How we got here, and how it all turned out
Last week, my boyfriend announced we’d be spending our Thursday afternoon watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
I can’t lie: I was not excited.
We’d already spent the previous few days re-watching Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman (2016) — the previous two Snyder-directed films in Warner Brothers’ fledgling DC Extended Universe — and I was feeling thoroughly underwhelmed.
The hope of fans and critics alike was that Justice League would see Snyder correct his missteps and say ‘so long’ to the sad Superman and murderous Batman of films gone by and say ‘hello’ to the ultimate superhero blockbuster.
However, near the end of Justice League’s production in 2017, Snyder stepped down from the film and Warner Brothers hired in his stead Joss Whedon, director of Marvel’s Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Warner Brothers hoped that by hiring the director of Marvel films, they may be able to compete with their success.
The result was a huge disappointment.
Whedon’s theatrical release of Justice League in 2017 was a far cry from the two Snyder-directed predecessors. Gone were the muted color palettes, stylish cinematography and philosophical subtext of Snyder’s films.
Instead was… well, whatever made the Avengers so great.
Except, Whedon’s Justice League wasn’t great. Between its sexist jokes and superficial plot, the film was a mere husk of what could have been.
After a passionate campaign by fans, the film’s stars, and even Snyder himself, Warner Brothers agreed to release the Snyder Cut — Zack Snyder’s original version and vision of the Justice League film — on March 18, 2021.
This brings us back to last Thursday on my living room couch.
What began as a reluctant screening of what I expected to be another disappointment, quickly became a thoroughly engaging, exciting, and heart-wrenchingly beautiful experience.
Snyder’s style of near-excessive slow-motion and dramatic framing finally make sense here, as his Justice League is depicted as our modern-day pantheon of gods. Though I was initially skeptical, the 4:3 aspect ratio quickly grew on me as I saw the power the framing injected into the heroes’ figures.
Unlike in Whedon’s theatrical cut of the film, the Flash is not a cheap Spiderman knock-off, Alfred is an active (and funny!) character, and Cyborg is not a dry, one-dimensional add-on. In fact, Cyborg and his father become central symbols of the heart which was so lacking from both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.
Due to the pandemic’s destruction of my attention span, I frequently pause movies to ensure I’m actually following the plot. Each time I paused during Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the care Snyder paid to his characters and plot became increasingly clear: we understand Steppenwolf’s motivations and pain, we have a real fear that everything may not work out in the end, and we meet a beautifully changed Joker in Batman’s ‘knightmares.’
For every great franchise film that studios like Disney and Warner Brothers put out, there are at least two more which only barely manage to get the job done. The Snyder cut serves as a reminder that the priority of any great work should be the vision of its creators, not what will manage to pull the most cash at the box office.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the unhinged and unapologetic fever dream of a DC fan who has waited their whole life to see their heroes on the big screen. It represents the beginning of a singular vision of what the DC universe could look like on film — a weird, realistic, and challenging sci-fi rendition of nearly century-old characters.
It breaks my heart that this is the end of the Snyder-verse, but it remains an absolute must-watch film for any DC fan or average person looking for an immersive escape from reality and a jump-start for their imagination.
After all, how else are you going to spend four hours?