May 20, 2020 is a date that will forever be engrained in my memory. Like thousands other people around the world I watched Man of Steel, while its director Zack Snyder accompanied us through a live stream on Vero, in very much the same way he did two months prior for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's fourth year anniversary, only this time there was something else.
Internet was on fire with rumors about what might happen during the stream. While I was hopeful, I tried to keep my expectations low. Last thing I needed was to get all worked up for something that might not happen just yet.
During the last three years my personal life has been in a difficult place and I've been suffering from depression constantly for a number of reasons, and the recent pandemic hasn't made my situation any easier.
For as long as I can remember movies had been my escape, the one place where I was free, where anything was possible, but even that has been changing lately as I become more and more disenchanted with the way most big movies are heading, and the stories I want to see are becoming more and more harder to find. Three years ago, one of those movies I was really looking forward to see was Justice League.
It might come as a surprise but initially when the rumors started online that WB wanted to put Batman and Superman together on the big screen I wasn't thrilled. I loved Man of Steel and The Dark Knight trilogy and the more serious, grounded and relatable approach they took, but I was afraid putting those characters on the same movie could lead to a by-the-numbers popcorn affair.
When the first trailer for the movie dropped I sighed in relief and coming out from the theater on release date I was without words. I couldn't believe what I just saw. Everything I could have ever wanted from the movie was there and it was beautiful. For all its darkness, in the end it was inspiring. But at the same time I was afraid about other people's reactions to it. I knew it wasn't going to be for everyone and I didn't want the studio or anyone else to force changes on future movies.
But the landslide of hate coming from some fans, bloggers and reviewers flooded the internet. They didn't want to invest a thought on a deeply complex movie featuring superheroes. They wanted something to watch while eating popcorn and drinking soda. Still, I chose to remain hopeful.
Then on May 22, 2017 came the bad news: following a family tragedy Zack Snyder and his wife Deborah stepped down from the movie. Joss Whedon was brought in to "complete" the movie and add some character scenes. At the time we were promised in one of those typical press releases that the changes would be minimal and the final movie would still be Zack's, but any pretentions they had of keeping their promise were thrown out the window when Tom Holkenborg was fired as the composer and replaced with Danny Elfman.
As the year went by my disillusion with the movie grew as we learned more things, and at the same time my personal life was going down the hill. On November 16 I went to see the movie the lowest of expectations and still came out disappointed. It was a betrayal of what the two previous movies had been building. It was the last thing I need in that moment and the disappointment was so big it turned me off from movies in general, which I felt didn't offer the same level of comfort I had grown used to.
2018 and 2019 were more of the same for me. Videogames had replaced movies as my escape and most comic book movies didn't hold any interest to me because really, they all felt just the same. There was no real ambition or grand storytelling for me, only big special effects sequences and jokes. I'm not against that kind of cinema. Plenty of my favorite movies could be described just like that, but when there's no variety anymore, what's the point?
But even if I had grown apart from most movies I still couldn't let go of what could have been, and as the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement started to form I was eager to become a part of it, to learn more of what we had lost and spread the word.
Henry Cavill made me fall in love with Superman. He wasn't this idyllic, impossibly perfect hero who could do no wrong. He struggled, but he always tried to help, to finds ways to be a better man and use his powers to do good even when some people couldn't see it. His Superman was someone anyone could aspire to be. Ben Affleck's Batman on the other hand was someone who had suffered too many losses and had fallen into darkness and who could only see the world in black and white, even as he walked right in the middle of it. But by the end, through Superman's sacrifice, he regains a piece of his soul and his faith in humanity. Gal Gadot was perfect as Wonder Woman and I was looking forward to see her develop her character even further, and I was so excited to see Ray Fisher's journey as Cyborg described by Zack at one moment as "the soul of the movie". And let's not forget about Jason Momoa's badass Aquaman and Ezra Miller's The Flash, and the world building that expanded beyond our world.
I didn't know if the movement's fight would amount to anything and I didn't know for how long people would hold on to the hope we might get to see Zack's original vision one day, but I cared too much for that world to let go.
But the movement didn't die out. As time went by it became stronger and more organized despite all the negativity thrown at us. I saw the movement organizing campaigns to reach more people, to make noise and let our voices heard in every possible way, and do charitable work at the same time to spread awareness about suicide prevention. I wasn't as alone as I thought and it was clear Zack's vision and characters had touched many people all over the world the same way.
And all the while Zack was there with us, encouraging us to remain hopeful, sharing whatever he could from the movie he made. More and more people joined the cause. Jay Oliva, Zack's collaborator, and a great director on his own, one of the first and strongest voices, Clay Enos, Fabian Wagner, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, other crew members, the list goes on. And on November 17, 2019 the internet exploded when Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot joined the cause. That's the kind of loyalty Zack inspires in the people who work with him and the fans of his movies.
Fast forward to this year and the pandemic hits. I tried my best to keep myself occupied learning and drawing, but it's really hard to keep your head in a good place when you're suffer from depression and live alone, and suddenly you're forced to remain isolated, and as the weeks went by I was really struggling to keep it together.
But as I was watching Man of Steel I forgot about those things. Clark's journey to find his place in this world is an uplifting, beautiful tale. Then when the movie was about to end and Henry Cavill shows up, the only member of the League who hadn't shown support for the movement until now, my heart started pounding really hard. And then other fans like me also join the stream and at the end of it Zack finally gives us the answer we have been waiting for over two years.
With all that's going on in the world right now, with the way I've been struggling personally and emotionally, this was exactly what I needed. To be reminded that keeping a positive attitude and holding on to that hope, even when the odds seem to be against you, can amount to something good in the end. You might be tempted to say "but it's just a movie" but then you don't understand the power these stories and these characters can have. There's a reason art in all its forms is so engrained in human history.
Most things affecting my life remain the same and will likely remain the same for the foreseeable future, but for now, I can smile knowing that a story, this hero's journey, I've been wanting to see completed for the last three years is finally happening.
The bell was never going to be unrung.
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