Zack Snyder is Entitled to a Director's Cut
Update: this section has been updated for clarity to include information from a more complete version of the DGA Basic Agreement.
First things first: what is a director's cut? Most consumers are familiar with the term from a home video marketing perspective where it's used to distinguish an alternate version of a movie, but when the DGA or other industry professionals use it, they're referring to a specific stage of production where the director is allowed to present their version of the movie.
Zack Snyder was guaranteed the right to make that director's cut by the DGA since he completed 100% of principal photography, and the DGA Basic Agreement stipulates that "The Director’s right to prepare his or her Director’s Cut is absolute" under those conditions. Nobody (producers or otherwise) are allowed to influence or cut around the director for the purposes of this edit, and the window of completion is "Ten weeks, or one day of editing for each two days of scheduled photography, whichever is longer."
This window begins after the completion of principal photography meaning it closed before the end of December 2016 and by all accounts, this was completed by Zack Snyder, but rejected by Warner Bros, triggering the hiring of Whedon and reshoots that led to the theatrical cut. This is likely the version of the movie that was considered "unwatchable."
The only thing is, WB isn't required to produce or distribute this cut. They are required to allow "a preview of the Director’s Cut of a theatrical motion picture before a public audience or, at the Producer’s choice, a private audience of no less than 100 persons (excluding relatives and employees)," but considering this is a version of the film they roundly rejected early into post-production, it's unlikely to see this get a release any time soon.
UPDATE: Since the publishing of this article, multiple people involved in production have clarified that Zack Snyder did, in fact, get all the footage he needed outside of some potential minor reshoots.
Moreover, this isn't merely a matter of a Zack Snyder cut of the movie, it's an issue of Zack Snyder's footage. There's not a "Zack Snyder Cut" simply sitting on a shelf waiting for distribution. With both Batman v Superman, and Watchmen, and Sucker Punch, the longer versions were compiled prior to release - and at least the Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition was even considered for a theatrical release - but the situation with Justice League is entirely different.
Justice League was clearly drastically changed before it even went into production, meaning Snyder's original vision was altered, then on top of that, the extensive reshoots were clearly devoted to turning Snyder's footage into another movie. Given he didn't get any reshoot time to service his own version of the movie, he's missing the footage he needs, and the footage he does have is going to be missing completed effects. The DGA Basic Agreement guarantees time "to incorporate reasonable temp effects (and have additional cutting time necessary to do so) for the preview of your Director’s Cut," but that doesn't mean WB will open its wallet to complete those effects for an alternate version of the movie in home release. Even a limited theatrical run couldn't justify that expense. This means that, if Zack Snyder is allowed to make a cut, it will be a Zack Snyder cut that has to rely on a lot of Whedon's footage (which means some bad mustache masking and poor green screen issues will persist).
There Could Be an "Extended Cut"
This is all assuming Snyder has any interest in returning. As mentioned above, he's been uninvolved since his exit and appears to have little interest in returning, having not even seen the movie in any form since his exit. Having apologized to fans for not completing his story, Snyder appears resigned to leave things as they are, which is understandable. Without the resources to properly assemble a cut that aligns with his original vision, there's very little incentive for him to return to the editor's booth when he has other creative endeavors on his plate where he'll have more creative freedom.
Having said that, there's a possibility of some sort of "extended" cut including some more connective tissue, but it won't be Snyder's version and it won't have Junkie XL's music instead of Danny Elfman's. Whedon has distanced himself from the movie, and his social media behavior suggests even he isn't the biggest fan, so any such cut likely wouldn't even earn the "Director's Cut" label as it will merely have an editor insert some key deleted scenes and call it a day. Ultimately it makes more sense to just include those scenes as Blu-Ray extras and move on.
Finally, with all of the changes made by Joss Whedon and Warner Bros. resulting in a movie that only saw a marginal improvement in critical reception from Batman v Superman, ultimately resulting in an abysmal franchise-low $96 million opening weekend, Warner Bros. is in a lose-lose situation. Not only would releasing a superior cut of the movie not be financially viable, but it will also serve as definitive proof that Justice League's failure lies squarely on the studio's meddling - for the third time in a five-movie franchise. DC's movie future is definitely up in the air following Justice League, but one thing that can fairly easily be ruled out is an official Zack Snyder cut. But don't be surprised if some enterprising fans create a strong fan-edit community, we may yet see a variety or fan cuts attempting to bring Justice League more in-line with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, especially if deleted Zack Snyder scenes continue to leak.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019