With the release of Batman Unburied on Spotify I was asked to look back over DC’s long and rich history and discuss one of my favourite scenes involving their rich plethora of characters.
When talking about moments that blew me away one of the first things that comes to mind is the scene in which we get a full origin story for Cyborg. It’s masterfully done and for me, it was one of the standout scenes in the movie. Just in the same way that Snyder managed to introduce Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen perfectly this scene gave us the perfect run down of everything that he stood for. Not only did it go over the death of his mother but it also showcased the strain of his relationship with his father, his powers and more.
Now with Doctor Manhattan, we watched his relationship develop with Janey Slater before it eventually fell apart. We learned about the character’s detachment from humanity over the course of this scene but with Cyborg, Snyder did the opposite.
He showed us the character’s humanity and how he was a hero in more ways than just hitting bad guys as the character helped a struggling waitress who was living paycheque to paycheque.
We’re gonna be breaking it all down in just a bit but first if you could just give me 80 seconds of your time to talk about our sponsor Batman Unburied.
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Ok so the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice league felt like the culmination of a redemption story that was years in the making. After the release of 2017s Justice League, a fan movement rallied behind the original version of the film in an attempt to get Snyder’s true vision released. The four-hour epic dropped in 2021 and it very much felt like a tale of redemption both on and off-screen. Not only was there Snyder who finally got his work shown to the masses but Ray Fisher also received somewhat validation after his part was massively cut down for the theatrical release in 2017. I’ve always been a big fan of Cyborg and I find the inner turmoil that he deals with fascinating. Not knowing whether he’s more machine than man has led to lots of conflicts in the story and in the New 52 we even had an arc where a sentient virus called Grid came forth from within him, ushering in a major villain for the Forever Evil storyline.
However, what we got in that cut was a pretty neutered version of the character that did very little in the movie beyond connecting with the mother box and spouting catchphrases. Fisher talked openly about his treatment in the final cut and the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League very much showcased how talented of an actor he was along with how integral Cyborg was to the story.
From someone who was pretty much a backbencher in the theatrical cut, Snyders version gave to us one of the most powerful members of the team along with what I think is the true heart of the movie.
Torn between wanting to have his humanity back and embracing his more mechanical mind state we see Victor Stone as the college Football star for Gotham City University Football team. A stellar athlete we also learn that he hacked the IT systems in order to change the grades of a struggling student. We catch his mother arguing with the dean that his friend had no chance of passing her classes due to her home life and that it’s actually Victor who helped her pass when the school wouldn’t. In the midst of this, we cut back and forth to a football game shot in Snyder’s signature sped up and slow motion just adding to the scene so much.
I know Snyder gets ragged on a lot for using the technique but it makes this one of the most epic touchdowns I’ve ever seen especially with the snowdrops that cover the screen. The white, beaming almost star-like beacons contrast so beautifully against the black and yellow kit that Stone wears and there’s a real pop to the image, especially on the 4k HDR version.
It’s a big moment watching Stone score the touchdown that wins the game and we cut to his mother in the stands cheering. However, this celebration is quickly cut short we see that his father’s seat is empty. Silas and Victor very much have a complicated relationship which we learn about in the movie and we discover that he was never really there for his son, as he was focusing on his work. The things that meant the most to Victor weren’t really important to Silas and this is followed by a devastating car crash in which he loses his mother and gets put in critical condition.
Told by doctors that his son won’t survive, Silas makes a desperate attempt to save his life and he turns to science that he doesn’t fully understand. Now Joe Morton has dabbled with this kind of technology before and it inspired casting to bring him into this film when he starred as Miles Dyson in Terminator 2. Really nice little easter egg there and Silas ends up fusing his son with the Mother Box which resurrects him.
Victor absolutely hates this change and it’s clear that early on he feels like it’s a curse that he can’t escape from. There are languages in his head that he doesn’t understand, a constant buzzing and connection to almost every electronic device on Earth.
It really makes you question what you would do if the person you loved was at death’s door and I love how there’s this duality in the scene. You have Silas who did whatever he could to try and save his son and on the opposite side of this, you get Victor who very much doesn’t want to be alive like this. Towards the end of the film, he’s even tempted with being with his family once more and gaining somewhat normality inside the Mother Box. Though this is an illusion it’s something that he could’ve easily given into because that’s what his heart desired. At the channel, we often talk about how in order to be a hero that one has to sacrifice what they want and Victor making this choice at the end brings the arc set up here full circle.
Now just in the same way we question whether we would bring someone back from the brink, if it doomed them to a half-life, we also put ourselves in Victor’s shoes. We discover that he has unlimited power in the world of 1s and 0s and that almost everything is now under his control. This includes the stock markets, currency, weapons, cars, Tamagotchis, bank accounts, and your tinder profile. It all rests in his hands.
Joe Morton has created Skynet again and you bloody didn’t listen, you didn’t listen.
What Makes Victor Different?
However, what makes Victor different from Ultron-esque AI is that Victor still has his humanity. This is demonstrated perfectly in the simulation he creates in his mind.
This is very CGI-heavy, full of objects like missiles, stacks of cash, temples, metaphors of the Stock Exchange through the classic bull and bear fighting and lots of things that make it seem very isolated from humanity.
However, the scene then evolves into Victor coming across CCTV footage of a woman struggling at her job as a waitress. Amongst the mountains of money, we see her barely scraping by but she still leaves money behind for a homeless man and his dog.
Snyder expertly tells us her story across a couple of clips including her family life. Now though it’s not spelt out, she very much also represents the mother that he lost. There’s no father figure in the kid’s lives and Victor probably sees some similarities between his own childhood and the ones that she’s raising.
Evicted from her home Victor ends up increasing the money in her account. It very much makes him Godlike, choosing to influence the fortune of those that live their lives in positive ways and this idea of him affecting luck is even brought across to the new balance in her account being reflected in a customer prize.
It perfectly hammers home exactly who Cyborg is and how it’s possible to be a hero in other ways before just beating up bad guys.
However, even though he’s carried out this amazing deed he’s still viewed as a monster and this is shown when he walks past the couple who stand back in horror upon seeing it. No good deed goes unpunished and it’s a bitter-sweet way to end the moment that shows us Cyborg still has to hide who he is. It very much sets up the public reaction to him.
Now his father Silas sadly sacrifices himself so that his son has a way to track the Mother Box and we see Victor reaching out with his hand to stop this much like how he did when his mother was hit by the car. Cyborg definitely goes through the most losses in the movie as both of his parents die and he’s left alone in the world without their guidance. That’s why the temptation at the end of the film is so endearing and after Flash runs back in time he’s transported inside the Mother Box which is where he comes face to face with them amongst the nightmare hellscape of a world taken over by Darkseid.
They promise to make him whole again and they say that he’ll never be alone again but Vic responds with “I’m not broken”.
It finally shows acceptance for what’s happened as well as the fact he’s found kinship amongst the rest of the league. Once an outcast that was feared he’s now found self-acceptance and also a new family to be a part of amongst the league.
It really brings everything full circle and makes for some amazing character growth that really plants him at the heart of the movie.
To me, it’s the perfect way to introduce the character whilst setting up what he ends up becoming at the end of the movie and I absolutely love this scene.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it so make sure you comment below and let me know.