Why We Don’t Need a Snyder Cut
In 2017 Warner Bros. released what was supposed to be the culmination of their half-hearted effort to cinematize the DC Universe with Justice League. Initially Zack Snyder was at the helm of the production. This was a logical move as he had directed the two films that built to Justice League. His Man of Steel was a success at the box office but Snyder’s darker take on Superman divided fans. The follow-up Batman v. Superman should have been one of the defining superhero movies ever, but his failure to once again understand these character meant we go one broody angry superhero versus another broody angry superhero. This time a strong opening weekend was followed by declining box office receipts. Despite the lack of resounding success so far, there is something to be said for consistency. Zack Snyder had been the guiding filmmaker of this universe and had already laid out his plan for the franchise. Mind you, the powers that be made the director scale down from a grand two-film epic into a single Justice League movie.
Tragically, a loss in his family led to Zack Snyder departing Justice League before the film was completed. Because Warner Bros. has never been shy that they are riding the successful coattails of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the need for a new director gave them an opening they were looking for. Enter Joss Whedon who at the time was planning a potential Batgirl film with the studio. He had directed The Avengers to being a monster success; naturally, he would be the one to finish Justice League. The problem is Snyder and Whedon have vastly different styles in overall storytelling. Secondly, most of the cast had been sent on their way so he had to bring them all back for new scenes, including a mustachioed Henry Cavill. The end result was a brisk 90 minute Frankenstein monster of Zack Snyder’s moody action-heavy pretentiousness and Joss Whedon’s character focus filled with witty dialogue. It goes without saying this was a far cry from Snyder’s vision and he was pretty upset that his name attached to something he did not believe in. Enough of a movement from the Snyder fanboys was heard that Warner Bros finally allowed the director a 4 hour cut of the Justice League he intended for the HBO Max service. While this is a good thing in letting an artist complete his vision, there are also downsides to it.
The biggest thing which makes this move unnecessary is that the DC films have successfully moved on from Snyder’s vision. Say what you will about the individuals films but Patty Jenkins with Wonder Woman, David F. Sandberg with Shazam! and James Wan with Aquaman have all had great successes. This boils down to the fact that they understand these superheroes and why they have remained fixtures of popular culture for 60-70 years. This is something Zack Snyder never quite got a handle on in working on these storied figures. With Man of Steel, I always assumed someone gave him a document with all the qualities and attributes Superman should have and decided it was Opposite Day. While I was watching Justice League all I could do was roll my eyes at Batman’s constant hollow claims of Supes being a “beacon of hope” because that was definitely not who I saw for two flicks. Speaking of, his Batman had no problem building a body count and using guns (and before you smug fanboys say “well Batman did that in…” that was 70 freakin years ago). I know the Head of Our House felt like I did and was willing to give Zack Snyder the benefit of the doubt because this was an aged and cynical Batman who had lost hope. But nope, Snyder has defended his actions with an ignorant “of course the Dark Knight would kill people”. The less said about his interpretation of Lex Luthor the better. Seriously how does moviedom continually screw-up this wonderful villain? With a Justice League film this would give him even more iconic superheroes to screw up and turn “dark and brooding”.
The other flaw in this plan comes down to the overall quality of the movie. While I have not seen his Justice League take as he intended, it is safe to assume that if neither Man of Steel or BvS or particularly well-received by fans they should not expect a miracle this time. This is not just me saying this, MoS has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 56% while BvS has a dismal 28%, and this is far from a glowing consensus. I am convinced that Zack Snyder as a filmmaker is a 15-year-old edge-lord kid trapped in an adult man’s body. He has a smugness that just because he makes everything dark that automatically makes it smarter, but in the end, he just likes big action scenes. This is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact this style is a large part of why 300 was such a great success. The action scenes are all top-notch and the grand sense of self-worth shown by the Spartans was cool in a macho way. Even the color grading he uses to give his films a monochromatic and murky look was true to the source material. Unfortunately, this does not translate to the superheroes of the DC Universe who have a depth and richness that has been built on by decades of creative forces while still remaining true to the characters.
This says nothing of the overall storyline of Justice League. While his idea of Steppenwolf will no doubt be leagues better than the PS2 rendered character we got in the theatrical cut it is still going all-in on the inevitable paving the way for Darkseid. I get the idea of not rocking the boat because the Avengers had a story focused on the team coming together against a threat that paved the way for Thanos and it was successful. But here they missed a golden opportunity to rock the boat in the best way. One of the parts of Justice League I enjoyed came in the post-credits when Lex Luthor approached Deathstroke with the idea of building their own “league”. A Legion of Doom or Injustice Gang would have been the perfect antagonist for this film and they shoved it in as a thread for a sequel that never happened. It makes sense storywise as a world without Superman means a world where the villains can act more brazenly. Lex Luthor escaping from prison would see this and be smart enough to recognize a “strength in numbers” strategy has opened up and he could manipulate his villainous colleagues to his own gains. This would be a threat which would bring the various Justice League members together out of necessity and once Supes inevitably returns we could have a grand slugfest. The DCEU already established a number of villains that could be used all they would have to do was bring in a few more. From a fan persepective, think about the sheer fun spectacle of the Justice League teaming up to battle against a team of Luthor, Captain Boomerang, Deathstroke, Black Manta, and the Joker. For good measure the movie could introduce the DCEU versions of baddies like Giganta, Captain Cold, or the Riddler. This is the type of superhero battle that has never been seen onscreen before and I think the people behind Justice League dropped the ball by not going this route. Snyder’s planned story arc will no doubt be different but we will still probably be getting more of the same.
I know because I have the internet that Zack Snyder definitely has a fanbase among the edgelord guys out there who, like the director, think that just because the movies are dark they are somehow cerebral. Their constant online whining is what finally broke Warner Bros. to released the long fabled “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. But is an alternate cut of an already bad movie really worth the effort. Given what we have seen throughout the filmmaker’s career we know it is just going to have: monochromatic color palettes, unearned attempts at being deep, and some admittedly cool action scenes. While I do appreciate that an artist will finally have an opportunity to release his vision and am very happy for Zack Snyder. One has to wonder if it has warranted all of this hype for a 4-hour version of Justice League from someone who has proven he does not know how to deal with these characters or their world.