Readers Write In #198: Will the Snyder… Cut?

Posted on May 30, 2020

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(by KayKay)

So…I was recently watching Gautham Menon’s follow up to the lovely and bittersweet Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya on YouTube and it reminded me about Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Wait, wait, you say. What does a short film sequel to a Tamil movie released in 2010 have to do with an infamously mishandled 2017 Hollywood Tentpole Movie that should have jumpstarted a whole new Cinematic Universe, but intead almost killed it stone cold dead?

Patience Dear Reader,I say. I’ll get to the point….eventually, as the only route I’m familiar with is the scenic one.

For the last 3 years the most anticipated Superhero Movie  among a sub-section of Comic Book Geeks is one that technically did not exist.

What’s worse, up until a week ago, this movie had about as much chance of being made as a Tamil re-imagining of Michael Mann’s Heat starring Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth.

The fabled “Snyder Cut” of Justice League has taken on the mythologized fervour of the Holy Grail and the One Ring for it’s fans.

A little primer for those who can’t differentiate the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) from it’s counterpart the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and who when asked “Who’s your favourite Avenger?” frequently answer “Oh, that’s easy. Batman, of course!” (Because it’s hard to tell one narcissistic billionaire with cool toys from another):

In 2013, Warner Brothers (WB), who owns the rights to most of the DC comic characters, and who predictably wanted a slice of that sweet and lucrative Shared Universe Pie currently hogged by Marvel,  kicked off their world building franchise with Man Of Steel (MoS). Helmed by Zack Snyder, a director capable of crafting amazing visuals but who has yet to see a Happy Ending he couldn’t pummel into a bloody mess and leave lying senseless in a darkened alley.

Understandably, Man Of Steel, although featuring a superb Henry Cavill as Superman and boasting a stellar supporting cast of Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner not to mention amazing action sequences and dazzling visuals was tonally dour and morose, a departure from the epic and upbeat Richard Donner directed Superman movies with Christopher Reeve.

Man of Steel was followed by the even more grim and downright nihilistic Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (BvS) also directed by Snyder. It grossed about 800 Million worldwide and judging by the amount of vitriol it got, 800 million seems to also have been the number of people who thought the movie was an Abomination, a blight on the cinematic landscape and a certified piece of shit .In short, if the DC Universe were underwear, BvS would be the treadmarks you wouldn’t be able to wash off with industrial strength detergent, according to it’s legion of detractors.

It was none of those.

Sure it was flawed (introducing future Justice League members via email attachments???), periodically clunky and in it’s truncated Theatrical Run Time, even frequently confusing. But like Man Of Steel it was visually stunning and boasted excellent action including one memorable scene which gave Batman something even the otherwise excellent Nolan Trilogy could not: A truly epic hand to hand combat sequence which showed the Dark Knight at his absolute bad-ass, terrifying best.And Ben Affleck, the subject of much derision when news of his casting was announced, garnered much praise for his potrayal of an older, rage-fueled Caped Crusader.

BvS was released on Blu Ray with an Extended Director’s Cut which added back almost 30 mins of additional scenes (especially pertaining to Luthor’s diabolical and complex scheme) that made for a far more satisfying and coherent view. But try telling that to it’s haters for whom subjecting themselves to a second view of this “travesty” was akin to being dragged buck naked across freshly poured concrete.

Cut to the Justice League.

WB rushed to make DC’s version of The Avengers with all the sweaty palmed excitement and eagerness of a virgin on his wedding night, which as everyone who’s done that Horizontal Rodeo will tell you, ultimately yields very little satisfaction to both the Rider and the Ridden.

Initially envisioned as a two-parter, the first hint that the production was in trouble came from the revised announcement that it would now be a single movie. And then Zack Snyder, returning as director, left the production, the official reason being an appalling personal tragedy (his daughter’s suicide) but rumors circulated of studio executives being displeased after  viewing the initial assembly cut Snyder made, thinking it too “dark” (which prompts the question of why Snyder was asked to helm Justice League in the first place. Did the studio seriously believe Snyder would trade the bleak tones of MoS and BvS for the banter-laced quippy approach of The Avengers? )

Joss Whedon was brought in, ostensibly to complete Snyder’s rough cut and oversee post-production, but then more news started trickling out, confirming extensive re-shoots and re-edits. Even Junkie XL’s soundtrack was, well, junked and composer Danny Elfman hired to re-score the music.

Finally, Justice League was released in 2017 and to put it mildly, was an unholy Frankenstein’s monster.

A mish-mashed mutant of messianic measure

A pot of putrid piss in plenteous proportions.

Justice League’s biggest punchline lay in it’s credits:

DIRECTED BY ZACK SNYDER

Tonally lighter, with heaps of Marvel-style wisecracks including one embarrasing scene of Aquaman blubberring like an idiot while sitting on Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth, awash in an ugly color palette, badly paced with mediocre CGI (the worst example being the botched digital erasure of Cavill’s moustache which spawned a 100 internet memes and it’s equivalent parody videos)  and capped off with an average score from the usually reliable Elfman (who Frankenstein-ed his own Batman theme with John Williams Superman March), Justice League was anything BUT directed by Zack Snyder, whose vision could only be briefly glimpsed in the movie’s opening scene which depicted a world sliding into anarchy without Superman. A scene of thugs vandalising a store and terrorizing it’s owners was about as close as we were going to get to what Snyder envisioned for this movie.

A critical and commercial flop in the States (although it made money overseas), Justice League scraped off what little goodwill it garnered largely through the affable chemistry of it’s talented cast and limped off the box-office licking it’s wounds and for all intents and purposes, would have languished as a modest success on blu-ray and streaming and functioned as a cautionary tale to be trotted out whenever the conversation turned to the Follies Of Studio Interference and the Perils of Jump Starting a Shared Universe without a proper Plan.

But then, something happened.

An online petition by one fan that started in late 2017 asked for a director’s cut and garnered more than 179,000 signatures. That kicked off a full-on movement that, among other things, spurred a site called ForSnyderCut.com, which became a hub for all Snyder Cut news. Then came the YouTube videos (in many languages), letters, and phone calls to Warner Bros. itself all demanding the same thing: That Snyder’s original Vision, christened and subsequenly mythologized as the Snyder Cut, be released. After all, they argued, Snyder’s own Watchmen and BvS, in their longer Director’s Cut, released on Blu-Ray, greatly enhanced the quality of those movies. This movement was slyly and gently nudged on by Snyder himself in various tweets and garnered even more momentum when his stars Jason Momoa and Gal Gadot started tweeting their support for the Snyder Cut as well.

But there was one crucial difference.

Unlike Watchmen or BvS, Justice League wasn’t a completed Zack Snyder film, which was then excised of some content for it’s theatrical release, merely needing the deleted scenes to be put back in and for a little post prodution touch up to cover up the seams and voila! Presenting: Justice League- Extended Director’s Ultimate Cut.

Justice League was taken from Snyder during the (very) rough cut assembly copy, with a majority of the film then extensively reshot.

For a Snyder Cut Justice League to see the light of day would require another expensive round of reshoots, casts would have to be recalled, and equally costly digital effects to be completed. With Ben Affleck officially out as Batman and WB re-booting the franchise with that sparkly vampire from Twillight as the new and younger Bruce Wayne and even Cavill rumored to not return as Superman, it made sense that WB would be about as interested in resurrecting a Snyder version of the Justice League as Mia Farrow would be in reconciling with Woody Allen.

 

But last week, Zack Snyder and HBO Max announced that the so-called “Snyder Cut” will be released on the streaming platform in 2021, as the culmination of years of chatter. WB has agreed to spend upwards to 30 million for the realization of Snyder’s original vision

The Internet erupted with joy, and a hundred Zoom “parties” were held in celebration with virtual hugs, backslaps and high fives all around. It was an unprecedented coup for the Acolytes, an example of a dedicated fan base pressuring a studio to acquiesce to it’s demands and succeeding. More rational minds would point to a current global pandemic wiping out entire slates of theatrical movies and a studio desperately requiring content for it’s streaming platforms while also using the Snyder Cut to bolster interest in the upcoming DC movies in the pipeline. But nevertheless, for an ousted director to be re-invited back to complete his own take and that too within a relatively short span of 3 years is unprecedented. For a point of reference, note that it took almost 20 years for us to get the Richard Donner cut of Superman 2. (Donner was similarly ejected from Superman 2 and another Richard, this time Lester brought in to complete a significantly different version)

And so, with the battle now won, it remains to be seen if the victors can actually enjoy the spoils.

Arundhati Roy famously said she’d never sell the movie rights to The God Of Small Things because “Every reader has a vision of the novel in his or her head and I do not want it to be fashioned into one film”

At this stage, a hundred thousand ( to pull a random figure out of thin air) fans of the Snyder Cut, now offically christened Zack Snyder’s Justice League, have a version of that film playing in their heads.

Will the real thing (curently rumored to be 4 hour long) ever measure up to one hundred thousand different permutations of how THIS Justice League will play out inside one hundred thousand heads?

I see these fans as Karthik (see I told you I’d get to the point eventually) to the Snyder Cut’s Jessie.

As Gautham’s lovely 12 minutes of a bittersweet phone call made clear, Karthik and Jessie work ONLY if they’re not together. It’s the only way Karthik’s Utopia of their relationship can be sustained in a fever dream of romantic longing.

In the case of fans of the Snyder Cut, they’re actually getting their long-cherished “Jessie”. But can the actual thing ever compare to their idealized vision of it?

If they don’t temper their enthusiasm with a reality check that this version will fundamentally remain the same from an overall plot perspective (An evil force is going to take over the world and the only thing standing in it’s way are a team of  superhumans and 1 alien— Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash) , and that WB will then close the books on this chapter, giving us a Snyder Trilogy to savor or revile, while they reboot Superman and Batman with new actors and directors with markedly different visions, then we may well experience another round of toxic fandom, crying foul that Zack Snyder was not allowed to “continue” his vision for the DCEU.

To these ardent fan boys (I’m one too so it’s a note to myself as well) I say: Love or hate Zack Snyder’s Justice League, that’s your right. Just accept you’re getting EXACTLY what you asked for which is an auteur’s vision, NOT yours.

If you don’t, then you’ll well and truly be getting a Snyder Cut in every sense of the word.