This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article belong solely to the author and don’t necessarily reflect the positions of whatNerd or the whatNerd team.
In 2021, after four years of constant bombardment by fans, Warner Brothers finally released Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The four-hour-long flawed masterpiece wasn’t without detractors, but it was an undoubted improvement over Joss Whedon’s version.
Of course, this film was supposed to be the crowning moment for DC—the moment when their premier superheroes came together on the big screen for the first time to save the world. However, it wasn’t the shining cinematic spectacle they’d hoped for.
By the time Zack Snyder’s recut was released, it had been nine years since Marvel’s The Avengers smashed the box office (taking in $1.5 billion) and the decade-long MCU storyline had already wrapped.
The HBO Max release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League finally allowed DC to claim a movie that was on par with the Avengers movies.
DC fans are adamant that Snyder’s film is superior to Marvel’s The Avengers—the first time either cinematic universe brought their superheroes together in one massive event. In this article, we look at five reasons why Zack Snyder’s Justice League prevails.
1. Character Building
The DCEU had already introduced us to the characters who would feature in Zack Snyder’s Justice League through snippets in previous movies—but when Snyder’s cut arrived, it gave each of them rounded backstories to be further explored in future movies.
The Avengers had already seen the likes of Iron Man and Captain America in other films, but side characters like Hawkeye—and even Natasha Romanoff, to an extent—felt like they were shoehorned into the movie just to fill a few spots that needed filling.
While both of those characters would eventually get their own solo projects with better character building in future movies and series, we’re looking solely at The Avengers versus Snyder’s cut—and they weren’t represented with the same depth that Snyder’s characters were.
2. Wider Cast of Characters
Due to the sheer scope of Snyder’s story, there was a lot of room in his movie to introduce us to a litany of DC supporting characters that would become part of the next stage of the DCEU.
J. K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, Amber Heard, Connie Nielsen, Billy Crudup, Joe Manganiello, and Jared Leto all appeared in the film as weighty DC characters who would have had starring roles in future movies.
These appearances were supposed to showcase forthcoming DCEU projects—but after the fumble of Whedon’s Justice League, all were sidelined as the focus of DC’s films shifted.
While The Avengers had a great cast, it didn’t have the expansive cast of Zack Snyder’s Justice League—the litany of characters that required such acting presence in their supporting roles.
Of course, there’s a reason for this: ironically, the DCEU was better planned out than the MCU was, at least at those contrasting times. We’ll explore this in more detail later in this article.
3. Greater Ambition and Scope
The Avengers was an ambitious movie. It had the grandest team-up of heroes that cinema had seen since the X-Men franchise started in 2000. The scope had people lining up at theaters to watch over and again.
But looking back now, it was all pretty small compared to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. That’s Snyder’s best trick in his film: he makes the team and the world they exist in seem endless, then uses that expansiveness to craft immeasurable stories and narrative opportunities.
Darkseid’s role in the movie is reserved, but showcases his power through flashback sequences and the fawning nature of those around him. With that comes the sense that a colossal war—larger than even Avengers: Endgame—would come to the DCEU.
While The Avengers had a small tease of Thanos, we wouldn’t see him in action for some time, and the MCU felt constricted in hindsight.
4. Compelling Villains
Joss Whedon’s cut of Justice League treated its villain with little respect, and—had it not been for Snyder’s cut of the film—many would have assumed it was always meant to be that way in the script.
However, when Zack Snyder put together his intended version of the film, Steppenwolf became quite compelling.
Afforded a backstory by Snyder’s movie, Steppenwolf showed a warrior who had become gripped by earning his place back at the side of his nephew and was growing weary of the years he’d served in exile.
The Avengers had Loki as its main villain (whom we all love because of Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal), but he never felt like a major threat. The Chitauri were an army of standard villains who were there for a massive fight sequence, and then never spoken of again.
Darkseid and Steppenwolf in Snyder’s Justice League dominate Loki and the Chitauri in The Avengers. It isn’t until the Avengers get their fight against Thanos in Endgame that things feel on more equal ground.
5. A Fully Planned Story
When it comes to debates regarding The Avengers versus Justice League, one point is often overlooked: the overall story.
In the beginning, the MCU only had a story plan up until the end of Phase Two, meaning the creative team at Marvel hadn’t yet finalized what they were going to do with Thanos in the later films.
On the other hand, Zack Snyder had a fully formed storyline up until the end of the DCEU’s first phase with Darkseid, which would result in a desolate wasteland with Batman, Mera, Deathstroke, The Flash, Cyborg, and The Joker having to find a way to overcome Darkseid.
The fact that Snyder had a realized plan for his characters and movies is a large part of why his film feels so epic in scale. Starkly, The Avengers had to give the studio an out in case it didn’t succeed—and so it feels like it could’ve ended as a contained one-off movie.
In the end, the most unfortunate thing is that Zack Snyder most likely won’t be able to see his ultimate vision for the DCEU come to pass, despite a new fan campaign dedicated to making that happen.