Synder Cut, Josstice League, & The Harvest Of Vision
July 2019, as I took my first steps up the stairs into San Diego Comicon, a young man stood on the stairs with a large wooden sign on a pole much like the one Rorschach carried saying “The End Is Nigh.” But instead of an apocalyptic warning. This man traveled all the way to San Diego to stand outside the mecca of all things geek to hold up a sign that read “Release The Snyder Cut.” I appreciated the effort, but in my mind, I chuckled, “that’ll never happen.”
Before I go any further, two disclaimers: 1: This is a Snyder Cut length chapter. 2: This is not a poop on Joss Whedon situation, and this isn’t a criticism of Zack Snyder or in any way meant to trivialize the traumatic tragedy he experienced in the course of creating Justice league. Please read these words and thoughts with the appropriate level of compassion and empathy.
I first found Zack Snyder with the movie 300. Like most of the most of the world, I found his visual style and tenacious storytelling captivating. The grit and visceral experience that movie was had people constantly shouting “THIS IS SPARTA” in inappropriate times, and oddly enough 15 years later, people still do that. He already had my attention with the glorious rendering of Frank Miller’s classic comic book tale, but when it was announced that he would be doing the impossible, making a live action version of “The Watchmen,” I began following his journey with laser focus. To his credit, he made Watchmen. Not just like a vague story of similarity, he made WATCHMEN. Sure, it was a little over stylized, and gritty, even for Watchmen, but he did what generations of talented film makers and comic book artists deemed impossible. He detoured on the squid, but honestly, I didn’t blame him.
On the heels of Watchmen, he dropped Suckerpunch, which was definitely more of a labor of love and acquired taste, but still something I found to be admirable and beautiful. Which rolled right up to him handling the big blue boy scout, Superman. In 2013 he brought Superman to the big screen in the most powerful way I had seen since my childhood. Not everyone loved Man of Steel, but I did. Man of Steel dropped right when I was writing the first Faith & Fandom book, and the intentional Messianic themes they shadowed in Man of Steel made me giddy. Man of Steel dropped a year after the Dark Knight trilogy concluded. The single best series of Batman films ever made, and Zack followed it up with the birth of the DCEU, so I was excited at this first step, and even more excited when it was announced that BVS was coming. That Zack was bringing in Batman & Wonder Woman to his unique portrayal of the world, and that he was once again returning to using the iconic Frank Miller for his inspiration.
To the average viewer, the strictly “I’m gonna watch a Batman movie, because, Batman,” BVS seemed off. There were tons of people who watched BVS without ever seeing Man of Steel, which added to the murmur. But for me, who had been watching his craft hone, and he bring to life 3 iconic comic book stories to life in his own flavor, BVS (especially the extended director’s cut) felt right at home. Even if I didn’t agree directly with his vision, it was clear that he executed his vision, and I applauded that. He had already been announced to take on the Justice League, and was moving forward when underwhelming box office reports (and let’s be real, they were underwhelming when compared to Marvel or TDK trilogy, any other movie would have been glad for the BVS take) and critical haymakers began to seriously air doubt on Zack’s vision. The people, and WB knew that Justice League was going to end up being all Zack’s vision realized. Their lack of faith was clear when Justice League went from being 2 movies, to one. WB had a heavy hand of micromanagement with their superhero films in that season as their cold feet made them twitchy. They also manipulated Suicide Squad to the point it was no longer the director’s vision either. After doing such big things, Snyder’s DC future, and Justice League vision was already looking rough, long before it would ever reach the box office. Then tragedy.
Zack lost his daughter Autumn. I will forgo discussing anything further on that, but only to say that Zack obviously was leveled and broken, and needed to step down from the behemoth that was Justice League. No one could fault or blame him in a time like that. That left WB with a huge project they didn’t totally believe in, and they found their “savior” in none other than Joss Whedon.
Now, Joss Whedon literally ushered me in to my adult geek life. Firefly & Serenity changed my life (and also sparked Faith & Fandom). Buffy & Angel were well done and extremely ahead of their time. Dollhouse was wonderful. Joss also wrote the best X-Men comic book series that I’ve seen. Dr. Horrible is a 45-minute masterpiece. Avengers was well done. Ultron was meh, but beyond that, there was literally no one better equipped to take on a geek franchise, outside of Kevin Smith. My only concern with Whedon initially was one random interview, and I have literally spent hours searching for it, but it was in Joss’s X-Men era, where He stated if he ever worked on Justice League (he was discussing comics), Batman would absolutely not be in the League, because he was useless in that capacity alongside all those other heroes with their capabilities. I can’t find the interview to source it, so take that with a grain of salt. But I was honestly pumped at the idea. And as I watched Justice League in theatres, enjoying it, but knowing the world was going to rip it to pieces and make me feel like an idiot for liking it, I was saddened. I was so pumped to see all these heroes on screen together. I was so happy to have a League movie. Of course, you could tell it wasn’t what it was meant to be, but it still had enjoyable moments. You could tell where Whedon’s humor and tongue in cheek critical perspectives on everything were present, and you could tell lots was missing, but it was clear, this wasn’t the completion of the story we had seen building for 2 movies.
At the very beginning of Joss’s version of Justice League there’s a depiction of a homeless man with a sign that says “I tried.”
It is said that this was Joss’s personal contribution to tell audiences that he knows this wasn’t what it should be, and that with what he was given he did the best he could, but at the same time he also knew it wasn’t a success. This whole situation reminds me of a story in scripture.
Check out this hefty passage in Matthew 13
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. This passage came in a long string of parables Jesus was teaching. I often don’t hear a lot of people teach on this specific passage, because like any 4-hour superhero movie, it’s hard to get through. Not simply because of length, because of the depth of subject and the hard questions and discussions it raises. I’ll even admit I'd been hesitant to use all the scripture in this passage, and in some early planning, I wanted to trim it down to just the initial parabolic verses, and bypass the explanation. Super honest, even in the later versions I wanted to do that as well. I always want Faith & Fandom to be encouraging and welcoming to people, and “gnashing of teeth” doesn’t quite fit into that, but the reality is Jesus literally ended this discussion by saying “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” And if I edited down scripture just to be palatable, I’d be doing the same things this whole chapter is about.
When I was young though, my initial reading of this story made me feel like this was saying that there were some of us that God never wanted, but growth, wisdom, and understanding of scripture helped me see beyond my initial cringe concept. In reality the parable Jesus is telling here is the same thing we see in the garden all the way through Jesus earthly ministry. It’s the concept that God had a vision for humanity. A desire to have an intimate personal relationship with his people, and that Satan has sown destruction into what God has planned. He did it in the garden at creation, he even did It with the people that surrounded Jesus in the time His earthly ministry, and he even does it now through various means of our culture and the things that influence it. The reality that God has a vision for His people. Satan’s interference compromised that vision. But rather than abandon us completely, God is going to let things play out, so that when all is said and done, redemption is possible, and the truth of His full vision will be realized. This will play out in the reality of scripture and this world, but in some ways, this is similar to what we saw play out through the whole Snyder Cut scenario.
Good Seed Sown (Verse 24)
Zack Snyder filmed a lot for Justice Leage. A LOT. But 80% of what he filmed went unused in the original theatrical release. Weeds Sown (Verse 25) Now, again, I use this term lightly. I don’t think Joss sabotaged the project or intentionally damaged it. But in terms of what Snyder planted, Joss’s contributions are similar to weeds in the comparison. They choked up the process and got in the way of what was originally intended. Weeds Appeared (Verse 26) Zack planted, Joss planted, and when it all grew out, all we could see was weeds. Another failed attempt by DCEU to make something comparable to Marvel. Financially, critically, and culturally all that was seen was failure. Where Did The Weeds Come From? (Verse 27) When the failure of the film happened, the narrative was strongly still placed on Zack. His vision was too big, too dark, too gritty, and Joss saved us from the Trainwreck we would have gotten otherwise. The appearance of the weeds made it hard to see where they originated. In a similar vein, when people see things going horribly wrong and falling apart in this world, they can’t see the source, and so they innately blame God because He receives responsibility for everything when in reality it was the work of an enemy as it was stated in Verse 28.
But at that point the damage was done. Zack was not in a place emotionally or mentally to deal with that backlash. And truthfully, pointing fingers wouldn’t have done any good with the world staring at the cluster of weeds that was Justice League.
Until The Harvest (Verse 30)
As the verse said, let them both grow. Zack didn’t trash or attack Whedon or point blame (that I saw), once he was in a place again to focus his efforts, he instead quietly went about his work making the version he intended. The Snyder Cut was literally the reason I got HBO Max (aside from the discount that came with DC Universe). I was waiting to see what Zack’s vision would look like completed.
We live in that field. We live in a garden that was planted with the best intentions, but corrupted by evil. We believe in a loving God, but we also see the presence of evil. We know that there are things God asks of us and commands of us, but a majority of the world that ignores those. We live in a world where God wants an intimate relationship with His children, but His children are blinded to the relationship they are actually looking for. So, what do we do with that? Look at what the servants asked in the parable:
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.
So often Christians, or the church, takes it upon themselves to try to uproot all the people they see doing evil. To be the spiritual or moral police of society. To correct people who have no relationship with God in the ways of God. We effectively start pulling up what we think are weeds, but there is the collateral damage of a lot of wheat along the way. We end up doing more damage to human hearts and eternal souls by plucking them when God still has a chance to work in them, nurture them, lead them, call to them, and heal them. Every person the church “attacks” is putting more distance between them and God and making it harder for God to ever reach them. In verse 30 when the owner said “let them grow together,” that is what we are to do. Love, nurture, care, encourage, give of ourselves to everyone around us, and let God handle the rest later. We literally have no concept of how much God can do in a person’s life in a short span. When we judge people and condemn them, we are literally robbing them of that time for God to work in their hearts. God doesn’t need us to go picking weeds or attacking people we perceive as far from God. Let them grow together. We need to look at each person like we have no idea who they truly belong to, and to give them the best regardless. Anything beyond that is left for what God does, and is far beyond our jurisdiction, authority, and paygrade. Give God room to work, and give people the grace for God to do the work.
On March 17th, my family did all their prep stuff for the next day early. We ate dinner, showered and all 5 of us were in bed by like 8pm. Why? Because at 3am EST when the Snyder Cut dropped, we were all getting up to watch it. Timmy Martens (the editor for Faith & Fandom, and a close family friend) came over. We had food, and treats, and we all nestled down and sat there for the WHOLE 4 HOURS. With absolutely zero complaints in doing so. Of course, the movie wasn’t perfect. Of course, it still carried things that people who weren’t a fan of Zack’s vision wouldn’t enjoy. But it was finally the chance to see what the vision was originally intended to be. To finally see the harvest without the weeds choking the way. Like every five minutes one of us would say “oh that looks so much better” or “that line makes way more sense” or “I’m so grateful this is happening.” As the movie ended, I was ecstatic. I felt validated. I felt justified.
I felt so happy for the actors and people that finally got to have their true depiction shown. To see Batman be more than a thick Adam West. To see Superman, carry the strength and weight of his journey. To see Flash’s dad ecstatic for his son. To see the Atom, Crispus Allen, Granny Goodness, Willem Dafoe, actually make it to the screen. To see Barry, go from pushing a pickup truck to saving all of existence. To see Cyborg actually have a backstory. Even Steppenwolf had a good backstory and character arc in this depiction. I felt hurt for those whose roles had been diminished, tarnished or simply wiped away all together. That’s the reality of most of the people we interact with on a daily basis as it is. The world we live in and the sin that entangles us chokes out the opportunity to truly be who we are created to be. This was their redemption as characters. And daily God is working to bring redemption to the lives of the people around us. The day the Snyder Cut dropped was like the Harvest for so many people. People were able to see what was unclear before. People were able to see what was truly intended. People were able to see the effect of the other vision that was planted.
That’s what it will be like on the other side of the things we deal with in this world. I’m not going to front and pretend like the negative portions of this chapter of scripture aren’t there or that they aren’t scary. They are, but those are also the words of Jesus, and I’m not gonna be one to plant weeds in what He speaks. But I will say that I am ecstatic with Joy at the concept of the clarity and beauty of what things will be like when we are finally free from the control and influence of sin in this world.
Matthew 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
People didn’t believe in the Snyder Cut. They didn’t think it was real, or that it was worth watching, or that It could make a difference. But the passionate minority cared enough about it to faithfully keep pursuing it, to the point the executives that had previously cast it aside were now open to making it happen. If we live with that type of faithfulness, pursuing God, and growing together and loving the people around us, we might actually see people we thought were distant become family. If we continue seeking the Kingdom of God even though most of the world doesn’t believe in it, has no interest in it, or thinks it’s pointless, one day we will be far more satisfied and rewarded in the outcome.
We need to remember that God had a vision for humanity and this world.
What we are seeing, is not the vision, but the outcome of another force interfering.
There are a lot of people harmed by this, but we need to band together, not tear each other apart.
We need to not give up on the vision, because when we are united in that purpose, this world changes.
“I don't care how many demons he’s fought in how many hells. He's never fought us. Not us united.” - Batman