Entertainment, Geek Culture

Snyder Cut: Did Cyborg save ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’?

After finishing the nearly four-hour-long “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, which is streaming on HBO GO in the Philippines, I can say that the Snyder Cut is better than the mishmash that was the original “Justice League” movie that Joss Whedon delivered. Image credit: Screenshot of HBO GO site
Image credit: Screenshot of HBO GO site

After finishing the nearly four-hour-long “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”, which is streaming on HBO GO in the Philippines, I can say that the Snyder Cut is better than the mishmash that was the original “Justice League” movie that Joss Whedon delivered.

It’s still not to my taste, and the running time could definitely have been cut down. But even though I’m not a fan of Snyder, I prefer the Snyder Cut because it’s a singular vision instead of Whedon’s “Josstice League” which was part dark, part Marvel lite. You just have to watch “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” while accepting Snyder’s strengths and weaknesses. Snyder’s strength has always been spectacle instead of storytelling. He thinks in terms of set pieces — of moving from one cool, epic moment to the next. So when it comes to stunning visuals and larger-than-life characters, the Snyder Cut delivers. The story is secondary to him. And I do appreciate how Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, gets so much more screen time here, because he is the most interesting character who helps humanize this tale of gods at war.

Gods among us

As a kid, I grew up reading both DC and Marvel comic books. And while I’ve always preferred Marvel, I also love DC, its characters, and its own take on superheroes. So yes, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero and Cyclops comes second, but Superman is my third favorite and he has always embodied DC to me. My favorite superhero team is the X-Men, but my second favorite is the Legion of Super-Heroes.

But while my favorite characters are from Marvel, the funny thing is that most of my favorite stories are from DC. Even without including Watchmen (Alan Moore is my favorite comic book writer) and non-superhero stories, my list of favorites would be dominated by DC: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Kingdom Come, The Great Darkness Saga, The Dark Knight Returns, Superman: Secret Identity, DC: The New Frontier, and so on.

So while I find Marvel characters more relatable, love their human side, and their relationships with other heroes and their supporting cast, it’s the stories of DC which I find more epic and memorable. Which, in a way, illustrates the fundamental difference between DC and Marvel.

At the risk of generalizing, Marvel usually treats superheroes as normal human beings with godlike powers.

DC treats superheroes as gods who walk among us. They are the stuff of legends. Myths that co-exist with the modern world.

Look at how Superman was portrayed in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. That’s the Superman that Snyder wants to show us. Not Clark Kent. Superman.

Cyborg as the most human

This difference between DC and Marvel was also touched upon in the awesome JLA/Avengers (issues 2 and 4 were called Avengers/JLA) crossover limited series by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. DC superheroes are traditionally overpowered compared to those of Marvel, and the public idolizes them in the DC comic book universe. The Avengers are shocked by how the JLA is revered as gods when they visit the DC Earth. Meanwhile, Superman says how unimpressed he is by the Marvel superheroes. He is baffled that they have not fixed the problems in their world. The DC superheroes, however, later realize that their Marvel counterparts have to work and fight harder, because they are not as powerful and live in a hostile world.

Which is why one of the things I like about the Snyder Cut is how they have reinstated Cyborg in the movie. I won’t go into all the controversy surrounding the removal of most of Cyborg’s scenes in the original “Justice League”, but Fisher does an excellent job in portraying a human with godlike powers who must now take his place in the pantheon.

It is also Cyborg whose characterization benefits the most from this movie. We see his hero’s journey, and empathize with his tragic story. Making the cyborg ironically more human than his fully flesh-and-blood fellow superheroes.

Yes, I know Batman’s superpower is that he’s rich. But the way Batman is portrayed here, as in the comics for the most part, is as an almost supernatural creature. An archetype. A mythical hero who can go toe-to-toe with a god.

BLACKPINK no longer in your area?

Now, don’t get me wrong. As a whole, the Snyder Cut isn’t better than the sum of its parts. I like it more than the original “Justice League”, but that’s a pretty low bar. Plus, as a BLINK, I’m outraged that the Snyder Cut no longer plays BLACKPINK’s “As If It’s Your Last” music video lol. So, wait, is The Flash no longer canonically a BLINK?

Seriously, however, I respect the original vision of Snyder even if I don’t like the execution. Instead of a movie trying to force his vision to co-exist with Whedon’s.

Still, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” doesn’t justify its almost four-hour-long running time. It’s too self-indulgent, particularly Snyder’s fixation with slow-mo sequences dripping with dramatic music. He seems so enamored with this technique that it happens in scene after scene. In fact, I’m wondering if you could chop off an hour just by editing those scenes.

As I’ve mentioned, Snyder also doesn’t seem interested in the civilian identities of superheroes. Sure, they call each other Clark, Bruce, and Diana. But Snyder is just interested in Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

I think that’s why normal scenes in the Snyderverse are awkward, because the conversations and interactions these characters have in their civilian identities are just filler for the epic superhero moments Snyder can’t wait to show us.

This… is… Snyder!

That’s why I believe the best Snyder movie is still “300”. Because he had Frank Miller’s graphic novel to copy panel by panel. Snyder isn’t a good storyteller or a visionary, but he’s great at bringing comic book panels to life.

And the Snyder Cut has those epic moments. In spades.

It makes me wish The Powers That Be at Warner Bros. and DC would just have him recreate Kingdom Come and adapt that legendary miniseries instead of just paying homage to it all the time.

After all, who says every DC movie has to be connected? This isn’t the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and it doesn’t have to be. Why not standalone, Elseworlds (as in the imprint, not the Arrowverse crossover event)-type live action movies?

Which, I guess, is already happening with movies like “Joker”.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel like reading some of those DC graphic novels again. And rewatching “300”.