If Warner Brothers would just get out of the way...
We can only hope that Warner Brothers executives come to their senses and get out of the way. Blows my mind how much that Snyder shot was just thrown away and that everyone who had a say was okay with what Whedon came up with.
Full disclosure, I am the most forgiving moviegoer. Making a movie isn't easy...making a movie with multiple big wigs constantly giving their 2-cents is darn near impossible. So when Justice League came out, it was exciting enough to see these characters on the big screen. The movie as a whole was pretty blah, but I found little gems that made the movie special for me. I grew up in the 80s. I never imagined seeing these characters presented in such a way. More importantly, this was going to be a springboard and we would get better, more well-rounded, stories with these characters. Little did I know, the better story was left on the cutting room floor.
I knew from the Batman V Superman extended cut, that what was released for theaters was nowhere near complete. So I expected it with Justice League, little did I know Whedon and company would massacre the film the way they did. I don't watch previews for films I know I want to see. Nothing annoys me more than a movie trailer showing a hidden nugget, or spoiling a grand reveal. I haven't seen more than 5 seconds of the Godzilla v King Kong trailer for instance. I don't read reviews or actively search for information about a movie beforehand. So if you are like me...from this point forward, there may be spoilers so please don't read if you don't want to know...
As we get started I have to admit I love the darker universe Snyder decided to showcase. It's the direction the comics have been going for a while now, and it better mirrors the world today - a world filled with mistrust, anger, and hate; a world searching for heroes to step up.
After providing the world with a savior, a super-being capable of providing the world with hope and potentially peace, Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice and gives his life to save the world. It was one of many Christ comparisons Snyder ramrodded home during the first 2 Superman films and it was the final act to prove to Bruce Wayne he was wrong about the alien. This theme of sacrifice and redemption makes it way back into the Justice League extended cut, with more than one heavy-handed visual representation.
And yet this portrayal of Superman is important to the character of Batman. The Batman we meet in Batman V Superman is not the same Batman we get to follow in Justice League.
I was listening to a football podcast that went on a rant against Affleck's Batman saying he didn't understand the character and the importance of the loss of his parents shaping the character's purpose and very nature. To that I say, this person doesn't understand the Batman he's watching in Snyder's universe. This isn't newly formed Batman, with a mission and a set of rock-solid beliefs. Affleck's Batman is the Dark Knight. The man who's suffered tragedy after tragedy and has watched his beloved Gotham sink further into the darkness.
This is a Batman who knows nothing but despair; a Batman going through the motions because he knows just how bad things will get if he stops. This is what brought Clark's attention to him in Batman V Superman, he saw the brutal, inhuman way Bruce was beginning to deal with the villains of Gotham. Yet at the end, as he battled next to Superman and Diana, we begin to see something ignite in Bruce. Something he hadn't experienced in a long time, hope. Even after Superman dies, he still has it.
It's with this little bit of hope, and a warning that something terrible is coming that Bruce begins to do the improbable. He searches for other super beings to unite. The ultimate loner becomes the recruiter. Here Snyder does the thing Whedon just glosses over or gets flat wrong. He shows us why we should root for these heroes, better yet, why we should care about these people.
Snyder gets something Whedon didn't have when putting together his Justice League. He gets an audience who's seen the Aquaman and 2 Wonder Woman movies. Because of this, he can reinforce the characters' situations and opinions in joining the League but not need to go all in on their motives. He does this way better for Aquaman than Whedon did. Most of Wonder Woman's scenes are the same, just edited in a way to tell a better story.
What Snyder excels at is showing us the characters of Cyborg and Flash, warts and all. You really get into both characters' minds and see what is making them tick. This is so important as they begin with the group and grow into the heroes Batman believes they can be. Side note - The best thing Snyder did for Flash was getting rid of the stupid pep talk where Flash needs it explained why and how to be a hero. Snyder shows us early on, that Barry Allen knows exactly how to be a hero.
He also gives weight to Cyborg's family situation and the changes he's experiencing after being introduced to the mother box. Throughout the movie, we aren't being told just how useless everyone is since they aren't Superman. Instead, we are being shown just how important they are since the world lost Superman. Batman knows this, he knows it will take a team of super-powered individuals to make up for the loss of the Kryptonian.
The other aspect of Snyder's cut that is important is the villain. Steppenwolf is no longer a one-dimensional unstoppable force. There's depth given to the character, depth and a sense of loss almost as strong as Bruce's. Better yet, Snyder doesn't just throw a five-minute montage at us to try and show us how desperate the situation is now that he's on the planet. Instead, he allows for the story to naturally unfold, showing us not only how powerful Steppenwolf is but how powerful the man he serves is.
You get a real sense of the danger the Earth is in with both Diana's retelling of the story of the 3 boxes and the way Darkseid reacts to the news of the antimatter being on Earth. It also hammers home just how important Superman is to the Earth's protection.
Another thing handled 100 times better is the idea of resurrecting Superman. In Whedon's version, it's there the whole time as Batman's idea. An idea so irredeemable that it almost breaks the team before they can do any good.
That take makes no sense in this version. Batman brings the team together because he knows something is coming and there is no Superman to turn to. It isn't until later while they discuss the properties of the box that they all come to the same conclusion...they might be able to bring back Superman. There is no gnashing of teeth or push back since they all understand what he represents...hope. They know that providing hope to the world is as important as providing protection.
Now the rebirth scene goes about the same, and that's fine. You would expect that reaction from a dead man. It drives home the fact Superman is more powerful than everyone. Although it can be argued that Bruce wasn't going to fight him, so they weren't particularly ready to take him on. This also allowed for Snyder to remind the audience that when Superman isn't bound by the lessons of his human parents, the emotional attachments he's formed on Earth...well he's borderline brutal.
Now to the final point. With everything Snyder did to get us to the final hour, he made the battle at the end have weight. The audience understands how important and borderline insane it is for these heroes to push forward without Superman's help. We have spent all this time being told that the only reason the Earth is under attack is there is no one powerful enough left to help. Yet here stands 5 individuals who are willing to take on overwhelming odds to save the planet.
So in the final battle what stands out...
They make a plan, and let us in on it. We have a clear picture of what each hero needs to do for it to work.
Every hero has a purpose. Whedon's version of Flash pushing the truck of people out of harm's way feels even more ridiculous after watching just how important Barry Allen is to the plan...and the team as a whole.
We see just how much Batman cares. That podcast guy was also mocking Batman's powers - recalling a line Bruce says himself when asked what his powers were, "I have money." And yet we see that really what Bruce has for a superpower is his willingness to do whatever has to be done to protect the people of Earth. He is willing to sacrifice himself to make the plan work because he knows that the beings with power have a greater chance at stopping Steppenwolf's plan. Snyder reinforces the idea that although Bruce Wayne is just a man, he is the right man to gather and lead the super-powered folk.
We may not know just how powerful Superman truly is as he is obviously holding himself back most of the time.
The movie ends with some feel-good moments and promises of more to come. I think the Deathstroke/Lex Luther interaction is a great setup for a Ben Affleck Return to the Cowl. Fingers crossed it happens.
And more importantly, the movie gives us a taste of what might happen if Superman does turn to the dark side - so to speak. It's worth it for the Jared Leto Joker interaction with Batman alone.
My last thought on the futuristic storyline that shows Superman as a villain...
We are told a few times that Lois Lane is the key. By the end we, the audience, understand it is the key to keeping Superman on the side of the angels. I think this is important because it shows us just how human Superman is. While many - including Lex Luthor - see him as a God or a savior or a threat to our way of life...he is, at the heart of it, just a man. As a fan of the Injustice game/comic, I like to think of a world where even the best of us can stumble off the chosen path. I know not everyone agrees and that's what makes this so fun.
Well hopefully this didn't come off as the mad ramblings of an Arkham patient. I didn't take notes or even order my thoughts, but I wanted to get something down for tomorrow. I'll have more on my books and stories Wednesday.