It's been two years to the day since the release of Justice League and people are still talking about the Snyder Cut. In May 2017, director Zack Snyder stepped down from the project in the wake of a family tragedy as Joss Whedon stepped in to conduct reshoots that were said to be minor and maintain Snyder's original vision, but by the time the movie hit theaters, that was clearly not the case. The tone was drastically altered, the story was rewritten, and the movie as a whole was a nightmarish Frankenstein's monster of two disparate visions hastily stitched together at the last second.
Fans immediately called for the release of Snyder's original version of the movie as a petition grew to reach 180 thousand signatures, deleted scenes leaked, and Justice League bombed at the box office. Fans hungry to find out what Snyder's true original vision was started pouring through trailers and behind the scenes photos to identify all the missing footage and, piece by piece, glimpses of a totally different movie began to appear. Evidence of missing scenes continued to be discovered revealing missing backstory for underdeveloped characters, deleted action scenes, payoff from previous movies, and more. Everywhere fans looked, from concept art to VFX reels to behind the scenes photos, evidence of a totally different version of the movie continued to mount.
Eventually, these leaks became even more drastic as storyboards revealed DC mega-villain Darkseid (who we now know was played by Ray Porter) was supposed to be a looming force, the Knightmare scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had a continuation, and a number of fairly major characters were just entirely removed. Slowly, Zack Snyder himself started to join in, occasionally dropping an image revealing something new about his version of the movie.
Fans mounted bigger and bigger campaigns, raising money for big publicity pushes at Comic-Con and raising over $110 thousand for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the name of Snyder's daughter, Autumn, all the while keeping #ReleaseTheSnyderCut alive on Twitter, reaching a fever pitch this last week leading to the anniversary as Snyder and his cast and crew all fed the flames.
When movies are reshot all the time in Hollywood, what makes Justice League so special and why are calls for a Snyder Cut louder than ever, even though the studio is clearly pivoting away from that direction and - so far - ignoring any mention of the Snyder Cut at all?
Warner Bros. Tried to Hide The Existence of One of the Biggest Movies of All Time
The Avengers may be all the rage right now after the Marvel Cinematic Universe successfully brought the Infinity Saga to a close with Avengers: Endgame, the world's new number one box office champion, but the Justice League has always been a far more popular comic-book team, at least until recently. While Marvel's team is comprised of mostly B and C squad characters, Justice League has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, three of the most well-known characters in fiction and has had a number of popular animated incarnations.
On top of the team's place in pop culture, Justice League was going to be one of the biggest movies ever made with a budget of around $275 million. It was the team's first cinematic incarnation and was expected to be DC's response to the MCU.
When Warner Bros. decided to change Justice League, they didn't just want to make some alterations or add connective tissue or add comedic relief. What the studio did was aptly described by many as an attempt to "de-Snyder" the movie. Zack Snyder is known for his bold visuals and darker tones and high contrast colors and lighting but since the reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was so strong, those were all things the studio sought to minimize, in addition to cutting as many clear references to his past DC films as possible.
The official line from the cast and crew during the press tour was that the movie still honored Zack Snyder's vision (when it clearly didn't) and before Comic-Con 2018, a Wall Street Journal article cited an unnamed Warner Bros. exec who suggested the Snyder Cut didn't exist and Warner Bros. had no plans of releasing it.
The only problem is... the Snyder Cut does exist.
The Snyder Cut Exists
Before we get too far into this, we need to define "exists." That doesn't mean it's ready to be projected onto an IMAX screen tomorrow. There's still some work to be done, but the cut does exist in a relevant form. Whether it's 100% done or 80% done, the fact of the matter is there's a mostly complete, totally different, $275 million blockbuster sitting in Warner Bros. archives collecting dust as thousands of fans campaign to see it.
The Donner Cut of Superman II wasn't nearly as far along as Justice League as Donner didn't even finish principal photography, while Zack Snyder finished 100% of principal photography and around six months of post-production, so, considering the Donner Cut got finished and released, it's more than fair to describe the Snyder Cut as something that "exists."
This wouldn't be so significant if it weren't for the fact there have been so many claims that the Snyder Cut doesn't exist. Many fans and journalists still push the notion that the Snyder Cut doesn't exist, which, in the face of all the evidence that it does, only serves to bolster the significance of the fact that it's a real thing. And this isn't just wishful thinking. The puzzle pieces proving Zack Snyder was fairly far along have been evident since Justice League was released in theaters, but now many members of the cast and crew, including Snyder himself, have confirmed the movie exists.
The Studio Misunderstood Batman v Superman's Reception
Most of the changes to Justice League can be traced back to the reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. BvS was met by such severe backlash that Warner Bros. had Snyder and Chris Terrio rewrite the original Justice League script mere weeks before production was set to start. The backlash was certainly strong, but opinions have started to soften over time, especially with the release of the Ultimate Edition, Snyder's preferred cut with a number of very relevant story details cut from the theatrical version.
While the movie still has its strong detractors, the part Warner Bros. failed to notice was the fact that it got a reaction at all. Many poorly reviews movies based on famous IPs have come and gone in the past decade, but none of them continue to dominate the conversation like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Divisive is an understatement, but the movie got people to talk and debate, and it still performed admirably at the box office, almost reaching $900 million.
Compare that to Justice League, which people only talk about now in the context of the Snyder Cut, as there's nothing nearly so engaging in the film itself. Even Aquaman, which saw mostly positive reviews and crossed $1 billion at the box office - the two things Warners wanted from BvS - still isn't talked about as much as BvS.
Batman v Superman drives debates online on a near-daily basis, often over questions intentionally posited by the movie itself: How should Superman behave? Who should he save? How violent can Batman be without crossing his line? Can power be innocent? What makes someone a hero? These are all things people care about, so needless to say, people had passionate responses. While many of those answers were negative toward the movie, they were still compelling questions people couldn't stop debating, and Warners only wishes people took that kind of interest in Justice League.
People Can't Stop Talking About Zack Snyder
The biggest reason people can't stop talking about the Snyder Cut is because of Zack Snyder himself. People's opinions on him as a director are just as split as their opinion on his movies, with many embracing his hyper-visual larger than life approach to mythical concepts and storytelling, while others find it too dark and violent and lacking a focus on the characters and too on-the-nose. While debates over the quality of his movies are likely to continue, one thing that's no a debate is his influence on pop culture.
Everyone is free to have their own taste in movies, but Zack Snyder is undoubtedly an auteur filmmaker, only one that deals in massive blockbuster movies and loves to try to hit the zeitgeist right on the head as often as possible. This approach is bound to turn off a number of audience members, but the fact remains that it means something to be "a Zack Snyder movie."
Many of his detractors deny that's the case, but the proof is in the pudding with Justice League alone. The Whedon additions stand out so badly against the Snyder's footage because people know what a Snyder movie looks like and it's something Whedon was unable to replicate. Numerous other directors have had their movies rewritten and reshot to similar extents, but none have seen anywhere near the same level of fan campaign. The fact that Zack Snyder is also teasing and encouraging fans who want to see his version of the Snyder Cut also keeps the topic alive.
The concept of the Snyder Cut has gotten so popular it's now used as shorthand for "the better version" of something people considered a letfown. It's so popular that a promo video featuring a language inventor had him translating the phrase into high Valyrian from Game of Thrones alongside other huge pop-culture phrases like "use the Force" or "live long and prosper.
If it wasn't clear before, it should be clear now. The noise around Zack Snyder's original version of the movie is reaching a crescendo, and it's high time for Warner Bros. to finally address the Snyder Cut.