The Snyder cut is an act of tremendous love, where the passion of fans would affect a studio like Warner Bros to give creative control to an artist who would come back to his project and do it again out of pure passion. Only in our digital age could this process have happened.
In 2010 Zack Snyder was given the reigns to reintroduce Superman to a modern audience in the Man of Steel (2013); Snyder followed this polarizing picture with Batman v Superman (2016), which was an extremely polarizing movie to audiences. Its dark tone and twisting of characters' audience expectations caused unfavourable critical opinions. This created worry in the studio of WB.
When Snyder was tasked to bring DCs Justice League to the big screen to rival the "cinematic universe", of Disney-Marvels Avengers (2012). No one could have predicted the uniquely interesting turn the production would take. Five years later, the final intended picture has been released since March 18th.
During the Justice League's production (2017), director Zack Snyder's daughter, Autumn, died. The personal loss caused Snyder to leave the project, and Avenger's director Joss Whedon to come in as his replacement. The end was a box office flop (grossing €656 Million) and disappointment for WB. it wouldn't be until the release of Joker (2019), which grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. That the studio made their money back from the loss of the Justice League (2017).
Following the sour taste and speculation that Whedon had done reshoots and Snyder was out before he left for personal reasons, a viral movement was started; #releasethesnydercut.
This movement led by fans started with an online petition requesting Warner Bros to sanction a director's cut of the movie and the scrapped original score by Junkie XL. This petition drew nearly 180,000 signatures in 2017. While many critics lampooned fans as toxic for requesting such a thing from a movie studio, the coronavirus pandemic would bear fruit for them as movie studios panicked as all productions closed down, leaving many to panic about release dates and content where they could make money. Luckily Warner Bros had a near finished movie of Zack Snyder's Justice League and eventually gave it the green light. Awarding him $70 million to complete his movie and release on HBO Max
WB told Snyder that he could not reshoot, and even before this, they asked him to release a rough cut that he refused. For Snyder, it was all or nothing.
It would result in Zack Snyder's vision coming to the silver screen. He got creative control instead of payment and Zack was given $70 million to create his 4-hour epic, hired a bunch of additional effects artists and did reshoots, notably with a thinner, older looking Ben Affleck.
Initially, when Whedon came in, he did extensive reshoots that drove up the budget; many of the reshoots were for additional jokes to lighten the mood along with ADR.
During the initial creation of Justice League, it was meant to be a two-part movie. Still, these aspirations were dashed upon Batman V Superman's Dawn of Justice: release which did ok at the box office. Still, it's tone pissed off fans and audiences. As a result, WB had handlers watch over Snyder. They wanted a more upbeat tone akin to a family-friendly movie.
Former Warner Bros. co-production head Jon Berg had this to say about his watchdog role on set, "My job was to try to mediate between a creator whose vision is instinctually dark and a studio that perceived, rightly or wrong, that the fans wanted something lighter,".
Much of the Whedon production and WB executives wanted much of the movie to be re-shot and rewritten, to 'be more like marvel'. A run time of 2 hours was forced on the production.
Still, bizarrely, Whedon had shot much additional footage that was added in it, resulting in a rushed mess, that sped its way through character development and story beats, changing much of the initial plot development.
But the most noteworthy thing about Justice League 2017 is Henry Cavill's moustachegate. Which during the production he had a moustache for Mission Impossible Fallout (2018). He had to keep the moustache because of contractual obligations, so it was CGI'd off his face giving an uncanny Valley Superman appearance. The Snyder cut develops characters of the Flash and Cyborg extensively who had many of their roles cut in the Whedon version as cyborg actor Ray Fisher had this to say about his working with Joss Whedon, as "gross, abusive, and unprofessional" on the set of the movie, and that his behaviour was enabled by higher-ups at the studio.
In previous interviews, Zack revealed that he never watched the Justice League's theatrical cut, which bears his name as director and Joss Whedon's added name as co-screenwriter. But he's estimated around 70 to 75 percent of it was rewritten and re-shot by Whedon. Now in a new profile piece with Vanity Fair, Zack and Deborah reveal the reason he'll never be sure is that Deborah and Christopher Nolan (Inception, 2010) watched the "Whedon cut" of Justice League in fall 2017 and decided to spare Zack the added pain of seeing what became of his work.
"They came, and they just said, 'You can never see that movie.'" Zack Said.
His wife, Deborah added, “Because I knew it would break his heart."
Zack Continued to share about his experience losing his daughter and how it affected the process of making the movie. “We just lost the will to fight that fight in a lot of ways. All of us, the whole family, we're just so broken by [losing Autumn] that having those conversations in the middle of it really became… I was like, 'Really?' Frankly, I think we did the right thing because I think it would've been either incredibly belligerent or we just rolled over."
It remains to be seen how much revenue it will generate on the streaming service. Because the streaming services innovation and huge use uptake tied to the pandemic, it has shown that both powers of technological innovation and people movements during this pandemic helped get this cut out to the public.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is a victory for the fans and the idea that an artist can have his away over a studio, with enough creative control to have a cash-cow like Batman dropping a F-bomb.
At 4 hours long, the movie does not feel drawn out and has been well edited. The real standout characters are Ray Fisher's Cyborg and Ezra Miller's Flash, who get more scenes, have crucial plot elements tied to their characters. A huge difference than Whedon’s comic relief use of Ezra’s performance and leaving much of Fishers performance on the cutting room floor.
Snyder does a near hall back to his Watchmen (2009) movie in terms of characterization with the superheroes he has in this picture. Many people might not like Zack Snyder for his quirks when filming. For this movie, Zack has indulged in these criticisms, and done what he is often criticized for, here he embraces his over-the-top style and it worked for the most part.
The story of the Snyder cut is more interesting because of all the elements and time involved. Never has a studio eaten their hat and let a director what they wanted.