'Zack Snyder's Justice League' is a Victorious Triumph for Perseverance
by Dan Marcus
March 22, 2021
The fans were victorious. Zack Snyder's Justice League is finally upon us. After a four year journey that originated with director Zack Snyder departing the project due to a family tragedy, the four-hour superhero epic defied all odds and expectations and arrived streaming on HBO Max this past weekend (watch the final trailer again). No longer besmirched by Joss Whedon's neutered version of Justice League from 2017, Zack Snyder's Justice League (formerly known as "The Snyder Cut") restores his epic vision for the superhero film, and it is a victorious triumph for perseverance and for the vision of an auteur who never gave up.
The long road to Zack Snyder's Justice League was definitely a bumpy one. From leaving the project due to a personal tragedy and behind-the-scenes drama galore, it was never a foregone conclusion that Snyder's cut of the film would ever get released to the public. This was more than just a director fulfilling his vision, for Snyder it was a sonata for his daughter, who sadly committed suicide in March of 2017 (she is memorialized in the movie: "For Autumn"). On this epic quest to fulfill his vision for the film, Snyder wasn't alone. He was bolstered by a tremendous fan campaign. For the last four years you'd be hard-pressed not to find tweets with the hashtag "Release The Snyder Cut" somewhere on your timeline. Even though web pundits claimed the fabled "Snyder Cut" would never come to fruition, it was the determined voices of a loyal fan base and the director's commitment to seeing his vision through to completion that led us to this very moment.
Which makes it fitting that Zack Snyder's Justice League feels like the director's most personal film to date. Snyder's films usually carry a somber tone. After all, it was his morose sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that at the time of its release in 2016 divided fans and critics. Snyder's Justice League is different from his earlier superhero entries given that while it does carry a darker tone than the 2017 cut overseen by Joss Whedon, it also allows the superheroes to act heroically. The sadness is balanced with a very uplifting finale, which gives the everything else in the film a certain dramatic heft. The undercurrent of sorrow has a deeper meaning for Snyder, given the history of the project, and thus its audience of loyal fans. It's not just a triumph for these superheroes, it feels like a triumph for perseverance, and a triumph for artistic integrity.
Snyder hasn't held back when it comes to talking about his daughter, Autumn. He openly talks about the significance his daughter's passing had on his quest to finish his cut of the film. If you read the Vanity Fair article that dissects the history of the production, Snyder talks about how tired he was fighting Warner Bros to preserve his ideas. His eyes get glassy, and he often switches between past & present tense talking about Autumn. For anyone familiar with loss and grief, this is immediately relatable. When we lose someone, they never truly leave us, and they take a part of us with them. It is then up to us to fill that void, and you can tell Snyder filled that void with the completion of his original version of Justice League. The film is dedicated to his daughter, featuring a title card dedication at the very end. It is a beautiful reminder that while grief can present obstacles, like Cyborg says in the movie, "we are not broken, and we are not alone." For fans of the director, the support was more than just a willful desire to see his cut of the film, it was the fans' way of telling Snyder, you are not alone, either.
As someone that has attempted suicide in the past, hearing those words hit me so profoundly. For those that have suffered with depression, or might still suffer from some form of corrosive sorrow, each & every day it can feel like the most difficult thing we have to face is trying to dismiss those awful thoughts. We think we are broken, we think we are worthless, and that we're all alone. It doesn't matter what anyone tells us, it doesn't matter what we've accomplished, we're stuck in this repeating pattern of constant self-doubt. Which makes Cyborg's character trajectory hold such thematic and personal significance. In many ways, it feels like Snyder speaking directly to his daughter, and speaking directly to all of us, reassuring audiences across the world that we are not broken, and that we are not alone.
What makes Zack Snyder's Justice League something more than your average comic book or superhero movie is that the history surrounding the epic project absolutely enhances it. Yes, you will notice the battle scars, but those battle scars are earned, and give the film real weight and character. It's a superhero film about the absolute need for human connection, the triumph of the human spirit, and a reminder that, as Wonder Wonder says in the movie at one point, "We can do anything we want" – we are all super, and we are all heroes, in our own right, as cheesy or sentimental as that might sound. For those dealing with chronic depression, hearing those words can save lives. It's also a triumph for an auteur who never gave up.
While some might scoff at applying the cinema term "auteur" to someone like Zack Snyder, I would argue that his cut of this film makes sure that title absolutely earned. I've always firmly believed in preserving the integrity of a filmmaker's vision, regardless if you agree with that vision or not. For what it is worth, I've been critical of Zack Snyder for almost his entire filmography, however that doesn't mean I don't support his right to tell his story unencumbered by studio meddling. Zack Snyder's Justice League is more than just vindication for the embattled filmmaker, it is vindication for all artists, filmmakers, and storytellers. The 2017 cut of Justice League is clearly a product of Hollywood's "filmmaking by committee" approach, while the 2021 cut is clearly one person's unique authorship, and I would argue the 2021 cut is vastly superior as a direct result of Snyder being allowed to adhere to his vision, without interference.
It's also fascinating to study the technical differences of each film. As Tarantino often said, "screenwriting is a blueprint." The same can also be said for the workprint edit of a film, i.e. an assembly cut or initial cut of a film. After Snyder left the film, Joss Whedon was brought onboard, and he re-shot more than half of the existing footage that Snyder had already shot. Even though both the 2017 and 2021 edits of the film have the same overarching plot and story structure, what makes them uniquely different is the sense of authorship. Certain sequences play out entirely differently, and while Whedon's cut choppily edits action sequences or quieter moments, Snyder's cut lingers, stretching out moments for tension; allowing his cut to breathe with tender, reflective character moments that add a certain gravitas to the bombastic action that follows.
It's a brilliant study in how a sense of authorship can define the personality of a film. It is this distinctive sense of authorship, this auteurship, that also defines Zack Snyder's Justice League. WB has had a recent shaky history of altering the cuts of some of their biggest films, including David Ayer's Suicide Squad and Snyder's aforementioned original cut of Justice League. If Warner Bros wants to learn any particular lessons from this exercise, it would be to allow the filmmakers they hire to finish the movies they set out to make. They may not be perfect, they may have blemishes, but for many Snyder's vision resonates with people. Look at the legions of fans all across the globe, and look at the uplifting message the 2021 cut sends to so many.
For all of those people suffering with depression, asking themselves if they are broken and if they are alone, Zack Snyder's Justice League has a profound answer for you: no you're not broken, and you're not alone. If Zack Snyder can restore his vision, then consequently you can do anything you want. After this past year we've had, this superhero story is exactly the kind of inspirational tale we need. It's a triumph for auteurs, for filmmakers being allowed to tell their story without interference from meddling studio executives. It's a triumph for the film, how it strengthened the existing characters and plot threads, making the bombast feel more emotional and earned. This is what superheroes are meant to do in our pop culture, they are meant to uplift and inspire and encourage. They preserve even against all odds, and as a combination of all of these elements, this is exactly why the final cut of Zack Snyder's Justice League is a triumph in perseverance.
What do you think of Zack Snyder's JL? Do you agree? Sound Off in the comments below…