A single word that was deleted from the final theatrical cut of Justice League has us wondering why the minds behind the DCEU would choose to ignore Batman's backstory. There's been no shortage of controversy surrounding Justice League since its release last November. And now that the film is set to arrive on Blu-ray in the near future, DC's latest misstep in their shared cinematic universe is back in the news.
One of the biggest topics of discussion coming out of Justice League has been the various changes that were made to to the film over the course of its production, especially during its reshoots stage. After director Zack Snyder was forced to leave the project during post-production, Joss Whedon was tapped to take the helm and oversee those reshoots. And while producers have attempted to downplay the impact the reworked footage had on the finished product, it’s surprisingly easy to spot the sweeping changes that were made to Snyder’s original vision when you know what to look for. One change in particular that was made at some point during production -- though not necessarily during the reshoot phase -- has us scratching our heads.
As pointed out online by Twitter user @scedydesigner, Commissioner Gordon's big line from the first official Justice League trailer was altered ever so slightly for the big screen. In the trailer, upon seeing Batman working alongside his fellow Justice Leaguers, Gordon remarks, "It's good to see you playing well with others again." It's a great line, one that helps illuminate the growth the Dark Knight is experiencing after moving past his rage monster-y phase from Batman v Superman while effectively alluding to Batman's crimefighting past. But by the time Justice League hit theaters, Gordon was no longer saying "again". And though the loss of a single word from a single line in a two-hour-long movie may seem insignificant, this minor edit does way more damage than it should.
Why it matters
It's good to see you playing well with others.
We'll start right out with the line's biggest problem: as it is in the theatrical cut, Commissioner Gordon's quip implies that he's never seen Batman working well with others before. So either Gotham's top cop has a terrible memory, or the DCEU is shying away from bringing up Batman's past, specifically as it pertains to former partners like Batgirl and the various Robins. These are characters that Warner Bros. has active plans for on the big screen, as both Nightwing and Batgirl have been tapped to star in their own solo movies within the next few years. Assuming those two films are still in the cards, alluding to the characters' existence now feels like a no-brainer. It's about as straightforward as world-building gets, and someone opted against it.
While researching this piece, we even came across some fans that were concerned that Warner Bros. is looking to pull off a quiet reboot of the DCEU Dark Knight's history, in the vein of what they did with Wonder Woman abandoning mankind. This is a pretty massive stretch, of course, one we don't see happening. What little we know about the Caped Crusader's tortured vigilante past was learned in Batman v Superman, namely when Bruce Wayne stopped to look at the defaced Robin costume hanging in the Batcave. The removal of "again" doesn't negate that by itself; it's just an odd move by Warner Bros., one that refuses to commit to a character's history by pretending it doesn't exist.
Why the change was made
Commissioner Gordon's fun use of snark is a quick, efficient bit of worldbuilding that doesn't distract from the overall narrative one bit. So why was it cut? As far as we can tell, there's only one reason why dropping "again" makes any sense whatsoever.
The original line could be confusing for folks that aren't at all familiar with Batman's mythos. (We guess. If we have to. And we do, so we did. But we rolled our eyes super hard while we did it.) When he was introduced in BvS, the latest iteration of the Caped Crusader hit the ground running as a masked vigilante in his mid-40s with 20+ years of unseen crimefighting experience. Several times throughout his debut, we get nods at his past, hints that he wasn't always like this. No origin story or flashbacks are provided, but the message is (seemingly) clear: this Batman is a pretty miserable human being who's experienced some truly awful stuff.
Was anyone really feeling lost here? BvS had a whole mess of problems, but was "it assumes too much of its audience" ever one of them? It seems that someone behind the scenes was actually concerned that moviegoers would be confused if Gordon referred back to a past they hadn't seen with their own eyes. But is alluding to widely known, incredibly popular characters like Robin and Batgirl really a deeper cut than Alfred's "exploding, wind-up penguins" reference?
The likely culprit
There's three possible culprits behind the line tweak: Justice League's original director Zack Snyder, his replacement Joss Whedon, or the studio behind it all, Warner Bros. And from our perspective, this reeks of studio meddling.
The trailer in which the line appears debuted shortly before Snyder left the project, so it's safe to assume that he didn't axe it. And even though he was hired to oversee reshoots, Whedon definitely didn't hold the sort of power over final cut that most fans assume he did. He's also supposed to make a DCEU Batgirl movie in the near future, so why would he want to chop up a line that teases the character? With those two off the board, it's clear that someone behind the scenes at Warner Bros. made the call, be it a producer, a particularly involved executive, or some other decision-maker with clout. In any event, it's a good time to be thankful that WB is undergoing some big changes at the executive level.
Justice League was subjected to a lot of tweaks over the course of its production, but this may be the most unnecessary one of all. Assuming, of course, that it wasn't just a slip-up in the ADR department that somehow made it through to the final cut. In that case, hey, mistakes happen, and we're really sorry for blowing up your spot here.