It’s been over a week since the release of Justice League and there’s been a lot of internet chatter about it. Well, some of it has been chatter, as most folks calmly discuss whether or not they liked the divisive movie, and some of it has been straight up shouting as hardcore fans attack anybody that even dares to criticize it. So basically, just another day on the internet.
When it comes to the discussions around this film though, a lot of them center on the changes that were made to it by Joss Whedon after he took over from original filmmaker Zack Snyder who had to exit the project quite late due to a family tragedy. Whedon didn’t just change the tone of the film to make it more lighthearted but also left a ton of material on the editing room floor as per a mandate from the suits at Warner Bros. to make sure the film clocked in at two hours or less. The combined effect of these changes though was a movie that didn’t only drop the ball a bit when it came to developing some of its characters, but took those characters in a completely different direction to what Snyder initially intended (Superman’s entire arc was massively changed based on how nearly every single scene featuring actor Henry Cavill was seemingly reshot).
Whether what Whedon delivered to screen was better than Snyder’s original plan is up for debate. Well, debate for some of us, as there’s a growing contingent of fans online that are completely convinced that Whedon’s version is inferior. To that end, these fans are growing ever louder in their demands for Warner Bros. to eventually release a rumoured 3-hour long cut of the film that was originally created by Snyder. The filmmaker’s own son has echoed these calls for Snyder’s original vision, and there’s even been an online petition for it that at last count was hovering around 140 000 signees and climbing.
Except, a “Justice League: Zack Snyder Cut,” as some are calling it, does not exist and will never happen. Can you hear that? That’s the sound of a bubble bursting.
To understand why I’m saying this, you need to keep in mind just how movies are made. In this case, Snyder filmed Justice League back to back with Batman v Superman, so by the time the latter’s divisive reviews started coming in, he was already quite far along in shooting. In fact, just six months after the release of BvS, Snyder had already completed principal photography on Justice League. As per normal filmmaking procedures, he soon produced a rather lengthy first draft of the film, known as an assembly cut. An assembly cut is not a completed film though, it is just the collection of raw footage which would be continuously tweaked over time in the editing room until eventually, you got a completed film. And tweaks were definitely needed as WB reportedly were not fans of what he had delivered.
With BvS falling short of their $1 billion goal and being outright hated by several critics, WB wanted to retool the direction of their cinematic universe to address fans’ concerns, in particular around Snyder’s penchant for dark and gloomy heroes and visuals. Whether the WB suits’ concerns were warranted, or they just had a kneejerk reaction to make this as anti-BvS as possible, is besides the point. The point is that Joss Whedon was already brought in at this point to script some Justice League reshoots for Snyder to direct that would lighten everything up.
It wasn’t too far after this that tragedy struck as Snyder’s daughter committed suicide, prompting him to remove himself from the production to focus on his family. With Whedon, the acclaimed filmmaker behind Marvel’s box office record-breaking The Avengers, already on the payroll, it made perfect sense to have him take over where Snyder had left off.
Now it has to be pointed out that at this point the film had just barely begun post-production, meaning that only some basic visual effects work would have been done for the bulk of the scenes – most of them very rough placeholders – as you don’t want to spend money on polishing visuals in scenes that might need to change or be dropped. And changed and dropped they were as even Whedon went through a couple of iterations of the film with WB brass until eventually, he got to the Justice League we saw.
And if you’ve been paying attention to all of what I just said, you would already have realized why a home-release “Zack Snyder cut” would be an impossibility. Unlike the Ultimate Edition home release of Batman v Superman, which just saw Snyder adding some completed scenes back into the film’s running time, Justice League was still a long way off from a completed film by the time the filmmaker had exited the production. For a proper “Zack Snyder cut”, WB would have to allow him to go back and film whatever additional scenes he still needed, complete the VFX on those scenes and the others which Whedon left out, and then edit all of them together. This film already had an insanely expensive reshoot phase and as things stand currently, it could potentially lose WB up to $100 million. There’s simply no way at all that the studio would pay for even more work to be done on it.
Now personally, I am incredibly intrigued by what Snyder’s original vision of this film would be – actual origin stories for Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg, villain Steppenwolf getting better motivation, the introduction of Darkseid, etc – but we’re not going to see it. Not in a completed, comprehensive, officially released fashion in any case. In a world where profit margins didn’t factor into things, this would be a different story (it would also be a world in which Whedon is now already on the 14th season of Firefly) but that’s not the world we live in.
So for those of you that were pining for a “Zack Snyder cut” of Justice League, the best we can probably hope for is that these unfinished deleted scenes are added as a special feature on the home release. Well, that and this awesome fan-created trailer that was put together using nothing but the footage from early trailers which never showed up in the final film.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: November 27, 2017