Nice studio you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.
Three years of denials, obfuscations, claims of workprints being smuggled out by Allied forces and other reports and rumors are done. The Snyder Cut of 2017’s Justice League, as it has come to be called, is real and will be coming to HBO Max some time in 2021.
This latest development comes just a few months after a wave of comments and hints were made by various parties, including original Justice League director Zack Snyder, who kept posting vague images and teases to, of all things, his Vero social media account.
By way of brief recap: Snyder left/was pushed off Justice League at some point in production, either because of a personal tragedy in his family or because the studio felt the film was out of control and getting worse by the day. Joss Whedon came in to oversee additional shooting, including rewriting significant chunks of the story and abandoning entire storylines. The finished product was widely panned by critics, sitting at a paltry 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, and didn’t ignite the box office, bringing in $229 million domestically and $658 million worldwide. It was overshadowed in both respects by the Wonder Woman movie released earlier in the year.
Ever since then there’s been a crusade from some quarters for Warner Bros. to release a cut of the film they believed sat in the studio’s vaults that was completed by Snyder and represented his true vision. Whedon’s interference, they maintained, watered down the movie by adding too many jokes, not being gritty enough and so on. Until last week, WB insisted no such cut existed and that there were no plans to revisit the movie in any way.
Now, though, the studio has changed its tune, reportedly giving Snyder a $20 million budget to undertake a whole new post-production process, including visual effects and editing.
While there has already been much commentary about the announcement, allow me to share a handful of thoughts about what this could and does mean for the world of entertainment and more. And, because I’m just that kind of sociopath, those thoughts will be framed in quotes from Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
I stoked Ren’s conflicted soul: While he waited a while before doing so, in the last year or so Snyder has been the chief rabble-rouser online, keeping audience speculation of his discarded masterpiece alive. He’s taken on the role of a master online troll, dropping hints here and there to whet people’s appetites and, seemingly, maintain the pressure on WB to agree to a release of some sort.
In that way he’s not dissimilar to those behind QAnon and similar conspiracy theories. They take the reality of a situation and manipulate certain things to convince people of alternate facts. Just as with the Washington, D.C. pizza parlor that reportedly acts as a front for a Hillary Clinton-run pedophile ring, some people *wanted* to believe The Snyder Cut was real and would leap at any bait put in front of them supporting that belief. He’s not William Wallace or Carl Bernstein here, he’s a 4chan troll with the power to command tens of millions of dollars and access to some of pop culture’s most prized assets.
This is not going to go the way you think: Justice League, as it was released, is not a great movie. The story makes little sense, the characters act in massively inconsistent ways from scene to scene, there’s no internal logic to it etc. Those who were adherents to Snyder’s style of filmmaking saw this as evidence of meddling by Whedon and the studio, but it’s not as if those descriptors couldn’t be applied to any of the director’s previous films.
Which means, in short, that there’s a pretty decent chance Zack Snyder’s Justice League is going to also suck, just in slightly different ways.
One can only wonder what the reaction will be among those who believe The Snyder Cut is the second coming when their dream becomes reality and it turns out reality is really bad. What will be the excuse then? Thankfully, Snyder himself has already given them the foundation for continued claims of interference by complaining WB will not allow him to reconvene the cast to shoot additional footage. His vision, therefore, will never be truly brought to life.
If Warner Bros. is hoping The Snyder Cut will act as some massive draw to their newly launched streaming service, more so than the Harry Potter films, Studio Ghibli’s catalog and “Friends” reruns, they are putting $20 million worth of eggs in a very questionable basket, one that may wind up hitting them square in the face.
The greatest teacher, failure is: One of the many astounding things about this newfound willingness to revisit Justice League is that it clearly marks a low point in the DC Comics cinematic universe. Consider that not only did Wonder Woman, released just a few months earlier in 2017, get much better reviews and three times the box office revenue, but so did Aquaman. Shazam and Birds of Prey didn’t perform as well in theaters but have much better critical receptions and reputations since release. And Joker, which also did very well, was supposed to usher in a new focus on non-continuity, filmmaker-led original stories.
Justice League, then, had become kind of a turning point, one where the key to success wasn’t “make everything bigger, darker and more EXTREME” but where the stories were better, the characters more central and the visuals less desaturated. Instead, it’s now the Rosetta Stone, something so important it becomes central to understanding everything around it.
Hi, I’m holding for General Hux…OK, I’ll hold. Whedon being given control of the Justice League reshoots and post-production seemed in some ways to be tied to reports he was heading up a Batgirl film at Warner Bros. The writer/director had previously worked on a failed Wonder Woman adaptation and ultimately left the Batgirl project when he reportedly couldn’t crack the story to his satisfaction. Despite that, it can be assumed that Whedon and the studio could have found some way to work together in the future.
Hard to imagine Whedon picking up their calls now, though. WB is sending the message that yes, they actually do find his version of Justice League to be subpar and now that they’re able to deliver a superior product they will push his work to the side. All because, for reasons I have been unable to fathom for over a decade, someone at the studio believes Snyder is a magical genius, not someone who’s often incapable of bringing his “vision” to life.
Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys his merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy: This is just the beginning.
In every prime time procedural and action drama you hear the hero or leader make it clear they refuse to negotiate with terrorists. Neville Chamberlain’s reputation has not fared well in light of his appeasement of the Nazi regime’s aggressive expansion plans.
Despite these warnings, what’s happened here seems tantamount to paying the ransom and hoping the kidnappers make good on releasing your spouse from where they’re being held. But that’s just hope, and there are no guarantees it will happen.
So too there’s no guarantee that demonstrating who’s actually in control of the situation won’t spiral into countless similar instances. There’s already evidence of this as “#ReleaseTheAyerCut” began trending shortly after the Snyder announcement as fans are now seeking the “pure” cut of 2016’s Suicide Squad, famously edited by a trailer production company among a handful of other parties.
(Note: Nevermind that *that* situation came about after studio execs wanted to punch up the movie after Batman v Superman – another Synder-directed film – performed poorly.)
It makes you wonder where else fans will turn their attention, believing a diamond to be hidden in rough of studio notes and seized control. Many films over the course of Hollywood history have been ripped from their directors, much to their chagrin and the disappointment of fans. Such instances can be found at least as far back as Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons and as recently as Chris Miller and Phil Lord being kicked off Solo: A Star Wars Story halfway through filming.
This extremely vocal minority has seen what tactics work now and will go again, much like state-sanctioned Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election, or the #Gamergate movement that wanted to eliminate a pernicious female influence from the video game media industry. There have been smaller successes before and now they’ve snagged a win. The demands will only become more substantial over time.