Zack Snyder's Justice League: Meanings Behind 'Hallelujah'
The usage of the song 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen has many layered meanings. Here, we delve into them!
Open To Interpretation
From the outset, one can view the usage of the song as a literal meaning of 'hallelujah' - as in, hallelujah, the Snyder Cut of Justice League is finally here!
Considering that we have been pushing for the release of this movie for,...oh about the best part of 3 and a half years, I for one subscribe to this interpretation for the usage of this song.
Why wouldn't you celebrate the fact that your eagerly anticipated, hotly contested and debated, and in some cases hated (for no good reason) full vision of the movie is being released?
A Personal Reason
The more sombre and beautiful reason for using 'Hallelujah' is that it has personal ties to the Snyder family.
In a 'Reel In Motion' podcast, Zack opened up about why he chose this particular song:
It was on two years ago. … It’s a really personal song for the family, and for all of us. It’s something that I just felt that was right for this. That’s why. I just think that that song, in particular, really, for all of us, it has significance beyond just the movie. I think we all love the song and it just felt like, as I was trying to wrangle this whole thing into the ‘why’ of it, I just felt like that song was the right way to do it.
For context, Zack Snyder stepped back from the Justice League movie in 2017 due to the tragic suicide of his daughter, Autumn Snyder. (I have put more information around this and a way in which to help at the bottom of this piece.)
One can connect Zacks statement of the song being '...really personal...' to him and the family as being tied to Autumn.
Jay Olivia, the storyboard artist for all of Zacks DCEU movies, confirmed this with a tweet that reads:
He knows a few more songs too! I’ve heard him time to time singing a tune or two.... in all seriousness, he chose that one because of the long road it took to get here and what it meant to his daughter’s memory during post production on the film.
In summary - Hallelujah resembles the long journey that Zack and the fans have been on. All the trials and tribulations they have been through, and continue to face with the near-constant bombardment of negativity towards Zack and the Snyder Cut fans, the joy of getting his full vision realised and Zacks triumphant return to the DC Universe - among many, many other meanings and interpretations.
If you have not already, watch the emotionally stirring and visually thrilling Teaser Trailer!
The Lyrical Meanings Within The Trailer
The lyrics within the song in relation to the scene that they play over can also be delved into and highlight a character motive, arc etc. Let's delve into them!
The first lyric and image we see is Uxas with the lyrics:
Now I've heard there was a secret cord.
That David played and it pleased the Lord.
The line 'secret cord' can be linked to the fact that when Superman dies during the battle with Doomsday after he stabs Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear, the scream he lets out awakens the Mother Boxes on earth.
The part of 'now I've heard...' can be linked to Uxas/Darkseid or the New Gods becoming aware that a key defender of Earth is now dead and the Mother Boxes are awakened to attract them to the planet to conquer? A thought...
'That David played and it pleased the Lord' can be linked to the New Gods/Uxas/Darkseid being pleased by the knowledge that a key defender of Earth/Kryptonian is dead - leaving Earth open to conquer.
The next key line is:
The minor fall, the major lift.
Now, this line can be interpreted in a number of ways.
Following Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition (BvS: UE), you can interpret this as referencing the key element of that movie.
'The minor' can refer to Batmans/Bruces descent into aggression and anger and him losing his way. 'The major lift' can refer to Supermans lifting up of Bruce/Batman after their confrontation when Superman asks Bruce to save Martha - humanising Superman and making Batman realise the error of his ways in that he has become that which took his parents all those years ago.
Another angle is you can link 'the minor fall' to joss whedon, geoff johns and all those who meddled with and ruined Zack's original plans and 'the major lift' to Zacks triumphant return to finish his vision.
I for one, subscribe to both interpretations of this!
The next lines that can be linked to the movie are:
The baffled King composing Hallelujah.
This line is played over the shots where we see Arthur Curry leaving a bar.
This can be interpreted as referencing Arthur's conflict in being King of Atlantis but also not knowing if he is truly worthy of being that.
Being half-human and half-Atlantian produces an internal conflict within him - "The baffled King..." a somewhat confused and lonely human that is, should be, King of Atlantis.
Next key lines are:
I did my best. It wasn't much.
The first section - "I did my best..." plays over this shot:
This could be in reference to Cyborgs attempted saving of his parents or himself from what happened to them or to him. He did his best, but "...it wasn't much."
This line can also be linked to Batman - as the second part "...it wasn't much" plays over this shot:
The whole line can also be referring to Batman - he did his best to help Clark/Superman in BvS: UE after regaining his faith in humanity and rediscovering himself, but it wasn't much, as Clark/Superman ended up being killed.
I think one can draw comparisons from that line to both Batman and Cyborg, as there are similarities between both of them.
The next lines we hear are:
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
This line is played over the scenes where we see Martha Kent visit Louis Lane.
The line "I couldn't feel..." can be linked to Louis's emotional state after Clark's death. The death of Clark hit Louis especially hard - one needs to only watch the funeral of Clark at the end of BvS: UE. It would not be surprising to see Louis emotionally shut off from the world during the opening of ZSJL.
The second part - "...so I tried to touch."
Plays over the shot of Martha and Louis embracing each other.
Now - two interpretations. One is that it can be referring to Louis's, and Martha's, attempts at feeling something (emotions) again - as Martha lost her son and Louis lost her partner when Clark died.
Secondly, a far-fetched idea that I have just thought of.
It is reportedly after the scene in the flat between Martha and Louis and upon Martha's departure from the flat, she turns into Martian Manhunter and then into General Swanwick.
The line "...I tried to touch" could be hinting at this. As Martian Manhunter, or Martha, may not be able to feel, as she is not actually Martha, (I am not 100% versed in Martian Manhunter or DC Law) so Louis's attempts to touch fell, or will, fall flat. Just a thought!
On to the next shots! The next shots we get are of Arthur in Atlantis where he speaks with Mera.
The lyrics over these shots are:
I've told the truth. I didn't come to fool ya.
These lines can be referring to Arthus ongoing conflict of being the King of Atlantis. During this scene, he is speaking with Mera and likely Vulko as well.
It is likely that Mera will be trying to convince Arthur to return to Atlantis and take up his rightful place as King and lead the Atlantians into the future. I also think in this shot, Vulko presents Arthur with the armour and trident.
The line "I've told the truth..." can be a reference to Arthurs ongoing position in not wanting to be King and that he is not worthy of that title or role.
The second part of the line - "I didn't come to fool ya." plays over the below shot:
The line "I didn't come to fool ya." can be linked to Arthurs honesty style and approach as we've seen in Aquaman and will see in ZSJL. He tells the truth and as things are. He doesn't want to be King. He doesn't believe he's right for that. He'll say that. He didn't come to fool them by saying he'll do it or be the right for it.
The next line and scenes can be interpreted a number of ways as well.
The line goes:
And even thought it all went wrong, I'll stand before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
One of the first interpretations one can make - and is one that I like as well - is that it refers, again, to the journey and tribulations Zack and the team went through.
The production of Justice League was beset with tragedy, studio meddling and interference, forced re-shoots, abuse and poor management - the list goes on and on. The line "...even though it all went wrong..." can be linked to that.
The line also plays over the below shot of a distressed Cyborg:
This can be linked to the context of this scene - I believe that this takes place shortly after Cylis's death and Steppenwolf's retrieval of another Mother Box. It's all gone wrong for the League.
The next line - "I'll stand before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah" can be linked, similar to the previous line, to two parts.
Firstly, it plays over this shot below of the resurrected Superman:
Superman has been represented in Zacks work as being a holy figure - with several comparisons to Jesus and a living God among the population of Earth. Lex was particularly disapproving this notion.
The line "stand before the lord...with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah" can be linked to the people of Earth, Louis Lane, the Justice League etc standing before Superman with no resentment or previous feelings of anger - which was a key them in BvS: UE - but are grateful and in awe that he has returned.
It can also be linked to Zacks triumphant return to the DCEU and finishing his amazing and brilliant vision for the Justice League. Even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the fans and everyone with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah - appreciation and thanks to the fans for the unwavering support, dedication and love for his work and his vision.
#ReleaseTheSnyderCut - summarised in that line.
The rest of the trailer includes select shots with the chorus singing 'Hallelujah' a continuation of the overwhelming joy that we are finally getting THE REAL Justice League.
One last line of Hallelujah plays over this shot:
What more needs to be said. It's literal perfection.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. If you think of any other possible links, do feel free to get in touch and let me know!
Zack Snyders Justice League is available to stream on HBO Max March 18.
On a personal note, as we discussed the importance of this song to Zack and the Snyder family and mentioned his beloved daughter, Autumn, at the start of this I have linked below to the official American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFsP) tribute fund for Autumn Snyder.
If you can, please do donate to this very worthy cause.
Thank you again!