#ReleaseTheSnyderCut: An Outsider’s Perspective
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that social media has been buzzing louder than ever lately about the Release The Snyder Cut movement in the last week or so. While the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag campaign has been around since shortly after the release of Justice League in November of 2017, it didn’t hit its zenith until this past Sunday when Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot officially lent their support to the cause.
And that capped off a huge week for the campaign. A week where all kinds of people well beyond the usual scope of mere fandom started to voice their desire to see this alternate cut of Justice League. Instead of simply seeing a throng of diehard Zack Snyder fans sharing the hashtag, or watching them flood any social media post published by Warner Bros. with it- something that’s become commonplace these last two years- we saw a cavalcade of heavy hitters come out in favor of releasing the Snyder Cut.
To name just a few: Jason Momoa, David Ayer, Dave Bautista, Joe Manganiello, Ray Fisher, Damon Lindelof, Diane Nelson, Scott Derrickson, Ryan Reynolds, Fabian Wagner, Junkie XL, Larry Fong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Karen Bryson, and Simu Liu.
That’s quite an array of A-list support from a wide range of industry professionals.
But the biggest name to throw their name into the hat is Snyder himself, who has finally put his full-throated support behind this campaign to have his original vision for Justice League (and the cinematic DC universe as a whole) released for his fans to see.
As part of a calculated public relations event to mark the 2nd anniversary of the release of the theatrical cut of Justice League, Snyder became a de facto member of the Trinity when he joined Wonder Woman (Gadot) and Batman (Affleck) to call attention to the campaign on November 17. (Which raises questions about where Superman, aka Henry Cavill, has been throughout all of this. But that’s for another column…)
So now seems like the ultimate time to either enlist in the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement, or- for some reason, it seems- come out against it.
But what if you’re like me- a relative outsider? Up until now, the people who were most vocal about this movement have been people who adore Snyder’s work. Yet there have been some, like me, who’ve lent their support since the outset while not really having a dog in the race since I was not a fan of Snyder’s vision.
That confuses people.
And that’s why we’re here today, because I imagine the movement will continue to grow (and become absolutely deafening) if Snyder’s most ardent fans can learn to embrace those of us who are cheering the campaign on for entirely different reasons than they are.
Supporting RTSC While Disliking Snyder’s DC Movies
I’ve been pretty vocal about my feelings on Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). In fact, not only did my passionate dislike for the last third of Man of Steel basically give birth to my blogging “career” (Pfft), but it left me completely disinterested in Batman v Superman– a film I only ended up seeing because my Editor-in-Chief at Latino-Review paid me to.
In the years since, I’ve revisited these movies, and the results have been rather positive. While neither is up my alley, I’ve come to appreciate them for what they were: One man’s vision for the DC universe.
Because even despite having writers like Jonathan Nolan, David Goyer, and Chris Terrio involved with penning those two films, it’s hard to deny that they carry Snyder’s stamp, and that they explore themes and world-views that are important to him.
And while I may not be a fan of what he was working on, I can appreciate what it takes for an artist to bring their vision to life. And in the two years since Justice League was released, we’ve come to learn just how little of his vision was left in that film’s theatrical cut.
It’s important to note, and I think it’s fair to say, that the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement would’ve fizzled out ages ago if the film we got was well-received. Because this surely wasn’t the first time a studio meddled with a movie, and it won’t be the last. But when the final product that comes out of a studio overhauling a film is the kind of uneven, toothless, pandering (albeit somewhat enjoyable) mess like Justice League was- and then it fizzles at the box office– it creates this appetite for “what might have been.”
And while I may not have liked where he was going, it’s hard to argue that the studio wasn’t initially behind him. These movies didn’t get made in a vacuum. They weren’t low budget/high risk affairs like Joker. They were meant to be the pillars of DC’s cinematic future following Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
These scripts and budgets had to be approved in advance. The studio was a complicit partner in Snyder making the first three movies of a reported five (or six) film arc he wanted to tell. And yet Justice League doesn’t feel anything like the supposed third chapter of one overarching story. So the studio gave Snyder over $500 million to make Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, then did a complete 180 on Chapter 3- while essentially scrapping the rest of the outline they’d previously approved.
And that’s their right, mind you. The studio had every right to study the data on the way Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were received and to decide to pivot away. But while that’s true, I’d like for you to watch MOS, BvS, and Justice League back to back to back. If you do, you may have the same experience I did:
You’ll notice that the abrupt change in tone, style, and scope is distractingly obvious, and downright jarring.
Look, I’m a Superman fanatic and a DC guy through and through, but I’m also a film buff. And for me, being a fan of cinema, artistic expression, and the follow-through of thematic seeds planted means that I would’ve actually preferred to see Snyder finish his story his way than get something that seems to slap the previous two films in the face. Or, at the very least, I would’ve accepted a film that adequately bridged the gap between where Snyder had originally wanted to go and where the studio was planning to go next.
Justice League ended up being neither when you consider how much of what was established throughout Snyder’s trilogy either remains in limbo to this day, or is unlikely to ever be addressed again.
The movie ended up being a gateway to purgatory instead of a continuation or a climax.
That’s why I, as a fan of film, would appreciate seeing something that’s more thematically cohesive and true to the story that everyone involved had decided to start telling in 2013.
But What About THE BATMAN (And Other Upcoming DC Movies)?
There’s been some pushback of late from people who feel like releasing the Snyder Cut of Justice League would somehow undermine other projects on the horizon. After all, we’re on the verge of getting a rebooted Dark Knight with Matt Reeves’ The Batman entering production soon.
So wouldn’t this screw all that up?
In a word: No.
See, realistically speaking, there’s little to no chance the Snyder Cut makes it to theaters. That doesn’t even seem to be what Snyder and others are trying to build to. If it happens, it’d likely strictly be a fan service type of deal. They’d likely release a some sort of Collector’s Ultimate Super Duper Edition blu-ray, and/or try and get it streamed on the upcoming HBO Max service.
So the Snyder Cut wouldn’t necessarily become canon, or invalidate where DC is heading next on the big screen. It would just be a nifty treat they can throw at fans, and it’s virtually no different than other Director’s Cuts that have come before.
And now, especially with stars like Affleck, Gadot, Momoa, Bautista, and Reynolds bringing awareness to it, it’s a virtual certainty that this would be the most profitable and most watched Director’s Cut ever.
Can you honestly think of any other Director’s Cut that was campaigned for at this magnitude?
So if this happens, people would get their alternate cut, they’d get to see where Snyder was heading, and- most importantly- they’d finally get closure on this whole mess.
And know what comes with closure? A willingness to move on- which is something a vocal segment of fans don’t currently possess because they feel like they’re still waiting for the sequel to Batman v Superman.
Give them- and the rest of us curious to see why the film needed the kind of “saving” the studio gave it- that movie and they’ll finally be ready to turn the page and embrace what’s coming next.
But What If It Sucks?
I’ve seen some counter the movement with a question like, “How can you be so sure that the Snyder Cut would be better than what we got?” or, simply, “What if after all this…it sucks?” And I’m here to tell you that such questions are absolutely irrelevant.
At this point, 2017’s Justice League has faded away. You’re unlikely to find anyone talking about the theatrical cut, championing it, or acting like it was leaps and bounds better than what we would’ve gotten had Snyder been left alone.
The film’s legacy seems to be that it was a mediocre (or pretty okay?) superhero movie, with a threadbare villain, some glaringly atrocious CG (on Superman’s FACE), and an ending that implies there’s more to come…though, clearly two years later, there isn’t.
So even if the Snyder Cut ends up being just as polarizing or as disliked as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were by many, it really doesn’t matter. It wouldn’t be trampling some sacred cow of a movie, or wildly changing the perception that WB’s first-ever Justice League movie basically came and went and lacked the kind of impact it could (and should) have had.
It would just be an alternate cut of a movie many have basically forgotten about anyway. So worrying about its entirely subjective quality is a waste of time.
It’s Time To Serve Real Justice
Lastly, releasing his version of Justice League would feel like, well, justice was served.
I have a uniquely personal perspective on this whole thing, and I’d like to share it because I think it’ll cut through some of the noise.
Back in May of 2017 when I was doing some freelance work for The Splash Report, I broke the story that Justice League was about to be majorly overhauled. At the time, we all assumed that Snyder would remain at the helm, overseeing some drastic changes as part of a compromise between himself and the studio.
So I published that report, got attacked by a wave of hatred and skepticism from Snyder’s fans- likely stemming from my past condemnation of his DC movies- and then sat back to see how this whole thing would play out. At the time, it felt like we were about to have a retread of what had happened in 2016 with Gareth Edwards Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And I even said as much in my original report.
If you’re scratching your head at that reference, it’s because Rogue One is an example what happens when a studio meddles and gets away with it. Rogue One has a story behind it that’s not much different than the one Justice League has, we just don’t hear about it because people generally liked the end result.
For the uninitiated, I’ll recap what happened:
- Gareth Edwards completed principal photography on Rogue One– a film that was meant to be different, darker, and of a different genre than your usual Star Wars fare
- The studio saw his footage and was not pleased with how the film was shaping up
- They then hired Tony Gilroy to not only write but actually direct a ton of reshoots. Nearly half the movie was reportedly re-shot, depending on who you ask, because the studio liked Edwards’ action set pieces but wanted to change the tone and presentation of the story that takes place between them
When the movie came out in December of 2016, to positive reviews and over a billion dollars at the box office, all of the meddling by the studio was basically swept under the rug. As they say, “The ends justify the means,” right?
So I thought we were heading down a similar path with Justice League, and that- even if WB somehow did ask someone else to direct the reshoots- it would all be done very quietly with the hope of creating a film that pleases audiences so much that they have no desire to look into its troubled production.
Then a little under two weeks after I broke that exclusive for The Splash Report, a little publication called The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Snyder was officially stepping down as the director of Justice League, and that they were bringing in Avengers director Joss Whedon to helm the reshoots.
But that wasn’t all.
The report revealed that Snyder’s daughter Autumn had committed suicide in March- a month after Snyder had privately screened a cut of Justice League (which, by the way, is the Snyder Cut some have ignorantly said “doesn’t exist“).
It also claimed that the reshoots would be much ado about nothing.
Here’s the WB’s Toby Emmerich big quote from the THR piece:
“The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set. We’re not introducing any new characters. It’s the same characters in some new scenes. He’s handing the baton to Joss, but the course has really been set by Zack. I still believe that despite this tragedy, we’ll still end up with a great movie.”
And Snyder himself played into the perception that the only reason he was stepping down was so he could take the time to mourn the loss of his daughter.
Snyder, in that same piece:
“Here’s the thing, I never planned to make this public. I thought it would just be in the family, a private matter, our private sorrow that we would deal with. When it became obvious that I need to take a break, I knew there would be narratives created on the internet. They’ll do what they do. The truth is … I’m past caring about that kind of thing now.”
So this THR piece was a bombshell, and yet- right away- there were signs that there was way more going on under the surface.
Be it that Whedon was too big of a name to simply come in and shoot some “basic pick-ups and reshoots,” or that composer Junkie XL was replaced shortly after by Danny Elfman, or that Snyder managed to make and release a short film named Snow Steam Iron despite his assertions that he needed to step away from filmmaking for a bit.
Indeed, in the months (and years) to come, a lot of information has come to light about Snyder’s role and subsequent exit from the production of Justice League. So even if the tragic death of his daughter was one of the reasons for his departure, it definitely didn’t seem to be the main one.
And when the movie itself came out, it was painfully obvious that the joint statement Warner Bros and Snyder made through THR was basically a lie.
The theatrical cut looked and felt almost nothing like a Snyder production. And the huge broad strokes of Snyder’s plan for the film had been gutted from the theatrical cut, as well many of the seeds he’d planted for the future.
With all that in mind, go back and read THR’s report RIGHT HERE.
I don’t know about you, but it makes me angry. It feels manipulative, and like the studio (with Snyder’s apparent approval, but more on that later) had used a real-life tragedy to cover up the fact that they’d hijacked, stripped down, and rebuilt a movie.
Had they simply said that they were changing creative gears in order to please general audiences, and that they’d be delaying Justice League in order to make it as great as they can be, the switch to Whedon and the subsequent movie we got may have been better received.
Instead, they went with this big lie that Whedon wasn’t doing much of anything, and that this was all out of respect for Snyder’s loss.
It’s a slap in the face to fans, but- more importantly- it’s a slap in the face to a man who really had just lost his daughter.
Say what you will about Snyder towing the company line and being complicit in the false narrative, but I can’t find it in my heart to be mad at him. When that report was published on May 22, 2017 he was only two months removed from losing his 20 year old daughter. And he was also four long years into making and defending his DC movies and, apparently, fighting battles with executives since early 2016 about the direction he was taking things.
So he was exhausted, emotionally spent, and heartbroken.
As a father of two myself, I can’t find it in me to cast stones at him for going along with the studio’s dishonesty. I can’t put myself there, in his head, as all of this was going on. But I also refuse to assume he was happy to use his daughter’s death to help a studio save face about changes they were making to a movie.
SIDE BAR: My personal theory is that Autumn Snyder’s suicide did factor into his decision to leave, but that it was because of the whole combination of the obstacles he was facing at the time. After fighting with the studio since prior to the release of BvS, and having them wreak havoc on his production of Justice League for all of 2016 and into the start of 2017, his will was probably broken by the devastating news of his daughter’s suicide.
Had he had a smooth run of things, and he hadn’t felt like he had to fight and compromise for every scrap of his vision for Justice League, he probably would’ve been able to work through his sorrow. I mean, he basically proved that by releasing Snow Steam Iron in September of 2017- during the period where he supposedly couldn’t work on Justice League anymore.
In an interview with Wired, Snyder said this about making the movie:
“It was a cathartic experience for all of us in a weird way because when we all get together it’s easier for us to make a movie than talk. There was a heavy air around, as you can imagine, but this film gave us this way to be with each other that was nice.”
So, clearly, Snyder sees his ability to work through his loss as something cathartic and vital and helpful to his mourning process. Simply put: He wouldn’t have had that kind of catharsis working on Justice League because of the way the studio was hellbent on changing all of his ideas.
That’s why, in my eyes, Autumn’s tragic passing only forced him to leave Justice League because the overall experience of making the film had already been joyless for quite some time. Had it been left his movie, he likely would’ve been able to work through his pain- which, clearly, is something he thought he could do in 2017.
Aren’t You Curious?
Look, for those of you who didn’t dig Snyder’s vision, aren’t you at least a little curious to see what it was that was so “wrong” with his cut of the movie that the studio saw fit to hastily reshoot a ton of it?
Personally, when you consider that Henry Cavill has a blurry face for the vast majority of his screen time in the theatrical cut- which means the Superman in that movie is almost entirely a Whedon creation- aren’t you dying for an answer to the question, “What was so bad about the way Snyder used Superman in the movie that the studio basically opted to throw every frame of it out?“
Have you heard the rumors about Darkseid, The Flash travel through time, and Martian Manhunter factoring in? As a DC fan, wouldn’t you get at least some pleasure out of seeing these things explored?
Heck, even if you aren’t as open minded or as diplomatic as I’m being about supporting the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut despite my reservations about Snyder’s work, would you really turn down a chance to see it just to see what all the fuss was about?
If you answered “Yes” or even “Maybe” to any of those, then maybe it’s time for you to reconsider any kind of negative stance you have “against” this harmless movement. (It’s a movement, by the way, that has helped raise thousands of dollars for suicide prevention– adopting Snyder’s anguish as its own, trying to make sure people have hope for a brighter tomorrow.)
In fact, if any of what I’ve written today has given you a reason to see things differently, maybe it’s time for you to ask Warner Bros. to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut.