San Diego, California
If you were to drive through the city today, you would see a giant billboard/ bus stop (paid for by the fans) advertising a hashtag. #Releasethesnydercut to be exact. San Diego is home to one of the biggest annual conventions for comic books and related media in the world. They call it San Diego Comic-Con. But why should a hashtag be advertised and spark conversation? Because it’s a tale of deception, greed, ambition and creative freedom.
What Is The Snyder Cut?
For the uninitiated, the ‘Snyder cut’ is a version of Justice League, a comic book film released by Warner Bros. in November 2017. It was to continue the progression that started in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, both directed by Zack Snyder. However, biased critical reception to Batman v Superman (in spite financial success and cult following) terrified Warner Bros. They ordered significant changes to the script. Even before Zack stepped down, things were changing. Warner Bros. invited bloggers who were mixed to critical on their previous outings, to possibly gain favor with them.
Unfortunately, Snyder had to leave the project mid-way in May as his daughter – Autumn Snyder committed suicide. Geoff Johns brought in Avengers director Joss Whedon to lighten the tone and add some humor. He was given a free pass as long as it would adhere to a 2-hour runtime mandate and gross big. Whedon was given full control of the project. The movie was still marketed as if the film was still Zack’s with Whedon finishing his story, but they lied.
The rest is history. Dark, disappointing history.
So why the 2-hour mandate for the film? Well, that’s because they wanted to capitalize on as many matinees as they could. Also, the studio avoided delaying it. Why? They allegedly rushed the reshoots to finish in time for executive bonuses before the Warner Bros.’ merger with AT&T. The end result was a gooey mess which neither had the quippy wit of Whedon nor the seriousness and mythical aesthetic of Snyder.
The hard-core Snyder fans were left disappointed. Most non-Snyder DC fans were somewhat pleased but still confused by the sudden changes of tone to the movie. Comparisons to the Avengers movies were inevitable. And most of the audience felt the movie lacked any real stakes or was suddenly trying too hard to mimic Marvel’s style. The VFX for Cyborg and Henry Cavil’s mustache were laughably pathetic.
Justice League was one of the biggest disasters for Warner Bros. It grossed $650 million approximately and that’s in an era where lesser-known comic book movies like Antman grossed nearly $500 million. This resulted in a host of shake-ups in the administration and Warner Bros. They also abandoned all of its future plans for a Justice League sequel. Snyder was effectively fired from all future projects even though the movie failed in his absence. The plans for all the DCEU movies were changed.
Since 2017, a growing community of fans has been demanding Warner Bros. to release Zack’s version of Justice League. But still, Warner Bros. remains silent on the entire issue (having done a similar kind of butchering to Suicide Squad earlier). After significant reveals by Snyder and other artists who worked on the movie, the debates online changed from “It doesn’t exist” to “There is a rough cut needing finishing”. Snyder himself has confirmed that a cut exists and there are several of them that he owns. He can’t release them legally as it’s up to Warner Bros. to do so. Snyder said that his cut and the footage compiled together is 214 minutes. That’s 3 and a half hours.
Our very own John Aaron Garza recently put together some calculations. And based on his meticulous study, he garnered how much of the theatrical cut of Justice League is Snyder and how much is reshoots or original Whedon. He came to the conclusion that close to 50% of the movie is Whedon. The theatrical cut is 1 hour 50 minutes roughly, meaning only about an hour of that was untouched Snyder’s footage. Plus, if you add what Snyder himself publicly admitted, we have 2 hours and 34 minutes of unseen footage of Justice League.
Allow me to show you WHY the Snyder Cut Matters.
Director’s cuts are not a new thing. Blade Runner famously has several cuts. Apocalypse Now also had new editions released. Warner Bros. has a history of releasing extended/ultimate/director’s cuts. It did something similar to Richard Donner’s Superman 2. Zack Snyder, who has exclusively worked with Warner Bros. till now, has a number of director’s cuts released in mainstream cinema. Watchmen, Sucker Punch, & Batman v Superman have all had later releases and were substantially better films when compared to their theatrical versions. Even Dawn Of The Dead had a director cut. It should at least make you a little curious as to what all is hiding in that unseen 3-hour and 34 minute cut of Justice League. It’s a completely different movie.
Even Snyder’s harshest critics agree that he has a brilliant eye for visuals. Snyder is well-known (and often parodied) for his use of ‘time ramping’ or in laymen terms – Slow motion. He has used it to great effect in action in almost all of his movies. Snyder reveled in the opportunity to use slow motion with Flash to articulate his speed force. We got a glimpse of it in the theatrical cut when Superman is the only one fast enough to see Flash move. We also know that Flash uses time-travel near the end of Snyder’s version of Justice League.
Think of all the visual possibilities a visual poet like Zack Snyder would’ve realized in the movie. Other than slo-mo, Snyder originally became famous for his epic war scenes in 300. The Snyder cut also has an epic Lord of the Rings-style historical battle between Men, Atlanteans, Amazons, Zeus, Ares, and the New Gods. Oh, and even Darkseid makes an appearance. Yes, DC’s big baddie- the character from whom Thanos was copied- makes an appearance. Say what you will about his story-telling skills, you know he is one of the few directors who could do that kind of epic battle Justice. (Hello and welcome to Reelanarchy.com where the puns are always intended)
Snyder’s DCEU was far ahead of its competitors in bringing comic book movies to a modern diverse audience. The 3rd and 4th movies of their universe were a multi-racial team-up. Snyder’s Justice League was a bigger leap in that direction. According to Snyder, Cyborg was going to be the ‘heart’ of the story. A POC, Victor Stone is a popular football player who loses half of his body and his mother in an accident. The only reason he is alive is that his scientist father experimented on him using alien technology. This does keep him alive but in a Frankenstein kind of way. He is an outcast who resents his father and doesn’t understand his powers yet.
Through images released by Snyder and cinematographer, Fabian Wagner, we know that Snyder’s cut contains an elaborate back story for Cyborg. It also has a complete emotional arc of him coming to terms with his loss as well as learning to accept his new powers. Think of how inspirational Cyborg could’ve been to kids and adults all over the world?
CREATIVE FREEDOM & ORIGINALITY
If you like Mcdonalds, that’s perfectly fine. People enjoy it. However, if you went to a niche Thai restaurant renowned for its pork and someone served you a McRib there, how would you feel? That perfectly encapsulates what fans felt when watching Justice League. Now niche Thai gourmet pork is not for everyone, but at least they are not trying to be McDonald’s. They serve their food for their clientele.
Love it or hate it, what Zack Snyder was creating was something original. He put in every effort possible for almost 5 years designing, planning, and plotting a cinematic saga for some of the most beloved superheroes ever. He faced a lot of toxic and vile criticism during his tenure. Warner Bros. altered his original plans for the all mighty dollar. The studio wanted Marvel profits without wanting to invest the time and effort into it.
What Could Have Been
Snyder’s original plan was a 5-movie arc for Superman with additional DC characters introduced to advance his stories. Warner Bros. reactions to BvS made him curtail his idea. This involved 4 movies with multiple spin-offs in between and eventually to just one Justice League movie. What happened to Snyder should never happen to another artist, regardless of whether you prefer their work or not. No one deserves to have their years of hard work slaughtered for financial gain. And no one should ever have a film released in their name when nearly half of the film is from another director. People from all over the planet have come together because of that. The Snyder cut has inspired others as well with fans raising awareness for Suicide Prevention with over $100,000 dollars in donations.
Disgruntled fans have always existed, even before the advent of social media. They may want their favorite TV shows renewed, or an entire season to be rewritten, but this is different. Justice League exists and it’s up to Warner Bros. to release it. Yes, they might have to spend around $30-$40 million dollars to finish the VFX. But for a studio that prides itself as being ‘director-driven’, it’s a chance to earn back trust while earning money along the way. What happened to Zack Snyder and Justice League was one of the biggest injustices in the world of cinema. If truth, justice, and freedom matter to you, then so should the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag movement.