The idea that Zack Snyder is a visionary still doesn’t sit quite right, even following his surprisingly excellent Justice League re-cut. After all, this is the director of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that always seemed as if it had been named by the marketing department and only then sent to the scriptwriter. Was Snyder’s Batman always intended from the start to be a brutish, gun-toting meanie? Or was he forced to reimagine him that way because somebody at DC was determined to see Kal-El and the Dark Knight battle it out on the big screen? It is hard to imagine Michael Keaton or Christian Bale’s good-hearted superheroes suddenly deciding to destroy the last son of Krypton.
The weakest parts of the Snyder Cut are the epilogues, even with the off-kilter joy of seeing Jared Leto play the Joker again. Batman’s Knightmare, it is heavily hinted, is a vision of the future in which Gotham’s defender prowls a horrifying cursed Earth, Superman has been turned evil and Aquaman is dead. It seems to be set earlier than Batfleck’s dream/vision in Dawn of Justice, in which Superman takes bloody revenge on the Dark Knight for killing (we assume) Lois Lane. It is our glimpse at the storylines that would have unfurled in Snyder’s five-movie plan for his DC movies, of which Justice League was only intended to be the third episode.
This week, Snyder revealed to the YouTuber Wonder Meg that he would have included all of DC’s New Gods, of whom Justice League’s Darkseid and DeSaad are just two, in the remaining episodes. Batman would indeed have been killed (we presume by Superman), leaving Kal-El (after returning to the good side) to defend Earth against a fresh alien invasion by the evil denizens of Apokolips.
“The final chapter was going to be a large percentage of Superman to just bookend the whole thing. Because if Batman died, it would have very much fallen on Superman to be the de facto leader. By the way, at that point, Wonder Woman would have been made queen of the Themyscira, and she would be leading the warriors of Themyscira into battle against Darkseid herself,” said Snyder. “And Arthur [Aquaman] would be leading the armies of Atlantians. And Superman basically is going to be the head of the Justice League and the Armies of Men. And so Superman would have gone from this kind of berserker Superman to a benevolent Superman. Superman has the hugest arc of everybody because he goes from the main villain to the main hero. And that struck me as just really cool and fun, and a really interesting trajectory for him.”
Snyder also said that Superman and Lois Lane’s son, teased in Justice League with the suggestion that Lois is pregnant, would have eventually taken up the mantle of the new Batman. “Twenty years later, on the anniversary of [Batman’s] death, they take young Bruce Kent down to the Batcave and they say, ‘Your Uncle Bruce would’ve been proud if you did this.’”
This is something of a mixed bag of ideas, though it sounds as if even Snyder himself hadn’t quite worked out all the details. The new cut of Justice League is undoubtedly a work of passionate, chaotic energy, almost an arthouse take on the superhero genre – with all the emphasis on auteurist gut instinct over percentage point film-making implied by that description. It leaves us wanting more, even if this particular vision of the next two films in the series seems madder than a box of spiders.
Delving deeper into far-flung corners of the DC cosmos, by bringing the rest of the New Gods into the equation, is a tantalising prospect. But turning Superman evil once again without drawing allegations of lazy, repetitive film-making would have been some feat. It seems we’ve already seen the story arc where Bats and Supes are at odds with each other, but wind up regretting their antipathy.
On the other hand, this is the age-old problem of writing Superman once again rearing its ugly head. When your hero is nigh-on invincible, he has to be turned or sidelined in order for the bad guys to represent any kind of threat whatsoever.
Perhaps that’s why Snyder decided to write Lois and Clark’s son as powerless – another revelation from his comments. But making him the new Dark Knight? There is a certain logic in the son of a superhero following in his father’s footsteps, even if it’s hard to imagine any right-thinking parents asking their offspring to tangle with the scum of Gotham without the requisite skills to do so. Haven’t they seen Kick-Ass?
Still, it’s a pity we will never now get to see Snyder’s vision play out – I never expected to find myself writing those words, by the way. For those still hoping against hope that Warner Bros might reverse their decision, there is still a glimmer of possibility. Affleck is due to play Batman once again in the upcoming Flash movie, in which Ezra Miller’s scarlet speedster will encounter a number of Bruce Waynes from various alternate universes. If Andy Muschietti’s film is a success, who’s to say that the powers that be might decide that a little bit more Snyderverse never hurt anybody.