JUSTICE LEAGUE: Our Revised Stance On The Status of A Releasable Version of The Snyder Cut
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new about the Snyder Cut of Justice League. In fact, the last time I offered any reported thoughts on the status of the fan movement aimed at getting that alternate version of the film released was way back in December of 2017. That report, which you can read here, essentially left things at “The studio has a practically-complete Zack Snyder film on their hands, but the problem is that they don’t want to invest a cent of what it would take to 100% finalize it for home release.”
And now, here we are, all of these months later and folks are still trying to fight the good fight. There have also been some intriguing remarks that have come to light from folks who worked on Justice League alongside Snyder, and so I thought I’d offer my updated take on what’s going on.
For starters, let’s look at the most recent development:
Forbes writer Mark Hughes is the latest journalist to claim that a completed version of Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League doesn’t exist. He argues that it’s pretty darn close, but not 100% finished. He says that the version that does exist, does so with “incomplete footage, missing pickups, no reshoots, missing VFX, etc.”
This assertion inspired Jay Oliva, director of the animated DC film The Dark Knight Returns and a collaborator of Snyder’s who did storyboarding for Justice League, to reply directly to Hughes with some clarifications. Over on twitter, Oliva said the following in an exchange with Hughes:
“Other than incomplete vfx and maybe some reshoots for hook ups everything was shot that was storyboarded. Zack isn’t the kind of director who creates the film in the edit bay. It’s all planned out meticulously from beginning to end. That’s how MoS and BvS was done.”
When Snyder Cut proponents took that as if Oliva was contradicting Hughes and confirming that the film is finished, Oliva added:
“Don’t get me wrong. I like Mark a lot. He always gave me good reviews on my films and when I met him in person he was a cool dude to talk all things geek/nerd with! Just adding my 2 cents to the conversation about what may still need to be finished on the JL cut footage.”
Still, some felt Oliva was sounding the alarm that the Snyder Cut is a realistic possibility, with him even going as far as to assert that 99% of Snyder’s vision had been shot. But even that required further clarification from the DC artist and director:
“What I meant with 99% is that all of the scenes Zack envisioned was shot and exists in one form or another. Of course there are still vfx that is unfinished but I never inferred that the film was 99% done. Rather that Zack’s vision was all shot except for a few reshoots planned”
And then, in his final tweet to Hughes, Oliva tried to explain what he thought was confusing fans about about the state of the Snyder Cut:
“I think they are responding to people saying that the Snydercut (prior to Whedon’s involvement) does not exist and is not a cohesive story because Zack left. It may not be 100% polished but all of the planned scenes were shot and edited into a full timeline.”
What’s interesting about this exchange is the radically different ways it’s been interpreted. Some saw it as Oliva fact-checking Hughes and declaring that the film is done, or startlingly close to it. Others have noted that Oliva, directly or indirectly, was confirming what Hughes said. Before I explain what the big takeaway here is, here’s an additional tweet from Oliva to a fan about where the truth lies:
“I’m sure the truth is a bit of both what I said and what Mark said. It depends on when exactly the vfx was stopped on shots that were later cut by Whedon. So the film does still need work to be finished to 100%.”
What’s The Takeaway?
Well, this likely won’t come as a surprise to someone who’s calmly read the totality of Oliva’s remarks on the matter, but- essentially- they’re both saying the same exact thing:
A near-complete version of the Snyder Cut exists, but it would still require additional work and funding to get it to 100%
The only difference of opinion the two of them have centers on exactly how close to complete the Snyder Cut is. But, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s 50% or 99%, there is not a finished version of the film in existence- as Oliva plainly admits.
Therefore, we’re back at square one, which is that the studio does not want to allocate any further resources into completing the film for home release.
Let’s assume that the film is 99.99% complete. Let’s say Junkie XL had quietly finished scoring it on his own and would just have to click “Send” to give Warner Bros. the music it needed, Let’s say that Snyder himself called in a few favors and finished up the VFX; And let’s also say that the film, magically, required zero additional photography or reshoots to round out the edges. Ok? Let’s assume all of those things.
DC just had an amazing week. There’s a palpable, positive buzz around the future of the cinematic DC Universe thanks to the outpouring of excitement surrounding the official stills released for Wonder Woman 1984 last week, all of the Aquaman goodies we got (with a trailer on the way at SDCC!), and word that Geoff Johns is writing and producing Green Lantern Corps.
It’s arguably the most excited fans have been about DC since November 16, 2017 (the day before Justice League came out).
Why on earth would they want to rock the boat by releasing a completely-different version of Justice League and shining a spotlight on the incompetent decisions that led to such an epic misfire?
They want to build on the love, not remind people of the hate.
Regardless of whether or not people would end up loving the Snyder Cut, there’s no denying that releasing or announcing it now would be like reopening a freshly-healed wound. That’s the last thing anyone over there wants to do, especially after last week’s love fest.
And, to get more technical on you, if the film left the continuity in the same position as the theatrical cut, then maybe they would release it. But it doesn’t. Remember, the original version of Justice League was busy planting seeds for Darkseid, an eventual Justice League 2, and a Cyborg movie. None of those things are a priority for the studio anymore. None.
Therefore, releasing that version would only confuse people. It wouldn’t help or enhance what was already released, it would present a host of new questions that are unlikely to ever be answered.
Think about that for a second:
Imagine you get to see the Snyder Cut today. And in that cut, you get some epic teases for Darkseid, you’re introduced to the Cyborg cinematic mythos in a way that makes you very keen to see a solo movie for him, and the film ends with hints for what JL 2 will be. But then, as the credits roll, you remember that the DCU is heading in a completely different direction now; There’s no Darkseid on the horizon anymore, they’ve put Cyborg on a seemingly indefinite hiatus, and there’s absolutely no chatter about a JL 2 since Walter Hamada is placing the franchise’s focus elsewhere.
Wouldn’t that suck? Wouldn’t that just further add to all of the Snyder Cut drama and make Warner Bros. look absolutely horrendous for the complete 180 they did on Zack Snyder’s vision?
So there’s nothing in it for them to finish and release it any time soon, realistically speaking.
Let’s think about the purpose of the Snyder Cut being released, because if we understand that, then we can understand what our realistic expectations should be.
If it’s purpose were to make fans happy about the current DC cinematic landscape, heighten their excitement about where things are heading, and to release a version of the film they’re confident people all over the world would love…then yes, you release it as soon as possible. But as I pointed out in the last section, that wouldn’t be the case. It would only muddy the very waters the studio is hoping you’ll want to plunge into when Aquaman arrives in December.
But if it’s purpose is more in the vein of fan service, then it’s a very realistic expectation that the film will be released…eventually.
When I say fan service, I’m referring to other famous alternate version of films- versions that were released to satiate the appetites of rabid fans who heard about other ways the original films could’ve played out. Blade Runner comes to mind. So does Superman II. Or even Ben Affleck’s Daredevil, which saw an R-rated Director’s Cut released over a year later.
These alternate cuts of the films were released as a special treat to fans of those films who were clamoring for more. The former and the latter were recut using existing material, while Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is probably the closest comparison to this Snyder Cut situation, since it involved some extensive post-production work. And even that one took over 25 years to be released.
With that in mind, I’ll always hold out hope that a Snyder Cut will eventually see the light of day, but that it’ll be down the line, years from now. They’ll wait until the DC cinematic franchise has stabilized, has been embraced by mass audiences, has turned the corner on all of the drama of the last two years, and is now firmly back on track. Then they’ll release some sort of special edition of the film for hardcore Zack Snyder fans to check out as a sort of “What If?” alternate history for their blu-ray collection.
But to do so right now would make little to no sense, and it’s unfair for anyone to make you think otherwise.
Best Case Scenario
For those of you who are gutted about all this, and who understand that a legit Snyder Cut isn’t on the horizon for the time being, I think the best you can hope for is an Extended Cut.
As I tweeted about late last year, I’d heard rumors that the studio was mulling over an Extended Cut– One that would take the theatrical version, re-incorporate some of Snyder’s material (only the stuff that enhanced the theatrical cut), and release it as part of a special Superman Trilogy box set. What they ended up doing was releasing two tiny Superman scenes on the eventual Justice League blu-ray, opting not to proceed with a full-on Extended Cut.
But I still think it’s possible.
They have the material. They know there are fans dying to see more of what was shot. As long as they only use the material that supports the story as presented and doesn’t contradict the changes made, I don’t see why they couldn’t drop a Justice League: The Ultimate Cut on us this Holiday Season as part of the hype for Aquaman.
You’d have to be okay with the fact that the material they asked Joss Whedon to add would still be front-and-center, but you could at least take solace in the fact that there’s a bunch more of Snyder’s work to feast your eyes on, too.
I’m not floating this out there as a real possibility. As I made clear back in December, this was all merely an idea they were kicking around. Here’s hoping the WB brass sees all of the interest in the Snyder Cut and decides to at least give fans that. I think that would be a decent-sized peace offering that wouldn’t rock the boat too much.
Beyond that, in terms of there being any solid updates on the Snyder Cut itself, it honestly doesn’t seem to be on the studio’s radar. It hasn’t come up with anyone I’ve spoken to who’s close to the situation in a while. The last exchange I had with a WB insider about it ended with this quote:
”Why would we want to release an alternate version of a total failure? Future is focus.”
And that was in mid-May.
That attitude is why I think the release of a generally Extended Cut is far more likely than an outright Snyder Cut for the time being, and even saying that feels like I’m being awfully optimistic.
Would you settle for that, or is it Snyder Cut or bust? Let me know!
For all intents and purposes, I’ve concluded this report. But while researching it, I came across something interesting:
Oliva nonchalantly punctured one of the myths about the Whedon’s changes to Justice League.
One of the big claims making the rounds is that Whedon added Superman’s freeze breath as sort of a deus ex machina, and that it was put there just to simplify the final battle and help having Superman save the day. As it turns out, Oliva- who was not involved with the reshoots and only did storyboarding for the Snyder Cut of the film- says the freeze breath was very much part of the film’s third act, and it was a power Snyder was interested in introducing in Justice League:
“I liked the freeze breath! (Btw that was one of the shots I drew)”
So that put’s that theory to bed.