Credit where credit is due. Not many studios are willing to give a film a second go. Warner Brother's 2017 rendition of Justice League left fans wanting. Despite the large financial investment required for such an endeavor, Zack Snyder was gifted a new opportunity to see his vision fully actualized. Whether Mr. Snyder's track record warrants such a gift is...debatable. Yet after contending with personal tragedy, it is at least a noble gesture. Heck, in 2021, nothing should really surprise anyone anymore.
Of all things, perhaps this a nod to recent headlines that showcase the power of the will of the internet. The willingness of studios to course-correct and make adjustments to films like Sonic the Hedgehog, to say nothing of the potential ret-con-in-the-making of pivotal franchise characters like Luke Skywalker, shows that nothing seems to be off the table. For those of us who care to see a carefully crafted story that isn't a mere sequence of flashy, aesthetically interesting images, this is a most welcome trend. Season 8 Game of Thrones remake anyone??
Speaking of aesthetics, nothing says Zack Snyder like removing all light on the visible spectrum and sucking out the leftover saturation through a straw. Don't get me wrong, it's his thing, and it actually works pretty well at times. Batman was made to be shot this way. A brooding robot-man whose life just got turned upside down fits that bill. Yet I think this gets into one of the tragic flaws of Snyder's overall approach to certain DC heroes: he damages the persona of characters to achieve a grayed out vision that undermines who the characters are. Man of Steel was similarly robbed of appropriate color saturation. Superman is a bright beacon that is supposed to model the best of mankind, a model to strive for. Making Superman or Wonder Woman cram into a dark, brooding color pool only serves to undermine the very things that empower them as heroes that represent hope. Superman's color scheme is different from Batman's for reasons beyond personal taste, though the costume change for this go around and its comic significance deserves a bit more exposition. While we're talking visuals, the darkening of the final fight against the Para-demons as opposed to the cartoonish red tint at least was the right call.
It cannot be overstated how important it was for Snyder take his time developing his characters and recounting where things stand in the DC Universe. Seeing Lois and Martha feeling the effects of Superman's passing made the event all the more real. Prior to this, Supe's death felt like scarcely more than a temporary inconvenience. Getting to see more screen time for the big players in the Man of Steel's personal world could only be a good call. The character of Barry Allen was better served in this version as well. While remaining the poster boy for comic relief, seeing a reworked opening for him left him feeling more capable and far less fragile than the theatrical rendition.
Ray Fisher's Cyborg is a bright spot in an otherwise gray and brooding film. The earlier release failed to establish Cyborg as a real character, for reasons not wholly unrelated to his robotic (not sorry) performance. Audiences were shown that he became Cyborg, but the complexities of his character and his motivations were all too hidden in the theatrical release. This Cyborg is the one the film needed, and the one that did justice to the gem of a performance Fisher gave. That said, is it just me, or does this cinematic Cyborg need to look more, shall we say, robust? Do you even lift bro?
Batman and Wonder Woman don't play quite the same central role they did in the theatrical version, and this is probably for the best as it meant more time to get to know the players. Batman himself stays consistent with his "BvS" no-nonsense self. The removal of the Marvel-like humor was the right choice as far as showing you understanding of your characters. Diana wasn't entirely served by the extra run time, but she also had the least need for it having already been a fleshed out persona. Aquaman sees his story follow a fuller arc that plays into his standalone film. While not necessarily playing into the Justice League story directly, getting to better understand his bitterness towards Atlantis and his hesitation with joining Bruce Wayne more understandable. Somehow, this Aquaman fits into the world of "Snyderland" neatly. I never expected it, yet here it is.
Superman is an interesting case. Some of the best changes to him, happened around him. Not least of the changes for the better is the obvious lack of CGI-covered-mustache. The opening sequence of the yell-heard-round-the-world shows the audience again just how big this moment is. Sadly, we also got a brutal reminder that Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor wannabe still exists in this universe. No, you didn't just dream that; it wasn't a terrible nightmare. We're not even going to mention the Joker appearance. Nope, not gonna do it. What is great is learning from past mistakes. One villain that finally didn't fail to be what he could be was Steppenwolf. Want to make your hero movie go from good to great? Take your villain to the next level. A Steppenwolf that just wanted papa Darkseid to accept him? It's a bold move, Cotton, and it works out for them. As a viewer, I now feel a real threat to the characters I sense a growing investment in. These are the signs of growth.
Overall, Zack Snyder gets a lot right. He took his time to develop the characters into what they needed to be: more complete versions of themselves. It isn't perfect, but I felt I saw the changes and growth in the characters that had meaning. Aquaman accepts his responsibility. Cyborg starts on the path to peace with himself. Steppenwolf isn't a cardboard cutout that has, “Insert villain here,” scribbled on it. The Snyder cut will be remembered as a good film and likely salvage the Justice League title from the historical landfill. If this heralds the dawn of a Hollywood willing to course-correct, there might just be hope again, like the return of Superman.
Ret-con of the Last Jedi anyone?
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