My Commons Watch: The Snyder Cut

Three years after the disappointing Justice League, a new trailer was released on Valentine’s day titled “Zack Snyder’s Justice League”. If you don’t know already, here’s a quick recap: 

Warner Brother hired Zack Snyder to direct their avengers style superhero crossover film, Justice League in 2014. Production of the film was marked by disputes between Warner Brothers and Snyder in terms of the film’s creative direction. In the midst of what was already a strained relationship between Snyder and the studio, a sudden family tragedy caused Snyder to step away from the project and hire Joss Whedon, who notably directed The Avengers, to take over. Whedon then rewrote and reshot approximately three-quarters of Snyder’s cut and released a Frankensteined Justice League to theaters in 2017. Snyder claims to have never seen this version, which, for his sake, was a great decision. While Snyder processed his personal tragedy with his family, DC fans adamantly demanded a release of the Snyder cut. Snyder encouraged this protest, and was backed up by the cast, who would mention that working under Whedon’s direction wasn’t too great. Warner Brothers finally gave in to the internet’s harassment, and here we are. 

On an unrelated note, I just think it’s funny that promotional material for DC films now seems to focus more on the directors than the actual content of the film. For example, the first teaser “trailer” for Suicide Squad 2 isn’t a preview of the film, but is instead a behind the scenes cut letting people know that James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2) is directing it. This is just a theory, but I like to think that Warner Brothers knows they’ve failed their audience with their existing films, and now need to tell them, “You know this director? The one who made that other film you like? He’s directing our next movie so it won’t be as bad this time”.  

Until the film is released on HBO Max and people can see it for themselves, it wouldn’t be fair to judge it. But I’m still skeptical about it for three reasons. 

First off, Zack Snyder’s disputes with Warner Brothers stemmed from his desire to show a twisted take on the DC universe. Warner Brothers was looking for a family-friendly franchise that could follow in the footsteps of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Snyder wants to realize a dark, edgy perspective he has on superheroes. Audiences can watch this dispute unfold on screen. When Batman is killing people in cold blood, it’s Zack Snyder. When he dispenses a corny line that falls flat, it’s Warner Brothers. If Snyder has been granted as much creative control as sources report, then perhaps there will at least be some tonal consistency. But even so, Snyder’s dark take is unfaithful to the original comic book material. For the rest of us who haven’t read the comics, it’s just difficult to watch characters in tights try to convey mature, R-rated concepts.

Secondly, I just don’t think Zack Snyder is a good director. People often refer to 300 as proof that Snyder can make a good movie. 300 is a technically and stylistically sensational film. But if you look past the gore and slow motion, the story just doesn’t hold up in my opinion. I think it’s popularity stemmed from its shock value, and it just left a good impression in people’s minds. It’s pretty obvious that Snyder employed the same techniques in his subsequent films. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman have that kind of Snyder action, as well as the weak stories to go along with it. And at face value, it makes no sense why Warner Brothers would want to keep hiring Snyder when all his DC films have ranged from mediocre to terrible. The only reason I can think of is that despite their poor quality, the nostalgia and overseas market is enough to make these films profitable for the studio. On paper, Snyder’s movies have consistent earnings. Once you pay for the movie, no matter how bad it is, you’ve already given Warner Brothers one more reason to hire Zack Snyder again. 

Finally, there’s the matter of the superhero formula. DC movies seem to like making trailers that basically reveal the entire plot of the movie. The “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” video seems like it fits in that category. I could of course be wrong, but from what I can glean from the trailer, powerful villains are looking for magical objects that will let them conquer the universe, so the heroes have to band together and defeat the villains in a climactic battle towards the end of the movie. You might be thinking, “Well aren’t all superhero movies like that?”. And yes, that’s true. It’s a formula that Marvel took years to break away from. But unfortunately for DC, Marvel came first. So unless this film manages to introduce creative nuances or novel concepts, it will be a movie we’ve all seen before. And based on Snyder’s track record, it seems like this is very likely.