The DCU is Finally Revived as Zach Snyder Gives Fans Almost Everything They Want
by Barrett Lathrop ‘21
It only took over four years of pleading and begging to Warner Bros to bring Zach Synder back to the lead of the DCU which has been dormant ever since Shazam. The four-hour-long director cut gave fans every easter egg imaginable and instilled hope within every viewer. The differences between the 2017 and 2021 movies are unimaginable as the 2021 version allows the story of every character to be told. It has a mostly clear storyline and the colors on the screen portray the dark Justice League that fans have always wanted to see on screen. The R rating of the movie is well deserved as the action is fantastic throughout with beautifully choreographed scenes. But there are spoilers ahead so beware and now let's get into the many positives and few negatives of the movie.
One thing that Synder did extremely well was telling the backstory of the very mysterious Cyborg who had almost no introduction in the 2017 version. Synder makes it focus in his director’s cut to give us every important detail he can about Cyborg and why he and his father are so distant. In the comics, Victor Stone is an athlete above all else and is the quarterback and captain of the Gotham High football team. Football is his passion but not his father’s as his father sees work and the science behind his work to be more important than his own son. Victor’s mother supports him in every way she can, but Victor is only searching for recognition by his father which he can’t grasp. But, after one game he and his mother are involved in a serious car wreck where his mother dies and where Victor loses the lower half of his body. Victor’s father, Dr. Stone, uses all of his knowledge and equipment to try and keep his son alive as he won’t rest until he’s saved. He then uses an ancient piece of technology called the Mother Box which miraculously brings Victor back to life in the form of a Cyborg. Victor has the ability to control every electronic in the world and he has armor that’s impenetrable to almost anything on the planet. But, he doesn’t want these powers, he wants to play football, he wants his mother back, and he just wants to be normal again. The movie does a great job of displaying Victor’s struggle with his new powers, with himself, and with his father. It’s the backstory we all wanted to see from Cyborg and I was overjoyed to see it on the big screen.
Another character who was basically given no backstory was Barry Allen or the Flash as he was brought in halfway through the 2017 version of the Justice League. In the new version, we see a struggling Barry Allen trying to find work as a civilian at a pet store. He then heroically saves a woman from a car who turns out to be Iris West, aka his future wife in the comics. This scene perfectly displays the goofy and heroic side of Barry Allen as after he saves Iris he lunges into a pen full of puppies and feeds them hot dogs. Another important side that we get to see more of is Barry’s relationship with his wrongly imprisoned father. His father wants him to find meaning in life and move on from Barry's true aspirations to free his father from prison as a criminal investigator. The bond between Barry and his father is extremely strong as his father clearly wants Barry to be successful in life without him in the background, but Barry can’t let go of his father that easily. Then, he’s recruited by Batman to join the Justice League to fight off Darkseid’s evil army of parademons and Steppenwolf. But, my favorite part about Flash in the Justice League is how they portray his powers of tapping into the speed force. Synders slow-motion effects are perfect for Flash who sees the world in slow-motion when he runs. My favorite scene that displays Flash’s powers is when he single-handedly saves the planet by running back in time. Flash breaks the time barrier as he’s able to reverse time after the Mother Boxers sync with one another and start to turn the Earth to dust. With every step Flash takes, the world starts to come back together as the detail of Superman and Cyborg being put back together is incredible. It’s an awesome scene and shows us just how powerful the Flash really is.
The last character who received a well-needed remake was the fearsome Steppenwolf as his appearances in the 2017 version were underwhelming, to say the least. In the new version, we see a remodeled Steppenwolf with glistening armor and a newfound passion for collecting the mother boxes. His need for them is to only impress his master Darkseid as Steppenwolf has been banished from his home Apokolips after failing Darkseid on too many occasions. We really get to see the violent rage of Steppenwolf as he slays countless Amazons in a bloody battle on the island Themyscuria. He uses his axe and brute strength to take down horses and to bloodily beat the Amazons as his sole goal is to acquire the Mother Box at any cost. We also get to see how his meetings with Darkseid during the movie show how afraid Steppenwolf is of Darkseid. These scenes not only show how powerful Darkseid is, but it shows us Steppenwolf’s true intentions for wanting to conquer Earth. His battle with the Justice League was very similar to the one in the 2017 movie, but the big difference for me in this film was the use of darker colors to portray a more frightening setting for Stepenwolf’s battle. The best part of the fight though was the ending where all of the Justice League came together to take one final shot at Steppenwolf with Darkseid watching. It ended with Wonder Woman decapitating his head which flew into a portal on Apocalypse for Darkseif to see Stenwolfs final failure. In my opinion, he had a very good character arc in this movie and was very believable and daunting as a villain for the Justice League to battle.
But, this 4-hour movie comes to some negatives as the most glaring negative is the overall length of the movie. There are some slow moments throughout the beginning of the movie and for the average moviegoer, this might be a reason to turn the TV off when watching this film. As I stated before, I loved the backstory we got to see from the Flash and Cyborg in this movie as it was something well needed to understand these two characters. But with this movie being a director’s cut, nothing was cut from Snyders vision so his backstory for both characters was quite long as this takes up the first hour of the film. You don’t necessarily get to see any action until Steppenwolf arrives on Themescuria which takes a good amount of time to get to. Another part of the film that might throw some viewers off is the amount of slow-motion used throughout the film as 10 percent of the film is actually in slow motion! This is one of Snyder’s favorite techniques as a director as the slow-motion effect has some strengths and weaknesses to it. The negative side to slow-motion is that it sometimes destroys the momentum of a certain scene or makes it longer than it really has to be which can be frustrating for the watcher. The last thing that I’ll point out as a negative for the film was how Synder implied Darkseid would be in the film but ended up not using him for any fighting sequences. He actually only had one real scene of dialogue in the entire movie as it felt like he kind of got lost behind all the chaos within the film. He’s one of the most powerful characters in all of comics as it would have been great to see him in action in this film especially now that the Synderverse has little chance of returning to us. In my opinion, I would have had him come in the end after Steppenwolf was defeated and try to fight the Justice League in a bloody battle that would end with him retreating after Superman overpowers him. But, in the end, I had very few problems with the movie and felt like Synder gave the fans the Justice League it deserved.
To highlight a couple of more positives with the film I will say the introduction of Marshain Manhunter was awesome as a fan to see on the big screen while the Superman black suit intro was one of the best DCU scenes ever. I felt like a 10-year-old again listening to the Man of Steel soundtrack playing in the background as Superman flew into space to bathe in the sun. It was also great to hear Russell Crowe as Jor-El again and Kevin Costner as Jonathon Kent who spoke words of wisdom to Superman as he searched for the right suit to put on. Back to Marshain Manhunter though, his introduction was quite unexpected but long overdue as he’s a critical part to the Justice League team. He actually had some real dialogue at the end of the movie where he spoke with Batman about joining the team which gave me a little hope for a future movie where we could see a Justice League with the Manhunter and Green Lantern. But, that’s most likely never going to happen which will be a shame for the DCU fans as the ending of Synder Cut left a lot more questions than answers for us (like is the Knightmare sequence at the end a dream or a reality in a different universe?). Anyway, this movie was a true treat for fans and should be on most people’s watch list if you have a solid chunk of time and a superhero fetish. I give this movie as a fan a 4.5 out of 5 and as an average movie-goer with not such a huge superhero crush it would be a 3 out of 5 or a 3.5 out of 5.