The Justice League movie seems like Zack Snyder's last in the series - and believe us, the DC Movie Universe is worse off because of it. The studio has said little about their plans post-Justice League, clearly not the financial or critical course-correction it was hoped to be on the heels of Wonder Woman. And with Zack Snyder not seeing the movie since stepping away, and given how much Joss Whedon and WB changed of his cut, the man who started the DC Movie Universe has an unknown role to play in its future - if there is one planned at all.
For those who felt that Zack Snyder was always the problem, not simply for his tone, but his entire method of storytelling, Justice League seemed the perfect chance to prove it. Considering the reactions to Justice League's 'Frankenstein-ed' identity (and some woeful CG mishaps), the problem was never that simple. And for the fans demanding Snyder's version of Justice League be released, the movie that was supposed to jumpstart DC using Snyder's successes has crushed it into the dust.
But with Snyder's "trilogy" finished, it's finally possible to see what he really hoped to accomplish with his Justice League story, and how WB may have become their biggest enemy. It's too late for Snyder to turn Aquaman into the next Wonder Woman, but given the decisions made by the studio, they may have misunderstood Snyder's hopes for Justice League as deeply as comic fans, pundits, bloggers, and moviegoers did every step of the way.
Snyder's 'Marvel-esque' Role Was Misrepresented From The Start
It's an understatement to say that in hindsight, speculation and rumor mongering ran completely amok with regards to Zack Snyder's, WB's, or anyone's intentions in building a 'DC movie universe' from the beginning. the main reason being that few could possibly imagine Snyder or DC NOT emulating (read: copying) Marvel's formula. Yet when Snyder and WB confirmed that Man of Steel was set in a universe populated by other DC heroes, the speculation returned to just how quickly Marvel's 'shared universe' of origin stories would be copied under Snyder's supervision, even after Man of Steel contained little evidence of other heroes at all.
Instead, the movie showed what superhero films could be at DC - not what they must be, or all that audiences should expect. They showed that the demand for serious superheroes proven with The Dark Knight had been heard.
But where Nolan's story had been exclusionary, let Snyder leave the doors open for stories of the supernatural, the superhuman, and the alien - and those filmmakers who might wish to walk through them.
When Batman v Superman was announced as the next Snyder film, those who claimed WB was fast-tracking their shared universe claimed vindication, and that a new Batman was the first step in launching it. Elsewhere, some criticized the shameless, greedy drive to replicate Marvel's box office by 'skipping' the necessary steps (the ones Marvel had taken). Since then all involved have admitted that Snyder's Superman series only became a team-up when trying to choose an antagonist for Man of Steel 2.
Once someone asked "what if it was Batman?" there was no going back. Every fan of DC Comics can understand why, since the one person unafraid to stand against Superman has always been Batman... and the only one who could stand between them is Wonder Woman.
Warner Bros. gave the thumbs up, clearly feeling (as many fans eventually did) that an older, cynical, extreme, Frank Miller-esque Batman was a fresh enough take from Nolan's for fans to accept so soon. And with Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince entering Superman's story organically, there was really only one place it could all head...
Snyder's Justice League is One Story, Not a Universe
Man of Steel was Zack Snyder's first Superman movie. Its direct sequel, Batman V Superman introduced the Dark Knight to hold Superman accountable for the prior film. And finally, the events of both previous films all led to Justice League - uniting DC's biggest heroes as the thematic and logical conclusion, meant to signal the arrival of a brighter future (that was the plan, anyway).
A single story, from a single storyteller, told in a single style across three films with a beginning, middle, and an end. Yet Marvel's and Joss Whedon's success in shepherding an entire film slate had already shifted the conversation along with the goal posts. That meant Snyder's films were never judged in installments, as a profitable movie series from a divisive director - fairly common in Hollywood - but as an entire universe. As goes Snyder, so goes DC, with every hero, movie, and filmmaker forced to adhere creatively and canonically.
Except that isn't how DC's movie universe has taken shape... because it was never meant to. It's bad enough that this lens meant the accomplishments and creativity Snyder helped foster were overlooked completely. But with Justice League's reshoots and cuts clearly sidelining Snyder's original vision for an emulation of something much closer to Marvel's style, WB may have made another Wonder Woman impossible.