In case you think Martin Scorsese vs. Marvel is the worst, most pointless ongoing argument on Film Twitter, allow me to introduce you to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. It has been going strong for two years and counting, ever since Justice League was released with significant material added by Joss Whedon following Zack Snyder’s departure from the film. Sunday was the two-year anniversary of the release of Justice League, so of course #ReleaseTheSnyderCut was trending, boosted by social media posts from Gal Gadot and ex-Batman Ben Affleck. Maria actually emailed me to ask if Gal Gadot had been hacked.
Gadot was not hacked, if anything it’s just proof that she remains loyal to Snyder, who cast her as Wonder Woman. But it’s easy to wonder why major stars would be tweeting about the so-called Snyder cut, because this represents one of the absolute worst elements of fandom, and one of the prime examples of “toxic fandom”. At this point, acknowledging the Snyder bros means acknowledging an abusive, bullying fanbase, and if they don’t know that, their PR people are dropping the ball. To be fair, earlier this year, fans supporting #ReleaseTheSnyderCut raised money for a billboard at Comic-Con, and they did end up donating a lot of money to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (chosen because Snyder left Justice League after his daughter died by suicide). That is lovely, and I do realize not every single person interested in the Snyder Cut is a sewer goblin. However, when it comes to toxic fandom, it doesn’t matter if there is a civil conversation to be had as long as even a few people are throwing flaming garbage in the middle of the room. All anyone sees is the flaming garbage. Donating to charity is great, it does not cancel out the abusive behavior regularly aimed at anyone who is even mildly disinterested in the Snyder Cut. Two things can be true, is all.
And then there is the central question: Does the Snyder Cut of Justice League even exist? Jason Momoa says he’s seen it. Junkie XL wrote a complete score, which was ultimately shelved in favor of the Danny Elfman score used in the theatrical release. And Zack Snyder, of course, says there is a version out there.
There is, certainly, footage Snyder shot during principal photography that was not used in the theatrical release of Justice League. There is not, however, anything resembling a final cut of Snyder’s film. I have spoken repeatedly to a source at Warner Brothers about this over the last couple years and the answer is always the same, Sure, there is unused footage he shot, no there is not a cut of the film. Snyder bros will get very hair-splitting about it, so I have, more than once, gone back to my source and asked for clarification. Snyder left post-production of Justice League with almost six months of post to go. He had done what is called an “assembly cut”, which is lining up all the material shot in story order to begin editing it down to the final cut. He was still editing when he left the production.
Further, what we have learned since all this went down in 2017, is that Joss Whedon was not brought on to oversee post-production—including significant reshoots—after Snyder left the film, but that Whedon was already working on new material even before Snyder departed, and had, along with several other writers, contributed to mid-production rewrites. There was never any intention of releasing a version of Justice League that did not include material Snyder did not write, and maybe even direct. Had Snyder stayed on the film, we would have ended up in a Rogue One situation, where the original director is forced to work with a new director to “fix” the movie with reshoots.
And going back even further than that, Snyder worked under heavy supervision on Justice League. You could definitely make the case there is no version of this film that does or could exist without outside tampering. Warner Brothers and DC Films were already backing down from Snyder’s vision for their superheroes, which saw increasingly divisive films launched into the marketplace—the only all-around well-received film of the Snyder era is Wonder Woman, which had the least amount of Snyder involvement (and suffers in the places where his influence shows). Even the footage in Snyder’s assembly cut was produced with strict studio supervision and a lot of interference, with new pages coming from multiple writers brought in by the studio to curb Snyder’s vision.
So will that unused footage ever see the light of day? The upcoming HBO Max seems like a place to drop the unedited, unfinished, incomplete footage from Snyder’s shoot. But I promise to even the most passionate Snyder bro, you would not like that footage. Have you ever seen unfinished superhero footage? With unpolished sound, no visual effects, and no finishing effects? I have. It’s garbage. It looks ridiculous. More effective than #ReleaseTheSnyderCut would be #SnyderTableRead, because seeing a superhero movie without the polish is like watching live action role play. It takes A LOT of imagination to picture even the idea of what you’re supposed to be looking at. A live table read of Snyder’s version of the script—the one without all the studio rewrites—would be better than watching the unfinished footage.
And even with HBO Max set for debut next year, it’s unlikely Warner Brothers will want to revisit the era of DC storytelling they are currently pretending does not exist. They’re busy moving on from the Snyder era, rebooting and refreshing the DC superheroes. Also, even putting up the unfinished footage would require some amount of post-production, which means pouring more cash into a project that has already lost them money. This is the crux of the issue. The money they could potentially make from a Snyder Cut doesn’t outweigh the costs of releasing that footage, and I don’t even mean putting in CGI monsters and sh-t, I mean just cleaning up the footage and sound enough to be tolerable.
The Snyder Cut bros are a minority—vocal, passionate, but a minority. There aren’t enough of them to tempt Warners into dumping more money into Justice League, and adding a bigger negative number to the balance sheet (switchboard operators at Warner Brothers are taught to treat calls about the Snyder Cuts as pranks, which should tell you everything). There is literally nothing in it for Warner Brothers. No profit, and the potential to remind audiences what they didn’t like about DC movies, just as they’re getting people back on board with their heroes. I wish #ReleaseTheSnyderCut would die, because it’s just a time suck, and one that comes with awful online abuse. It’s been two years of this nonsense. Please can we just move on.