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.
Watching the Snyder Cut for the first time after following the hardship Snyder had to endure for this film to see the light of day was an overwhelmingly inspiring experience. While making the film, Snyder dealt with horrific events that were justifiably traumatic enough to garder his desire to walk away from the film. Unfortunately, Whedon clearly did not care to preserve Snyder’s ideas for the film, rather taking advantage of the film to become another major blockbuster for him (which did not pan out, of course). Needless to say, Snyder got knocked down hard and never got to finish his vision prior to 2020 when Warner Brothers finally greenlit the release of his cut. After all the hell that man went through, the fact that he got to pick himself up, dust himself off, and finish what he started is poetically beautiful, especially when considering how excellent the film is. It is truly a momentous performance, showing that even in our darkest hours, human beings can persevere to make ourselves, and many, others happy.
I am deeply aware that the film will surely be divisive with some audience members applauding Snyder and his vision while many will continue to criticize him for lacking a depth artistic eye and telling a so-so story. Do those individuals truly feel that way because the movie is below par or are they just stubborn and desperate to hate everything Snyder touches? While I think you know my opinion, I’ll let you determine yours. But I hope that at the very least audiences get behind this film for the immense achievement in Snyder finally getting to complete the story he started long ago; one that was ripped away from him in devastating fashion yet revived in quite possibly the most beautiful way any fan could have imagined.
From this point forward, I feel that taking you through an in-depth review and analysis on everything I love about the Snyder Cut would be a bit pointless. As I took notes on the film, it quickly just became a list of all the things that I loved. In actuality, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is something that you need to see for yourself and, despite the heavily flawed BvS, I think the best way to view the film truly is within the context of the greater Snyder-Verse trilogy. The weaker spots in the first two films feel slightly more excusable, while the peaks flourish in their most wonderfully realized form. In the end, finally getting to view Snyder’s story in full inspired me to push through the setbacks that life has in store to complete work that is meaningful to me. I hope these films do the same for you.
Despite excitement for Robert Pattinson’s upcoming Batman film and James Gunn’s rebooted Suicide Squad, not restoring the Snyder-Verse would be one of the biggest mistakes Warner Brothers could make. As wonderful as Snyder’s story is in its current form, the Snyder Cut shows that he had much more planned the future. If offered the proper creative freedoms, there is no reason to believe that Snyder would do anything other than inspire more audiences for years to come. So treat this as my call to action to all of you; just as fans willed Zack Snyder’s Justice League into existence, we must ban together again to #RestoreTheSnyderVerse.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is streaming now on HBO Max, alongside Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition).