'Justice League' and Zack Snyder's Brighter Vision

Snyder Cut Photo Comp 2
Though 'Man of Steel' and 'Batman v Superman' were criticized for their darkness, the heroes are set to reach greater heights in the HBO Max project.

The first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League has arrived! Hallelujah.

During DC Fandome on Saturday, Snyder unveiled the first look at his much-anticipated, long-rumored "Snyder Cut." And even from the two and a half minutes of footage showcased, it’s clear that his Justice League is a very different beast from 2017’s theatrical version that was taken over by Joss Whedon, rescored, recolored and stitched together by way of studio exec notes. But now here we are, almost three years later with the promise of a four-hour HBO Max miniseries that looks like a true continuation of the themes and character arcs established in Man of Steel (2013), and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

Set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” a song that holds significant meaning to the filmmaker, the footage further cements the mythic status of these heroes and villains. The trailer opens with a flashback of Uxas (Ray Porter), the Apokaliptian warrior who will eventually become Darkseid, before cutting to a possible future that sees the Hall of Justice in ruins as Darkseid’s ships fills the sky, parademons fly past, and a Joker card lingers on the wind for a moment.

(Watch the trailer.)

The trailer then moves to the present day, reintroducing the members of the Justice League, Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), Flash (Ezra Miller), and of course, Superman (Henry Cavill), clad in his black suit. The central villain, Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), is also reintroduced, looking quite intimidating. There’s also a quick glimpse of Desaad (Peter Guinness) at the 1:15 mark, who’s never been seen in any of the previous footage. The stage is set for an epic battle between the Justice League and the first wave of the New Gods as they fight for the Mother Boxes, integral to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World epic in the comics.  But that’s just the surface of what’s showcased in this trailer.

It’s worth noting that there’s not a single moment of footage in the trailer that was in the theatrical release, and Snyder is making a point to show that this is a different film. One of the big takeaways from the trailer is the prominent presence of people of color, whose roles were largely reduced or eliminated in the theatrical film. We see Cyborg’s parents, Elinore (Karen Bryson) and Silas Stone (Joe Morton), and Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), who all help create this feeling of a larger, lived-in world that’s just as interested in people as it is heroes. Snyder has said numerous times that Cyborg is the heart of the film, and the trailer shows a lot more of the character, including his inability to save his father, creating a nice parallel to Clark Kent’s own inability to save Jonathan (Kevin Costner) in Man of Steel.

And on the subject of Superman, we’re saved from the horrendous digital mouth and chin that occurred because Whedon’s reshoots coincided with the filming of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, in which Cavill had a mustache. The trailer also leans in on the importance that Martha (Diane Lane) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams), two more characters whose roles were significantly diminished in the theatrical release, have to Superman’s humanity. While Man of Steel and BvS were criticized for being too dark, Snyder always attested that it was part of the characters’ arcs, and that they would reach greater heights in Justice League. The trailer suggests that is very much the case, with civilians looking up in awe at Flash and Wonder Woman. There’s a feeling of optimism present, one that feels all the more poignant when considering that the darkness and failure of these characters in the previous two films comes from their human weaknesses.

But as superheroes, as modern gods inspired by Superman’s sacrifice, they have an opportunity to become better. As much as the epic battles of Snyder’s Justice League are anticipated, it’s the smaller character moments evident in the trailer that are most intriguing. It’s the essence of what gives this impending release weight and meaning, rather than feeling like an entertaining commercial for action figures like the theatrical release.

“He’s never fought us, not us united,” Bruce Wayne says in the trailer’s only dialogue exchange. And that moment also speaks volumes, because for the first time audience will have a chance to consider and reflect on Snyder’s DC Universe films as one united trilogy.