Zack Snyder's Justice League
|Zack Snyder's Justice League|
|Directed by||Zack Snyder|
|Written by||Chris Terrio|
by DC Comics
|Music by||Junkie XL|
|Distributed by||HBO Max|
|Budget||Over $30 million[a]|
Zack Snyder's Justice League, commonly referred to as the "Snyder Cut", is the upcoming director's cut of the 2017 American superhero film, Justice League. It presents Justice League, the fifth film of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and based on the DC Comics superhero team of the same name, as director Zack Snyder had intended it before he left the production and Joss Whedon took over his duties. Like the theatrical release, Zack Snyder's Justice League follows the Justice League—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg—as they attempt to save the world from the catastrophic threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons.
The theatrical Justice League, released by Warner Bros. in 2017, suffered a difficult production. Its script underwent major changes before and during production between 2016 and 2017. In May 2017, Snyder stepped down during post-production following the suicide of his daughter, and Whedon took over, completing the film as an uncredited director. Whedon oversaw reshoots and other changes that added a brighter tone and more humor, and cut the runtime down to 120 minutes in accordance with a mandate from Warner Bros. The theatrical Justice League was a commercial failure and received mixed reviews, leading Warner Bros. to re-evaluate the future of the DCEU.
As details surfaced about the film's troubled production and its state before Snyder stepped down, many fans expressed interest in an alternate cut more faithful to Snyder's vision. Fans and members of the cast and crew petitioned for the release of this, which they nicknamed the Snyder Cut. At the time, industry insiders regarded the release as unlikely. However, Warner Bros. decided to move ahead with it in February 2020; the following May, Snyder announced that the original four-hour cut would be completed and released as Zack Snyder's Justice League via the streaming service HBO Max. The restoration will cost over $20–30 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is scheduled to be released in 2021 on HBO Max.
Following the death of Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Batman and Wonder Woman recruit the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg to form the Justice League and protect the world from Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons, who seek the three Mother Boxes.
- Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman: In 2018, Cavill described Superman as he appears in Snyder's version of Justice League as completing his character arc that began with Man of Steel (2013) and becoming the "true" Superman as depicted in the comics.
- Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
- Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash
- Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry / Aquaman
- Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg: Much of Cyborg's character development was removed in the theatrical release, and Snyder described Cyborg as he is depicted in Zack Snyder's Justice League as "the heart of the movie". Similarly, Fisher stated that Cyborg's character arc is emotional and allegorical of "the journey that Black people have taken in [America]".
Differences from the theatrical version
There are many differences between the theatrical Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League. While the basic framework of the story is the same, dozens of additional scenes, backstories, mythos, worldbuilding elements, new characters, and teases for upcoming films are present in Snyder's version but not the theatrical release.
Production of Justice League
Following the release of Man of Steel (2013), director Zack Snyder outlined the basis of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which centered around a five-film arc including Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and a Justice League trilogy. Snyder's original vision was to have Batman v Superman be the darkest in the franchise, and have the films become more hopeful in tone from there. However, Batman v Superman was poorly received, with criticism directed at its dark tone, lack of humor and slow pace. This reaction caused distributor Warner Bros. and Snyder to re-evaluate upcoming DCEU films, particularly Suicide Squad (2016), which had already wrapped principal photography, and Justice League, which was a month away from filming. Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio rewrote Justice League to be more hopeful in tone than originally planned. Cinematographer Fabian Wagner said Snyder wanted to "get away from the stylized, desaturated, super-high contrast looks of other films in the franchise."
Principal photography for Justice League began in April 2016 and wrapped the following December. Months later, multiple cuts of Snyder's Justice League were shown to Warner Bros. executives, in addition to friends and family of Snyder. A final run-time and picture lock were achieved, though the cuts had incomplete visual effects shots and partial audio mixing. Snyder said that he had multiple cuts that were essentially "done", only needing "a few CG tweaks" to complete. Forbes contributor and film screenwriter Mark Hughes reported that Snyder's cut was more than 90% complete, while The Daily Telegraph cited a visual effects expert as estimating that Warner Bros. would need another $30–40 million to finish the film. Warner Bros. executives who saw Snyder's cut felt that Snyder made significant efforts to lighten the tone following the criticism of Batman v Superman. Despite this, Warner Bros. was still unhappy with the results and insider reports indicated that it considered the cut "unwatchable".
After disapproving of Snyder's direction, Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon, who directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe films The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), to rewrite the script and help with extensive reshoots. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara mandated that Justice League's length was not to exceed two hours. Warner Bros. also decided not to push back the release date (which would have allowed the filmmakers more time to properly complete Justice League) so that executives could keep their annual bonuses and partly due to concerns that parent company AT&T might dissolve the studio after an upcoming merger. Snyder was expected to film the scenes that Whedon re-wrote, and they were working together to meet Warner Bros.'s requests when Snyder's daughter, Autumn Snyder, committed suicide in March 2017. Snyder continued to work on Justice League for two months to distract himself, before stepping down in May. His wife Deborah Snyder, who was producing Justice League, also left the project.
Once Snyder left, Whedon assumed full control over the production of Justice League, although Snyder retained directorial credit for the released film. Whedon added nearly 80 new pages to the script, and Wagner estimates that Whedon's cut uses only about 10% of the footage he shot. Composer Junkie XL completed his film score before being replaced by Danny Elfman halfway through post-production. The scenes that Whedon wrote or re-shot for the theatrical release featured a brighter tone and more humor, and reduced the level of violence seen in Snyder's darker direction. To meet the mandated runtime, more than 90 minutes of Snyder's footage was removed, but the result still adhered to the basic outline of the story. While the initial cut was poorly received by test audiences, the early screening of Whedon's cut scored as high as Wonder Woman (2017), so Warner Bros. decided to move forward with it. Justice League was released theatrically on November 17, 2017.
Critics described the theatrical cut as a "Frankenstein" film, obviously the work of two different directors with competing visions. Justice League grossed $657.9 million against an estimated $300 million budget. Up against an estimated break-even point of as much as $750 million, Deadline Hollywood reported that the film lost Warner Bros. around $60 million. Due to the film's poor performance, Warner Bros. decided to move away from Snyder's vision for a shared universe of interconnected films and focus on standalone films and solo franchises instead.
Immediately after the theatrical release of Justice League, fans created an online petition to release the "Snyder Cut" that gained more than 180,000 signatures. The movement, which used the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media, began before fans had any knowledge that a cut of Snyder's Justice League film actually existed in any capacity. The movement was ignited by the mixed reviews of the theatrical cut, as fans knew that Snyder left directorial duties and the final cut of the film in the hands of Whedon; thus, they assumed that Whedon created an inferior film. The circumstances have been compared to the situation of Superman II (1980). Both involved a director who was replaced before completion, which led to a second director coming in and making substantial changes. Richard Donner had been able to complete his Superman II cut in 2006. Some assumed that an alternate cut of Justice League was inevitable because some of Snyder's films have been re-released as extended cuts for home media (such as Watchmen (2009) and Batman v Superman), which some critics see as superior to the theatrical versions.
Members of the Justice League cast and crew showing support for the Snyder Cut's release included actors Jason Momoa, Ciarán Hinds, and Ray Fisher; photographer Clay Enos; storyboard artist Jay Oliva; cinematographer Wagner; and Ben Affleck's stunt double Richard Cetrone. On the two-year anniversary of the theatrical cut, cast and crew voiced support through social media. Other film- and comic-book-industry figures not related to Justice League have also supported the release of a "Snyder Cut" including filmmaker Kevin Smith, television producer Steven S. DeKnight, and comic book writers Rob Liefeld, Robert Kirkman, and Jerry Ordway. Other figures were less optimistic. Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice Pro, suggested the size of the movement was too small to make an impact, stating, "another cut of Justice League just doesn't seem to be something many outside the die-hard fan base are clamoring to see". Industry insiders also called the Snyder Cut's release unlikely. Writer Mario F. Robles, based on his industry connections, said Warner Bros. did not trust Snyder's vision and was not willing to spend millions to finish his cut. Throughout the movement, members of the media referred to the Snyder Cut as "fabled" or "mythical".
Members of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement engaged in acts of fan activism to promote it. In June 2018, fans reached out to executives at AT&T following a merger between the company and Warner; in June 2019 they reached out to new Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, who replaced Tsujihara after his resignation, following that up a month later with a mass letter-writing campaign; and in July 2019 they reached out to Warner Bros. parent company WarnerMedia after the announcement of its new streaming service HBO Max. Ahead of the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, a fan launched a crowdfunding campaign with half of the funds to be spent on an advertising campaign (including billboards and a flying banner ad promoting the Snyder Cut), and the other half to be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). For a similar campaign at the 2019 New York Comic Con, the movement purchased ad space on two billboards over Times Square featuring quotes from members of the cast and crew. In December 2019, the movement rented another flying banner ad, this time passing over Warner Bros. Studios and directly asking Sarnoff to release the Snyder Cut. In January 2020, the movement bought four-minutes of ad space advocating for the film's release on a digital banner wrapped around the interior of Riverside Stadium during the FA Cup. As of January 2020, the movement had raised more than $150,000 for the AFSP. Their efforts garnered praise from Snyder and from the AFSP.
However, members of the movement have also been described by members of the media as "toxic" for harassing, threatening, and cyberbullying those who express opinions about the Snyder Cut that are contrary to their beliefs. Yohana Desta of Vanity Fair broadly described the act of fans demanding an alternative cut as a "modern pattern of audience demand that is actively making fandoms more toxic", and compared it to the 2017 harassment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran. Journalists are subjected to the kind of harassment experienced by Kayleigh Donaldson of Pajiba: through email, website comments and social-media direct messages. In September 2018, former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson deleted her Twitter account after substantial online harassment by members of the movement. Warner Bros. telephone operators, inundated with regular calls about the "Snyder Cut", were trained to treat these inquiries as prank calls. Members of the movement tracked down Justice League stuntman Richard Cetrone to ask him questions about the Snyder Cut, only to digitally alter his response and spread on social media a fake text message that appeared to support their cause.
Brandon Katz of The New York Observer said that the movement was composed of "both toxic DC fans that hurl vitriolic harassment at any and all opposition, and supportive moviegoers that genuinely enjoy Snyder's style and are just hoping to see the conclusion of his trilogy that began with 2013's Man of Steel. As with any contingent, there are both extremists and level-headed individuals in its ranks." Bob Rehak, Swarthmore College Associate Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies, said that fandoms such as #ReleaseTheSnyderCut revolt when a major change is made to something they love, and that this reaction usually comes from a smaller subsection of the fandom, which "[paints] the whole community with a really broad brush." When Zack Snyder's Justice League was announced, some writers expressed concern that Warner Bros. was conceding to fans who had engaged in forms of harassment and trolling during the movement, which they feared would set a negative precedent.
Revival and editing
In March 2019, after months of speculation, Snyder confirmed his original cut did exist, and stated that it was up to Warner Bros. to release it. In November, an insider claimed that Warner Bros. was unlikely to release Snyder's version in any form, calling such hopes a "pipe dream". However, the following month, Snyder posted a photo in his Vero account, showing boxes with tapes labeled "Z.S. J.L Director's cut", with the caption "Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does." According to Snyder, he initially imagined that his cut would never see a release, but snippets could potentially be included in a documentary. Bob Greenblatt, WarnerMedia chairman and head of HBO Max, stated that discussions surrounding the release of Snyder's Justice League began in late 2019, and that they lasted a few months. According to Snyder, WarnerMedia decided to move forward with the Snyder Cut in February 2020, after chairman Toby Emmerich acknowledged the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement and reached out to Snyder.
The Snyders invited executives from Warner Bros., HBO Max, and DC to their home to view the Snyder Cut. Snyder also presented ideas, which included potentially releasing the cut in episodes. Impressed, the executives decided to let the project proceed. Snyder began to reassemble the film's original post-production team to finish the cut. The effort was almost thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was escalating around the time, but the Snyders pushed to continue with it. Snyder notified the original cast of the undertaking between April and May 2020; according to Snyder, Fisher initially thought he was joking. On May 20, 2020, Snyder announced during a Q&A after an online watch party of Man of Steel that his cut of Justice League would be released as Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max in 2021. Greenblatt said WarnerMedia tried to get the news out "as quickly as possible" before HBO Max launched on May 27.
Snyder, who had not yet seen the theatrical cut, described his cut as "an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie." The Snyders felt that being able to finally finish Justice League would bring them closure, and were excited by the prospect of expanding the film's character development. At that point, it was unclear what format Zack Snyder's Justice League would take for the release, whether as a four-hour-long film or a six-part miniseries. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that it was expected to cost $20–30 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing. However, Greenblatt indicated the release would be "wildly expensive" and cost more than the reported $30 million to complete. The work will not involve reshoots with the original cast, which Snyder wanted to perform but was not given permission by HBO.
Zack Snyder's Justice League is set to be released in 2021 on HBO Max.
Alongside the announcement of Zack Snyder's Justice League, HBO released posters depicting the six members of the Justice League. Although these posters had previously been used for the theatrical film's marketing campaign, the HBO ones featured a black-and-white filter and strongly emphasized Snyder's name. Chris Agar of Screen Rant called the filter "a stark contrast from the colorful Justice League posters that were prevalent in the buildup to the theatrical release, which is most definitely an intentional choice to separate the two versions of the movie."
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