Our Heroes: A Comparison
“I’m not broken. And I’m not alone.”Victor Stone, ZSJL
“They’re not the ’27 Yankees, but they’ll do.”Steve Rogers, Avengers: Age of Ultron
Okay, let’s talk specifics about the six heroes of the League, and how they are here in comparison to the Theatrical Cut.
Cyborg: Much Better! Victor Stone, aka Cyborg, was clearly a casualty of WB’s Cardinal Sin #1, as Justice League had to introduce this character basically from scratch, and somehow his origin scenes were first on the chopping block. Do they go a little overboard? Maybe. Terrio and Snyder are trying to hit the same beats with Cyborg that were hit with Superman in Man of Steel; a monologue from his father about his powers, the joy of his first flight, learning to help people… and then one repeated beat too many but we’ll circle back to that. ZSJL takes the “Cyborg does a thing to the space rocks” part of the theatrical climax and turns it into a powerful emotional beat to wrap up this movie’s best character arc.
There was a time when I thought “Why was Fisher willing to die on the hill of not wanting to say ‘booyah,'” and now I’ve completely switched sides to “Why was the studio so insistent he say ‘booyah,’ I’ve seen Justice League four or five times and I don’t remember that line at all.” Also I now do know why he was against it, black characters have a history of being reduced to a catch phrase like “Dy-no-MITE!” or “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis,” and he didn’t want that, I get it now.
Flash: Better! Barry Allen, never referred to as “the Flash” during the movie (he got the idea for the name from an alternate Flash during Crisis on Infinite Earths, after all), still does the heavy lifting on comic relief, arguably more so, because Chris Terrio didn’t feel the need to wedge banter into every interaction. And the best of his material is largely still present, we’re just missing some poorly received slapstick and “ha ha he doesn’t know the difference between Russian words and Russian writers” schtick. The big improvement is that he gets an actual, world-saving hero moment during the climactic fight, whereas in Theatrical he mostly just saves one family of civilians and that takes longer than it should because he can’t find “east.” In the Snyder Cut, he’s instrumental, and it’s a great moment, and why would you cut that.
Wonder Woman: Improvement! Okay Diana (who after five movies finally got called “Wonder Woman” precisely once, what was the hold up) obliterating a suicide bomber might have been a bit extreme, but I was delighted that at the end of that scene, after successfully saving the civilians in that… bank? Historical building? Place the suicide terrorists were trying to blow up, whatever… Diana takes a minute to check with everyone, especially the children, to see if everyone’s okay. She does some classic Wonder Woman hero stuff, not just beating the bad guy, but having empathy for the innocent, something people have been complaining the Snyder films had been lacking. Maybe having a girl ask “Can I be like you” and Diana saying “You can be anything you want” seconds after Diana atomized a human being right in front of everyone is a weird moment but it’s still what I want from Diana. Maybe Theatrical left it out because they tried to make getting Diana to this point her arc, but in a post Wonder Woman 1984 world, that doesn’t make sense, she should be there from word one. Also, yes, she is filmed in a less pervy, upskirt fashion. Snyder speeds up moments Whedon slowed down to avoid lingering looks up Diana’s skirt, and “less slo-mo” is not a thing you expect from the pure-Snyder version.
Batman: If this is what you’re into, sure. Theatrical tried to humanize Bruce Wayne. He got more jokes because everyone got more jokes, even the guy who was already the funny one, that’s how overboard Theatrical went in trying to be Iron Man-witty. He also had more moments of human frailty, which were nice. But it’s the jokes that Snyder fans felt were diminishing Batman. They wanted the tough, badass Batfleck that was definitely a strength of BVS, and giving a goofy smile when Superman shows up, or replying to Superman saying “I knew you didn’t bring me back because you liked me” with “I don’t… not…” ruined that for them. I’m not saying he’s never funny here, but this is more of the badass Batman Snyder fans wanted. Also, let’s be real, Affleck’s depression and drinking were at their peak when the reshoots happened, so… he’s not bringing his A-game in reshoot scenes. So… there are a few lines I missed, but still good Batman overall.
Aquaman: Worse. Snyder and Terrio’s determination to have Flash be the main “funny” one means that Arthur Curry, the Aquaman, doesn’t have much to do beyond stand broodily. Most of his funny and charming moments were from the Theatrical Cut, limiting Jason Momoa’s ability to utilize the charisma that helped him carry, to be honest, a more clunkily written solo movie. But mostly I flag Aquaman as being a step down here because every Atlantis scene looks bad, but not bad in comparison to Theatrical, bad in comparison to Aquaman. The armour is clunkier, Vulko looks undersea homeless, who told Amber Heard that British accent was working for her because it was not, and why can every Atlantean form giant air bubbles to talk to each other, and why the fuck should they need to? Cutting as much Atlantis content as possible for Theatrical may have been a blessing given that James Wan conceived and shot the underwater world of Atlantis better by orders of magnitude. Watching Snyder’s take after Wan’s is like following Man of Steel with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, only without the (partial) excuse of having been made in the 80s.
Green Lantern: Duller. Both Snyder and Theatrical Cuts include a version of the History Lesson, Diana’s attempt to explain Mother Boxes and why letting Steppenwolf get them is bad, based on the time gods, men, Atlanteans, and Amazons all joined forces against the forces of Apokolips, we’ll come back to it. Both versions involve a Green Lantern coming to Earth to help in the battle, but getting killed fairly quickly by whichever Big Bad is being featured. In the Theatrical Cut, he’s making ring constructs and swinging an energy hammer through Parademons, classic Lantern stuff. In the Snyder Cut, he flies up and shoots a green laser at the camera because “woo laser” I guess. Just… an utter lack of imagination.
Lois Lane: Done dirty. Snyder fans loved to dump on the Whedon joke where Martha Kent says to Lois Lane “Clark said you’re the thirstiest reporter he ever met,” because ha ha she meant “hungriest” and “thirsty” is a horny thing ha ha, not saying it was a good joke, that’s not my point. But they’d point to that and say how the Snyder Cut was going to show proper respect to the women of DC, not like this “thirsty reporter” crap, and someone would say “Are we sure about that, he did literally write and direct Sucker Punch,” and oh now it’s a fight. But here’s the thing. The Whedon scene has a slightly tasteless joke, yes, but at least it’s set at the Daily Planet. She’s still working. In the Snyder Cut, Lois’ life is “Wake up, buy coffee, stare sadly at the Superman memorial, go home and sit quietly in the dark.” The equivalent scene is Martha (or is it? We’ll come back to that) trying to convince Lois to keep living her life, and only maybe succeeding. Look we should admit Lois has been through a great loss, but I begin to wonder if Snyder cares about her beyond “thing I can kill to turn Superman evil.”
Superman: Worse, worse, worse. Okay we’re gonna talk about the suit on the next page. My issue, beyond that, is that he’s still the dour, scowling, miserable Superman from the last two movies. When Superman joins the final fight in Theatrical, yes, his entry line is cheesy, but from there he’s smiling, joking with the League, he’s saving people, he’s the Superman we’ve desperately been wanting to see since the end of Man of Steel, he’s finally here and Cavill (CG upper lip notwithstanding) is nailing it, it’s great. In the Snyder Cut, he just stands there beating on Steppenwolf like a pimp who thinks Steppenwolf has been skimming, scowling the whole time in his grimdark black suit, and it’s just so much worse.
Also it fails to solve the one problem I’d had with Superman in Theatrical: his presence should tilt the balance of the fight, but it should still take everyone, and what happens is that it looks to all appearances like Superman could have taken out Steppenwolf and his whole army single-handed, and that was a little much. After watching the Snyder Cut, it hit me… of course this would still be a problem, because “Evil Superman” was Snyder’s endgame. This was his second movie of setting up Superman as the villain of Justice League 3, no thanks, I hate it, I’ll explain why on page seven.
But let’s get back to the black costume.
Next Page: Style over substance