After 4 years of constant fighting, protesting, and demands Zack Snyder’s theatrical cut of the 2017 Justice League movie has been released and the reactions and reviews have been better than Whedon’s version. Before, audiences remembered Justice League as a story that was wildly inconsistent in tone, a mashup of different storytelling strategies, and not enough exposition to fully characterize each of the characters that the movie presents. Now with four hours of action and exposition, audiences are now able to piece together the parts of the film that were not present in the theatrical version.
The breakout star of this movie was none other than Ray Fisher who portrayed Cyborg in the film. While Cyborg’s backstory was elegantly told in a manner that connected audiences to the character; the movie leaves us with a larger discussion about the character’s future.
In Zack Snyder’s Justice league we meet Victor Stone a disabled Black man who after a car accident that killed his mother and left him with cybernetic body parts and abilities is holding resentment towards his father. The resentment comes from what seems to be years of neglect at the hands of his father from emotional detachment, to being unsupportive and unavailable for his son especially in his high school football career. This is coupled with the survivor’s guilt that he experiences when his dad “chooses” to save him instead of his mother.
Throughout Victor Stone’s arc, we see flashbacks of his father’s neglect in the past and the ways that Silas Stone attempts to apologize for his shortcomings as a father which is unreceptive by Victor. Zack Snyder captures Victor’s resentment and Silas’s despair in such intimate ways which truly allow us to long for reconciliation for the son and father, which we get- sort of.
As the action gets underway, Victor is recruited by Wonder Woman to help them save the Earth from impending doom brought on by Steppenwolf, to which we see how heroic Victor Stone is. In the midst of the heroes attempting to resurrect Superman, tracking down the mother boxes, and fighting off parademons, Silas is captured by Steppenwolf. This is where we see Victor and Silas’s relationship beginning to be repaired, Victor saves his father, and they have a tender moment together, with Silas telling Victor he was not sure if he’d come to where Victor responds, “you’re my father.” Unfortunately, this is the last scene that Victor and Silas have together before Silas is killed in an attempt to delay Steppenwolf’s merging of the mother boxes.
Victor and Silas never had the opportunity to reconcile and Victor is left without having anyone outside of the group of heroes as a family or a friend. Although the league is set up as a family, the other members all have someone outside of each other to depend on: Superman has Lois and his mother; Aquaman has Atlantis, his father, and mother; The Flash has his father and his love interest; Batman has Alfred, and WonderWoman has Themysciria, but Victor is left depending on the team and nothing else.
While many have noted that Silas death serves multiple purposes, from the heroes seeing that it is possible to be heroic without having all of the qualities of being a hero to developing Victor Stone into the character that he is at the end of the film but was his death necessary to accomplish this?
Compared to Doom Patrol’s Silas Stone, Zack Snyder’s Silas is almost a saint. Doom Patrol’s Silas altered his son’s memories so he would believe that his mother was already dead before he chose to save his son. Young Justice’s Silas is shown to be more neglectful than what we have seen in Doom Patrol and Justice League’s characterization of Silas. Unlike Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Doom Patrol and Young Justice Silas Stone were not killed in the series, instead, the series uses Silas’s life as a way to develop Victor’s character.
Snyder’s choice in killing Silas off is stylistic at best because even in the comics, Silas lives long enough to reconcile with his son. While all members of the Justice League have experienced some form of trauma-which is a key to what connects them- it is Victor who gets the rawest deal. Snyder’s decision to kill off Silas in Cyborg’s first appearance does nothing for the character but brings on more trauma than necessary because not only does Victor have to still process his mother’s death on top of that he has to process his father’s death just as they were beginning to foster some understanding between each other.
One of the best components of Silas and Victor’s relationship that have been explored in the comics, Doom Patrol, and Young Justice, is how both of the characters grow and develop from unpacking their history and their future together. In these iterations, we see Victor holding his father accountable for the harm he has caused him and his mother; we see Silas reconciling with the trauma he has caused his son after years of emotional neglect. We see them forge an understanding that is bonded by love, forgiveness, and accountability.
As a Black man with his own issues with his father, Cyborg, and Silas rebuilding their relationship has been something that I have always admired. I admired the responsibility that Silas had to take to love his son in a way that his son needs him to. I admired the open honesty that the characters had to experience with each other to mend the broken relationship. Cyborg would not be the character that he is today without that reconciliation with his father and the relationship that follows.
So, While Snyder’s Justice League does wonders for the character and gives him a national spotlight that has always seemed to overlook him, we miss out on the more intimate aspects of Cyborg’s characterization. We miss out on seeing him go through his trauma and blossom into something inspiring and beautiful. We miss out on seeing a Black Father and a Black son unpacking their trauma and history together to grow. Cyborg’s character screams human regardless of his body showing the opposite and it’s in his humanity where we truly see the character for who he is and his relationship with his father is a huge part of that.
So yes, Snyder’s Justice league gave us a unique look into Cyborg as a character and allowed for the audience to take his character more seriously. However, the movie’s flawed handling of Silas Stone and the relationship between the two characters cheats us out of something truly meaningful.