Zach Snyder needs to put up or shut up. It is that simple.
Over the last two years, there has been a chorus of voices from a small sector of fandom demanding the release of director Zach Snyder’s original edit of Justice League. Snyder had to leave the project nine months before it was released due to a family tragedy and the studio brought in Joss Whedon to complete some reshoots and oversee the conclusion of the post-production process. The result was a dog’s breakfast of a film that pleased neither critics nor audiences and reportedly veered away from the story Snyder had been attempting to tell.
With the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, fans of the director who had hoped to see what Snyder had envisioned for Justice League, have prowled social media, proselytizing that belief and hoping to grow a grassroots movement that would pressure studio Warner Brothers into acquiescing to their demands. And also harassing anyone who would criticize Snyder as a filmmaker or his previous two DC Comics adaptations Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. It can not be overestimated how a portion of the #RelaseTheSnyderCut faction have contributed to the level of toxicity in genre fandom today.
All the while, Snyder has been content to slowly stoke the fires of his “Snyder Cut” adherents, occasionally releasing a behind-the-scenes picture or a piece of production concept art showing a segment from his original vision for the film that didn’t make it into what hit the screen. Every now and then another member of the crew or cast would be asked about Snyder’s original version of the film, and that response would add additional fuel to the flames. And then finally this weekend, in what was surely a coordinated act, Justice League cast members Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot tweeted out the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag, tweets which were quickly retweeted by Snyder himself.
And as it was no doubt designed to do, the stunt got the internet abuzz over the weekend with speculation, mostly baseless. Did this mean that an announcement about the Snyder Cut was imminent? Perhaps it was finally being readied to premiere on Warner’s upcoming streaming service HBOMax as an incentive to get people to subscribe?
Of course the answer was that no, no announcement was to be forthcoming with news on the Snyder Cut being released. And according to the Hollywood Reporter’s sources, no such announcement is coming anytime soon.
So what was the purpose of the twitter stunt then? Was something going on between the studio and Snyder behind the scenes that Warners couldn’t comment on publicly? Perhaps, but if so, there are better ways for Snyder to surreptitiously get the word out than by just vague tweeting like this.
No, Zack Snyder was just trolling his fans.
So put your cards on the table Zack. If you want your cut of the movie released, you are going to need to tell us exactly what needs to be done to make it releasable and how it would be profitable for Warners do so. And then maybe this seemingly quixotic crusade will make sense.
It would be insane to think that Justice League was in any sort of condition that would be releasable at the time Snyder left, nine months before its intended theatrical bow. So obviously there is still a mountain of post-production work to be done. How much more editing was needed to be done? Presumably not much of the visual effects work had reached a finished state. Was the film’s edit picture locked so a score could be fully composed or does Junkie XL need to write more music? How much more color correction, sound mixing and ADR work is left?
(We talked about all this before in July 2018.)
And that’s all just assuming that Snyder has all the film pieces he needs to complete his version of the film. What if there were some pick-up shots he still needed? What would be the cost of assembling a crew, rebuilding the needed sets and getting the cast back? And is the cast even contractually obligated to return to do initial work on this film two years after its theatrical release or would that be yet an additional expense?
Joker notwithstanding, Warner Brothers has not been having a good year. They just took a bath on Doctor Sleep this month and The Goldfinch similarly under-performed in September. But just because Warners has a $600 million windfall from Joker, that doesn’t mean that they should throw that back into projects that will lose them money. Justice League cost a reported $300 million to make. In order to just break even, it had to make $750 million at the box office in order to cover production costs, advertising and distribution fees. It tapped out its theatrical run at just under $658 million.
There has to be a compelling reason for the studio to invest a large amount of money to finish off an alternate version of a film that was a critical disappointment and a financial loss to them from a director whose two previous superhero films did good business, but fell far below the studio’s reported expectations. Why should a studio invest more money into a project that already lost them close to $100 million?
And so far no one has offered such a reason. Not Snyder. Not any of the cast. And certainly not the fans demanding the release of Snyder’s edit of the film.
To be sure, many will argue that he somehow “deserves” to have his vision seen, sometimes even invoking the suicide of Snyder’s daughter, the tragedy that led him to leave the film during post-production. And they do so blithely unaware that their own sense of entitlement to a piece of entertainment has led them to grossly attempt to leverage one family’s horrific tragedy for their own gain. It is grotesque and the ugly, entitled side of fandom writ large.
I won’t deny that I am interested in seeing what Snyder had in store for this film. It was reportedly going to be the first of what would ultimately be a two-part story. (And you best believe that if the Snyder Cut were to be finished and released, the very next day the rallying cry on the internet would change to #LetSnyderMakeJusticeLeague2 or some such nonsense.) But I have never been a fan of Snyder’s work. While I find that he can craft interesting visuals, he does not have a very good sense for story, plot and characterization. I certainly found a number of flaws in both his Man Of Steel and Batman V Superman films. But I am often interested in films that are ambitious failures, as you can probably learn more from them than you can films that are successful but safe. And in that measure, Snyder’s films are very instructional.
In Snyder’s favor, though, throughout film history other films have been finished long after their initial release dates. Richard Donner was finally able to complete an approximation of what he had planned for his version of Superman II two and a half decades after he was unceremoniously, and unjustly, fired from the film by the producers. Orson Welles started shooting The Other Side Of The Wind in 1970 and kept working on it intermittently until his death in 1985, but it wasn’t until several decades worth of legal and financial hurdles were cleared that it could be finished off from the director’s notes.
But those were unusual exceptions. And if Snyder really thinks his version of Justice League should be released, he is going to need to make a strong, convincing argument why his film should be an exception also. And until then, Snyder Cut enthusiasts may need to adjust their expectations a bit.