The 2017 “Justice League” film was widely panned by critics and fans alike. The movie was famously plagued with issues during production, which were likely made worse with the sudden departure of director Zack Snyder before it was finished. If a film has an entire Wikipedia page devoted to its production, chances are it wasn’t because everything went smoothly.
The film joins the ranks of other infamously troubled productions, like “Apocalypse Now” and “The Revenant.” Unlike those two films, however, the finished product was not well received by audiences, and it completely bombed at the box office. This forced Warner Bros. to abandon stand-alone films and sequels for characters such as Batgirl and Ben Affleck’s Batman.
Considering just how much of a disaster “Justice League” turned out to be, it seems miraculous that it’s still generating interest among fans. So much so that when word got out that Zack Snyder was in possession of a four-hour cut of the film, a mass movement for its release was started online. The development gained so much traction that Warner Bros. and HBO Max teamed up to back the release of what has been dubbed the “Snyder Cut.” This version of the film clocks in at a massive four-hour and three-minute runtime, doubling the length of the original theatrical release.
Second chances are rare, especially in Hollywood. That’s what makes the upcoming release of Snyder’s “Justice League” such a fascinating event. However, the question remains: Will it redeem the film?
Perhaps to better answer this question, it’s necessary to delve into what exactly went wrong with the original production. Was it simply the age-old tale of Hollywood executives meddling with a director’s artistic vision? Or is Snyder himself to blame? As is often the case with such complex inquiries, the truth may lie somewhere in the middle.
“Justice League”: What Went Wrong?
The troubles for “Justice League” actually began with the 2016 “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” film’s poor reception and box office performance. Studio executives at Warner Bros. felt that many of the negative reviews were due to the dark and serious tone of the film. This notion was fueled in part by the success of Marvel’s films, which are notable for having a much lighter and more humorous tone.
Worried about the future of their quickly disintegrating cinematic universe, Warner Bros. decided to tighten the reins on Snyder’s direction of the film, assigning Jon Berg and Geoff Johns to oversee its production. At least one of these two individuals had to be on set every day, with each having their own ideas and input, such as injecting humor to lighten the tone of the film.
The problem with this is that Snyder had built and developed a world completely different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Warner Bros. was so desperate to emulate, resulting in awkward interactions and humor that just felt out of place.
To make matters worse, the studio placed a two-hour runtime restriction on the film, forcing Snyder to make giant cuts to a movie loaded with new characters. With so many moving parts, and the introduction of pivotal new characters such as the Flash and Aquaman, squeezing the runtime down to two hours resulted in a clunky film. This makes sense upon rewatching the original “Justice League.”
Many scenes seem completely devoid of context, leaving viewers with the feeling that they may have missed something important. Additionally, the humor feels forced, falling completely flat in most cases and out of place in others.
As if meddling studio executives and a reduced runtime weren’t bad enough, the turning point of the film came when Snyder’s daughter took her own life in March of 2017. Such a tragic loss would be tough for any director to overcome, let alone one who was already facing multiple production issues.
Snyder admirably tried to soldier on and complete the movie, but ultimately left the film two months later. After his departure, “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon stepped in to take over. Again, it seems like Warner Bros. was hoping to recreate Marvel’s success by adding Whedon’s flair for humor and light-hearted action to the film. Ultimately, when the film was released, it was received about as positively as one would expect from a movie plagued by production issues and tragedy.
The “Snyder Cut”: What Can Fans Expect?
After fans and critics were done dismantling the theatrical release of “Justice League,” word got out that Snyder was in possession of a much longer version of the film. This gave hope to many DCEU fans who desperately wanted to like the film but were put off by what felt like a complete mess of a product.
A movement began online with a petition to launch the “Snyder Cut,” which garnered over 180,000 signatures, and the hashtag “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut” began trending on Twitter. In 2019, the movement became more than just an internet phenomenon, and an airplane with a banner that read “Release the Snyder Cut” was flown over San Diego Comic-Con.
Finally, on May 20, 2020, Snyder announced that his cut would be released on HBO Max. So, what can fans who hated the original expect from the notorious “Snyder Cut”? Well, the four-hour runtime will certainly help alleviate the disjointed feeling many viewers experienced with the 2017 release. Hopefully, some much-needed context is added to the movie regarding Cyborg’s backstory, Batman’s post-apocalyptic nightmare sequence and the fate of his famous sidekick Robin, whose damaged suit is seen for a short moment in the Batcave.
The trailer for the new cut of the film features a shot of the iconic Joker, played by Jared Leto. He appears in Batman’s post-apocalyptic nightmare with long hair and a line that has already been memed to death by the internet: “We live in a society, where honor is a distant memory, isn’t that right, Batman?”
While Jared Leto’s Joker was poorly received in “Suicide Squad,” many fans are holding out hope that his brief appearance in the “Snyder Cut” will redeem his version of the iconic villain. This is essentially what the entire movement behind releasing the “Snyder Cut” was about: hope. Hope that a longer iteration of the film put together by its original creator will result in a superior finished product. Audiences can find out if their hope and optimism were well-founded when “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” releases on March 18 on HBO Max.