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Hollywood Insider Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Warner Bros, Henry Cavill

Photo: Zack Snyder’s Justice League/Warner Bros.

They listened. It’s happening. Drink it in, get hyped, and prepare for a four-hour epic that will inevitably be better (even if just slightly) than the trainwreck known as Justice League.  

He did it. Yup. The Zack Snyder did it. He definitely deserves a THE. 

Justice for ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ awards us with the REAL Justice League

After two and a half years of begging for what was seen as a seemingly mythical item, the #releasethesnydercut movement has paid off. Not only has the Warner Brothers Studio switched tunes from denying that Zack Snyder’s version of DC’s answer to the Avengers ever existed to admitting that it is indeed lying around, they have recently revealed that it was over 90% complete and needed just a few tweaks ($30 million worth) to become a finished product. 

We all knew it would happen. But, like many, I assumed Warner Bros. would just drop the unfinished product as a gift to fans who have been crying out for the super-hero epic to be unveiled. Instead, we will receive THE movie. Complete, re-edited, with different visuals and a different color palette, containing three hours worth of material never seen before. 

Unlike other directors’ cuts in the past, there is something different about this. There is a reason the media and fan bases are going into a frenzy over the news. Some hate it, some love it. And today, I’m going to tell you why Zack Snyder’s Justice League (the official title) will set new precedence, worthy of praise for the studio, but also worthy of concern for the industry as a whole. 

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Snyder Was Burned

Before I give you my speculation and prediction, here is a short history lesson on the unique story surrounding the mystical cut of Justice League

The basic vision for Snyder’s Justice League was a double film, four-hour epic that developed the iconic superhero team and the threats they face. It was shaping up to genuinely give The Avengers a run for their money. Rumors circled that the film included Darkseid (confirmed) and Martian Manhunter (still waiting on confirmation, but if Snyder’s teasers mean anything, I think Manhunter has already appeared in the DCEU). 

The film, set to be lighter in tone after Batman v Superman received backlash while costing a boatload of money ($300 million), was seemingly worth it, based on Snyder’s pitches. After filming and finishing roughly 90% of his vision, the rough cut was presented to the studio heads as well as  Snyder’s close family and friends. The studio deemed the film bad and “unwatchable”. They demanded a re-write so as to make the final product lighter and more joke-filled.

Enter Joss Wheedon, the legendary director of The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, who was told to throw away most of Snyder’s content and fill the new script with Avenger-esque jokes. Wheedon and Snyder were set to meet up and finish the film as joint directors (though Wheedon wasn’t credited as he only made roughly 49% of the finished product) when tragedy struck; Snyder’s daughter, Autumn, committed suicide. Snyder, trying to distract himself from the pain, humbly continued to work with Wheedon and the studio. He watched as his vision for the project was ruined; eventually Snyder and his wife, Laura (who was a producer of the film) left the project to mourn. 

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It is said that Joss wrote 80 pages of new material for the film with given mandates to keep the story under two hours. Unusually long re-shoots with the cast were made, the entire film was given a new score, color scheme, and tone. And ever wonder why that mustache looked so bad? Well, worst of all, the studio pressed on with the original release date of November 17th so the producers could receive their bonuses, adding unnecessary stress to the remaining production team who were already working tirelessly on getting an almost entirely new film made. This in turn led to crippling much of the visual effects because something on the table had to be rushed in order to meet deadlines.

The film was released to mixed reviews but even before the Snyder Cut, it just never aged well. Superman’s mustache is a meme, Affleck looks like he’s already given up (we later found out that Justice League is the reason he quit Batman), and the inconsistent mesh of BvS and The Avengers was downright awful. Say what you will about Man of Steel or BvS, at least they were (mostly) coherent with a vision and somewhat consistent style. 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trailer

Since the film’s release, fans began to form a movement known as the #releasethesnydercut, a movement that gained serious traction. Snyder himself would release photos here and there on Instagram and Twitter, teasing that there was a full cut of his film. Finally the cast (except Ben Affleck) and even crew members joined in, taking to social media to promote their loyalty to Snyder, demanding the studio to #releasethesnydercut. 

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And now, we’re here. Call it the studio caving to “passionate” or “toxic” fans or Warner Bros. being humble and knowing it’s worth giving the Snyder Cut a shot (I’ve heard it both ways), they listened and we’ve got ourselves a four-hour mini-series coming to HBO Max in 2021. 

Why Zack Snyder’s Justice League is Good News

Snyder is a unique director. Most filmmakers are lucky if they get one director’s cut in their career (or any cut of their liking for that matter). But Zack has proven more than once that his cuts are improvements ranging from solid to great. Batman v Superman received an “Ultimate Edition” on DVD and digital video that vastly improved upon the original (though by no means did it fully fix the film’s main issues) with critics and fans everywhere wondering where the film was when everyone went to the theaters? 2009’s Watchmen received both a director’s cut and an ultimate cut, with Snyder’s cut of the film thought to be  one of the best director’s cuts ever made. 

And now Snyder will be releasing his second director’s cut, and fourth cut overall. It’s safe to say that there must be  a reason for this. More so, you wouldn’t make a new cut if you weren’t able to sell it to producers. They have bought his vision. And not just drop it, but to invest a good chunk of change into the project. 

The next reason that this is good news is on Warner Bros’ part. I commend them wholeheartedly. There isn’t a day in this world where a film company like Walt Disney Studios gives a new cut of a film, no matter how bad their movie is. They have a brand to upkeep and will maintain, even if it means screwing over the director’s vision (just ask Edgar Wright, Patty Jenkins, and Scott Derrickson). It’s their way or the highway. 

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While Warner has greenlit director’s cuts before, it has interestingly had a similar issue where a director had a vision but the studio inevitably shoved him out for another. I’m talking about 1980’s Superman II, one of the greatest superhero films ever made. After Richard Donner completed his film, he was replaced by a new director. Of course the final product is beloved by many and holds up even by today’s standards, yet it took a staggering 26 years for  Warner Bros. to allow Donner’s cut of the film to be realized. Donner’s vision was unveiled and the result  was just as good as the original, perhaps even superior (though Donner sadly never got to see it himself). 

Warner Bros. has swallowed their pride this time and is now willing to allow competing visions to exist. More so they are giving Snyder upwards of $30 million to complete the film and do it right. It is a smart move that will be sure to make the fans happy, renew more interest in the DCEU, and likely help turn a profit as many will now be signing up for HBO Max just to catch a tent-pole of streaming releases in 2021. Disney+ hasn’t been it’s all cracked up to be, and I can see HBO Max coming in second to Netflix in terms of popularity, JUST because of this series. 

Finally, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has a chance to renew interest in a franchise that has struggled mightily. With WW84 being postponed for release and The Batman being paused (with some slight controversy over its star), the pressure on those two films carrying the DCEU will lighten if this cut is just barely better than the original, which I’m certain it will be. It will have consistency, four hours to develop characters and stakes, and better visuals to match Snyder’s eye for some of the best comic-book action in film history. All those characteristics were non-existent in the original. 

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The Possibly Negative Fallout Post-Snyder Cut

I’m ecstatic for Snyder, DC films, Warner Bros., and the fan-base (which includes me), but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to the possible precedent Zack Snyder’s Justice League sets for the future.  

I’m a firm believer in directors and their vision being realized. (You think I’m going to school as a director just to have what happened to Snyder to happen to me? Didn’t think so.) But I understand that art and the business of film are very separate entities, even if they work together hand in hand. Investments are investments, and producers do (and should) have a say in the project they pay for. More so, as a hopeful director, it is a very, very bad idea to begin giving directors more power than they have. If a director called all the shots and did everything himself, we’d have a lot of problems. Yes, the artist in me says that’s great. The businessman who knows humans make mistakes especially on their own says that scares the crap out of me. Collaboration is necessary for film more than maybe any other art form. Paintings, written work, and even music can be great with one vision and/or hand on the wheel. But film? No. 

Notice the public often says “Christopher Nolan is amazing” or how any beloved director was so good because of their vision. Yes, studios are a lot more confident giving competent directors lots of money to enforce that auteur’s vision. But those guys EARNED it. Nolan couldn’t make Inception until he had sure-footing in cinema which he justified through films like Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight (nor is a studio keeping a July 2020 release date for Tenet when COVID threatens to kill the box office.) Bong Joon-Ho sure isn’t  winning your nephew’s best homemade movie trophy, let alone Best Director at the Oscars without The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer, and Okja preceding Parasite.  

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And notice that despite the public yelling “director, director, director,” the directors themselves state at award ceremonies, “I couldn’t have done this without x, y, and z helping.” Even they know and are grateful for the hundreds  of people helping to lighten the load and do their utmost to make the film a reality. The director should hold about 51-60% of the influence (though it’s more like 30-40% in today’s world). It’s their film. But they shouldn’t have any more than that. And now as more directors clamor for “their vision” to be released, a battle could ensue with studios and filmmakers. An unnecessary one at that.

So why can’t other directors get new cuts? I mean, both Suicide Squad and Ghostbusters directors are whining about getting a new cut for their films. 

There’s just one problem: those films are inherently bad and the directors weren’t snubbed. Yes, Suicide Squad made serious re-edits that were stupid and confounding to say the least, but both films have a story and plot choices that wouldn’t change even with a new cut. They were awful films. And yes, Justice League is, as I put it, a trainwreck. But we knew the minute the film came out, it wasn’t at all Snyder. He lost 75% of his vision, and the remaining 25% was messed with and reshot to a point where it’s been mentioned that 90% of what we see in the film wasn’t what Snyder had in mind. SS and Ghostbusters are still on the shoulders of their respective directors and no extended footage will ever fix them. 

No way a studio bites on that. And here’s hoping they don’t. 

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Furthermore, most films don’t mess with the director’s vision. They give input and sometimes, yes, some mandates. But not so restricting they can’t carry out their vision. Snyder was promised a trilogy of films; what he got was 10% of the final product. Justice League is an anomaly. But I’m worried it becomes the beginning of a new norm. 

Lastly, many new sites have blamed fans for being mean and bullying this cut into a reality. 

Fan bases can get very excitable (putting it lightly). I’m part of multiple, I’d know. And because I’m part of them, I know what they are ACTUALLY like. I don’t condone bullying. It happened with Star Wars. Did I like The Last Jedi? As a long time fan, no. Not particularly. But it was sickening to see fans bully Kelly Marie Tran. I didn’t enjoy seeing DC diehards calling Warner Bros 24/7 or getting a producer to quit Twitter over pure outrage either. 

Most fans aren’t like that. In fact, the bully-fans are a small portion of a generally respectful crowd of filmgoers. We don’t have to like films, we just shouldn’t be obnoxious so as to  hurt others around you. The public pays attention to the mean fans, not the quietly respectful ones who say #releasethesnydercut and leave it at that. All my friends are joyful at the release of this film and none of them even have social media. The cast of JL represents that harmless joy and excitement in us. It’s the cast, crew, and its beloved director that helped boost this cut into existence. The thousands of fans certainly helped, but that never would have been enough. 

The studio didn’t announce the new cut because of bullying. But the avidness of bullies will very likely rise as the few loud-mouth fans wrongly take credit for getting this film released and become more confident and brash. That scares me. 

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Is There a Solution?

Again, filmmaking is art and business shaking hands to complete a finished product. The director accomplishes their vision while the producers/studio make money. Nothing fancy about it. 

What if the director feels they have a superior vision to the final product, or if they worry they will be spurned down the road in production?

Easy. Create a contract that states both sides will work together to make movies the same way they’ve been made for decades. Release the agreed-upon project into theaters for the general public to enjoy. If the director is unhappy for some reason, the contract states that after a certain period of time during which the original film garners box-office revenue and digital/dvd sales for the studio, the studio will release the director’s cut, whether it be on a streaming service or as its own film. Everyone wins; the studio gets even more money, the artist gets their work as they wanted, the general public enjoys (hopefully) a new film, while diehard enthusiasts or fan bases can go on to enjoy the “authentic” work based upon the director’s vision. 

Again, director’s cuts are rare anyhow. Nine times out of ten a good movie gets left alone; it makes bank, wins awards, or becomes a cult classic. And nine times out of ten a film is terrible because…well…the movie is just plain bad and no amount of added scenes or “vision casting” will help. Again, new cuts are rare. But, it is that final time out of ten when the cut gets made. Sure, the film was great, but you can make it even better or unique. And on the flip side, the director was snubbed, and a new cut will not only satisfy, but improve the product overall. 

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As I mentioned before, directors should have more say in general versus what they typically do, an effect that likely removes the need for director cuts in the first place. Is it possible the Snyder Cut helps with this? It’s possible, but highly unlikely for a studio to have that much faith outside of the top-tier directors who earned the right to be trusted, This is why I propose the contract and not just giving directors power. Only a select few deserve full power to use another person’s money any way they see fit. 

Lasting Effects of an HBO Mini-Series

Lastly, with the new trailer that dropped this past Saturday, we can see that there is much more to enjoy but that this film will have the gloss and production value of a full-on superhero epic. And if it’s successful, what will that mean for blockbuster epics to come, especially when COVID has hurt the theatrical experience so much?

It’s a safe assumption that when this hits and receives positive reviews (I’m predicting it now), studios will try their hand at more mini-series with high-end values. It’s something that would be perfect for comic books, but also would adapt beloved novels and book series equally (a re-make of Harry Potter where each season is a book would be amazing!)

There have been rumors already of Ben Affleck getting another shot at his original Batman film as an HBO mini-series but paired with a film budget. I hope that comes to fruition because honestly, who doesn’t want as much Batman as possible? 

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HBO has always held a reputation for quality television, but once this is a success, like any other success in Hollywood, every studio will copy (just like everyone copied Marvel or everyone started their own streaming service). Monkey see monkey do. 

Praise Warner Bros, be ecstatic for Zack Snyder, and get excited for what could be one of the best superhero epics ever, likely crushing all streaming records when it hits HBO Max. This is David and Goliath. Snyder triumphed in a world where directors are regularly given less than the majority of the say within the very film they were hired to direct (weird). And let’s have faith that this incredibly unlikely event is a positive outcome and not a detriment to film as a whole, allowing us years down the line to hopefully look back at it with even more gratitude and enjoyment. 

Cast: Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman, Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman, Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash, Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner James Gordon, Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Joe Morton as Silas Stone, Ray Porter as Darkseid, Kiersey Clemons as Iris West, Zheng Kai as Ryan Choi, Karen Bryson as Elinore Stone, Peter Guinness as DeSaad, Joe Manganiello portrays Slade Wilson / Deathstroke in the post-credits scene. 

Producers: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder | Cinematographer: Fabian Wagner | Editor: David Brenner | Screenplay: Chris Terrio | Story: Chris Terrio, Zack Snyder

Director: One and only Zack Snyder

By Merrick Sinclair


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