The long awaited fan-induced Zack Snyder’s Justice League is finally on HBO Max, but now that it’s here, we have a lot of questions. The biggest question, though, is why is there so much empty space on the screen?
Justice League was shot with a 4:3 ratio in mind even though many of us have widescreen televisions, and one would think an optimal viewing experience includes a full screen. This seems like a strange choice, especially for a cut released on a streaming service to cater to fans, but Zack Snyder has his reasons.
Here’s why 'Zack Snyder’s Justice League' is in a 4:3 ratio.
While the 4:3 ratio results in two black bars of emptiness on either side of our television screens, it was actually the most common ratio for television basically from TV’s inception up through the 1990s. Remember when our televisions used to be shaped more like squares than rectangles? (Ignore the fact that squares are a type of rectangle…)
This might have been the ratio that Zack Snyder was most practiced shooting in when he was younger, although that’s not the reason his cut of Justice League is in a 4:3 ratio. The real reason is because Zack intended for the film to screen in IMAX theaters. He recalled in a JusticeCon digital panel that watching Batman v. Superman in IMAX made him obsessed with the "big square."
"I really started just, compositionally, really falling in love with that concept. Superheroes tend to be, as figures, they tend to be less horizontal. Maybe Superman when he's flying. But when he's standing, he's more of a vertical. Everything is composed and shot that way, and a lot of the restoration is sort of trying to put that back. Put these big squares back," he said.
There is some good news about 'Justice League' being in 4:3 ratio.
Even though the 2017 theatrical release of Joss Whedon’s Justice League was in widescreen, much of the movie was shot with the 4:3 aspect ratio in mind. This means that there are several scenes in the original release that had key images cut out of the top and bottom of the screen. So even though the Zack Snyder cut is taking up less space on our home screens, there is more movie to see.
Some people are saying that the ideal way to view Justice League is on an iPad or tablet that has a bit of taller aspect ratio than the typical 16:9 that most of our televisions have.
We've heard 'Justice League' is super long, so how many parts is this cut?
Well, this cut of Justice League is the director’s cut fans had been asking for. What that means is very little studio interference other than the $70 million provided to Zack Snyder to clean up his cut and add in some visual effects. Consequently, that means that Zack was not beholden to the standards of typical theatrical releases.
Zack shared to the New York Times, “The truth is there’s probably about 10 Snyder cuts — there’s a longer version than the four-hour version. There’s a three-hour version. A two-hour and 20.” Fans asked for the Snyder Cut, and his chosen cut is about four hours long.
When it was originally promoted on HBO Max, the streaming service was going to split Justice League into a four-part miniseries. However, Zack explained to Deadline, "I think that there was some legal rumbling about the dividing up of a movie into four parts, and does it become a TV show, and does it void all the contracts."
"And I was like, look, guys, I don’t want to become … this sounds like we’re going to get in the weeds on this, and it’s a disaster, so let’s just not make legal precedent out of this movie, and I’ll just stick to my four-hour opus," he concluded.
So, although at one point it was going to be four separate parts made for television, we now have one beast of a film to watch on a very small screen. Instead of being in four parts, though, fans can view the movie in six chapters, titled, in order, “Don’t Count On It, Batman,” “The Age Of Heroes,” “Beloved Mother, Beloved Son,” “Change Machine,” “All The King’s Horses,” and “Something Darker.” There's also an epilogue, but it's untitled.
Hopefully Justice League will finally find its own cinematic justice.
We can stream Zack Snyder's Justice League as of March 18 on HBO Max.