People have always had a morbid fascination with Hollywood productions that either go massively over budget or completely off the rails, and few projects in recent history come burdened with the tales of behind the scenes turmoil that have followed Justice League at every turn.
Expectations were tepid to begin with after Man of Steel and Batman v Superman received tepid reviews from fans and critics alike, while Warner Bros. were determined that Justice League be their answer to The Avengers. Once original director Zack Snyder was forced to leave midway through production following a family tragedy, things swiftly went downhill.
On paper, Joss Whedon seemed like a decent choice, given his vast experience in marshalling an all-star comic book epic thanks to the first two Avengers movies. That being said, there were concerns raised about the obvious stylistic and aesthetic differences between the two filmmakers.
Almost as soon as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator boarded the ship, it started sinking. The studio felt that Batman v Superman had run far too long, and demanded that Justice League come in at two hours or less, which is why it clocks in at exactly 120 minutes.
Under the supervision of the higher-ups, Whedon reshot huge portions of the movie, and as a result the theatrical cut of Justice League suffers from some jarring tonal shifts that frequently happen several times in the same scene.
So much of the project was reworked from the ground up that the superhero blockbuster was completely unrecognizable from the movie Snyder had initially called ‘action’ on, pushing the budget up to a reported $300 million despite visual effects that would have looked terrible in a movie that cost half as much.
99% of movies that make over $650 million at the box office would be deemed a success, but Justice League had burned through so much money that it failed to turn a single penny of profit. The fans turned their backs on it completely, and the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign was born.
For two and a half years, WarnerMedia and their affiliates found their social media accounts being bombarded by a militant group of keyboard warriors, and eventually they relented. It was officially announced earlier this year that Zack Snyder’s Justice League would arrive exclusively on HBO Max next year in four hour-long instalments.
But what if it’s worse than the one we already got?
Despite what some fans may have thought, Warner Bros. couldn’t just crack open a top secret vault marked ‘Snyder Cut’ and release it. The director is currently deep in post-production, and the first trailer promises an entirely different experience from the theatrical edition.
The real question is whether or not it will be an improvement. Snyder only has the footage he originally shot to work with, and isn’t getting the cast back together for additional scenes. His time at the helm of the DCEU was marked by overblown stories, weak dialogue and questionable character motivations, and some shiny new CGI isn’t going to paper over such noticeable shortcomings.
Snyder is a visual director, of that there’s no doubt, but handling several intertwining plot threads and a roster of big stars playing iconic superheroes requires a bit of subtlety and a deft touch, something the man behind Sucker Punch and 300 has hardly been renowned for.
Batman v Superman had enough supporting players and half-baked story points to power three movies, and still felt rushed at 152 minutes. With the all-new version of Justice League set to run for at least four hours, Snyder could go in completely the wrong direction and lean into self-indulgence now that he has complete creative control for the first time.
Snyder also faced widespread criticism from longtime DC Comics fans for fundamentally failing to understand either Batman or Superman, but now all has seemingly been forgiven based entirely on the fact that he’s not Joss Whedon. His movies have always been divisive, but in all the chatter surrounding the Snyder Cut, nobody seems to be floating the idea that it might turn out to be awful.
That’s an admittedly negative way of looking at things, but few outside of the real diehards could realistically say they had any interest in seeing a four hour version of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman or even the first attempt at Justice League.
The Snyder Cut has taken on an almost mythical status, and for that reason alone some folks are expecting it to be the greatest comic book movie ever made. The truth is that it could turn out to be twice as long, half as good and render the entire $500 million outlay on Justice League meaningless in the long run.
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