Imagine, for one moment, that you are a child. A child walking along with your father after your first dental filling, life sucks. He brings you into a newsagent’s and offers you anything for being brave enough to conquer your fear of dentists. On the stands, featuring the many gaming and sport magazines, you see something that catches your eye. A red and blue image. This is Batman Legends Vol. 2 #10. You run to your father and beg him for this. Even though you don’t quite know why you want it, something has drawn your eye to the fantastically coloured cover and the stories inside. The anaesthetic is wearing off, but you don’t care. Batman and Superman have just revived the League in the Lazarus pit and nothing else in the world matters.
Now flash forward a few years. You’ll never see your father again. But you can see the heroes he turned you towards. You stock up on all the coppers you can find until you have £3 so you can go down to the newsagent’s and buy any story that has a cape or a mask. You’re an addict but by god, is it worth it. Years later you see the Avengers brought to life, you have hope that the stories you hold closest, the stories of the Justice League, can finally be animated into something great. These myths were mine and my father’s, these characters are part of me now.
Now it is the 17th of November 2017, I have my ticket in my cold hands and it’s finally time to be amongst the first to see the Justice League finally brought to life. But this movie disappointed me. I read the story behind the production, how Joss Whedon took over from Snyder and cut out 2 hours’ worth of footage – it makes sense. The movie I saw in 2017 was missing most of its parts. Like a watch, the 2017 version was a Casio, the Snyder cut is a Rolex. The symbol of hope that got me through the darkest times now has a CGI face. All I wanted was to recapture that shimmering in my stomach, to have that sense of hope that my father gave me all those years ago, but what I got was a tampered vision.
This is the movie I was promised in 2017. The true culmination of Zack Snyder’s vision. Yeah, it’s 4 hours long. Regardless, I watched it twice in a row and I guarantee I am going to watch it many more times before I die. Everyone’s performance in this movie is so much better than when they were dragged back for reshoots. This movie drips with passion. It feels like everyone involved in the project believed in it. This movie did not leave me with a burning sense of disappointment; instead I cried with joy, each tear was filled with the hope my father gave me all those years ago. I’m so happy that Zack Snyder was able to finally finish the movie that he had to, tragically, step away from. His fans believed in his vision of these heroes, and because of those fans we were able to finally see it on our screens.
Hope is not born out of a time of comfort; hope needs to be forged in the darkest place so that it can shine the brightest, it is the core component of a superhero. Being hopeful does not mean making bad jokes. Hope, at its core, equates to a resilience against something that seems insurmountable and I feel like this movie captures that perfectly. It is a 21st century instantiation of a myth that was born in June 1938. The way Joss Whedon approached the story in 2017 seemed to be an attempt to mimic the Marvel style without any of the passion that Marvel had for their characters. Whedon thought that a mould of iron would weather the same temperatures as a mould of steel, not realising that they are two different metals with different properties. Snyder treated his version of the Justice League in a way that their legacy deserved, in the same way that the Russo brothers honoured the legacy of Marvel. These heroes have begun to transcend generations, and now they span eras.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League isn’t perfect in all regards. But what do you expect, it was filmed 5 years ago now. The world has changed many times since then. This film reminded me, in the bleakness of the Covid era, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, that someone or something was waiting there for me. It is just a genuine passion project by a man who seems to care about these superheroes as much as I do, and it could not have come at a better time. When everything seems to be at rock bottom, The Justice League is there for me once again, to tell me to shoot for the stars.
These characters mean so much to their fans. They offer a way of inspiring those with nothing to aspire for. It does not matter what creates these heroes, they make their powers mean something. They all bring you out of that dark space, they grab your hand and tell you in a thousand voices that there will be light. You may think I’m a fanboy for loving this movie, but it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, what matters is that kids like me, who had their whole world shattered, should have these ideals to aspire towards regardless of who published them. These kids should have faith in themselves. If they put their minds to it, they can accomplish wonders.
“You’re asking a kid who just lost his father, to go up against the strongest machines in the universe. It’s not fair.” – Aquaman
9/10. – a truly epic depiction of truly epic heroes.
Words by Alex Harris.