Snyder’s Justice League
Not only does it redeem Snyder’s original ultra-dark vision of these characters, it also sidesteps any argument that he intrinsically misunderstands the characters
Everybody loves Zack Snyder. There used to be a time when the very mention of him elicited derision and rancour at his montage heavy, overwrought manly-man displays of vicissitude. With the release of the Snyder cut, the pendulum has at last swung over to our man’s favour. The common refrain among his harshest critics is now one of snide surprise. The Snyder Cut is actually…good?
Of course there are the holdovers and bless their caustic souls, but let’s not get in the way of a good redemption arc. Snyder of course quit Justice League mid-production, his third DCEU movie, following the tragic death of his daughter. You probably know the rest. Warner Brothers studio executives recruited Joss Whedon to complete the enterprise resulting in the theatrical version of Justice League, which ended up enough of a critical and commercial flop to justify the abrupt cancellation of the Snyderverse, thus severing ties completely with the snarly-faced depictions of comicdom’s most sacred archetypes Snyder had unleashed like a chemical plague, critics charged, on pop culture.
In the months that followed, however, mention grew of unreleased footage purporting to reveal Snyder’s ultimate vision for the movie. That vision, which of course had been jettisoned by Warner executives in their effort to push the DC films into the sunnier mainstream. What’s more the whispers grew louder that the material was already shot yet omitted from the theatrical cut Justice League.
Fan clamoring for the release of this footage became a full-borne uprising, tacitly encouraged by Snyder, with the always-online forming mass pressure campaigns which inevitably crossed several lines resulting in the usual toxic asshattery common among fandom miscreants. But with the seemingly collective decision of everyone involved in Justice League to move on with other projects, more piles of dirt were shoveled on the Synderverse’s grave.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Obsolescence. Warner Brothers, whose financial misadventures have become a thing of legend, needing content for its flacid HBO Max streaming service, okayed another shot at the Justice League, even dispensing another $30M or so to allow Snyder to finish his original vision (the director says he eschewed his usual cut for the film just so it could be completed). The result is the Snyder Cut as it was seemingly intended all along, and it’s everyone’s favourite bouncing baby boy.
We would not have reached this moment of goodwill if the movie was still lousy. I think the highest compliment one can pay a filmmaker forced to rely on pizza cardboard stiffness of the likes of Henry Cavill and Gal Godot is that the acting is in every way an improvement on the “original”.
Ben Afleck who played Batman in the 2017 release with all the enthusiasm of someone stuck in traffic, with the addition of some crucial dialogue comes across more appropriately world-weary. His Batman has fought crime for over 20 years, those efforts little rewarded and the world remains engulfed in chaos. All of the supporting cast gets something to do; even Commissioner Gordon played by J.K. Simmons, by virtue of an extra scene creates a crucial morsel of insight despite having scant screen time.
But it’s Steppenwolf who gains the redemption (and working eyes). It’s not just the character’s that’s remodeled, transforming from arguably the least impressive villain in superhero cinematic history to a much more complex and definitely more menacing threat. As an example of his evilness he punts a horse, and not even a little.
The biggest change for the character beyond his remodelled outfit, now shining gold armour, is the revelation that Steppenwolf is not the big bad, rather a flunky of the largely unseen Darkseid. As some penance for an undisclosed betrayal the hulking Steppenwolf must scour the universe for three cosmic Macguffins known as mother boxes, and wouldn’t you know it, they are on earth.
The inclusion of the Darkseid footage should have been enough to create enough buzz for a skeptical fanbase, and yet was fully omitted from the theatrical cut. That right there would be enough to convict Warner Brothers execs and their assorted minions including Whedon of malpractice. The idea a studio would spend millions of dollars on footage it never intended to show is as insane as it sounds. How could you not even shoehorn at least a glimpse of the character in the post-scene credits? It’s mind boggling to think about.
The omission of Darkseid is not even the most egregious wrong righted in the Snyder Cut. That would belong to the character of Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher. Fisher has not been afraid to hide his scorching condemnation of studio brass and Whedon who he has accused of on-set bullying.
In the original version of Justice League, Cyborg is consigned strictly to the supporting cast; in the Snyder Cut he may have the most important character arc. We see not only how Cyborg came to be cruelly transformed from a photogenic athlete cum scientific genius to a mechanical human hybrid. There’s true pathos here, and the origin story for Victor Stone is more Frankestein’s monster than the one-note brooding robot guy shown in Justice League. That this was cut entirely by Justice League is just another charge on the docket for Warner Brothers.
At 4 hours and some, the Snyder Cut is not going to be an easy ride for all — thankfully the film is segmented into separate episodes, allowing for well-deserved bio breaks — but again every character from the main cast down is given something to do that reveals a little more about their character. Sure you can cut 30 minutes from the slow-motion montages alone, and make it even more manageable for your bladder, but there aren’t that many needless moments. The 30-minute epilogue serves to set up more films, as well as give us a chance to see the Joker one more time, this time in a face-to-face encounter with Batman.
As has been reported, the Batman Joker showdown was an entirely new scene, which at last gives us a chance to see the two archenemies together for the first time in the Snyderverse. It serves as an uncertain coda for the future of these movies. It would appear to be highly unlikely we’ll see these versions of the iconic characters anytime soon.
Never say never however. The Snyder Cut has already overtaken its predecessor in raw commerce, as much as one can trust streaming numbers, and certainly in pop culture relevance. Not only does it redeem Snyder’s original ultra-dark vision of these characters, it also sidesteps any argument that he intrinsically misunderstands the characters by actually making them interesting to watch.
Based on what we know about the subsequent movies planned, which could yet be re-salvaged if Warner Brother has a change of heart, this universe was only going to expand and become more ambitious. It might be messy and somewhat incoherent, but I’ll take the Snyderverse over the calculation of the Marvel industrial complex any day.