At this point, fans are not only hoping, but in a lot of cases expecting, some kind of big announcement about an extended director’s cut of Justice League from filmmaker Zack Snyder in the next day or so. Snyder, who will host a watch party/live-tweet of Man of Steel at 11 a.m. ET, has never shied away from supporting the fans who have consistently tweeted #ReleaseTheSnyderCut in the years since Justice League hit theaters and disappointed critics and audiences. While Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice drew a lot of criticism and didn’t make as much money as Warner Bros. hoped, both were blockbusters, and their fans were dedicated.
Not so for Justice League, the last DC film officially credited to Snyder, which was completed by Marvel’s The Avengers director Joss Whedon after Snyder departed the project following his daughter’s untimely death. Snyder fans have long maintained that the dark, violent, complex heroes of Snyder’s first two films would have made Justice League a smarter, better film than the more all-audiences feel that Whedon was going for (almost certainly at the behest of studio heads gunshy over the reception to Batman v Superman).
If something doesn’t get announced, then, we’ve got a proposition: Snyder should do a watch party-style screening for “The Snyder Cut,” his extended, unrated cut of Justice League. Weighing in at 214 minutes, the Snyder Cut is almost another whole movie longer than the Justice League theatrical cut.
Snyder was said to have screened a version of his movie for Warner Bros. executives shortly before his departure, using an assembly cut — essentially a very rough edit of the film, using every scene filmed. These cuts often run long, with scenes cut depending on the film’s needs, and almost always contain unfinished scenes or visual effects. In the case of Justice League, some sequences that Snyder had planned were never completely shot or animated, leaving them in storyboard or loose animation form.
It was, apparently, roughly at this point that Snyder left the production, but rather than completing what Snyder already had planned, Warner Bros. and Whedon made significant cuts and alterations to the film. Reshoots, a fairly standard part of big-budget filmmaking these days, confliced with Henry Cavill’s shooting schedule on Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which gave birth to a rushed and sloppy CG masking effect to hide the mustache he contractually could not remove during the M: I shoot. Similarly rushed and sloppy was the look of Steppenwolf, which was not especially similar to how he had been teased in Batman v Superman. And big chunks of story already teased in the ads were excised. The movie was cut significantly, apparently because WB wanted a two-hour runtime to increase the number of screenings the movie would havein its opening weekends. This made some kind of strategic sense if they thought the movie wasn’t going to play well with audiences; after all, Batman v Superman had a massive opening weekend before dropping off significantly the following week.
The result was a movie that has its fans — heck, we liked it! — but on the whole it’s nobody’s favorite movie. Snyder fans felt betrayed, and the serious tone he had established was undercut by a movie that fent like it wanted to be more like Marvel, while Marvel fans and those who didn’t like Snyder’s previous movies didn’t think the changes had gone far enough to alter the film’s tone and worldview. With Snyder seemingly out of the picture at DC following the Justice League release, his detractors just wanted to move on and forget about the Snyder films, while his supporters started social media movements to get a recognizable cut of the movie the director had been describing in interviews.
If there isn’t a Snyder Cut announcement for HBO Max, then, a solution that might work for all involved would be to couch it as some kind of behind-the-scenes look, allowing Snyder to screen his cut of the film for fans — either as a permanent video for HBO Max or even as a one-time thing to benefit charity. It would allow him to show them what he’s got and to discuss it with his hardcore supporters, without Warner having to shell out what some analysts have predicted would be around $80 million to get the movie into a marketable shape. Snyder’s commentary would explain whatever is missing, and his fans would finally have some sense of closure, all without WB having to commercially release a cut they don’t believe in or pay significant amounts of money to polish an assembly cut.
Is this likely to happen? Well, probably not. If Warner can’t find a way to directly profit off of any prospective extended cut of a box office bomb, there’s probably no real path forward to releasing it just to shut up a vocal segment of the fandom. But it’s certainly something that’s plausible, cheap, and would engender a ton of goodwill. And if the rising volume of “Snyder Cut” rumors has taught us anything, it’s that you should never say never.
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