The production history of DC’s JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) is a sad one, as it was beset with delays due to a personal tragedy in the life of director Zack Snyder. Joss Whedon finished the job and what we got was a botched, boring superhero beat-‘em-up that tried to emanate the comedic AVENGERS (2012). Hiring that film’s writer-director, Whedon, was a not-so subtle way of trying to achieve that.
What’s most unusual about how this story continued is the way fans have been clamoring for Zack Snyder’s original cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE. His BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2013) project was largely panned by critics and fans alike, save for a loyal minority that recognized some untapped potential in its murky narrative. And yet, a sudden majority have thrown their support the director’s way, with the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trending on multiple occasions.
Well, the power of fandom resumes: first SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2020), and now, HBO Max announces that it will release the Snyder Cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE. How it will be released has yet to be decided. But ultimately, I think this is a win for the director, DC and the fans. Here’s why.
Respect the vision
You can deny the quality of BATMAN V SUPERMAN, but you cannot deny its ambition. I’m not just talking about all of the plotlines and characters it overwhelmingly juggles: the themes are fairly dark for a Summer blockbuster. Forcing Superman and Batman to lock horns because both are directly involved in the deaths/suffering of others, is depressingly impressive.
It didn’t catch fire for many audiences, and it was lambasted for its moody tone. Yet, with JUSTICE LEAGUE, a film that phoned in some comedy and camaraderie to fix this, we saw all of the originality stripped from the series: love it or hate it, DC’s films are more engaging when they’re trying something fresh, and Snyder brings that. Giving Snyder the funding and time to edit the effects, add some additional dialogue and tie his version of JUSTICE LEAGUE together, is a good sign of directors still being allowed to assert their vision. Marvel often comes under fire for not allowing their filmmakers any creative freedom, save for a few exceptions (Taika Waititi, James Gunn). DC stands out a bit more by gifting Snyder the keys to his blacker than black Batmobile once more.
DC needs some stability
If Marvel is the superhero genre’s Mom – organized, one step ahead of everyone else – then DC is the Dad: it has good intentions, but it’s all over the place and is incapable of juggling all of its responsibilities.
From BATMAN V SUPERMAN, a brooding epic, to SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), a noirish DIRTY DOZEN (1967) with an emo edge; from AQUAMAN (2018), a THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) meets GAME OF THRONES hybrid, to SHAZAM! (2019), a BIG (1988) meets THOR (2011) mash-up. Yeah, DC is a little all over the place in its scheduling, and is certainly inconsistent with its tone.
While its tone will undergo the Snyder treatment, the scheduling might just be on the way to getting repaired as well. If DC is smart, they could use the anticipation of the Snyder Cut to turn its release into an event, which DC could then mould into the beginning of a darker timeline of pictures heading forward. Yes, that even includes the guy that can talk to fish: you really going to treat Jason Momoa like a fool?
Rejuvenate the brand: don’t copy what others have done, give audiences something specific to DC. It’s just the storytelling that needs more clarity. After all, no one can look me in the eye and say that mature superhero movies are dead ends at the box office, after a certain Clown Prince made his mark last year.
The fans pay the money; this is reward for their loyalty
It would be easy for fans to have simply rejected JUSTICE LEAGUE and boycotted future DC adaptations: for those that think is an ineffective means of protest, see SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018). However, as alluded to earlier, the steady flow of petitions and online posts has led to this moment. Even if DC has a business plan, their conclusion came from one place and that’s from DC Comics’ devotees.
Therefore, the release of the Snyder Cut is a victory for audiences. This edition of JUSTICE LEAGUE might deliver the same mediocre film with a slightly darker varnish on the visuals. But ultimately, it comes down to the power of customer value. People like you and I can actually get somewhere if we let the studios see us in numbers, a potentially huge crowd of viewers, calling for a product or change to an existing property. It’s a lucrative opportunity that’s beneficial for both them and us. So, to use a quote of Aquaman’s, this Snyder Cut? “I dig it”.