That’s how Silas discovered its power, and in a horrifying flashback, he uses it when he looks at his son’s body on a slab, Vic’s lower torso gone. When Silas uses the magic box on Victor, the son screams bloody murder.
It is Victor Stone who puts the pieces together for the nascent Justice League and gets the heroes to begin acting like a real team. He puts together for the others that the Mother Box can be used to bring Superman back from the dead, and projects an image of Big Boy Blue for everyone to see.
Vic leads the team into STAR Labs to do the deed. And when Silas sees his son, still not talking to him, walk by with Batman and other weirdos, Dad doesn’t call it in. In fact, Vic and Silas are why the heroes win in this version, because after the Superman resurrection is bolloxed up, and Steppenwolf arrives to retrieve the third Mother Box, rather than run away, Silas sacrifices himself by heating the box with a laser so hot, that Batman can conveniently track wherever it goes in the world.
One could argue Cyborg was the most crucial of the heroes in organizing a true team team. Well, him and the legacy of another…
One imagines Superman’s treatment by Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio in what we now call the Snyder Cut, and Batman v Superman before it, played a major role in Warners’ eventual lack of confidence in the filmmakers. The beginning of the Whedon Cut even starts by course correcting where Whedon might’ve thought Snyder went wrong. Hence the awkward smartphone video of Superman talking to some children with a big smile on his face (and mustache unconvincingly erased from it).
Honestly, though? The depiction of Superman in the Snyder Cut is at times quite heroic and sweet. Certainly sweeter than the abysmal “no one stays good forever in this world” line of dialogue from BvS. However, there are major caveats.
Someone who unequivocally benefits from the new version is Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. While she again has relatively little to do, the rare moments where she is on screen in the Snyder Cut count a hell of a lot more. For starters, there is a genuinely heartfelt sequence about grief—one that it’s fair to wonder if Snyder has added special emphasis to. We follow Lois as she begins her morning routine by getting out of bed, buying a cup of coffee, and going to spend an hour or so at Superman’s memorial in downtown Metropolis.
The soundtrack plays Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Distant Sky,” and the scene bleeds a dignified sorrow as Lois unfurls her umbrella in the rain and walks up to Superman’s memorial to lay flowers. The cop she gives her morning coffee to asks Miss Lane if she ever skips a day, and she says there’s nowhere else she’d rather be. This is the transition to the Superman flag in London.
Afterward Lois goes nearly two hours before appearing again in the film, while Diane Lane’s Ma Kent (who is seen early in the picture leaving home) vanishes for well over that amount of time. It makes their reunion scene in Lois’ apartment feel awkward and obligatory after such a long pause, but the restored scene is still better than the “Clark told me you were the thirstiest girl he ever met” in the Whedon Cut. At least until the Ma Kent of this scene is pointlessly revealed to be Martian Manhunter. (Sigh.) It’s almost as bad a bit of forced world-building as future Barry Allen warning Batman about Lois Lane in BvS.
Meanwhile the League all comes to the idea of resurrecting Superman at the same time, and there are no second guesses other than Alfred’s skepticism. Thus begins a resurrection sequence where it’s genuinely affecting to hear Zimmer’s Superman theme again as Kal-El’s body is placed into the Kryptonian ships goo-room. Similarly, Snyder achieves another grace moment when Lois sees Superman flying in the sky right after his resurrection. Before this moment, Lois made the decision in bed that morning for this to be the last time she’d visit and grieve Superman’s death at the memorial. We’re also teased to the fact she keeps a pregnancy test on the nightstand. So she made her final trip to his memorial.
And on the same day, Superman came back.
Unfortunately, his return is much the same as it was in the Whedon Cut, with the gloomy gray cinematography and the outright sinister version of Superman who’s apparently forgotten his identity. In fact, he’s more menacing than the familiar footage of him smacking down Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Now he takes time to study his monument before still coldly attacking the other superheroes and using his heat ray vision to try and murder U.S. soldiers stationed by his memorial.
If not for the interference of Batman, Superman would’ve killed servicemen. For what it’s worth though, he tries to kill Batman too. Gone is the “do you bleed?” callback to the previou cut. Instead Superman uses his heat ray vision to try and cook Batman inside his own cowl—which is only stopped by Bruce’s special “energy absorption” gauntlets.
As with the Whedon Cut, Bruce’s death is prevented when Lois shows up, but now of her own volition, and she and Clark fly away to Smallville. And once there, Superman’s soul returns and we get nice Americana scenes of Clark Kent watching a butterfly land on his hand, and Lois joining him in the wheat field.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he says of the engagement ring he planned to give her before his death, and which she keeps on her hand. Soon Ma Kent joins them and it’s a lovely moment of reconciliation with the women in his life. It’s also far more emotionally effective than the version of Lois apologizing to Clark for “not being strong” after he died in the Whedon Cut.
And yet… it’s compromised by the constant foreshadowing of another heel turn in Superman’s future. The Kryptonian ship keeps warning, pleading even, with Cyborg that there is “no turning back from this action” as he prepares to resurrect Superman. Only then does he have a vision of an evil Kal-El drifting over a smoldering Metropolis. This muddle created by these conflicting sensibilities—folksy domesticity versus foreboding doom—do not mesh. At all.
At the very least, Clark returns to the Kryptonian ship to find there was a black Superman suit hidden all along in the corner. Additionally, he hears both of his dads’ voices, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner). Some of it is old audio about “they’ll join you in the sun” from Man of Steel. Some of it is new recordings, which don’t really make sense as both men are dead. But we hear Pa repeat, “Fly son” and Jor-El intone, “Love them as we loved you.”
Black-suited Superman then flies into the orbit, taking the same Christ pose he had in Man of Steel, visually suggesting the Lord is risen, hallelujah. Superman then flies to the Batcave and meets Alfred, who tells him where to go… for the end of things.
It is the ending, when everyone comes together, where the Whedon Cut and Snyder Cut perhaps most definitively diverge. It’s still technically the same ending: the five main members of the League show up in a nondescript Russian town to fight Parademons. Superman returns at a desperate moment and they all prevent the Mother Boxes from becoming one ungodly MacGuffin that would destroy Earth, knocking Steppenwolf on his CG ass.
Yet how these elements are incorporated, and where they leave the DC Extended Universe, are like on different planes of existence. From the top, the gore level (as with the Striker Island fight) is just more extreme in the Snyder Cut. Batman shoots Parademons with his Batmobile and then later uses the aliens’ own plasma guns against them; Wonder Woman beheads and cripples more computer generated baddies than all the armies of Gondor combined. Even Aquaman’s trident tastes blood.
There is also a much stronger sense of teamwork in the Snyder Cut. Batman’s suicide play of driving headlong into carnage makes more sense in this version as he crashes his plane into one of Steppenwolf’s magical machines, which brings down a force field and lets the team enter beneath the villain’s dome. And instead of Wonder Woman coming alone to Batman’s rescue, the whole team fights alongside his Batmobile for a freeze frame worthy of a splash page. It really is bizarre that Whedon, who was so good at these kinds of images in his Avengers movies, took this one out.
Once inside Steppenwolf’s evil lair, things are also far more exciting. There are no civilians (or randomly shoehorned in Russian family) to save. But there are enormous stakes as Cyborg has to stop the Boxes by merging with them. In the process, he enters his proverbial mind palace to face the three boxes in the flesh, as they’ve turned into literal witch crones. At first they appear as his dead parents, promising mom is ready to be reunited with her “broken boy,” but it’s a ruse that torments Victor to an even greater degree.
Meanwhile Steppenwolf has opened a Boom Tube portal to Apokolips where Darkseid, DeSaad, and Granny Goodness are waiting to take over Earth and claim the Anti-Life Equation. It was always “save the world” stakes in both versions, but you actually feel them in the Snyder Cut, particularly since… the heroes fail.
In a development that maybe would’ve left a Flash solo movie with nowhere to go, Darkseid and Steppenwolf briefly win, the three Mother Boxes merging despite Cyborg’s best efforts. The world instantly begins being ripped apart by a CG blur which presumably will turn Earth into a hellscape. The Flash, who is further afield from the action and bleeding from a gruesome wound in the side of his stomach, knows he has only one choice: to run backwards in time fast enough to reverse the flow of time.
It’s a trick that is expected to play heavily in DC Films’ upcoming Flashpoint inspired film, and Barry executes it here to undo the heroes’ defeat. Running into a seeming tornado of blue computer generated lightning, Barry undoes the damage and gives Cyborg a little more time, with Superman’s help, to stop the boxes from combining.
The action prevents the world’s end and allows Aquaman to skewer Steppenwolf like a fish on a hook. In the Whedon Cut, Steppenwolf is slashed by Wonder Woman and unsatisfyingly undone by becoming so fearful that he triggers his Parademons’ scent, and they eat him alive. Essentially, it’s a dippy retread of The Lion King where Scar is devoured by his own hyenas.
While certainly more bloodthirsty, there’s no denying there’s a satisfaction in Aquaman stabbing Steppenwolf, Superman punching him, and finally Wonder Woman beheading him. That is justice for her fallen Amazonian sisters.
Afterward, the whole direction of the DCEU still pivots toward darkness in Snyder’s vision. The Boom Tube to Apokolips stays open long enough for Steppenwolf’s head to return home. Darkseid crushes it beneath his foot. He also accepts that, for whatever reason, they cannot reach Earth through the Boom Tubes due to this defeat. “We will do things the old way,” Darkseid hisses. He summons the armada to head to Earth, setting up a very different future for the DCEU.
Continuing on the divergent paths between the Whedon and Snyder Cuts, the epilogue of the latter (complete with a title card) essentially presents the road not taken in the DCEU. Many of the elements we saw in the Whedon Cut remain, such as Bruce and Diana opening up Wayne Manor to become the headquarters for the Justice League by building a table “with room for more;” we also see Barry tell his incarcerated Dad he got a job at the Central City crime lab; and of course there’s Superman’s beloved shirt rip.
However, there’s so much more added on by Snyder. Some of it is very intriguing, such as Diana taking the arrow from her mother and looking out at the horizon of the Aegean Sea by the Temple of the Amazons. The implication is she’s begun yearning to return home. Could this have once been the plot thread of Wonder Woman 2? Could it still become the plot thread of Wonder Woman 3?
The most effective element is, again, Cyborg as he reconstructs his father’s broken audio recording and hears Silas’ love as a “father twice over.” It’s bittersweet Victor never got to verbally reconcile with his papa, but just saying, “You’re my father” might’ve been enough.
Yet the epilogue ultimately becomes a teaser for what Snyder’s original vision for a Justice League trilogy might’ve looked like. In the Whedon Cut, the sequence of Lex Luthor on a yacht with Deathstroke (Joe Manganiello) comes as a post-credit sequence. In the Snyder Cut, it’s part of the body of the story. The build-up to Lex’s escape is longer, and once on the yacht he has no quippy joke about “forming a league of our own.” But he does tell Deathstroke that Batman’s secret identity is Bruce Wayne.
That captures Deathstroke’s attention and seems to set up potentially catastrophic events for Bruce’s future in Affleck’s now defunct The Batman movie. It also would appear to further set up the Legion of Doom Justice League sequel with Deathstroke and Luthor.
But that’s pittance compared to the far bigger stinger for the future. In one more “Knightmare,” and another vision of a future where Darkseid has turned Earth into a Mad Max apocalypse, we once more see Affleck’s Batman as a road warrior in a desert, this time with Amber Heard’s Mera, the Flash, Deathstroke, and Cyborg as his road trip buddies. Clearly Cyborg’s vision earlier in the film came to pass, with Mera swearing she’ll kill Darkseid in order to avenge Arthur.
The biggest bombshell here though is that this is where Jared Leto reprises his performance as the Joker. I wish I could say it was better than this grubby, grinning, awkward reshoot moment where he talks about giving the Batman a reach around. Bruce’s dialogue isn’t much better as he mumbles, “When I held Harley Quinn, and she was bleeding and dying, she begged me with her last breath that when I killed you—and make no mistake I will fucking kill you—that I do it slow.”
We’re a long way from Adam West, eh? The sequence ends with Evil Superman appearing with heat ray vision, coming to kill all of them. This clearly stands as a trailer for Justice League sequels that almost certainly will never be. It’s also a vision for the Justice League trilogy Snyder originally planned with Terrio that’s making its rounds across the internet. Part III was meant to be about Batman and the Flash in the ruins of a destroyed Earth traveling back in time so Batman could make sure that Lois Lane never died—sacrificing his life so Superman never turned to evil. Again.
I can’t say this scene adds a lot to this movie, any more than the final, final tease of Harry Lennix’s Martian Manhunter showing up one more random time to give Bruce Wayne a pat on the shoulder. He says your parents would be proud of you and that he wants to join his team. Affleck’s Bruce is strangely not perplexed by any of this and gives off a general “Cool story, bro” vibe.
Martian Manhunter travels into a future we will never see, setting up a sequel that has been abandoned. It’s a shame, but it is so brazenly, defiantly Snyder’s vision—and so far removed from the Whedon Cut’s goofy ending on Superman and Batman having a happy go lucky race to the Pacific—that one can at least give this to to the director: He did it his way. There’s something to be said about that.