There was a film… A hope to conquer a market which is already saturated by superheroic productions. This hope was called Justice League.
After the failure of Batman v Superman in 2016 (which a director’s cut will have refurbished), Warner is betting on Justice League to catch up with the competition and prove that they, too, are up to the task. But Warner doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes. After the departure of Zack Snyder, following the death of his daughter Autumn, Joss Whedon took over. He will then impose another vision, that of the studios which had already hired the director of Avengers to rewrite some scenes. The humor, the issue was there. Warner wanted to replace Snyder’s dramatic-philosophical-existentialist mania with jokes, with an Avengerian tone. We know what happened next, Justice League is a failure, a hammering, a sabotage. If Warner wanted to shoot itself in the foot, it is a success.
A butchery of Whedon and four years later, here we are with an outlet version for its author, a film dedicated to his daughter. A resurrection for a man in love with these emblematic characters of the DC Comics stable.
The Age of Heroes
A cry of pain and rage that resonates around the world.
The cry of a hero who sacrifices himself for humanity.
So begins Justice League Snyder Cut, with a suffering Superman and a howl, which the whole Earth will hear as far as Themyscira and Atlantis.
With Whedon, the film began with what is now called the « mustache » affair in which Superman answered questions from two children. An uninteresting sequence, mocked moreover by the Internet users. A sabotage ? Maybe. A scam ? Without a doubt.
Zack Snyder, on the other hand, takes another gamble. The one of despair. In order to show the impact of Superman’s passage on our planet, the director makes his hero’s suffering heard (his own too, perhaps), which will then touch each individual. By seeing Themyscira and Atlantis through the extension of this cry, we understand more that Humans, but not only, have lost a loved one, a living being able to give back faith to a humanity in distress. We perceive, even among these ancient peoples, concern facing this disappearance.
The death of Superman will be one of the central themes of the story. With such a powerful opening, Snyder first exposes us with a cold world, with an infinite sadness – personified by Martha Kent and Lois Lane -, to later call for a new hope.
A resurrection reflecting the image of Zack Snyder’s Justice League…
The film then continues with a succession of scenes, where Batman tries to reunite a team, which is ravaged by moral dilemmas. Here, Zack Snyder proceeds parsimoniously. It is out of the question to bring together superheroes without exposing them to the general public, to neophytes. Where Whedon took things for granted, Snyder knows that before the action, the characters must be introduced, given life, given a story, depth, personal issues.
For Aquaman, for example, it will be a question of opposing his difficulties to find his place in the world of Men and in the world of the Atlanteans. This inner conflict, treated too lightly in 2017, is here accentuated thanks to the presence of Vulko (Willem Dafoe) totally absent in Whedon. At first glance, this change is not very noticeable but, in reality, it allows us to better identify the doubts, sorrows and regrets of Arthur Curry regarding his true nature. Justice League is not just a bland blockbuster with explosions and battles predominating. It is a human adventure, in which each hero must find his place and the role he wishes to play.
Aquaman is also the keystone of a story intimately linked to the deities. Since Man of Steel, Zack Snyder reveals his love for mythology and religion, and with Justice League, he continues in this direction. The scene where the villagers sing after Aquaman’s departure, unquestionably supports the value of beliefs, the power of myths and legends and gives hope for the return of disappeared deities.
The scene where the villagers sing after the departure of Aquaman, supports unquestionably the value of beliefs, the power of myths and legends and give hope for the return of disappeared deities. This way of filming, of enriching out the scenes through small details like this, embellishes this Justice League with promises. And they will be kept, even as far as in its cutting. The editing is more graceful, the story more coherent, some ellipses are filled in and reinforce the dramatic aspects the heroes are facing, while the action is more striking. The sequence where Wonder Woman prevents a terrorist action from being carried out, releases a real force, a real tension, while the 2017 editing brought to naught those few heavy seconds before the explosion. The micro-cuts of this scene then make it certainly, wild, but without the subtlety of suspense.
Another appalling fact is Warner and Whedon’s cut of a line said by Wonder Woman to a teenage girl : « You can become anyone you want to be ». At a time when young girls are sorely lacking in superheroines, to remove a phrase that encourages independence, freedom, is a real ignominy. Wonder Woman is a needed spokeswoman, and to deprive her of her voice is to deprive young girls of « becoming », of « being », of dreaming.
Examples like this are plentiful. And that’s why this Justice League Snyder Cut is important. To grasp the intensity of the Herculean effort Zack Snyder has made and the brutal treatment that his work has undergone in the hands of people who were definitely malevolent or stupid enough to believe that their version was an honest and clean picture.
. Cyborg & Flash
We were talking about presentation above. Snyder Cut offers a great deal to two characters forgotten in Joss Whedon’s movie : Cyborg & Flash. When we compare the two versions, there is a bitter aftertaste, a feeling of frustration. How could we cut such beautiful artistic and dramaturgical intentions ?
If Justice League Snyder Cut is dense, it is because Zack Snyder takes the time to develop his characters. Cyborg’s abilities are thus put in the spotlight in a voice-over sequence that reveals the fantastic power of this half-human, half-robotic being. Above all, the director is interested in the conflict that inhabits Cyborg by confronting him with his past life, the passing of his mother and the constant confrontations with his father. Until this strong image, where the three Mother Boxes take the appearance of his family and himself. It is by separating them, by tearing apart this fanciful vision, that he will learn to accept himself as he now is. Because Justice League is also a movie about self-acceptance. And the same goes for Flash, a jaded, anti-social, justice-loving kid, who will find a family within this unique team.
Flash is still the comic element of Justice League. Nonetheless, Zack Snyder gives him two true legendary scenes.
In the 2017 version, Joss Whedon had deliberately cut Iris West from the film’s editing. A big mistake. For three reasons.
. A matter of interest. Zack Snyder loves these heroes deeply. He does not consider them as cash-cows, unlike Warner’s shareholders. To cut such a scene is to admit that one literally makes fun of what the heroes go through in their daily life, often of a great banality. However, it is in this banality that there are the most beautiful things to tell.
. Everyday life is beautiful, if you know how to make good use of it, if you know how to film it, script it, romanticize it. The job interview, the accumulation of odd jobs, are for Barry Allen the means to finance his studies. It is the consequence of a deeper tragedy: saving his father. Studying, joining the police force, is a way to become significant enough, to have enough power and to be legitimate in the eyes of society, to prove innocent his father and clear his name.
. Finally, the rescue of Iris West is to introduce the Flash/Barry Allen mythology. Iris West, it is love at first sight. It is not just a love story. Iris is the woman of his life. Their meeting is important, because it is also a source of motivation to fight, to survive.
Who knows, would thinking about Iris West have given him an extra strength to prevent the world from descending into chaos ?
In itself, this sequence is a success. Both on the script and on the artistic level. There is a lot of sweetness, tenderness in this rescue, a form of visual poetry where time unravels to the rhythm of the sublime voice of Rosa Betts (Song to the Siren).
Zack Snyder is not only a director, he is also a poet, who knows how to translate emotions as well by the staging as by the choice of his musical themes. Whedon is a nauseating catapult that destroys any form of lyricism, to the detriment of a flat, informal, soulless entity.
To finish with, Zack Snyder gives his movie an epic ending. Superman is not the hoped-for savior since it is Barry who, by going back in time, will save the planet. The comic element of the movie then becomes its central pillar. Here again, the music composed by Junkie XL (At to the Speed Force) is of a rare beauty and reinforces all the tension of this scene and the weight that Barry carries on his shoulders.
The Age of Supervillains
If Steppenwolf is a class act in Snyder’s film, where the shiny reflection of his metal armor greatly diminishes the CGI, the supervillain also grows in stature. We better understand the stakes that drive him to act and we give him the opportunity to express himself in grandiloquent sequences. The attacks in Themyscira and Atlantis have some measure, especially in the Amazon Lands, where the heroines’ ingenuity is put through the mill.
Too often villains in American blockbusters are underutilized. Of course, Steppenwolf is not the complex Hitchcockian villain, but his many interactions with DeSaad and Darkseid elevate his appearances, amplifying his tragedy.
Moreover, Snyder fills in some gaps. Indeed, we finally see Steppenwolf retrieve the third Mother Box. A scene cut in the 2017 editing and which has a crucial influence on Cyborg’s life. It is here that he will see his father sacrificing himself. A sacrifice that will be reverberated later, adding an even darker scope to the demons he will face in his « nightmare ». Proof, if any were needed, that Warner and Whedon didn’t care at all about coherence, and about what he was going to deliver to the public.
Stepenwolf’s death is also very different. With Whedon, the parademons sent Stepenwolff back to his world after sensing his fears. Snyder gives a more violent version. In an outburst of anger, Wonder Woman cuts off the head of the « monster » and sends it to Darkseid through the portal. A will here to warn Darkseid that the Earth has heroes ready to fight and defend it and, on the other hand, to unveil in a glance, Darkseid’s determination to take revenge.
Teased in Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne’s « Knightmare » is once again staged. Darkseid now rules the Earth and his greatest defender, Superman, stands by his side. A rebel team is constituted with Batman as a leader, Deathstroke, Mera, Cyborg, Flash and most surprisingly… The Joker. And as if to pay homage to him after a failed stint in Suicide Squad, Zack Snyder wakes up a Jared Leto for a disturbing scene. A verbal jousting between two « brother-enemies » intense and violent.
This ending has, despite everything, the huge problem that it teases us a sequel that would have been memorable. It leaves the spectator with a crazy desire to see on the big screen the arrival of Darkseid on Earth, the formation of Lex Luthor’s Injustice League, the death of Loïs Lane and the evil version of Superman destroyed by the death of his beloved, the fall of heroes like Aquaman, and so on…
Will the success of Justice League Snyder Cut be the spark that will rekindle Warner’s flame and belief in letting its writers express themselves freely ? Will they finally understand that the length of a work will not determine its programmed failure ? That it is better to have 4 hours of dense film than 2 hours of choppy and frustrating film ?
We start to dream of a world where Hollywood’s big shots think of something else than making formatted, lifeless products. Will we then have the chance to see Justice League 2 in theaters? Only time will tell…
An epic movie, Justice League Snyder Cut is an existential, philosophical drama about the place of exceptional beings in a world plagued by division, a piece of work about responsibility, the sense of duty, a drama about death and grief.
A true superhero film, intense, deep, generous, concerned, lingering, passionate about the lives of its extraordinary heroes and the consequences related to their lives. The action only makes sense if the dramatic stakes are set, studied and cultivated. The action is only powerful if the characters have moral dilemmas, things to lose. So, when Snyder carries out his last sequence, his ultimate fight against Steppenwolf, we see accomplished heroes, ready to sacrifice themselves for the common good, for humanity with all their humanity. One can reproach Snyder for his lengthy sequences, but they are essential for all these reasons.
This intensity is also found in its 1:43 format. Disconcerting, however, this format unleashes a depth of field, sometimes vertiginous, especially on the action scenes that are embellished. It also gives the movie a more intimate side, accentuates the feelings, the torments of the protagonists, crystallizes our closeness with these so inaccessible deities and these human beings, so sensitive to life. (See images below).