The DC Fandome Movie Trailers, Ranked

A completely arbitrary list, canon until an arbitrary change.

Over the course of this past Saturday’s DC Fandome, a virtual event focusing on the non-comics projects featuring the company’s stable of characters, a number of trailers debuted for some highly-anticipated movies.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the release of most of the films is still up in the air, including Wonder Woman 1984, but the scheduled October date is more sketchy by the day. Issues like that, though, won’t get in the way of passing hasty judgement on the spots that were shared and which served as one of the major attractions of Fandome. Those trailers are ranked in order, from incredible to that’s kind of awful.

Wonder Woman 1984

The campaign has been underway for a while now, based on the original plan for the movie to have been out earlier this summer. This trailer ups what has been seen previously with additional insights into Maxwell Lord’s megalomania, the mystery surrounding Steve Trevor’s return and Barbara’s motivations that lead her to become Cheetah. It’s fast-paced, funny, and has Wonder Woman using her lasso to ride lightning like Spider-Man swinging between buildings. This alone should win the movie all possible awards.

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The Batman

There’s an old adage among corporate technology buyers that “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.” DC’s version of that is “No one ever got fired for suggesting a Batman movie.” And this certainly looks like a Batman movie. There are various shades of things we’ve seen before, but thankfully this *doesn’t* appear to be a straightforward origin story, which is something we do not need. Too bad we didn’t get a good look at Andy Serkis’ Alfred, but Robert Pattinson does appear to be sufficiently gravitasy as a still-unseasoned Dark Knight.

The Suicide Squad

Not an actual trailer, but it doesn’t really matter because both the “First Look” and “Roll Call” videos make the movie seem like a lot of fun. That’s not surprising given director James Gunn also wrote the film and seems to be throwing the kitchen sink into the works, creating what looks like a big, goofy action film. There’s no reference to the first movie – in fact it seems to be running as far away from it as possible – which is fine considering that film was a mess.

Black Adam

We’ve turned a corner here, and are firmly into “Wait…what?” territory. This is a movie that seemed destined never to get made, despite the efforts of Dwayne Johnson to keep it alive over the last several years. Apparently it’s actually in the works, though, as this sizzle reel featuring concept art and voiceover from Johnson attempts to prove. I remain unconvinced, especially since the concept art is so overwrought and the narration so lackluster.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

And here we find ourselves at the bottom of the barrel. In lieu of rational thought, which this trailer actively works against, I offer simply a series of random thoughts.

  • Minus infinity points for the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which Snyder apparently fetishizes having used it previously in what is objectively the worst scene from 2008’s Watchmen.
  • The big Darkseid reveal finally shows everyone that he looks more or less exactly like both Steppenwolf and Doomsday.
  • Why is the trailer footage shown in 4:3? Is the movie being released in four one-hour installments on Instagram? Is that why everything is so orange, because of the filter?
  • Interesting to note which footage was also included in the theatrical release’s original trailers but didn’t make it into the recut movie. Also, which shots have starkly different color palettes.
  • Is Cyborg’s dad Dr. Manhattan?
  • “Not us united” is an interesting reminder of the “Unite the seven” idea that more or less kicked off the original’s theatrical campaign many years ago.
  • This is…not great. It’s the most Zack Snyder-y thing Zack Snyder ever Snydered, at least based on this and the other teases.

The Snyder Cut is Coming, and Now There Are No Rules

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.

zack snyders justice leage posterIn 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.

The Snyder Cut’s Origins Lie In The Phantom Edit

Disgruntled fans aren’t new, they’re just more vocal. Thanks, internet.

Ever since it was released, Justice League has been the subject of commentary, criticism and speculation. When director Zack Snyder stepped away from the film citing personal issues, Warner Bros. brought Joss Whedon in to quickly rewrite parts of the movie and finish filming what was left. It should have been a non-issue, the kind of thing that happens from time to time, especially with a production as complicated and drawn out as this.

Except it didn’t turn out like that. Instead, fans who were unhappy with the selection of Whedon almost immediately demanded WB release what came to be known as The Snyder Cut, a version of the movie they believed existed that contained Snyder’s true vision of the story. The movement was fueled by two parties:

  1. Those who believe Snyder is a true visionary, a filmmaker of unqualified genius whose grimdark, desaturated style is exactly what they want in their movies, especially comic adaptations.
  2. Entertainment press desperate for content to fill ad-loading pages who feverishly wrote up every instance of the movement popping up on Twitter.

Of late there has been a lot to write about. Snyder himself has been posting vague pictures that has fueled speculation that the mythical beast exists in some form, and actors from the movie including Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa have all commented in various ways seeming to support that theory.

The idea that a finished film that represents Snyder’s vision alone is one that’s been refuted in the past. A number of people have made it clear it’s not anything resembling a finished film, just a workprint of the footage Snyder shot before leaving the project, without color correction, sound editing or anything else. It’s not even complete, something corroborated recently by composer Danny Elfman, who came on board at the same time as Whedon, replacing original composer Junkie XL.

Recently a number of revelations have been made about the movie, including that Whedon wrote 80 new pages for the reshots he oversaw and cut or altered a number of Snyder’s initial storylines. Cinematographer Fabian Wagner claims the theatrical release only retained about 10 percent of what he and Snyder shot, with a whole new team handling what came next.

With WB on the cusp of launching the HBO Max streaming service, there’s been renewed hope in this crowd that The Snyder Cut could finally see the light of day there, though the studio has reiterated there are no plans to do so and there isn’t even a finished film to work with if they wanted to.

Filmmakers themselves have fueled this kind of thinking by touting versions of their movies that existed before studio interference and releasing “Director’s Cut” home video editions that are promoted as more fully representing the story they wanted to tell.

But the true origins of The Snyder Cut lie in The Phantom Edit.

If you’re not familiar with The Phantom Edit, odds are good you weren’t online heavily in 2000, a year after George Lucas brought Star Wars back to theaters with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Created by a private citizen Mike J. Nichols, who channeled fan displeasure with Lucas’ movie into what he billed as a tighter, stronger version of the story. In particular, it edits out almost completely Jar Jar Binks, the much-reviled digital character whose primary role (at least at first) is simply slapstick comedy.

That version circulated online for a long while and was even released on VHS and DVD back in the day. You can likely still find a copy in the bin of sketchy bootlegs at your local comic shop and that one vendor at comic and entertainment conventions.

The Phantom Edit came to life at the same moment there was a larger embrace of consumer generated content online in general. Blogs were beginning to go mainstream and while YouTube was still a few years in the future, video sharing online was gaining popularity as people started to create video blogs and other media. Brands caught on and launched campaigns that utilized submissions from customers and fans, or got over initial concerns and advertised more heavily on blogs. Influencer marketing was conceived as a concept as some of those blogs gained popularity and accrued substantial followings.

So there was an appetite for fan-generated media, especially since it was tied to disappointment in The Phantom Menace, something itself fueled by the popularity of message boards and early blog platforms. Those who didn’t like a movie that included fart jokes and lengthy treatises on trade negotiations found like-minded fellow travelers who shared their feelings, and a movement was born.

Who knows how many people were inspired by The Phantom Edit to make their own movies, empowered by a palpable example of how someone outside the industry used the tools at their disposal to create something new, albeit derivative.

A large difference exists in the mindset that has developed over the last nearly 20 years, though. The Phantom Edit represented a culture that was ready to do it themselves because the big companies had failed them in some manner. After all, blogs rose to prominence as not only a form of personal self-expression but also as a way to add context and expertise that was missing from mainstream media. Niche topics could be covered in depth for the handful of interested people and obscure fandoms could find common cause without the limits of geography.

In contrast, The Snyder Cut is a communal pining for someone already in the halls of power to simply reclaim what people feel should have been his. Snyder is a successful director who will certainly work again and who wasn’t pushed off Justice League but left of his own accord. Cult members feel he’s been wronged and, instead of trying to edit the theatrical release into something they think might be closer to what he intended, just want Snyder to have a do over.

(Side note: I’m willing to bet a Venn Diagram of 1) people angry at Zack Snyder being silenced, and 2) people angry anytime a black woman, Hispanic man or other creator from a historically marginalized group becomes involved in a high-profile project is a circle)

That shift – from Do It Yourself to Let Him Do It – illustrates how online culture has evolved in the last 20 years. Blogging and the open standards they initially embraced have fallen out of favor thanks to massive social networks whose owners want to keep you on their platform exclusively. Media consolidations means there are fewer original voices out there as international conglomerates make safe bets managing their intellectual property instead of taking risks on untested ideas.

You even see a similar change in the business world. Young people aren’t starting their own companies at the same rate previous generations did, in part because the debt incurred during their education allows them less flexibility to try something and fail. Those that do seem more interested in building something designed to be acquired by Google, Facebook, Amazon or Apple than in creating a sustainable business. Founders have become lifestyle gurus who share tips on intermittent fasting while retaining power thanks to convoluted stock ownership structures.

The goal now isn’t to create your own thing and take a new path to success. It’s to feed the success of someone already at the top by “fighting” for them to retain control. That philosophy exposes an empty fandom, one that feels starting a petition represents some form of power instead of using the tools and resources, which are not only more pervasive but cheaper and easier to use than they were 20 years ago, available to them to do it themselves.