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HBO Max releases Zack Snyder’s black-and-white Justice League: Justice Is Gray

Superman is coming for your ass, Mank!

superman gets hit by steppenwolf’s axe in justice league: justice is gray Image: HBO Max
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Monochromatic blockbusters are all the rage, with Mad Max: Fury Road and Logan receiving black-and-white reissues in recent years. So it was only logical that Zack Snyder would anoint his new cut of Justice League worthy of the upper echelon of action movies with a second release that strips out the remaining color. One week after the release of the “Snyder Cut,” fans have yet another four-hour experience at their hands: Justice League: Justice Is Gray.

For viewers debating whether to embark on another journey through the Snyderverse, it should be noted that the only differences between the Justice League released on HBO Max last week and Justice Is Gray is that Steppenwolf now looks like he’s ready to battle George Reeves in a serial-friendly showdown. It really is just the same movie, but in black and white.

As producer Deborah Snyder told Polygon earlier this month, while there were substantial re-edits made to the story — adding back key plot beats to Flash, Cyborg, and Steppy’s arcs — there were also a few new elements that visual effects houses scrambled to create in order to fulfill Zack Snyder’s original vision. Overhauls to villain designs and action sequences may not have needed to happen, but the Snyders were artistically inclined to take advantage of the extra $70 million reportedly afforded to them to bring the HBO Max release to life. Scenes like the film’s Joker nightmare sequence were basically arbitrary — but Zack wanted a chance to direct a moment between Batman and Joker, so why not throw it in?

The black-and-white version of Justice League seems to exist under the same logic as the character additions and tweaks: just because.

“My ideal version of the movie is the black-and-white IMAX version of the movie,” Snyder told YouTube channel TheFilmJunkee back in November 2020. “That to me is the most fan-centric, most pure, most Justice League experience. Because that’s how I lived with the movie for two years, in black and white.”

Not since Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has a modern action movie gone to such great lengths to appear as a relic of the past. Justice League: Justice Is Gray, black and white and in 4:3, is now out on HBO Max.

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