This is the tweet that made me realise that this often talked about Snyder Cut was actually real.
Before this, I chalked up the idea to rabid DC-fanboys and girls who were upset that Justice League (2017) didn't live up to their expectations. I based this on nothing of course.
I was (and still am) a bit numbed to internet uproar -- it just happens so often. But then I saw Affleck's tweet and thought, "huh...so it's actually...a thing?". A tweet from Gal Gadot and an Instagram post from Jason Mamoa later, and I was officially curious.
My thinking was, if this was just purely fans being unhappy and/or Zack Snyder wanting a do-over because his ego was sore, there's no way he can get the cast on board. But the fact that the biggest stars of Justice League's cast are publicly expressing their support for Zack and #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, it was reasonable to assume that there was something here beyond my assumptions.
I am a loyal listener of the ReelBlend podcast and through one of the hosts, Sean O'Connell, I started to learn more about #ReleaseTheSnyderCut and recently, finished Sean's book, "Release The Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind The Fight That Saved Zack Snyder's Justice League".
It's a fascinating turn of events that has drawn a lot of criticism (some deserved, others not so much) and if you're a film fan in general, I'm sure this has been on your radar to some degree. Here's my personal journey through this movement and my opinions on the matter.
November 17, 2017: Release the Justice League
Before we get into #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, let's take it back to November 2017.
At this point, Man of Steel (2013) has given us Henry Cavill as our Superman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) has brought Supes into Gotham to face off against Batman (Affleck), and Wonder Woman (2017) has introduced Gadot as Wonder Woman. Oh, and Suicide Squad (2016). That happened, too.
Each movie was met with varying degrees of success. I think it's fair to say Wonder Woman has enjoyed the most acclaim by fans and critics, MoS's ending was a bit divisive but it's mostly liked, BvS a bit disappointing to many, and Suicide Squad was just...look, it's a movie that was made -- Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn though. As an aside, if you were one of those disappointed with BvS, may I suggest watching the Ultimate Edition (i.e. director's cut).
When it came time for Justice League to be released I remember not being very excited for it. The DCEU (DC Extended Universe to Marvel's Cinematic Universe) had been a bit of a let down. I enjoyed different aspects of each movie -- I liked MoS and Wonder Woman, while a bit saccharine at times for my tastes, was enjoyable. I'm a big Batman fan and was pretty excited for BvS and until I saw the Ultimate Edition last year, I wasn't a fan of the movie. So even though I went to watch Justice League on opening weekend, I went more out of obligation/curiosity for a movie with Batman in it rather than genuine excitement for a film.Warner Bros. Pictures
I have one vivid memory from Justice League: during the movie I looked to my left and saw a little boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, standing up and moving around restlessly. The kid was just so bored. I recall thinking, "man, if they can't get a kid to be interested in this, what chance does this movie have?"
Looking back, I suppose I was bored too. Bored enough to start looking around at the audience, which I really never do. But it's safe to say, Justice League was just fine to me. I don't recall hating it but I certainly had no desire to watch it again (and I haven't until recently, but more on that later).
Prior to its release, I had read about the terrible loss Snyder and his family were dealing with and that Joss Whedon had stepped in to finish the movie for him.
I made a lot of assumptions about #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, and the dumbest one, in hindsight, was that Whedon was stepping in as a favour to Snyder, as a fellow director and a friend. In my mind, this was similar-ish to when Heath Ledger passed and Jude Law and Colin Farrell, friends of Ledger's, were asked to fill in to finish The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009).
I wouldn't say I was naive then, I just simply didn't know -- I'd say most people didn't have an inkling that anything was wrong beyond it just being a bad movie (not an uncommon thing in Hollywood). However, there was a group of people on the internet who were ahead of the game and it was their passion that has given us Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021).
My Favourite #ReleaseTheSnyderCut Findings
I'm not going to get into a re-telling of the entire movement -- O'Connell's book is well researched and journeys the movement through interviews with members of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut as well as Snyder himself. There is also a good Vanity Fair article by Anthony Breznican that gives an overview (Justice League: The Shocking, Exhilarating, Heartbreaking True Story of #TheSnyderCut).
Like I said, I'm not going to re-tell the whole story, but I did want to touch on three aspects of the movement that I found most interesting.
#1. That Moustache
It's the first thing you notice watching Justice League and was also one of the biggest talking points coming from the movie. As the tale goes, Henry Cavill was shooting Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) at the time when re-shoots for Justice League -- okay I've gone long enough, we're switching to Josstice League because it's hilarious -- so, Cavill is shooting Fallout when re-shoots for Josstice League are scheduled. Cavill was sporting quite the moustache for Fallout and of course, our boy Blue is a clean shaven man. Reports were that Paramount (the studio behind Fallout) wouldn't let Cavill shave as it would have caused a delay and an expense they weren't willing to front for the sake of another studio's box office juggernaut.
Those reports were mostly true, but it did leave out a pretty big detail.
As it turns out, Christopher McQuarrie, director for Fallout, had been willing to shut down production to give Cavill time to shave, film his re-shoots for Josstice League, then grow the moustache back and re-join Fallout. The total cost for this was said to be $3 million -- pocket change for Josstice League. However, according to McQuarrie on Empire magazine's podcast: "Paramount said, "What is going on? What are you people even talking about? They're like, "There's no way we're going to do that." We were just like, "Okay." That was the best plan that we could come up with."
So alright, it wasn't anything to do with Warner Bros. or Whedon, and really if I were a big wig at Paramount I'd probably say the same thing. Why help out the enemy?
However, this does lend to a really interesting discussion: now that Cavill's moustache would need to be digitally removed, why was it done so terribly? Every single person who watches Josstice League will tell you that something is very off with Cavill's face in those scenes. How then could a studio as big as Warner Bros., with a tent pole movie as important as Josstice League, look at those scenes and think, "nailed it".
Well, in a surprise to no one, according to O'Connell's book, it reportedly became a matter of money. Specifically, Warner Bros. executives' bonuses.
Josstice League was given a November 17, 2017 release date and Warner Bros. was unwilling to move from this -- even though audiences would more than understand given why Snyder had to walk away. But see, in late-2016 AT&T announced they would be acquiring Time Warner. As a result, executives allegedly didn't want to push back the release date for fear of appearing weak to their new parent company, and more importantly, key members of the executive team would stand to delay their bonuses they would have received from the presumed success of Josstice League.
So if all these reports are true -- and really, if it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck...you get the idea -- then the reason we get, not only a bloated-faced Cavill, but an entire movie whose CGI is so poor is simply due to the greed of, I'm sure, already wealthy individuals. I swear to you I could have done better after watching a YouTube tutorial.
Going back to the Whedon-Snyder situation: I really thought Whedon and Snyder were old mates. And I was very wrong about that. My bad.
It's been reported that Warner Bros. wanted Snyder out the door and his decision to step away gave them a less awkward way of doing it. It was also Warner Bros. who sought out Whedon -- not Snyder, as I had assumed.
Whedon is a natural choice for Warner Bros. after his success in the MCU, particularly with The Avengers (2012), but also Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and the excellent, Firefly (2002). Warner Bros. were specifically looking for someone to lighten up Snyder's dark vision and "punch up" the script with some levity.
Warner Bros. wanted the success of the MCU and they wanted it immediately. So when the first few vehicles fell short of the $1 billion mark (yes, that's apparently the only sign of success these days for this kind of movie), Warner Bros. was getting impatient with Snyder's approach of putting a darker, more visceral interpretation on the screen. Warner Bros. wanted someone to bring light to the DCEU even if it didn't belong.
So Warner Bros. brings in Whedon but unfortunately his previous successes didn't translate and many of the "punch ups" he was meant to do fell flat. And to make matters go from annoying to down right terrible, serious allegations of Whedon's treatment of others on set surfaced a few months ago with an internal investigation following.
It's hard to say how much of the movie is Whedon and how much is Snyder (O'Connell's book estimates based on his sources that Whedon re-shot anywhere from 80–90% of what we see in the theatrical cut), but we can be sure when the Snyder Cut is released.
I'm not a comic book aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but even I'm aware that there's an inherent difference between DC and Marvel. DC is darker, their villains are the real stars of the show. And with Marvel, it's the superheros that carry the torch. In my opinion, it's a bit ridiculous to think that the movies would be any different, and foolish to want them to be any different.
One of the reasons that Marvel and DC have been able to co-exist for so long is because they offer their readers something different. Two different takes on superheros fighting crime. If they both tried to do the same thing, they either would have just merged as one or more likely, one would have taken out the other.
I know it's easy for me to sit back and say that Warner Bros. was very short-sighted in their demands of Snyder. Fact is, they were sitting on two of the most well known fictional characters in history and they were behind. But to play catch up required patience they did not have. So they decide to take a shortcut with Whedon, and it's safe to say it didn't work out.
#3. This Fanbase
Prior to digging deeper into #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, I was really put off with how seemingly negative the movement was. I saw a lot of vitriol online coming from members of the community and I just had no interest in engaging with it. I did know though that they were incredible supporters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a cause close to Snyder's heart, but I didn't realise to what extent.
Since 2017, this community has been behind some incredible fundraising campaigns: birthday fundraisers where members would ask for donations to AFSP in lieu of gifts, charity screenings of BvS, and even merchandise and clothing drives -- often backed by Snyder. It's commendable and inspiring what this group have parlayed #ReleaseTheSnyderCut into.
One aspect of this movement that I was missing until very recently: this was never about fans upset that a movie sucked, it was about discovering that someone's artistic integrity was compromised and supporting them. And this isn't about Zack Snyder specifically, it's about the power that studios have and abuse to steamroll over a creator. It's a pretty familiar tale with the internet -- something isn't deemed right to a group of people and they go to bat until the other side tires. Whether that's right or wrong, or just reality, is a debate for another day. All I know is in this case, something pretty cool came out of it.
Revisiting Josstice League
For some reason I thought it was a good idea to re-watch Josstice League. I knew I wasn't going to like it but it felt like something to do to make this whole process complete.
We're not going to rehash this thing or do a proper review, but here are some of the key takeaways I had:
- The CGI is honestly just so bad -- not just Cavill's naked upper lip, all of it.
- The colour palette of this movie is really jarring, even though I haven't seen BvS or MoS in a long time, the light and bright colours feel very out of place.
- I don't know why it bothered me but Wonder Woman wearing pink lipstick the whole time seems unnecessary and judging from the Wonder Woman movies, Patty Jenkins agrees with me.
- Considering a number of those actors are pretty gifted in the comedy department, some of those jokes are just horrendous.
- I'm sad we aren't getting anymore from Affleck as Batman, he was a great casting choice.
Zack Snyder's Justice League
It's honestly pretty incredible that the Snyder Cut exists, let alone is getting an actual release. Yes it's on a streaming service, and the chances of it receiving a theatrical release in normal times were small, but still, it's an accomplishment.
I'm looking forward to seeing this, and even though early reviews are pointing to "good", I don't think I really care if it's good or not. It's just impressive that this is even happening.
Just as a little disclaimer before I go: I have barely scratched the surface of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut story. If you're interested in this, I really recommend reading Sean O'Connell's book, it's well written and will answer most, if not all, of your questions.
I know the Snyder Cut is still a polarizing topic, but I hope for everyone who has wanted it, you enjoy it, and if you didn't, well, take a nap instead.
Zack Snyder's Justice League will be available on Crave on March 18, 2021.