This gets to the darker, ickier aspect of the criticisms being leveled at Whedon: if the movie is almost certainly more his than Snyder’s, why has he been almost completely silent about his involvement? There’s a really obvious answer to this that fans seem to be completely incapable of grasping, for whatever reason; given the circumstances that led to his assuming directorial duties, Whedon likely feels it’s not his place to discuss the film. By all accounts, Whedon was brought onto the production by Snyder himself once it was apparent there were issues with the script. Whedon and Snyder are friends and have been complimentary of each other’s work in the past. Whedon is also one of the most prolific script doctors in Hollywood going back to his earliest days in show business; the writers of the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock thriller Speed have famously said the vast majority of that film’s dialogue belongs to Whedon, who is uncredited. Quietly coming in to work on Justice League’s problems was likely something Whedon had no real qualms doing. Assuming directorial duties was likely another matter entirely, and taking on promotional duties as well as simply a bridge too far.
It’s easy to imagine Whedon having to uncomfortably field endless questions about how much he meddled with his grieving friend’s work, or having to answer for the shortcomings of a film almost everyone involved knew wasn’t going to be a masterpiece. It seems perfectly reasonable that Whedon would opt out of such futile exercises, for both his own comfort and out of respect for Snyder.
That a large swath of DCEU fans have so acutely directed their fury at Whedon also speaks to another hard truth: this is almost certainly the end of the line for the collaboration between Zack Snyder and DC, and it’s likely going to be remembered by the public at large as a failure. And while that sentiment is shared by a majority of casual moviegoers, for many fans, Snyder has done something thrilling and creatively daring with his DC films, taking big risks with these iconic characters by presenting them in ways they largely never had been before. For those fans, DC’s new direction is not necessarily a positive thing, and having Snyder’s final DC film so fundamentally altered by Marvel’s most high profile director feels like a slap in the face.
There were no good answers with Justice League. Its fate was likely sealed the moment Warner Bros. decided not to delay its production after Batman v Superman’s polarizing reception. It’s incredibly doubtful that Zack Snyder was prepping some cinematic masterpiece that we’ve been collectively robbed of. Snyder and Warner Bros. were going in opposite directions even before tragedy struck. Damning Joss Whedon for taking on an impossible task while his friend grieved an unimaginable loss is the dark side of fandom, putting more value into the entertainment so many use to define themselves than on basic human empathy.
It’s not like Warner Bros. is scrapping their shared superhero universe. Aquaman is coming in late 2018, Shazam! seems fairly close to the start of production, and a Wonder Woman sequel is the surest of sure things. Justice League is ultimately a speed bump, a product of Warner Bros.’s hubris and shortsightedness. It’s perfectly reasonable to blame the studio for bungling what should have been their biggest DC film ever, and to hold their feet to the fire until they can consistently churn out winners like Wonder Woman. But it’s time to stop blaming Joss Whedon.
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