R E V I E W – M O V I E
Flashback to 2017, I was sitting in a dark movie theatre excitedly waiting to watch Justice League. I remember how my excitement turned leaden watching Batman attempt at humorous quips and Aquaman wax poetic about Wonder Woman. By the time the credits rolled around, I was fully basking in a fury. I was not the only one, however. My rage echoed within the outcries of the fans and even the cast members. It was clear as day that the theatrical release that graced our screens couldn’t have been what that meant to jumpstart the DC Extended Universe. There was no doubt about what went wrong in making the Justice League, from meddling studios to Joss Whedon’s revision, and there was no question that something needed to happen to make it right. The answer was always, “Release of the Snydercut.”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League, from its first scene, differentiates itself from Whedon’s version. The movie starts at the end of Batman vs Superman, with Superman’s blood-curdling scream reverberating worldwide, awakening the mother boxes, which gives away the movie’s primary aim. Superman, who is not even human, becomes the metaphor for humanity and how it struggles to survive within subjugation. His death will bring conquerors to Earth, and it is his resurrection that will send them back.
Yes, Superman still dies only to get resurrected by the other members. The two movies’ plot is almost indistinguishable, save for the background information that dramatically enhances the storytelling. Not one to let go of an opportunity to add symbolism to his work, Snyder divided his Justice League into six parts, possibly alluding to the six members. Through his will alone, Snyder packs enough storylines and Easter eggs to tease several sequels and origins in these parts and a 40-minute extended epilogue alone.
He also incorporates much-needed backstories for the six members of the league. Considering at the time of making the movie, only Wonder Woman had a standalone film. Understandably, characters such as Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg would depend on this movie to introduce them into the larger universe.
Should Snyder had managed to release this movie in 2017, it would have neatly wrapped up the character storylines, at least till their debut movies. However, there’s a level of understanding that comes with watching Aquaman and Wonder Woman 1984 before Snyder’s Justice League. It becomes easier to see the careful threads of narrative that Snyder was trying to set up. For example, Snydercut shows Arthur’s identity crisis and introduces Orm’s tyranny ahead of the Aquaman movie and Diana’s loss after Wonder Woman 1984 that contributed to her becoming closed off from the world.
One of the essential backstories of Justice League was not of Aquaman or Wonder Woman. It was Cyborg’s. Ray Fisher’s portrayal of Cyborg has been part of many controversies, ranging from reports of on-set abuse to an accusation of cutting down Fisher’s role by the studio. The judgement of the allegations aside, it is almost interesting comparing Whedon’s version that cuts Cyborg down to the bare essentials to Snyder’s version, which periodically shows how instrumental Cyborg is to the plot. In Snydercut, Cyborg did not gain his powers with hand-wavy science, and he gained his abilities from the mother box after losing half his body in a fatal accident. It also confirms Cyborg’s unique connection with the mother boxes. The Flash also has time to shine in this cut. In the earlier version, the extent of Flash and his powers were only limited to evacuation and being comic relief. This time, Flash gets to save the day multiple times, at one point even time-travelling to prevent the destruction of the world.
The extended screen time also makes for the movie to plan out its many mythologies and world-building. Snyder’s Justice League does not waste its time on quips and banter, and it focuses on telling a story that is earnest in its execution. As Steppenwolf boasts, “No Protectors Here,” the movie shows the audience a time where a glorious battle took place to evade Steppenwolf once before. At that time, Amazons and Atlantians joined forces with humanity to protect Earth. History repeats itself as an Amazonian, and an Atlantian joins men once again to evade evil forces. The details of evil are not just limited to Steppenwolf’s ambitious goal to conquer Earth. There are dark forces at play that seem to be after an ominous anti-life equation itself. Darkseid, the ultimate baddie of the Snydercut, is not a foe that gets defeated as quickly as Steppenwolf. As our heroes glare down at the soulless eyes of Darkseid for a moment, it is almost impossible not to cheer and feel a vindication at the clear promise hidden in the act. It is not our heroes bowing down, and it is a clear assurance that this war is not over yet.
Even with many of its achievements, Zack Snyder’s Justice League cannot help its incohesive storyline. With as much exposition packed into overly lengthy conclusions, it cannot but start to feel exhaustive at points. Not that the backstories and the mythology weren’t complementary to the plot because it was. The storyline itself was inconclusive in both of the cuts, and no amount of added lore or world-building could save it from this judgement. The Snydercut also suffers from teasing so many of its future projects that might not even see the light of the day, for example, introducing Martian Manhunter, the Deathstroke-Luthor alliance, extending the Knightmare storyline, etc. In doing so, Justice League became victim to its ambition.
Despite its many before-mentioned pitfalls, I cannot help but reminiscence about the day I was sitting in a similarly dark room having finished watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It was not the long expositions or the overuse of slow-motion technology that left an impression on me. What made the impression was finally recognizing the heroes I adhered to before on my screen. Even if the Snydercut doesn’t get to reap its foresight benefits with sequels, it will remain a movie that finally did these characters’ justice.
Raya likes to critically analyse anything regarding pop culture, and when she’s not doing that, she likes to live life dangerously — one House MD episode at a time.