Well, this week is the week that fans have long awaited for. It’s the week that Justice League releases in theaters for our glorious consumption. It has been a wild ride to say the least and in the spirit of that I would like to extend my fondest thank you to the man who made all of this and the DCEU as a whole possible. Thank you, Zack Snyder.
Since 2004, Zack Snyder has captivated audiences with his own take on the art of film making with films like Dawn of The Dead, Sucker Punch, Watchmen, and 300. Each film was unique and never failed to take audiences on an adventure through an escapist fantasy where femme fatales face off against undead German soldiers or let us witness the final stand of the 300 Spartans against the Persian Army. Each adventure proving itself to be more diverse than the last. However, there is one particular adventure that he took all of us on that proved itself to be the most rewarding out of all of those: the DC Extended Universe.
In 2013, Zack Snyder once again reminded us in his own way that we can believe a man can fly with Man of Steel, featuring a young Superman as he begins to embark on a journey of self-discovery to understand who he truly is and where he came from. It was a film that decided to take a more grounded approach that strayed from the more fantastical style that someone would expect for Superman film but nonetheless, it worked beautifully. This version, so perfectly portrayed by Henry Cavill, was truly hearkening back to some of the most iconic eras of the character’s long spanning history. Particularly the John Byrne era in which the character was largely rebooted down to his archetype which went from being lighthearted and cheesy to stoic and hopeful to fit the more modern time period in which he was living. We saw this with the brutal Battle of Metropolis, the first flight, ever interaction he had with General Zod, and when he pushed upwards to destroy the World Engine. All moments that embodied what Superman stood for as a resilient, steadfast, and awe-inspiring legend. This was and still is everything I wanted out of a live-action Superman film in a post-Superman Returns world. A world in which people could never really see or appreciate what the character really stands for besides just the trunks. Snyder, however, changed that. Not to mention that throughout Man of Steel, he didn’t just want us to know who the Last Son of Krypton was. He wanted us to know who was Clark Kent. He wanted us to see that at the end of the day that while he may possess these extraordinary powers he still is human. He still faces those mortal struggles of trying to understand who he is, where he came from, and what to do with these “gifts” that he has. The moral of the story is simple and it’s realized by the end of the movie when he talks to his mother while beginning to work at the Daily Planet. We as an audience start to realize something that is constantly emphasized and portrayed within the comics and in iconic television series like Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville and it’s really the fact that Superman is not the man. It’s a mask and not at all how he sees himself. In reality, he sees himself as Clark Kent. That alone is proof that Snyder perfectly respected and understood this character with that one simple scene.
Now flash-forward to 2016 with Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice which was an arguably polarizing film that I personally enjoyed despite it’s choppy editing that at times made it seem incoherent unless you watched it a second or third time. Nonetheless, it was still a good film in it’s theatrical cut and an excellent film in it’s extended cut which would obviously recommend the latter as would anyone. Now to address the common and understandable complaint about this film: “Superman had very few lines and Batman was overly emphasized.” Yes, I understand how this would be an issue given how we only got one film with Superman in which we had only just begun to observe his character development. I legitimately do. However, you have to take into account that this was the first time we would be seeing Batman in the DC Extended Universe. We had to get an idea of what this version was going to be like since we all knew there was a pretty strong chance he was not going to be Bale, Keaton, West, Kilmer, or even Clooney hence why I like to make the strong case that Batman v Superman obviously wasn’t the Man of Steel sequel that we are still longing for. It was for expository purposes, a Batman film at it’s very core and the exposition it provided was some of the best we’ve seen in a post-Nolan world. This version is particularly seasoned. He has seen war and in this war he has lost those close to him and has seen good men like Harvey Dent fall from grace. Those are experiences which have clearly turned him into a callous individual over the years and after witnessing what he viewed as Superman destroying Metropolis which in turn lead to the death of some of his employees he has gotten worse. Something that even Alfred is mortified by and questions him on. It’s also important to note that he’s clearly a drug addict and an alcoholic based on the various bottles and pill bottles lying around his home. He’s absolutely deplorable and not at all the Batman we’ve grown up watching on the TV or big screen regardless of the version but in some ways that’s how we’re supposed to feel. This is a Batman similar to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns where Frank Miller being the iconoclast that he is chose to give us a Batman that was beyond salvation and darker than normal but it works well for the story that is being told here.To further elaborate, this Batman has some clear grievances with Superman. He believes that Superman is just “an alien who could burn the whole place down” and cannot be trusted as there’s a strong chance nobody could stop him. This is in reaction to all of the destruction that happened in Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel, where a Wayne Financial building was destroyed in the crossfire which killed some of his employees and left a man without his legs. He blames Superman for all of this despite the fact that most of this carnage happened because of General Zod. Time has gone by since then but throughout this time Batman has grown to be more brutal and relentless. He’s killing people, branding them, and who knows what else. A lot of this as we begin to see throughout the story is done as means for him to develop a plan to kill Superman by getting a hold of a decent amount of kryptonite. That’s all he’s living for now at this point. He doesn’t have Robin who we now know was murdered by the Joker. Barbara Gordon is AWOL as far as we know. Commissioner Gordon isn’t around for a rooftop chat. Nightwing is AWOL as well. All he has is Alfred who is also mortified by the fact that he’s breaking all of the rules he made for himself when he set out on a life of crime fighting and is starting to even lie to him about something that could get him killed. Oh, and he nearly succeeds as we all know which is where we start to see the real meat-and-potatoes of who Batman is. Yes, I am going to play the Devil’s Advocate for the infamous Martha scene which also lead to Snyder drawing a lot of ire from fans. Yes, many can attribute this scene as them merely ceasing to fight because their mothers have the same name which is undeniably true. I certainly will not deny that and I don’t think anyone who has watched the film plenty of times should as it’s apparent. However, I think a lot of the critics of this scene are missing the crucial element that came with the scene which is purely psychological. As soon as Clark says you have to save Martha, Bruce begins to have a flashback to that fateful night in Crime Alley in which the last word he heard come from his father’s mouth was simply “Martha” which sets him off to the point he keeps asking why Clark says it. It’s at this point where we now see what has always been made clear about this iconic character to varying extents. He has post-traumatic stress disorder and it’s perfectly exhibited here via a “trigger word” that took him back to one of many dark periods in his life that has always haunted him and at the same time he starts to realize all that he has become. He not only has reneged on his vow to never kill criminals. He has become the one man who destroyed his life right in front of his eyes as a young boy. He has become Joe Chill. Something he does intend to rectify as he promises that “Martha won’t die tonight” and he certainly proves himself in an iconic warehouse fight scene where he’s fighting with such speed, aggression, and agility that proves he’s trying his hardest to save Martha’s life. Something that could never have been done for his parents. This is a Batman who has a stronger and better motivation than just trying to destroy Superman. That’s just on Batman’s end of things with this film. Now allow me to get into Superman.
While Batman v Superman emphasized Batman, it didn’t neglect Clark nor Superman. The film does legitimately try it’s best to give us more development for a character who needed more of it as we’d only gotten one other film with him and perhaps it could have been better delivered with an actual sequel to Man of Steel. Either way what we got was clearly workable for a version that was pretty good from the start. This Superman is somewhat like how we left off with him in Man of Steel. He’s working at the Daily Planet, dating Lois Lane, and saving people as Superman. Life is going swell for him until certain events in Africa put him under global scrutiny and scrutiny from the Batman which he has grievances with as much as he does him. This scrutiny from both sides all plays into the whole “must there be a Superman?” theme that is recurring throughout this film and it is one thoroughly examined from different angles. You have Lex arguing that this man is a god or demon who he seeks to destroy out of envy or have him bow to his will. You have Batman who thinks he’s a destructive alien. You have Lois who still believes he can do a lot of good for people but at a cost. You have his own mother who believes that he has to choose whether he can be their guardian or nothing at all as he does not owe them anything. He doesn’t quite know what to think of himself now and he’s exhibiting the most typical human emotion there is. He’s uncertain and that’s fine for someone who was raised by them, much to the dismay of those who argue he’s an “emo.” Although he does not stay this way as the moment of truth towards answering that recurring theme I mentioned earlier presents himself. This is his world, he is it’s guardian, and saving lives does come at a cost and that cost may very well be his life. Hence why he goes on to sacrifice himself in the final showdown against Doomsday. But what about Clark? I haven’t mentioned him yet? Well, I am now. Obviously as I said earlier, Snyder has gone to great effort to emphasize Clark Kent in these movies and Batman v Superman certainly isn’t any different. This is clear when we talk about his grievances with Batman which he tries to address by the power of the press and something he strongly believes in even if others like Perry White do not. He displays the strong and uncompromising sense of morality that we know Clark Kent and Superman have always possessed in the comics, television shows, and films. It’s most evident when he argues that the Daily Planet once stood for something which can easily hearken back to the classic values of “truth, justice, and the American Way” that has always been associated with Superman. In this case he finds Batman to be the anti-thesis of that and it needs to be exposed in the public view which does sound great in practice but when you’re trying to solve a problem pertaining to a murderous vigilante perhaps writing about it isn’t going to work. A point that is raised by the wife of one of Batman’s victims who was just murdered in prison. Words and a pen do not stop someone who acts as judge, jury, and execution. Unfortunately, a fist is the only thing that will which is something that shakes Clark’s sense of morality that he’s clearly hesitant to violate. There are two strong instances that validate this. The first instance being when he simply exercises his brute strength and bravado to threaten Batman after intervening in him chasing down KGBeast so he’ll hopefully step down out of fear which we know won’t deter a man who has probably faced off against notable villainous juggernauts like Bane by now. The second instance is right before they battle and he attempts to get Bruce to listen to him by simply talking and asking him to understand. Naturally, that doesn’t work either since Batman gets in his face like the irrational psychopath that he is and so Clark pushes him away in his version of gentle without trying to hurt him too severely. This is something that’s very much in line with the character.
I’ve covered the two sides of the film and how it establishes the typical yin-yang dynamic that we know Batman and Superman have had together in every comic book and show that they’ve ever appeared in. Now I want to discuss how they come together as the two best iterations we’ve seen of the characters. I sincerely hope that you are still with me on this one.
Obviously, we know Batman and Superman had their differences on top of their own personal conflicts throughout the film. These differences do find a resolution of some kind. Superman is inspired to sacrifice him in the most heroic fashion which resolves the whole question as to if he belonged and was actually a hero. Batman is also snapped out of his blind rage upon realizing he had become one of the monsters he fought against and was also inspired by Superman’s Christ-like sacrifice and leads him to realize that he was wrong about man. He accepts the fact that though men are cruel, they can and do have the potential to do great things. That “men are still good.” It all comes together nicely to prove that Superman truly is a symbol of hope and that while people like Batman can stray off the path, they can get back on it. In his case, he boldly decides to rally others behind him as an act of seeking redemption for his sins. He does not want to fail Clark in death as he did in life.
This is proof that Snyder is somebody who is interested in showing us what best reflects these characters as they have always stood and where they stand today. He reveres their proud 79 year old history and only sought to give us a well-crafted trilogy that introduces and develops these characters that we have seen from Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League. I am confident that years from now people will look back at these films as examples of well-crafted storytelling as far as the “capekino” sub-genre goes. I hope people can truly appreciate Zack Snyder in the way that I and so many others do for his contributions to DC in which he has certainly introduced these characters to a whole new generation of DC fans and elevated these characters to the greatest of heights. It’s a commendable feat that’s put him right next to iconic DC film legends like Tim Burton, Richard Donner, and Christopher Nolan.
This. All of this was because of Mr. Zack Snyder and his open-minded vision for what and who he believes these characters are. He understood them to their very raw core and gave us what I definitely believe to be the most respectable and faithful adaptation of characters that a lot of us grew up watching or reading about. None of this. Not even Justice League, whatever it may turn out to be like would have been possible without someone like him.
On behalf of DC fans everywhere, far and wide, I would like to just say thank you, Zack Snyder. For all the great things you have done for us whether it be a great character study for two iconic heroes, opening a free-flowing and lived in universe, and casting a great set of actors like Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, and Ben Affleck! You have made contributions that none of us can ever forget you for.