Fans of Zach Snyder’s contribution to the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman) were treated to a delightful trailer for his ‘Justice League: The Snyder Cut’ at DC FanDome! If you’ve seen the controversy circling this, then you’ll know that the Justice League film we got back in 2017 wasn’t at all a reflection of Snyder’s work. After pulling out of the project to attend to some unfortunately tragic personal issues, the studio pulled Joss Whedon (Director of The Avengers, 2012) to complete the film. However, Whedon took issue with much of Snyder’s work. In fact, one might be genuinely concerned as to why the studio thought it would be a good idea to get a director with a completely different tone and filmography to the initial director to take over his project. Needless to say, the film bombed and fans and critics alike were not happy…
"The film failed to do the bare minimum of making the actual characters the centrepiece of the film"
The film was almost entirely reshot and consequently ridden with tonal inconsistencies, exhausted actors, a bland and uninspired eyesore of a colour palette, misleading and incoherent side plots and underwhelming set pieces. The biggest travesty of it all? The film failed to do the bare minimum of making the actual characters in the Justice League itself, the centrepiece of the film, unlikable, boring 2-dimensional exposition machines. If you’ve seen any of Zach Snyder’s work, you’ll know him to be a very thought-provoking director – all through his dialogue, themes and visuals. Whedon’s input in this project has no semblance of that, at all. It was so bad in fact, that both Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill walked from their roles as Batman and Superman. Everything they knew their characters to be from the previous films had been violently turned on its head and moulded into something completely different. Danny Elfman was brought onto the project to compose the soundtrack however it felt like it was consistently pandering to his old 1989 Batman theme and John Williams’ Superman theme – yes, those themes actually appeared in the 2017 movie. Junkie XL had composed the music alongside Hans Zimmer for Man of Steel and Batman V Superman and brought a sense of wonder, scale and enchantment to the music that reflected the tone of the films brilliantly. However, now all of that was gone.
Batman V Superman, although considered to be a flawed departure from the characters we know and love, provokes questions of humanity from every main character in the film. It explores the descent of pain, trauma and fear and a lack of control. A lack of understanding in a world reshaped by the events in which introduced a God to the people of earth. For a full in-depth analysis of the characters and themes within Batman V Superman, visit my video ‘The Psychology of Batman in Film’ on YouTube. Snyder uses these characters to his advantage, he takes them to places unexplored to be used as vessels for communicating powerful real-life themes. He takes that core element of why a superhero is invented such as to inspire hope, and crafts them into a powerful conflict of layered, deep themes. So what happens when all of that passion, emotion and genuine heartfelt consideration for each character is gone? We get whatever the 2017 Justice League film was.
The original cut still exists, just not within Whedon’s film. Despite the studio repeatedly claiming the cut doesn’t exist, because it would look pretty poor on their part, fans demanded and protested for Snyder’s vision to come to fruition. Recently a campaign for #ReleaseTheSnyderCut got so much attention that HBOMAX decided to fund Snyder’s original cut and it has since gone back into production. No longer is it a single 3-hour Justice League film, but instead a 4-part series with 1 hour-long episode which will be available on the streaming service. There are quite a lot more layers to this, but I don’t want this blog post to drag on.
So what’s the take away from all of this? Directors need to be able to breathe. Studios can’t force or impose restrictions and reshoots just to make money. Because at the end of the day, films are an art form and if directors are held back from sharing their vision, what is even the point? Films with passion and thought behind them will always have greater support and will be more likely to succeed then soulless cash-grabs. Audiences are smarter than what studios would like to believe. They want to be challenged, they want to see something they’ve never before seen, and they want to leave the cinema having changed in some way. If we’re just getting the same copy-paste uninspired action movies with sprinkled comedy, a surface-level plot and the most minimalised themes that art could communicate, then why should we watch them? I would rather watch 3 hours of the ‘failed’ Batman V Superman and really be confronted with the agonizing pitfalls of humanity depicted through Batman, Superman and Lex Luthor, then watch 2 hours of needlessly comedic, pointless action-drama in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There’s a reason why the support for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1, 2 and 3 movies are still so strong. Because as cheesy as they are, they’ve got heart and a genuinely important story to tell. If you don’t have a story to tell, and an important message that services the characters then DON’T make a Superhero movie.