by Dave Argento ’21 A&E Staff
Fans of the DC Comics cinematic universe were likely thrilled to see the official trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League posted on Feb. 14. The storied title is set to be made available to HBO Max subscribers on March 18 in a four-hour-long cut from the original director. After the disappointing cinematic release in 2017, which was marred by tumultuous production behind the scenes, Snyder returns to show loyal fans of the comic book franchise what could have been.
In what many deem a failure in Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut of Justice League, DC enthusiasts have sought answers for what Snyder’s project would have been without the behind-the-scenes drama that surrounded the original release. Following Snyder’s decision to step down from his role in late May 2017, following the unfortunate death of his daughter, many believed the newly promoted Whedon would make only tweaks considering producer Charles Roven’s comment, “It was fortunate that Zack convinced him, and he agreed to step in and finish the movie, help Zack finish his vision, and we’re excited about that.” The following months showed the public, though, that this was not the case.
With various details leaked hinting at difficulties behind the scenes including the film’s composer being dropped, Snyder removing Justice League imagery from his social media, and evidence of extensive reshoots being done, increasing apprehension about the quality of the project became palpable. David Craig of RadioTimes writes, “In late August, it was officially confirmed that Whedon would be credited as a writer on Justice League, which is significant as it indicates he had penned more than 33 percent of the film (according to Writers Guild of America guidelines).” This news implied an overhaul of Snyder’s work and likely conflicts between the contrasting visions for the project.
Despite Justice League managing to meet its originally scheduled release date of Nov. 17, 2017, the poor critic and viewer response to the film left box office earnings at $657 million worldwide, just covering the film’s enormous budget. Two years after the original release, many of the disappointed cast members such as Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Ray Fisher united behind Snyder to ride the momentum of the rather aggressive online fan campaigns to have Snyder’s original vision be released to the world. Finally, on May 20, 2020, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was announced for HBO Max with a budget of $20-$30 million to remake the theatrical cut that haunted Warner Brothers.
Although the new Justice League cut would never have made it to the big screen with such a lengthy runtime, the rather new practice of releasing feature films to subscription services, prompted by COVID-19 forcing most theaters into closure, has liberated directors in some sense to defy the conventional format. Snyder’s work on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice leads fans to believe he may have created a more faithful follow-up than Whedon in respect to the DC universe lore and quality of production. DC fans now eagerly await the release of Snyder’s much lengthier cut to see if he can now fulfill what so many had originally hoped for.