I have long been a fan of superhero films, which has made the last few years incredibly exciting. For a long time, people like me had to deal with origin stories over and over again, before Marvel decided to explore deeper, untold stories from the original comics.
This hasn’t come without an arrogant presumption that fans will enjoy the stories no matter what. If you watched Avengers: Endgame and enjoyed it fully, you must have done a PhD-level amount of study and revision on the previous films in order to get all the references. I am pretty sure that I have suppressed vital everyday information from my memory banks, just to make room for the knowledge that the way Hulk scratches his head in one scene is a callback to something that happened six films ago.
When I was a kid, however, one of my favourite heroes was Batman, a character from Marvel’s biggest rival, DC. There is something I found enticing about a very rich man doling out incredibly harsh punishment to people so poor that they have been forced into crime. Maybe he should use his funds to tackle some of the economic inequalities of Gotham City and call himself Social Housing and Investment in Education Man, but that would be a shit comic.
My love for Batman makes me excited about any film that involves him. I love the Nolan Batman films, despite Christian Bale having decided that whenever Bruce Wayne dons the cowl, he should take on the voice of a sex offender. And also that they went on a bit.
But Batman v Superman, a 2016 film directed by Zack Snyder, made me furious. Essentially, the superheroes turn on each other, and instead of having a simple talk that would sort out the misunderstanding, decide to try to kill each other, before stopping only because they found out their mums had the same name. Quite literally unbelievable.
Then we have Justice League. The 2017 film, bringing together Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, was ultimately helmed by Joss Whedon, after the original director, Synder, was forced to pull out following a family tragedy. It can’t have been easy for Whedon, but let’s just say that once, when I was a child, I was knocked over by a car and spent an afternoon in hospital, terrified and alone, thinking I might have my leg amputated. That afternoon was more fun than the one I spent watching Justice League. It makes Batman v Superman look like The Godfather.
Last month, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, AKA the SnyderCut, was released on TV. It’s the original director’s vision for the film, forced into existence by the sheer will of the fans, who have been begging for it since the original. It’s darker, moodier and true to his vision. It’s also four hours long. My first instinct was to run away, because among the many thoughts I had while watching the original, none of them were: “I wish there were two and a half hours more of this.”
In fact, I watched it in one sitting. This involved some logistics and planning. I had to explain to my wife that I wanted to watch a film so long that it might be the only thing I achieved that day. My wife asked me why I’d bothered to tell her, but then proceeded to walk in every half an hour to ask, “Are you still watching this?”
To be fair, it was much better than the original. For context, however, also better than the original would have been 90 minutes of punching myself in the genitals. The stories were more complete, the characters more rounded, and the film looked better. As I was watching it, though, I did find myself worried about how much Marvel information this was pushing out of my head. I wondered how much mental energy I had devoted to comics instead of other things in my life, and then I realised that I was supposed to call my mum that day. I guess what I’m trying to say is: sorry, Mum.