Opinion - #ReleaseTheSnyderCut
In going back over my initial Justice League review, wow…I can’t believe I left out the Russians. You know what I mean, the Russian family in the third act…essentially the Ewoks of the DCEU? [Actually, less so. At least the Ewoks did something. – Ed.] I understand the dramatic crutch they serve, heroes look more heroic when they’re saving someone, and given the flak the DCEU had gotten ever since Man of Steel (which I always felt was misplaced) as well as the reactionary nature of the suits at Warner Bros., at the time of that review, I let it slide. But in subsequent viewings of the film, the need to hit the fast forward button on those scenes became irresistible. What follows though, was my moment of truth.
When asked on social media about the scenes, credited director Zack Snyder gave a response to the effect of “What Russians? No, seriously, what Russians?”
Now, it’s not that I didn’t know the behind the scenes drama of Justice League at the time I wrote my review (albeit being right after my first screening), and even further, I have since been watching every single article, leak and shred of information that has come forth since that beleaguered film’s release. But now it’s time to add my voice to those of others in calling out, either on social media or various public displays (including this year’s San Diego Comic-Con):
The way I want to structure this is as a case study, because it doesn’t take a very deep dive on Google to see that DC fans, and Superman fans in particular, have tread this ground before. So before we dive in to Justice League, let’s take a little bit of a trip in the house WAYBAC machine. [Don’t worry, it’s mostly safe. We bought it from a dog, and while he claims it was from his pet boy, I think we’ve finally got the urine smell mostly gone. Besides, not all of us can afford a TARDIS. – Ed.]
So come with me now, my reader, as we break through the bonds of your earthly confinement, travelling through time and space…
The year was 1978. Well, okay, probably more 1979…but that’s not the point. Superman: The Movie directed by Richard Donner was a smashing success. To save on the long story behind that film, let us simply say that the initial decision was to film Superman and the subsequent Superman II simultaneously and, as such, by the time of the first film’s release, 70% of Superman II had been shot. After a short break to do press for Superman: The Movie and take a breath to enjoy the success of that film, the intent was for all the principles to reconvene to finish up the sequel. In interviews, Donner goes on the record saying that he’d been paid for Part II and he had no plans for asking for more money and while he had no great love for the producers (Alexander and Ilya Salkind as well as Pierre Spengler), he’d made an agreement to make two films and he was set on making two films, especially now that he saw how well received the first film had been. But, unfortunately, there’s documented evidence that Donner also shot his mouth off before his brain had time to catch up back in the day. When speaking to then Variety columnist Army Archerd, Archerd himself made note of the behind-the-scenes tensions between Donner and the producers, saying that because of the strength of the film, said producers were willing to let bygones be bygones and move forward…to which Donner responded with “if he’s (Spengler) is on the picture, I’m not.” Not a bright move…as, sure enough, the Salkinds then informed Donner of his termination via telegraph and that Richard Lester was being brought in to finish Superman II.
But, as I said in my look at Superman II, for a director to get credit for a film, it has to be comprised of more than 50% of said director’s scenes. Thus, Lester could not put his name on a Superman II that consisted of 70% Richard Donner scenes. The result is a Superman II that still garnered critical and popular acclaim…but also showed signs of where Lester was going to take the franchise and sadly, that being a slapstick abattoir.
The interesting thing is that strangely, in a world without the internet, the Donner footage didn’t go away. Instead, we have to go back in time to a world where home video either didn’t exist or was thought to be a threat to the on-air networks. The easiest way for people back then to catch movies that had since exited their theatrical runs was via on-air broadcast and, in order to incentivize viewers to tune in for these broadcasts, networks would incorporate additional footage not found in the theatrical cut. In this way, they could extend films that ran two hours or so in the theaters into two and a half to three hours and, as such, when commercial breaks were added, a network could air the movie as a two-night event. As I mentioned, this came about at the dawn of home video and, as such, some would record these broadcasts…but for most, it would simply result in memories of films that, when revisiting the theatrical cuts that would be made more readily available, would cause confusion: ‘I knew I saw a scene where something-something-something happened…but it’s not in any versions of the film I’ve seen since that one showing back in the 80s…did I misremember it?’ This ended up being pretty common practice for some of the big films of the late 70s and early 80s…I personally can remember this being done for not only Superman and Superman II, but also Alien, Dune, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
As an aside, I’d love to know who assembled those cuts…because, well, there’s the story behind the 3-hour TV cut for Dune that David Lynch hated so much that he had his name taken off the film, so I’m kinda doubting the directors of such films had much, if any, input.
Back on track though, let’s fast forward to the early days of the internet. I often found myself visiting a site run out of Britain called Superman Cinema that highlighted not only the missing footage from Superman: The Movie and Superman II, but gave some fantastic detail about a lot of material missing from Superman IV also. But their emphasis was on Superman II. They actively tracked down a fair amount of the footage missing from Lester’s cut of Superman II but present in the TV version. And given the percentages we talked about earlier, Donner shot 70%, Lester needed to have at least 50% of his own footage in the film for it to be his…anyone want to take a stab at where some of that 20% of Donner’s footage might have shown up? I’m sure you can guess, and Superman Cinema did the investigative work to figure it out, but yes, some of that footage came from Donner’s material.
It’s by this point that we find ourselves forward in time enough where home media had evolved into the digital realm. With surviving tapes of this TV version of Superman II actually still in existence, Superman Cinema put out the call to anyone with the skills and the time to participate: Let’s try to put together a ‘Donner cut’. Meeting with some success, albeit limited given not wanting to piss off Warners, the site then started to call out for an official Donner Cut. And…finally, after 26 years…Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released by Warner Bros. coinciding with the release of Superman Returns to home media. And in that gave rise to an inadvertent, yet far more satisfying, Superman trilogy consisting of Superman, Superman II and Superman Returns as opposed to the four films of the original Christopher Reeve run.
By the time we return to the confines of your galaxy, 13 of your years will have passed. It is now time for you to rejoin your new world and serve in yet another campaign. Justice League can be a great film, it wants to be…it only lacks the light to show the way. For this reason, its capacity for good, I’ll end this belabored tie-in with the Fortress of Solitude scene from Superman: The Movie and get back to the point of this article.
While the story surrounding Justice League smells similar, they don’t necessarily line up exactly. The important thing to remember here is that back when Superman I and II were in production, they were NOT studio films. Even though Warner Bros owned DC Comics and COULD have made these films, instead, the film options were bought by the Salkinds and as such the films were produced under what was at the time called a ‘negative pick-up deal’. In essence, the Salkinds paid for everything upfront: the actors, the sets, the crew needed to make the film happen and then go and shoot the picture. To put it in other words, the Salkinds were in charge of budgeting and paying for the entire production…or in this case, productions as they were making two films. Once each film was complete, they would submit the film to Warners who would then buy it off of them, then, at this point, Warners’ money would go into distributing the film and the selling it to audiences: trailers, posters, ad campaigns and such. The reason that this is an important difference to remember is that in the case of putting together a Donner Cut of Superman II, there was no interference of studio politics. It was simply a case of taking a film from an outside vendor, looking for all materials provided by said vendor and reassembling a new cut of the film.
With Justice League being in-house, this opens up a whole other can of worms and for this, we need to at least do a history lesson of the lead up to production and the behind-the-scenes drama that took place as Justice League was getting prepped for cinema screens.
[Author’s note: Much of what follows has been culled from reports from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The Wire, Deadline and other trade sites as well as Twitter posts from Jay Oliva and Vero posts from Zack Snyder. These articles and posts can easily be found with Google searches. Any material taken from these articles and posts has been paraphrased and there are minimal direct quotes. Given that the reports would hit multiple trades at once, no credit has been given within this piece, but let it be clear, most of the facts that follow are the work of others…only the speculation and correlations are from me.]
As I’ve already discussed in my review for the film, Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel proved to be a divisive film. Some, like myself, champion the film as a masterpiece, bringing the character out of the hazy, anachronistic trappings of the ’78 film and accomplishing the modern day miracle of bringing the character into the present day while others deride it as a disaster-piece. The reason for this derision comes on multiple fronts; for not adhering as strictly to the story set forth in the ’78 film, the death of Jonathon Kent, the destruction-porn of the final act, and/or the decision for Superman to kill General Zod in the final moments of the film. But whatever the public and critical opinion (again, both split), the film did indeed prove to be a financial success and so a sequel was set in motion.
Of course, nothing happens in a vacuum…and Man of Steel was set forth in a post-Avengers movie landscape. With the Marvel brand established and this most recent DC outing owing its roots more to the Nolan Dark Knight films than this Marvelous status-quo, it was clear that the two movie universes were bound to take their own paths forward. Not so, as the heads of Warners wanted in on that sweet, sweet, billion-dollar Avengers money. With the need to get the DC Extended Universe, or the DCEU, caught up to said Marvelous competition as soon as possible, a straight-up Man of Steel sequel was scrapped. All it took was, during a discussion of who Superman should fight next, a single question: ‘What if it’s Batman?’ Snyder’s response was ‘You can’t unhear that’…and Batman v Superman was underway.
BvS would follow right after the battle of Metropolis and allow filmmakers to address some of the blowback from Man of Steel. What they didn’t expect was yet another round of blowback…this time much louder than the first. As per my review of the theatrical cut, I also hold Batman v Superman up as a masterpiece. Much like Man of Steel, that puts me at odds with some, in the same camp as others. But what should shed some light on the topic at hand is the Ultimate Edition of the film that came out with the home video release. This was Snyder’s ‘director’s cut’, clocking in at three hours…and mind you this is pre-Avengers: Endgame where, even with the destined popularity of that film, pundits were STILL questioning if audiences were ready for an epic-length superhero film. As a fan of the theatrical cut, I was expecting the Ultimate Edition to be like most expanded versions of films, adding some extra credit stuff…but not changing the game. And some critics felt that way. Others despised the theatrical cut so much that they didn’t bother with this new cut. Others still, however, were like me: This was the way the film was intended to be seen. This was the version that Warner executives gave a standing ovation. And yet, this was the version that wasn’t going to be seen widely. That window had passed.
It’s in this that we start to see the writing on the wall for Justice League and the stark contrast between how Warners was handling their comic book properties compared to Marvel. Marvel generally pushes forward to some degree and you can point to several examples: using Iron Man, up to that point a c-list character, to launch a cinematic universe, making the first film to take heroes from all their films up to that point into a team-up, taking a generally earth-bound franchise cosmic with the then little known Guardians of the Galaxy, putting forth a minority hero in the hands of a predominantly minority cast and crew as in the case of Black Panther and, most recently, not being afraid of the epic three-hour length. [This isn’t to say that Disney owned Marvel is able to take any risk they want: they’ve yet to release an R-rated film, the films can be somewhat formulaic, both the films and the music must fit into Marvel’s ‘house style’, they were much slower in producing a female-led superhero film and so on. – Ed.] Warners, in their efforts to catch up, instead of forging forward on the new path being set in front of them by Snyder, tried to do both: run with Snyder’s vision…to a point…while trying to copy Mavel, and, in doing so ended up second-guessing themselves time and again. With BvS, yes, it was length…so came the edits and with those cuts, one cannot help but wonder if BvS might have fared better given how, again, some critics were indeed swayed by the Ultimate Cut of the film. [Sadly, not likely, given how internet trolls latched on to the ‘Martha moment’. – Ed.] Another pitfall BvS fell into that some critics locked on to was the ‘haphazard’ (their words, not mine) introduction of the other Justice League members: Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg. Some felt their inclusion felt forced and as such, seemed like DC and Warners blatantly announcing to the audience their intention to catch up to Marvel as quickly as possible, getting Justice League up ASAP and letting the other heroes’ stories spin out of that. And it’s perhaps that sentence right there that best highlights this split-personality Warners had regarding their franchise: We want to be Marvel as quickly as possible…but we don’t want to do what Marvel did.
YOU HAVE TO PICK ONE!
Ahem. Anyway. We all know how BvS turned out: openly mocked on the internet, defended by some and ultimately a commercial success…but not joining the ‘billion dollar club’ the way that executives had hoped. But here’s where a similarity to Superman II kicks in: When BvS released, Justice League was already in development. Much of the pre-production work had been completed. It’s important to remember here that Warners’ decision-making at this point was not based on the critical reception to BvS, but instead their own reaction to Snyder’s cut of the film.
That decision-making changed seemingly on a dime.
Reactionary as they have been proven to be, sure enough the critical backlash against BvS started sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of some of their executives. In a scenario akin to what had earned BvS a standing ovation from these very same execs, an assembly of Justice League, minus some special effects work, was shown…and the reaction wasn’t positive. Talk then started about possibly firing Snyder in an effort to save the film. Instead, the studio demanded reshoots and, once again, notes would indeed indicate that the suits wanted Snyder and Terrio (Chris, the screenwriter for the film) to take a page from Marvel and insert more humor. To aid in this, the studio brought Geoff Johns and, later, Joss Whedon on board for rewrites. This didn’t exactly go over well as there are stories where Johns had excised entire portions of Terrio’s script and, in instances where these new scenes didn’t work within the tapestry of the film, sources have quoted Terrio as saying “Hey, Geoff, how about using some of what I wrote?”
Then, tragedy struck. Zack and Deborah Snyder’s adopted daughter committed suicide.
Now, here’s where we start entering into muddier waters. The official story is that in light of this, Snyder first tried to use the necessary work to be done on Justice League as a refuge…essentially to work through the grief…but soon the official press release came forth: Zack would be stepping aside from Justice League due to this loss and that the film would be finished by Avengers director Joss Whedon.
I remember thinking at the time that this was a significant coup by WB. Sure, I wasn’t terribly enamored with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but to take Joss away from Marvel…that was a big score. In light of the final product, maybe not so much. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Circling back, a question arises: Did Warners use this as an opportunity to let Snyder go in a way that wouldn’t draw negative press toward the film they’d been working on? Given the pressures on the film to continue the upward perception of the DC slate that started with the nigh-universally adored Wonder Woman in the summer of 2017 as well as live up to the precedent Marvel had set with their Avengers films, any negative press, and firing your director and, at this point, guiding force behind the DCEU entire would certainly constitute as negative. But that’s just it, even at this point, negative stories of the conflicts behind the scenes were indeed already seeping out.
This would not get any better. Under Whedon, more reshoots would be needed. Enter Mustache-gate. Never before has lip hair so blighted a picture, but it was during these reshoots that any scene featuring Superman would need some digital touching up. You see, Henry Cavill was filming the next entry in the Mission Impossible franchise, Fallout, and it was in his contract with Paramount not to shave that ‘stache. Reports also surfaced that WB executives, now seemingly in control of the film, made little effort in hiding their attempts to micromanage the film. Even studio head Kevin Tsujihara mandated that the film’s length not exceed 2 hours long. Mind you, Snyder’s cut shown to studio execs was in excess of three hours. (Snyder himself has hinted that the running time was about 214 minutes or 3 hours and 34 minutes.)
While producers insisted that 80-85% of the film was Snyder’s footage, hence why he is the credited director, I would encourage you to do a bit of a search on a more beloved film, George Lucas’ original Star Wars. You see, the initial assembly of that film was considered to be horrendous, mired by poor pacing and a documentary-like feel. Yet, taking the same elements that Lucas had shot, a different group of editors forged a cinematic legend. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you take a second director that doesn’t really have any attachment to the material shot by the first director…and given the initial cut, there was definitely no shortage of material…yet has done a number of reshoots to the film that were indeed intended to change the very nature of the film he’d inherited as per studio notes, then sure, you can have a high percentage of the initial director’s filmed work in the movie but the assembly of these disparate parts can and did result in the Frankenstein’s monster that ended up being Justice League. Or, I guess at this point, we can start calling it what some of the crew of the film call it…Joss-tice League.
You know what we still haven’t talked about yet? Special effects. I’m not saying that a film has to be set in stone before effects work can begin…hell, the opposite is true…effects houses like to get started as soon as they possibly can and, with pre-vis being what it is in today’s filmmaking, that’s certainly do-able. This fact can take us in two directions. The first being that it’s more than likely that some, but not all, effects scenes were likely complete by the time Snyder showed his initial cut to the WB execs. Jay Oliva, a storyboard artist on the film (and director in his own right with many DC Animated titles under his belt) has flat out said as much while Snyder has…well, let’s just say that he’s strongly alluded to their existence. This certainly strengthens any argument for the Snyder Cut existing. But the fact that there was a change in director, a number or reshoots and a new direction…thus a new assembly of the film…being put together, effectively transitioning from Justice League to Joss-tice League, and new effects work needed to be done. Any reasonable studio would see this and push the release date back, but Warners stood by their US opening date of November 17th. Not helping matters? The film premiered in China on October 26th, so it needed to be done that much sooner. Filmmakers already talk about films never being finished but either escaping or being torn from their hands so that they can be put in front of audiences…and it seems like Joss-tice League was going to be such an instance. Let’s go straight to the obvious one first, since it starts the film off: Henry Cavill’s plastic-like, but clean shaven, upper lip. In general, given his power set, one can assume that any scene with Superman in it is going to be an effects shot in some way, but now, it was a literal truth. And given the changes in Superman’s story arc, from those hinted at in BvS to what ended up occurring in Joss-tice League, most, if not all, of Superman’s scenes were likely included in the aforementioned reshoots. On top of that, you’ve got Cyborg who’s at least a 90% CG character plus the film’s main villain, Steppenwolf, who is entirely CG. This is to say nothing of all the remaining CG work that has to be done: the Parademon hordes, Atlantis scenes, the initial battle on Earth featuring Olympian Gods as well as a Green Lantern and more. Now, you could make the argument that if work on some of these scenes started while Snyder was on board, this shouldn’t have made much of a difference: as each effects shot was completed, effects crews would simply just start working on the news scenes coming in from the reshoots. Taking everything into account, however, turns that statement into a fallacy. Some effects houses or teams may have moved on to other projects as reshoots continued into what was essentially the ’eleventh hour’ and, on top of that, given that this wasn’t like most films where the reshoots would serve as connective material but instead were meant to change the entire demeanor of the film as per studio notes. Looking at it in this way, well, Joss-tice League’s appearance becomes less of a mystery, with not only Superman being a casualty, but Cyborg and Steppenwolf both looking like characters from an X-Box 360 or PlayStation 3 game. For a studio that wanted to avoid projecting any weakness when it came to this latest DC venture, well, so far it’s looking like an epic fail on most levels.
But appearing weak isn’t the only reason WB may have fixated on that November 17th, 2017 release date. You see, while all this was going on, the AT&T purchase of Time-Warner was underway, pending US regulatory review. Obviously the film division of Time-Warner, Warner Bros. Pictures, was a part of that deal. As with any merger of this nature, the brass at the top are likely to change in favor of those chosen by the incoming new owners. And while it may only be speculation…it stands to reason that perhaps the head of Warner Bros., Kevin Tsujihara, might have been a bit worried about his job and, as insiders suggested that the motivation to make Joss-tice League just good enough to shove out the door would keep monetary bonuses intact for executives…including Tsujihara. While Lex Luthor may have only had a cameo in the film, turns out that greed of his caliber might have been the final straw in killing the Justice League.
Now that we’ve gone over the anatomy of the train wreck, we next have to ask ourselves why release Zack Snyder’s version of the film.
Snyder’s history with longer cuts. This bit is going to be somewhat subjective, but for me, when you take away time constraints, Snyder’s films tend to get better. I already touched upon this slightly when I mentioned Batman v Superman’s Ultimate Edition, but for me this holds true when looking at his extended versions of Watchmen and the oft-derided Sucker Punch. Watchmen’s directors cut (not the Ultimate Edition that inserts the Black Freighter animated material), like BvS, is another instance where I haven’t gone back to the theatrical cut since.
The three-hour epic superhero movie has already been done…and it’s now competing with Avatar for the largest box office haul in history. Of course, once again Marvel took the risk on this and as such were rewarded accordingly. If WB feels more comfortable following than leading, well, here you go. Obviously, no cut of Justice League is ever going to pull down Avengers money now that the film has been tainted in some ways, but it might give Warners some indication that it’s okay for them to start moving the DCEU out of their comfort zone and into taking some risks…no matter how small.
A superhero movie where a god-like villain wins has already been done and, yup, it made tons of cash…and yup, Marvel again. Remember, Justice League was initially expected to be two parts and, as the Knightmare scene in BvS foreshadowed, part one wasn’t exactly going to end happily. Since then, it’s come out that an Injustice-inspired post-resurrection Superman was likely in the cards, more than likely with Supes falling prey to Darkseid’s anti-life equation. Speaking of which, there’s the obvious Darkseid/Thanos comparison. WB, again, could’ve struck the first blow here, but wussed out. Here’s a chance to, again, test the waters, perhaps Darkseid gains some traction in this release and, as such, might give Warners the confidence to start thinking about going in this direction again.
Re-ignite the franchise. There are no plans for another Justice League film in the near future with Warners opting instead to focus on what had worked for them before, minimally connected films of their DC properties. Releasing a better realized version of the film might help to rekindle some interest in the franchise. Plus, we find ourselves in an interesting place in cinema. Rewind back to 2006: the premise of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns assumes that Superman III and IV didn’t happen. It ignores them. The same thing with the 2018 Halloween, it assumes that only the first Halloween film from 1978 happened and none of the other films. The same is true for the starts of both the Heisei and Millenium periods of Godzilla, only 1954’s Gojira happened, nothing else. As such, we can now pick and choose which films future series entries will be based on. It wouldn’t be a stretch to move forward building off of THIS cut and not the theatrical release.
Atoning for the past and giving the film its due. This lines up with the argument for the Donner cut of Superman II. Warners has also done something like this for its failed Superman Lives, the Tim Burton directed, Nicholas Cage starring Superman film that never got off the ground in the 90s, by allowing for people and materials to be made available for the late Jon Schnepp’s documentary. [Reviewed here. – Ed.] Both instances can be likened to fessing up to the mistakes made in the past and working to put them right. The way forward for DC films may have already been established, and sure, it may not include the League, but a release like this might just help everyone to finally move forward instead of lingering in the past and continuing to dissect the circumstances surrounding the film we did get initially.
Most parties have since moved on. Kevin Tsujihara is no longer studio head. Greg Silverman, WB president, he’s gone too. Jon Berg and Geoff Johns are no longer in charge of DC Films. Ultimately, most of the people that could be potentially professionally embarrassed by this release are gone. Thus, anyone that would get egg on their face, so to speak, from the release of this cut of the film wouldn’t have any impact on their day to day job at the studio.
So, why might we not see the Snyder Cut?
Toby Emmerich is still there and has, in fact, been promoted to Silverman’s old spot. Now, to be fair, I’m a little hazy on when this transition occurred. Everything seems to point to Silverman being a casualty to the BvS/Justice League fallout and as such, Emmerich wouldn’t have been promoted until after Joss-tice League was released, as throughout most of this drama, he was serving as the head of New Line. Sure, New Line is also part of the Warner banner, but it’s a separate slate of films. The big question here is ‘does releasing Justice League put any egg on Emmerich’s face?’ And I can’t really answer that. If it were to do so though, yeah, I can’t say there’d be much of a chance in seeing the Snyder Cut being released until after he’s gone. Remember, it took 20-odd years to get Donner’s Cut of Superman II into the hands of fans…meaning a complete generational turnover at the studio might be needed.
Warner Bros./DC Films level of confidence…or distinct lack thereof. If there’s a single underlying message to this entire long-winded article is that WB up to this point has been nothing but reactionary and timid when it comes to their DC properties, both trying to emulate their Marvelous competition yet do their own thing at the same time. For as bad as this is going to sound, let’s face it, the fact that Marvel hasn’t done something like this, practically rewriting a chapter of their shared comic book universe at the home media level, is a strong indication that WB won’t go anywhere near it. While I hope that the new management at most levels suggests that maybe the past events leading up to this point will be less pertinent in determining the path forward, let’s just say that WB really hasn’t been kind to the prospect of a Justice League movie for much of the new millennium. Google search George Miller’s ill-fated Justice League Mortal for more details on that.
The big question: How much is actually complete? How much work still needs to be done? Again, let’s go back to the Donner Cut of Superman II. While Warner Bros. was willing to make it happen, the restoration process DID have a budget…and not a particularly large one at that. And a pretty small staff too, consisting of only a handful of people. Offsetting that was the fact that a little basic CGI can go a long way in a film made in the days of practical effects. Translation: the effects work that needed to be done there was cheap. The more effects work that needs to be done on Snyder’s cut, unless Warners are certain there’s going to be a good return on this…which it’s kind of hard to imagine that level of certainty from them on…well…anything…the less likely we’ll see this cut. It is worth noting that comments from both Jay Oliva (storyboard artist) and Zack Snyder himself suggest that much of the heavy lifting has already been done. And if that’s the case, this might not be as big a factor in the decision whether or not to release Snyder’s cut.
Unfortunately, after reviewing all this, I have to say that I’m not exactly optimistic for the Snyder Cut to be released…at least, not in the immediate future. Which is a shame, as such a release might do some good for the DC Films slate. With the reports that Cyborg featured more prominently in Snyder’s version, perhaps a release of his cut could get traction going on the promised Cyborg solo film. Seeing Darkseid could stir up excitement for Ava DuVernay’s proposed New Gods movie. A Superman performance untarnished by Mustache-gate could get people excited for another Superman film…potentially bringing Henry Cavill back to the role. But, unfortunately, I don’t think a Snyder Cut release is in the cards until DC Films is much further down the road than it is now with Joss-tice League being just a speck in the rearview mirror. This is also a pity, as in some ways, this feels like a situation with no downside. The movie is already tarnished by the Frankenstein-like initial release. The worst has already been done. Not only could a near-term release reap the aforementioned potential benefits, but it could serve as a platform to rebound from. Sure, the relationship between Snyder and WB is pretty much gone and it’s likely that if somehow releasing this cut does rekindle interest in the League and perhaps even a sequel, it would be something another director would have to pick up and carry on.
Realistically, while one can’t strictly call Justice League a bomb, pulling in nearly $658 million dollars in its theatrical run against an estimated $300 million budget, it’s a case similar to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns: it didn’t perform as was hoped and, as such, any future films have been put on the shelf. And films viewed as failures typically do not get revisited. This is where the Donner Superman II analogy goes off the rails a bit…as Superman II had been successful. But I’m right there with everyone else flying the flag. Justice League deserved better. It deserved more time. It deserved better effects. It deserved time to breathe, time to go at its own pace and tell its story in its own way, not to be crammed into an arbitrary running time. Everything Warners was worried about when it came to Justice League ended up being a big win in Marvel’s column when it came their time to do it. And that’s the sad thing. Had Warners the nerve to take the risks, they could have once again beaten Marvel in doing some things first: putting forward an epic-length superhero film pitting their assembled heroes against a god-like being seeking infinite power. At this point, WB only has the lead when it comes to getting a female-led superhero movie to audiences with Wonder Woman. [Plus, it was good. Unlike…say…Captain Marvel. – Ed.] It’s time for WB to have faith in their characters (that aren’t Batman). It’s time for WB to live up to their belief that they’re a “studio driven by filmmakers”.
And they can do that by allow one filmmaker the ability to finish his film properly.
*Opening Image courtesy of BryanZap @ DeviantArt