development. It’s likely due to the runtime, but Snyder’s cut showed how the Marvel model of introducing main characters both is and isn’t the only way to go.
A four-hour movie seems like a lot because of one simple thing: it is. But what has been noticeable by coming into contact with the way many have approached the viewing experience of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is that many ended up watching the entire thing in one go instead of the two or three sessions they were expecting to have to schedule. And that can only speak in favor of how, when faced with an engrossing activity, viewers will allow themselves to experience it fully no matter how daunting it may seem at the start.
Even if theatrical runtimes are often arranged in a way that allows for the biggest number of sessions every day, to sell more tickets, the idea that audiences can only be expected to pay attention for a very limited amount of time has also played a part in determining how long must a movie be. What we’ve now seen is that if the story needs it, and if the experience from a story standpoint is indeed improved (by allowing the introduction of relevant characters, arcs, and plot-points), studios should stop placing so many limits on what some directors can bring to the table. So being, and without losing track of what might make the most sense from a purely business point of view, the Snyder Cut has also shown us how that the same financial aspect of moviemaking can be safeguarded in a not so linear way. By making better movies, no matter if a bit longer than what is the usual norm, you end up opening up the possibility of bigger critical acclaim that, in these sort of blockbusters, more often than not tend to lead to better-received sequels and spin-offs. And that’s probably a more respectable way for studios to reach a bigger payday.
It’s likely due to how it ended up being released as it’s hard to believe that a 4-hour cut would make its way to theaters worldwide in a regular theatrical release, but Snyder’s cut showed how the regular runtime (even if extended that to Endgame’s 181min) both is and isn’t the only way to go. Even if the bottom line ends up being the money earned.
The most obvious takeaway for almost everybody after having watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League is that it is a much better experience, a much better movie, than the 2017 version. Every single character introduced in the movie ends being given a lot more substance, both heroes and villains. The plot itself makes a whole more sense as the reasons for character actions are properly explained and given time to mature in order to make sense within the frame of the story being told. The soundtrack is also a huge improvement from the one we got four years ago, with fewer callbacks to old themes and a composer focused on taking these characters forward, instead of being too relying on the past to make the score and the experience relevant.
All of this is fueled by what we all got from the 2017 cut. By what we didn’t get out of it. So being, the sheer existence of the original theatrical cut, by having so many issues, sort of makes the Snyder Cut look better than it has any right to. But at the same time, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is also made worse by Whedon’s version of the movie, in what is yet another opposing takeaway, but by no means no less valid than the one mentioned before.
Even if bringing a lot more to the table than the theatrical release, Zack Snyder’s Justice League suffers from an overall lack of novelty because, as bad as 2017’s cut was, the main characters are the same, the villains are basically the same and the story follows the same lines. One can only imagine how it would have been to watch it all for the first time in Snyder’s cut, and at the same time how not having experienced this latest version would make Whedon’s cut…not as bad. So, in a weird way, both versions of the movie make the other one look both better and worse, at the same time.
The Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment can be quickly resolved by simply opening the box and checking in on the cat. There is no box to open in the case of Zack Snyder’s Justice League to know if its “cat” lives or dies, so the next best thing to do is to give it time. Maybe in a few years, with the process it took to allow for the movie to finally be released left behind, audiences will finally be able to look at this cut as a more normal cinematic experience with less baggage, something that for the time being is a bit hard to do. But if I had to guess, the cat will not only be alive, it’ll be thriving.