“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” -Jor-El
Part 1: The Collective/Unity
It is said since years past, people in crises have always dreamt of a messiah to save them. In history books, through scriptures — faith or not — it makes sense. Humanity always had the capacity for immeasurable hope, we’ve just grown cynical over the centuries. We’ve stopped believing in the possibility of a single savior, a single person to save us all; reality has proven to us that the power of the collective is more likely to succeed. Humanity has not evolved because of one person, it is because of those united who made their voices matter.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), the infamous director’s cut for a movie that most despised, did not get released for all to see because of a single person, a single voice; that was never going to be enough. The reason Snyder’s vision was rejected by meddling executives in the first place was because his voice was not as loud as the plethora that criticized him. Batman v Superman’s (2015) critical and financial disappointment dissuaded WB’s executives to trust Snyder anymore, their faith had seemed to be misplaced at the time.
With their waning belief in Snyder, along with an unfortunate family tragedy befalling him, WB hired Joss Whedon to essentially remake the film, releasing a makeshift half-finished mess in theatres in 2017. The fans were not pleased. Average moviegoers rated the film mediocre at best, a passable 2-hour pastime, and a horrid Frankenstein of reshoots at worst. So in the time between then and now, a movement began, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut was born, with cast members joining fans in sharing the hashtag, raising money for Suicide Prevention, and making the 4-hour director’s cut happen, the seemingly impossible, possible.
But in between those sincere fans, amongst the faceless voices rose negativity: death threats on executives, hate-mongering, cancel culture, and overall aggressive online behavior. Some think negative discouragement is the only way to make things happen. But I reckon that Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released not for and because of the toxicity of some of its fans, but despite it, with the sincerity and perseverance from the rest shining through. So it all started with a united fanbase, supporting one man’s vision for 4 years to be truly realized, unfettered by corporate demands. Right in the time of crisis, of quarantine, a long-awaited film arrives, to save us, help us escape, even for just a mere 4 hours.
Part 2: The Individual/Superman
Still, no one would’ve united if it weren’t for the singular vision of Zack Snyder: the man’s dream for an epic, moving, superhero story (helped by the undeniable contributions from his writers and film crew). And like the Superman in his movies, at first he was rejected, criticized for his different and unorthodox take on classic comic characters; then after the fall, they prayed and clamored for his rise. As above, so below it seems. Now, the majority of fans and moviegoers alike agreed that Snyder’s take on the characters, and his version of the Justice League, is strikingly superior to the corporate-mandated film of 2017.
An outcast, a martyr, a dream, a messiah; Zack Snyder, Superman, Justice League. To avoid further pretentiousness, I would like to say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is by no means a perfect movie. But it is no doubt his movie, and it is exactly what the fans had wanted, had longed for 4 years, served on a golden platter, at the right time, serendipitous, in an almost infinitesimal chance — A monument to prevailing hope.
Just as Batman had gained faith after Superman’s sacrifice, so has Snyder’s fans, and himself, witnessing a bastardized work redeemed, taking shape as a single incarnate symbol.
Part 3: Cul-de-sac/Hope
Afterward, post the 4-hour viewing, after moments of repeated retrospective, the film stayed in my head, embedded. I can’t help but feel hopeful. Ironic, considering the relatively depressing previous 2 movies of Snyder’s DC slate. Maybe it was intentional for the dower dark Man of Steel and even darker Batman v Superman to make the viewers feel depressed, empathize with the dark place our heroes are in; making us feel as if being pulled down deep just to rise up higher than ever.
The production of the film itself, the experience of the actors, mirrored this fact — the themes of the movie — of change, of freedom from the forced will of a detached (corporate) entity. It’s as if the film and its production have taken on a mythical quality, a story within a story, one for the history books. In a metatextual context, this cultural milestone should not be disregarded; even if this is the final film that Zack Snyder makes in the DC Universe, it will no longer be remembered as just a movie, but instead a culmination, an event.
In times of crisis, there is always hope. In the impossible, there is chance. In the darkest of times, even the smallest light can be as bright as the sun. Zack Snyder’s Justice League helped make me feel that feeling, made me believe again, in small miracles, events that don’t necessarily change the world or myself but lift me up for just a moment, a moment more than enough to make me feel like the icons onscreen, where reality is a little bit more fantastic.