by Jason McCullum
For me, the emotions of March 17th were most comparable to the feeling of being a child on Christmas Eve; the inability to fall asleep because my heart would refuse to stop beating with pure excitement, my body and my mind knowing that the next morning would present something special. Of course, I am referring to the official release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which debuted on HBO Max early Thursday morning. The anticipation was unparalleled to any other release as the film patiently waited for me on the streamer much like a present lying underneath the Christmas tree. More importantly, what heightened my emotions was the extensive multi-year long journey that brought film consumers and fanatics to this point.
I certainly do not need to be the one to tell you that despite the universal backlash that Batman v. Superman and Justice League received upon release, the prospect of the supposed Snyder Cut spread like wildfire. Now that the Snyder Cut is finally here, it is the perfect time to revisit Zack Snyder’s DC Universe trilogy in its intended form: Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition), and Zack Synder’s Justice League. Upon release, I did not care for any of these films in their theatrical form except for Man of Steel, mostly due to Henry Cavill’s wonderful performance. So that begs the question, why bother rewatching these? Why spend so much time investing myself in something that I have openly disliked for nearly five years at this point?
Well firstly, I always thought that Man of Steel received too much hate, a sentiment I feel much stronger about upon revisiting the film in full for the first time in years. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the character is, in my opinion, something that people have been sleeping on for too long. Cavill does such a masterful job presenting audiences with a version of Kal that is weighted down by the trauma of existing on Earth as a God, especially one that people fear. It does the movie a major disservice to write it off merely for following a tone that is not the most stereotypical version of Superman, especially since that has been done frequently in popular culture. Backed with excellent performances from Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as General Zod, the film has aged wonderfully as a slightly darker, yet heavily comic-inspired, take on arguably the most famous superhero in existence.
Then there’s Batman v. Superhero, one of the biggest critical and commercial failures of the 2010s. I was a teenager when the film was released, in a friend group who lived and breathed comic book movies. The anticipation for the film was palpable but as soon as the review embargo lifted, many of us cancelled plans to see the movie opening weekend and avoided it for years. I finally took the dive ahead of the theatrical release of Justice League in late 2017 and got what I expected; a bloated film with no rhyme or reason. Rather, the movie tried to find as many ways as possible to avoid moving the plot in any direction, just finding uninspired ways to stall the film until the audience finally gets another boring fight sequence. However, I had never seen the ultimate edition until the night before Snyder Cut released.
I am not going to say that the extended version of Batman v. Superman was “good” (I seriously don’t want that on my conscience), but it certainly did a better job at weaving together loose plotlines to create a somewhat coherent story. In other words, I was confused the entire time while watching the theatrical cut of BvS, but I could at least understand what the ultimate edition was trying to accomplish, even if I do not think that it was executed particularly well. The story feels like it is constantly building to something that just never pays off, despite some decent exchanges with Cavill, Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, and Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor (even if the third is such an annoyingly written and performed portrayal of the character in my opinion).
The biggest flaw in both versions of Batman v. Superman is the abysmal third act. The eventual battle between the titular characters is one of the most awkward fight scenes in any superhero movie that I have seen, and it does not get any better when Wonder Woman and Doomsday join. While critics have been frequently harsh on DC’s special effects, Doomsday is one of the worst excuses for a CG’ed supervillain from last year, as he fails to resemble any comic iteration or present an artistically fresh take on the character. The film also takes itself way too seriously in the closing moments. I know that within the context of the presented universe Superman dying would be a big deal, but they released a movie only a year later that had his logo on the poster. The only benefit to BvS’s weak finale is the interaction between Bruce and Diana that leads directly into Justice League.
Despite being probably the most opinionated person I have ever met who loves to treat my negative reactions to movies as some sort of gospel, I would not include this much build up just to tear down the Snyder Cut, something I have been looking forward to for years. To say that Snyder’s fully realized version is better than Whedon’s cut is not even fair as it is an entirely different film. Whedon so blatantly attempted to redo his 2012 Avengers film, which is only problematic because the tone of that film is the polar opposite of what Snyder was working toward for Justice League. Snyder planned a sprawling epic that took audiences through a densely packed story that worked to combine the darkness of Nolan’s Batman trilogy with the misfit teamup energy of the X-Men saga. These two dramatically different tones have no business in the same conversation, yet Snyder melds them together in such a perfect manner.