A Chronology of Justice League's Production
In October of 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced that Zack Synder would be directing Justice League Part 1 with Justice League Part 2 set for 2019. The "Part 1" and "Part 2" labeling gave many people the impression that it was a single story split between two films with a cliffhanger, although it would later be specified that Justice League was intended to be a standalone story, including some set up for the rest of the DCEU, but not necessarily ending on a cliffhanger. It's not clear if Part 1 and Part 2 were always independent stories or if this is one of the changes that happened after Batman v Superman, but either way, Justice League entered production as a stand alone story without plans for a cliffhanger. As we'll continue to see moving forward, the DCEU regularly has issues with PR, so this kind of confusion isn't unique.
Leading up to the release of Batman v Superman, BvS and JL writer Chris Terrio said Justice League was going to be a much lighter story than BvS, since the latter had the dark task of finding a way to bring the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel to blows, pointing out that the middle film of most trilogies is the darkest one, and the 3rd is the one that sees redemption. This was corroborated by Debora and Zack Snyder, who specified during BvS promotion that new characters, particularly Flash, would be a major source of the tonal change, and once again reiterated on the Justice League set visit where Snyder said Justice League was always going to be more optimistic, although the reception of BvS definitely caused them to lean into that optimism a little more.
As Warner Bros. adjusted their film divisions, giving Geoff Johns and Jon Berg leadership roles over DC films, the two chiefs reiterated that tone was going to evolve as planned, although maybe at a faster pace, with Berg telling the Wall Street Journal: "We accelerated the story to get to the hope and optimism a little faster." However, despite the accelerated tonal change, Geoff Johns was also quick to point out that "it’s not like we should change everything to be about hope and optimism," because characters, context, and story can all demand various tones. He goes on to verify that the characterizations in the DCEU are exactly what he wants: "There’s nothing to change. That’s what these characters are."
As the official heads of DC Films, the words of Johns and Berg were initially accepted as fairly definitive statements, something that was sorely needed in the wake of Zack Snyder bringing in Joss Whedon to replace him for the Justice League reshoots. Whedon had already been involved, writing some new scenes at the request of Snyder, and his part in the project was just to "help Zack finish his vision" by filming those additional scenes. While the combination of Snyder and Whedon may normally be seen as an enticing improvement for both fans and detractors of the two directors, the move understandably cast doubt on the project's future due to the already polarizing nature of the DCEU.
The perception that Whedon would simply be completing a paint-by-number originally conceived by Zack Snyder began to fade when it was announced that Junkie XL would be replaced by Danny Elfman. With a long career, Elfman has a reputation for some more whimsical movies, but he also composed some of the most famous superhero scores outside of John Williams' Superman theme, specifically Spider-Man and Batman. Junkie XL's removal was attributed to a scheduling conflict (he had to start work on Tomb Raider before JL would be ready), but Elfman worked with Whedon on Avengers: Age of Ultron, so the rumors persisted.
Despite all of this, Zack Snyder completed 100% of principal photography, meaning DGA rules prohibit him from being excluded from post production decision making. It's entirely possible that Snyder has declined this right, preferring to shut his movie out completely as his family deals with their recent loss, but Warner Bros. President and Chief Content Officer Toby Emerich says the Snyders are "actively involved in several upcoming DC pictures, including their continued creative input on Justice League," so it is still most definitely Zack Snyders' movie, even though he's not physically holding a camera in London for reshoots.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Cyborg (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020