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On March 18, Zack Snyder’s Justice League premiered worldwide on HBO Max and has instantly become one of the highest trending movies in pop culture. Not only for being one of the best of its genre but for everything that has surrounded its production and release. Something unprecedented that can mark a before and after in the relationship between the film industry and its viewers.
If you have not yet seen Zack Snyder’s Justice League, we warn you that this article contains spoilers.
Warner Bros chose Zack Snyder to take over the DC superhero cinematic universe to compete with Marvel, who was striking gold with Iron Man, Captain America and The Avengers. Zack Snyder started with Superman, directing Henry Cavill in 2013’s Man of Steel; followed with Batman v Superman in 2016, where the iconic characters face off; and intended to make three Justice League films, starting with the one to be released in 2017.
Snyder’s films were radically different in tone and complexity to Marvel’s, the latter being much lighter and brighter, not only visually, but also thematically, loaded with humor and focused on a youthful audience. Snyder’s were much darker and deeper, aimed at those who see superheroes as the Greek mythology of our times.
The director has stated on multiple occasions that he takes superheroes very seriously, and not as a mere entertainment product to laugh at and pass the time.
Zack Snyder had shot to fame in 2007 with 300, the spectacular blockbuster film about Leonidas and his Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, which critics were quick to describe as fascist. Like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, progressive critics accused it of lacking historical rigor.
Let’s be honest, progressives don’t give a damn about historical rigor, as long as they tell the story the way they like it or imagine it.
Anything that doesn’t feed their leftist narrative is labeled as fascist or far right. Apocalypto, for example, shatters the progressive narrative that pre-Columbian America was an idyllic paradise of coexistence, populated by very spiritual Indians – at the same time as highly advanced in astronomical science–who showed great respect for their fellow men and for the Pachamama. A utopia that was cut short with the arrival of the evil European invaders.
At the same time, 300 was not liked by the progressive academic world – -sorry for the pleonasm — because it posed the epic struggle of the West defending itself from the Eastern hordes of the Persian Empire, which to top it all was led by an evil emperor Xerxes with the appearance of being of non-binary gender and gender-fluid, an affront to the LGTBIQ alphabet collective. The Iranian theocracy and the queer collective agree to hate the same movie for different reasons. Surprising.
After the success of his film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300, Snyder adapted another superhero graphic novel, Watchmen, by Alan Moore. Once again it was criticized by the left, which accused it of being violent, dark, with sexual content apologetic to rape culture and with a complex plot that was difficult to follow.
How curious that the same left that is thrilled with sexual liberation, or considers any unintelligible European film a masterpiece — as long as it has a social undertone — has deemed Zack Snyder’s Watchmen bad for those very reasons.
Again it happens that, while Alan Moore’s graphic novel has a leftist message, and uses the characters of Rorschach or The Comedian to ridicule their conservative stances, in Zack Snyder’s film these same characters are treated in such a way that many viewers ended up feeling identified with them, especially in the case of Rorschach.
This demonstration of Snyder’s talent when it comes to adapting comic books to the big screen, with such an innovative and provocative approach, was what led Warner Bros. to entrust him with their DC superhero franchise. Snyder did not intend to compete with Marvel by emulating their fast-food, entertaining movies. He wanted to do something different, solemn and slow-cooked for connoisseurs.
Warner Bros. executives began to get nervous about Marvel’s box office advantage, and lost confidence in Snyder’s work and creative vision. In the midst of shooting Justice League they hired Joss Whedon, director and screenwriter of Marvel’s Avengers films, to help Snyder make it more like the competing films, including more humor and sappy.
Despite the affront and disagreements with Whedon, Snyder continued at the helm of Justice League in order to get his project off the ground, but in the midst of all this, he suffered a terrible family misfortune. His daughter Autumn committed suicide. Although Snyder continued to work on the film for a few more months, he didn’t want the problems on the set to negatively affect his already delicate family situation, and he gracefully retired.
Joss Whedon was left in charge of the film, retaining only 10% of what Snyder shot, so the version released in 2017 had nothing to do with the original. Repudiated by the public in general and by fans in particular, it received well-deserved criticism for being a mediocre surrogate of the Marvel movies.
The disappointment of the fans turned into anger when some statements of the actors came to light, in which they were very upset with the mutilation that their characters and the story had suffered, especially by Ray Fisher, who gives life to Cyborg, who even accused Whedon of alleged mistreatment on the film set.
The fans’ anger turned to hope as members of the team and Snyder himself let it be known that his version was almost finished, which led to a mobilization on social media with the hashtag #releasethesnydeercut. Given the perseverance of the fans and the success of the initiative, Warner Bros, in a historic move in the industry, decided to give Zack Snyder an additional budget of $70 million to finish it. It was finally released on streaming last March 18, with a footage of almost 4 hours and without a single scene of those recorded by Whedon.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League has become an instant classic and a historical landmark in the relationship between the film industry and its fans. Although both tell the same story, they are two completely different films, with this new version — even if it really is the original — being infinitely superior to the one released in 2017.
While it is true that with 2 hours more footage Zack Snyder’s Justice League has the opportunity to properly develop the plot and characters, the improvements come not so much from how much good is included, but from everything it excludes from Whedon’s version.
Comparing the two versions we can see that what Joss Whedon did was inject large doses of progressivism and leftist narrative, seasoned with levity and easy humor.
Whedon has publicly said that socialism and capitalism are equally bad, which is the false equivalence socialists tend to make in order not to recognize that they are. Because the truth is that he publicly supported Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren in their presidential races. He also stated that electing GOP presidential candidate in 2012 would have resulted in a “zombie apocalypse.”
Joss Wheddon is a self-proclaimed feminist, although when Nicole Kidman declared in 2017 that America should accept that Donald Trump is president, Whedon posted a tweet with a photo of her next to another of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, a plastic puppet from the 1960s series Thunderbirds.
Unlike in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Wonder Woman’s body is prominently featured in close-up shots in Whedon’s version. Interestingly, the feminist left has not jumped in to call for her cancellation, as they have done with Gina Carano or other celebrities not as progressive and feminist as Whedon.
He also compared Ivanka Trump to a dog, and wished former GOP Representative Paul Ryan would be raped by a rhinoceros. Good thing Joss Whedon claims not to be a socialist. Had he been a few inches further to the left, instead of with a camera on his shoulder in Hollywood, he might be with an AK-47 in some jungle with the communist guerrillas of the day.
For his part, Zack Snyder has always declared himself to be a great admirer of Ayn Rand, and one of his dreams is to adapt her novel The Fountainhead to film, although he thinks that America is not ready for such a movie due to political polarization. The influence of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, often considered a kind of muse of the alt-right, is evident in all his work, but it is especially noticeable in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, especially if we compare it with Joss Whedon’s version, which looks more like the Social Justice League.
In fact, everything that happened to Snyder during the production of this film is eerily similar to what happened to Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead.
Watching the two versions back-to-back is an interesting observational exercise in realizing how the same story can be told in a progressive way, or from a more conservative or classical liberal perspective.
For example, in Whedon’s version there is a scene in which Bruce Wayne, played by Ben Affleck, tries to convince Aquaman to join the team, appeals that “humanity is melting the ice caps, destroying the ecosystem.” None of this appears in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, in which Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa, ends up joining out of responsibility and honor, assuming the role of rightful king of the seas that he was bent on avoiding.
Joss Whedon shows Steppenwolf — the evil conqueror of worlds played by Ciarán Hinds — as an oppressive male chauvinist, who oozes toxic masculinity and promotes rape culture when he threatens the queen of the Amazons by telling her that, after his victory, “you and all will love me.” In Snyder’s Justice League he is a mere alien conqueror of worlds, not empowered Amazons.
Lois Lane, for Whedon, is a fearless journalist who reports on injustices committed against college political activists, which are left-wing, of course. No trace of this political facet in the Lois Lane of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, played by Amy Adams.
They may seem like insignificant details, but it seems no coincidence that Whedon’s entire version is peppered with these nods to the fetish themes of progressives; as in another gratuitous musical scene featuring a skinhead-looking white guy stoning the store of a helpless Muslim immigrant.
For Whedon, the character of Barry Allen, Flash, is an anti-establishment youth who practices squatting and stealing. In Snyder’s Justice League, Flash is a young man who seeks honest work, and although they are precarious jobs, he accepts them to pay for his criminal law studies. He does this to get his father out of jail, who is convicted of gender violence, having been accused of killing his wife, being in fact innocent.
Flash, played by Ezra Miller, is one of the characters who gained the most in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Whedon had reduced him to a teenage soy boy who acted as mere comic relief, with ridiculous and unfunny jokes and gags. Snyder treats him as an endearing and courageous young man, burdened with trying to redeem his father and ultimately the one who saves the day when all seemed lost for humanity.
The character who undoubtedly gains the most in Zack Snyder’s Justice League is Victor Stone, Cyborg, who is the true heart of the film, and who had been neglected by Whedon. Seeing this version you can understand the anger of actor Ray Fisher, and why he is so grateful to Zack Snyder.
Even the creator of the Cyborg character in the comics complimented Snyder on how he portrayed the character. A smart, strong, and talented young black man who grows up with an absentee father whom he initially hates. When his father redeems himself and sacrifices his life for him, Cyborg leaves victimhood and resentment behind, taking on the great responsibility that his power brings.
As his father taught him, although he has the power to manipulate the digital world, all communications and even the world’s monetary system, being able to control everything, he also has the responsibility not to do so, not to give in to the temptation to control the world.
Fisher stated that in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Cyborg’s character arc is emotional and allegorical of “the journey that black people have taken in America,” something that the progressive Whedon removed from his version.
“The world is broken. But it’s not fixed in the past. It’s fixed in the future. In the now,” are the words etched by Victor’s father and echoed in the epilogue of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, as all the characters sort out their family conflicts and Bruce Wayne wishes “God help us” in the face of the challenges ahead.
In Whedon’s version, who is an atheist, there is no mention of God, and the epilogue is narrated by the sprightly Lois Lane, who seems to be writing the blog of a 15-year-old who has read too many self-help books, speaking vacuously of darkness, light and hope.
The allegories and symbolisms in Zack Snyder’s Justice League are multiple and potent, with many possible interpretations at different levels. Here we have mentioned only some of the political plane, but we cannot fail to mention that life imitates art.
It is impossible to see the themes that Zack Snyder’s Justice League deals with and not realize that it must have been especially moving and meaningful for Snyder himself, who must have experienced it as a real catharsis. Not for nothing is it dedicated to his late daughter.
That Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been released has done justice to Justice League, and vindicated Zack Snyder as a filmmaker. We trust that he can continue to demonstrate his unique talent for storytelling with total creative freedom and not fall victim to the cancel culture.
The success of this film and the fans in getting it released has sent a powerful message to Hollywood executives bent on cramming progressive messages into their productions: go woke, go broke.
Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.
Social Networks: @ignaciomgm