As we inch closer to ending this hellscape that is 2020, we also grow ever nearer to the long-awaiting release of Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League. And news just keeps on breaking about it on our way there.
There are two stories of which I was recently made aware. The first is that Jared Leto will now be in the Snyder Cut, reprising the role of The Joker he wasn’t even asked back for in Birds of Prey.
According to THR, Leto is taking part in the reshoots for the four-part HBO Max miniseries, which will serve as Snyder’s definitive take on the 2017 film he departed.CBR.com
The second bit of news is that several actors are back on set for reshoots.
The Hollywood Reporter revealed multiple members of the project’s cast have already begun filming new scenes, including Batman actor Ben Affleck, Cyborg actor Ray Fisher, and Mera actress Amber Heard.comic book.com
I have thoughts.
I really and truly, with all my heart, want to clarify something straight off: I’m not inherently anti-Zack Snyder. I think he is a very hit-or-miss artist, and from all accounts I have ever heard and read, he is an absolute stand-up, high quality man. He seems to be a truly good person.
I haven’t seen 300 in years, and I have no idea if it aged well, but I loved that movie when it came out. I thought it was wildly impressive. I have watched 300 multiple times in my life, and it has always left me with good feelings. Like I could go punch an oak tree down if I wanted.
Additionally, I thought Zack’s Dawn of the Dead was fantastic, and at least almost as good as the classic source material. It is scary and funny and heartfelt and stylish, and I think it’s one of the best pure zombie movies ever made.
And I’ll be honest… I dug Watchmen. I think it was as good of an effort as could have been made to adapt that material. I think it was a lot more soul than people give it credit for, and the performances are fantastic across the board.
I think Man of Steel is one of the worst superhero flicks I’ve ever seen, and the acting has nothing to do with that. Cavill is possibly the best Superman ever caught on camera. But, while I am not feverishly married to the idea that adapted versions of characters have to be slavishly devoted to the original, the idea of a Pa Kent that tells Clark to let a bus full of kids drown is insulting. Pa walking idiotically into a tornado to die was equally as absurd. And for a movie with an action climax that seems to last two hours, it also somehow found a way to be tedious and boring. There are IDEAS to Man of Steel I want to appreciate, but they are so far buried under mountains of garbage that they aren’t even worth looking for.
I am softer on Batman Vs Superman than many people, but it’s still objectively a bad movie. And that extends across all versions of it. The worst part of BvS is that, ten minutes in? I was HYPED. The Bruce Wayne Running Through Collapsing Metropolis And Giving Superman The Stink-Eye scene was BEAUTIFUL and IMPACTFUL. It geared me up and I was on the edge of my seat at that point… but then the movie turned into slough of force-fed Jolly Ranchers, jars of piss, murderous Batman, embarrassingly bad CGI Doomsday, and shoe-horned in Wonder Woman and Flash. It felt like someone tried to make seven different movies while hopped up on Five Hour Energy Drinks. Oh and yes… “Martha”, of course. I can’t say anything about that moment that hasn’t been said.
So whereas I have not and will not write Zack off entirely–I am here for more horror remakes, Z!–I also know that DC’s film division has gotten progressively better the further it has strayed from his ideals.
And, look: I like bad movies. It’s fine! You are entirely allowed to watch definitively bad movies and love them. I’m not begrudging anyone who says he enjoys Man of Steel or Batman Vs Superman. You like what you like! I will watch and rewatch the Friday The 13th movies until I die, so I GET IT, trust me. I am genuinely happy you enjoy something. I am not taking that from you, nor would I ever want to.
So what are my thoughts on these breaking news items?
We need to be honest with ourselves.
There never was a “Snyder Cut”. It never existed, even as a concept. The Justice League movie that came out in 2017 was ALWAYS the Justice League movie that was going to come out. It wasn’t a good movie–I mean, I personally think it’s preferable to Man of Steel or Batman Vs Superman in that it is boring and forgettable, but it isn’t abjectly painful–but it was the Justice League that was always going to happen.
Unfortunately, an unspeakably tragic event occurred in Zack’s personal life, and he had to step away, letting Joss Whedon come in to wrap the film.
And so when Justice League failed, there was suddenly a scapegoat. It’s not DC’s fault. It’s not Zack’s fault. It’s Joss Whedon’s fault! He ruined everything!
Forget the fact that any sane person would take Joss’ body of work over Zack’s any day of the week (and I say that while acknowledging that by all accounts, Zack is likely a far better human being the Joss; no question), Joss then existed to bear the brunt of the failure that was going to happen no matter what.
(I mean, it was always a better criticism than “Disney pays critics to not review other movies well”, but it is still pretty paper thin.)
And then a movement emerged. What if ZACK had made Justice League? Wait… what if he actually DID? What if Zack had his whole own version of Justice League somewhere and Joss came in and just made his own bad movie? That would be vindication! For what? Who knows?!
And so, the idea that there was a Snyder Cut to release was born.
And it GREW, man. This was an idea with legs with enough people in the right places playing just coy enough with the idea that it was always simmering.
And then: the news, just three years after the fact! There WAS a Snyder Cut, and HBO would release it on the new streaming service!
All it needed was, you know, months and months and tens of millions of dollars in “reshoots”. To release a movie that allegedly “always existed” in a safe somewhere.
The Snyder Cut is not a “cut” of the Justice League at all. I’ve heard people say that the Snyder Cut is Zack Snyder’s REAL VISION for the Justice League, and he is finally getting to release it. It is the version we were all meant to see in 2017. That is objectively untrue.
It’s an entirely new movie, made from the skeleton of an existing movie. Not even the skeleton! More like just the spleen and the gall bladder of an existing movie. It was created from three years of hindsight and analysis and just the sheer force of will to make a bad movie someone else’s fault.
And that’s fine! Zack Snyder remade Dawn of the Dead, so I GET IT. Remakes are great! Nothing about remaking Justice League is inherently bad.
But they have managed to both release an entirely new movie AND set a ridiculously low bar for themselves, to where it is impossible for the movie to fail.
Not only is it an entirely new movie, but it’s not getting a typical MOVIE’s release. Unless HBO Max goes ahead and Live Action Mulan’s it, it’s just getting put on a streaming service, included in the cost of the service itself. A great bargain, absolutely, but it also stops the Snyder Cut from really facing the critique that a new would face. After all, it’s not a mass released blockbuster; it’s just a streaming gift.
Additionally, by constantly pushing the false narrative that this is the same movie but with a different “vision”, the Snyder Cut doesn’t even have to stand up as a MOVIE. All it has to do to be considered a success is get measured favorably against one (1) pre-existing bad movie.
Honestly and truly, I have to appreciate what the people behind this have done. They’ve managed to make an entirely new film AND find a way to stop it from ever being measured as an entirely new film.
That’s a good hustle if you can get it.
Do I think the Snyder Cut will be a success? I don’t know how you measure that for a release like this. Do I think it will be good? I do! I think it will be a solid and enjoyable movie. I mean, with three years and almost a hundred million dollars in hindsight behind it, you’d have to put Tommy Wiseau in charge for it not to be an improvement.
What I worry about is that when this movie comes out and invariably succeeds on whatever metric a direct-to-streaming blockbuster needs to succeed on, it will retard the development that DC’s films have made, and Zack will be back in charge, making more movies without the benefit of time and extra money. And I’ve already seen what happens when he does that to DC movies.
I’ve seen it three times.