“We have to understand this is a paradigm shift…”
This line from the ‘must there be a Superman’ scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (and the entire scene in fact) like most of Zack Snyder’s work, was not only deep, layered, poetic but also prophetic. What happened on 20th of May 2020, is indeed a paradigm shift in our pop-culture. A historic moment in the entertainment industry that without exaggeration can be compared to the arrival of colour cinema or VFX. It was the moment when AT&T and Warner Media finally listened to the fans (and common sense) and decided to Release the Snyder cut on their new streaming service, HBO Max. Snyder himself got the chance to make that announcement on a live stream along with his wife and co-producer Deborah Snyder and Henry Cavill.
The official press release has stated that the Snyder Cut—now officially titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League—will be released in 2021 either as a 4-hour movie or perhaps a six-episode miniseries. It has yet to be decided. It has also been reported that when Snyder screened his assembly cut for the DC/Warner/ATT executives he discussed the concept of cliffhangers, episodes etc. meaning perhaps Snyder himself has warmed up to the idea of a chapter-like format.
Here are a few reasons why it would be a good idea to release Zack Snyder’s Justice League as a miniseries.
Fan outpouring notwithstanding, the only reason why the Snyder Cut even got approval from Warner Media and AT&T is because of HBO Max. The studio and theatrical model is getting increasingly outdated and Netflix is just proving that time and again. No wonder Phase 4 of the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, involves a few series to be released over the Disney+ platform. Even Disney has understood it may not be able to repeat its phenomenal run at the conventional box office forever.
HBO Max is putting all its force behind marketing Snyder’s Justice League. The reason being is that they see millions of fans worldwide eager to see Snyder’s interpretation of DC characters. As a business obviously they don’t want this to be a one and done. They have seen how Snyder holds over the audiences and even out of curiosity, his detractors will also be streaming it.
Since Game of Thrones is now done, HBO doesn’t have any other IP currently to get people invested and stay subscribed for a longer time, Zack Snyder’s Justice League comes with an inbuilt audience. Hence for them to ensure that subscribers don’t immediately cancel their subscriptions after watching it, stretching it over a period of at least a month or two makes sense. An episode a week for 6/7 weeks would certainly keep audience interest high. Besides, there is almost 4 hours plus footage. It’s not like it would be impossible to do. Also, the statistics from the same could help them expand upon it more and help study the viability of a sequel series. Perhaps giving us a chance at seeing Ben Affleck’s Batman solo and Cyborg solo in a series format as well. It also makes sense from actor’s perspectives as the shooting schedule for a series won’t be as tight as a movie.
FROM A STORY PERSPECTIVE
Even after the announcement, some segments of the fandom were a bit dismayed by the possibility of seeing Zack Snyder’s Justice League as a series. They felt that a series would potentially rupture Zack’s vision forcing him to adhere to a typical series format. But one must not forget that Snyder himself might want this to be told in a chapter-wise format now. Even if Warner Bros hadn’t messed with Justice League in 2017, the vision we would have gotten according to Snyder himself would have been a compromised one. He said that he and writer Chris Terrio had to do a lot of re-writes after the polarizing reactions to Batman V Superman. Perhaps with a longer format, he now gets to do his original story justice (yes that pun was easy and I took it).
In a way, fans should be glad that we are not getting a compromised version of Snyder’s vision but a more complete one. Even if Justice League had released as planned, the set up for Snyder’s originally planned Justice League 2 was already dropped from it. A miniseries allows him to set up a lot more and end it with an agonizing cliffhanger that just creates more demand for his original 5 part Superman arc to be completed.
Also, one must not forget that most of Snyder’s movies have this chapter like quality in them. Best examples of it are Batman V Superman and Watchmen. If you look at the Watchmen Director’s cut one could easily divide it up along chapters that focus on the individual characters, that eventually lead to a climax. Same with BvS: Ultimate Edition which is a 3 hour, 5 act movie. Reportedly Snyder’s Justice League takes inspiration from Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai in terms of character building and scope. Imagine instead of being constrained by a box office mandated timelines and ruthless critics, a creative director like Snyder gets the full freedom to flesh out the characters exactly how he wants it.
THE POTENTIAL DOWNSIDE
While discussing the positives, one must discuss the potential downsides of a ZSJL series. The biggest one I can see is if instead of a mini-series, it gets turned into a typical series. 8-10 episodes, with obviously the last one being a cliffhanger. Also one might argue, that a series is less re-watchable than a movie.
With increasingly hectic lifestyles, shortening attention spans and an abundance of content to choose from, How many of us actually rewatch a series? No matter if you think Breaking Bad or The Wire was the greatest shows ever unless you are fanatic about them, there is very little chance you would re-watch even one season of them. Even speaking of expertly made limited series like Alex Gardner’s fantastic sci-fi Devs or True Detective, very little chance that anyone rewatches them. The best thing about Snyder’s work has always been infinite rewatchablity, finding easter eggs, tributes, deeper meaning etc. Would these details be lost in the scramble of merely waiting to see what happens next?
Even after all the episodes are up, would a serialized narrative bring about a rupture in the flow? Thus losing the epic weight that Snyder’s movies have?
The cure to this potential downside is Sherlock. Yes, BBC’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Sherlock’s format is fantastic and hence offers infinite rewatchablity in spite of being essentially a murder mystery. Each season is 3 episodes – each about an hour or so long. Each almost a movie onto itself. While each episode more or less leans into others, it’s not necessarily too interdependent. Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat applied a similar structure to their Dracula series and it works with that as well. (Quality of the 3rd episode notwithstanding).
If Snyder and HBO Max could potentially go the Sherlock route rather than the Mandalorian one, then this little problem can also be easily encountered. However, this is merely nitpicking. For fans who never imagined that this could become an actual reality, for fans who were ready to watch an unfinished cut or even read a graphic novel of Zack Snyder’s original Justice League arc, a conclusion in any format is a blessing.
As the same line from the Must there be a Superman scene goes:
“Every religion believes in some kind of messianic figure. When this figure actually shows up, we want him to abide by our rules?”