Many DC Extended Universe fans are campaigning for Warner Bros. to release a Zack Snyder director’s cut of Justice League, but after his other franchise entries were so derided, would it actually be an improvement?
The long road to the theatrical release of Justice League, the first live-action DC superhero team-up, was a long and arduous one for Warner Bros. Following the critical disappointments of its predecessors, as well as endless behind-the-scenes drama before shooting even began, what was intended to be DC’s version of The Avengers fell victim to an endless array of problems. The reshoots were extensive, the budget ever increasing, and original director Zack Snyder bowed out of production due to family issues, leaving Joss Whedon to pick up the slack. The final product disappointed critics and audiences alike, with its losses allegedly costing the studio somewhere between $75m – 100m.
As the DCEU works to stay on track and move forward with new plans – from a prestige origin story for The Joker to the upcoming Aquaman to a women-led ensemble piece with Birds of Prey and much more – some fans are fighting for something else. The campaign for the mythic Snyder Cut of Justice League has been ongoing since the movie premiered in cinemas. As of the writing of this post, a Change.org petition to Warner Bros. for a release of the original director’s cut – as well as the return of the original score by Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a. Junkie XL – has over 178,000 signatures. It’s certainly one that sends a message to Warner Bros., mainly that there is clear demand for something in a franchise that has often struggled to retain audience interests.
It’s questionable whether Warner Bros. would ever release a Snyder Cut of Justice League. For one thing, such an endeavor would cost a lot of money and probably may not be seen as a worthwhile investment given the film’s $300m budget and its worldwide gross of under $658m. There may also be issues of expanded universe continuity raised from an alternative cut to the film. Did Snyder’s take on the story – what was intended to be the only version – conflict with the franchise plans?
Regardless of the legalities surrounding this issue, the key question remains as to whether or not the Snyder cut would actually be better than the mish-mash final product we got. Would its quality be radically different from the film audiences got and were so let down by? Would the undisputed vision of one artist, whose style and tone remains distinctly their own, be a more satisfying product than a movie by committee?
- This Page: What Was Wrong With The Released Justice League?
- Page 2: Was Snyder's Vision for Justice League Better?
- Page 3: The Snyder Cut In Its Current Form Would Be Incomplete
What Was Wrong With The Released Justice League?
The Justice League film that saw the light of day in theaters last year is a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie. That’s not to say it’s an unmitigated disaster – it’s a noted step up from Suicide Squad – but it’s clearly the product of too many cooks and not enough time. While the early narrative of the film's release insisted that Whedon came on board for reshoots and a quick script punch-up, the final product seems far more influenced by his style than Snyder's, suggesting the reshoots and post-production went off-path from the supposed Snyder blueprint.
There are major tonal shifts throughout, suggesting Warner Bros. were eager to move away from the more gritty and serious tone that Snyder had established in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Various attempts to inject humor into the film feel at odds with the foundational narrative. Some moments also feel hopelessly out of place in the current climate, such as a scene where Barry Allen falls in the breasts of Wonder Woman. It didn't help that audiences had already seen this distasteful moment unfold in an almost identical manner in Avengers: Age of Ultron, also written and directed by Whedon. The sexual tension between Diana and Bruce Wayne has also been amped up in the reshoots, which is very much in line with the kind of relationship dynamics Whedon likes in his work.
Massive stylistic changes were also made, such as an overhaul of the cinematography’s color grading. Once again, this was seemingly done to move away from the DCEU’s earlier visual style, which is muted and rooted more in realism than whimsy. Overall, the film is certainly brighter but also muddy in a way that suggests serious changes in post-production. It’s another move made to move the film away from Snyder's distinctive signature style.
Superman's return to the film seems to have been the meat of the reshoots, as evidenced by the mustache seen around the world. Thanks to Paramount holding the contractual right of mustache ownership for Mission: Impossible 6, Henry Cavill could not shave for the reshoots, meaning Warner Bros. had to CGI out the bottom half of his face. It's a glaringly obvious problem in the finished film, and the sheer amount of it betrays the producer's insistence that Whedon only did about 20% of the final product.
Crucially, a lot of scenes from the original Justice League trailer are nowhere to be seen in the end movie. Trailers often contain scenes that don't appear in the film but the degree to which things changed between the first two trailers and the 2017 San Diego Comic Con extended sneak peek is glaring. As noted in an earlier post, a lot suddenly disappeared from the narrative:
"So, a lot's gone: Bruce's extended journey to Amnesty Bay; all of Cyborg pre-transformation; Barry breaking the window with his finger; Bruce watching the Superman hologram; most of Bruce and Diana's recruitment discussion; the League rallying before fighting Steppenwolf in Gotham - Cyborg not believing in Batman and Wonder Woman preparing the team; Cyborg saving the policeman at Hero's Park; Aquaman fighting up towards Steppenwolf in the finale; Cyborg flying into the sky; the gang stood heroically against an orange sky. Additionally, although they were never in the trailers, Willem Dafoe's Vulko and Kiersey Clemons' Iris West are nowhere to be seen. Notice that these are all moments with actors, meaning we're not just dealing with altered effects shots but actual days of principal production undone."
Overall, the final cut of Justice League is clearly more Whedon-esque than Snyder-esque, despite studio claims that the fill-in director’s influence was minimal. This seems to be the big problem for fans who latched onto Snyder’s vision, and thus want to see his uncorrupted take on these characters.
Page 2 of 3: Was Snyder's Original Vision Better?
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020