“Release the Snyder Cut.” The four-word rally cry has become synonymous with a large scale grassroots movement organized by DC Films fans with one absolute goal in mind: convince Warner Bros. to release Zack Snyder’s original version of the 2017 superhero team-up Justice League before he left the project due to a personal tragedy and entrusted Joss Whedon to finish the film.
It’s also become a calling card of sorts for a particular type of extreme fanaticism as the those who wield the #RTSC hashtag have employed a gamut of tactics to raise awareness from the benign Times Square billboard or flying banner over Comic-Con to even altruistic efforts like donations to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But like any movement that gains traction in the Internet age, it can quickly spiral out of control without proper leadership or accountability, the absence of which often led to relentless trolling and harassment against anyone that would dare doubt the Snyder Cut’s existence or necessity to be released.
So when the 54-year old director announced last week that his mythic version would finally be finished and debut on HBO Max in 2021, the news was met with trepidation by critics of the movement who believe it sets a dangerous precedent of conceding to hostile fandoms. Some even went so far as to compare support for the Snyder Cut with campaigns lobbying to end quarantine restrictions, which, as far as false equivalence arguments are concerned, takes the cake.
Even if the sentiment is a little dramatic, I understand the point. Destructive online behavior should not be rewarded. It’s easy, then, to see how this felt like negotiating with social media terrorists. And it’s impossible to not talk about Zack Snyder’s Justice League – as it’s now officially titled – without acknowledging the most outspoken advocates, many of whom fall into the problematic, sometimes toxic category, even if there are probably more people like myself who never engaged in the Twitter warfare and just want to see Snyder’s original vision realized before it was hacked to pieces. Here’s the thing, though: this isn’t their victory.
To allow Zack Snyder a shot at completing the film that he originally wanted to make on his terms is a universal win for creativity. This is a man whose daughter died, and in the fallout of that tragedy, a multi-billion dollar corporation took the opportunity to effectively reshoot his entire movie mere months before release. Art won here, not the loudest or most outraged protester. Just because this particular piece of art may not adhere to what we generally regard as “good” art doesn’t exclude it from still being classified as such.
“But moviemaking is a business!”, you might say. That’s true, and businesses live and die by how they are managed. When it comes to blockbusters like Justice League, there is a mutual responsibility between director and studio to create something capable of resonating with the masses while retaining a core semblance of the filmmaker’s vision, otherwise, the final product is destined to fail.
Is there a reality where Zack Snyder should have never had the opportunity to make Justice League in the first place, especially after the critical backlash to his preceding DCEU films, particularly Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Sure. Was it also Snyder’s responsibility to learn from his mistakes and maybe not let loose on a four-hour monster cut that was probably never going to see the light of day even if he remained on the project? Absolutely.
But the burden to control that process and reign him in ultimately fell on Warner Bros. Either replace Snyder during pre-production or remain committed to letting him see his vision through with proper guidance along the way. Instead, they shoved artistic integrity and professional ethics aside for the sake of rushing to catch up with Marvel Studios. The only precedent set by the Snyder Cut is that it returns some much-needed ownership and dignity to directors who too often get chewed up and spit out as their voices have become increasingly sterilized within the machine of churning out big-budget IP-based properties.
If the idea of an entertainment conglomerate catering to fans still bothers you, then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that ship has already sailed. And it’s not Zack Snyder’s Justice League that cut the anchor. Just look at what Disney did with The Rise of Skywalker. Sure, they didn’t cave to remake The Last Jedi like many petitioned for, but Disney effectively rendered Rian Johnson’s previous episode inert by retconning every meaningful choice to appease the cries of said disgruntled fanboys. Or even in the case of smaller projects like Sonic the Hedgehog where the film went on to become a relative success story but only after animators were forced to completely redesign the character due to intense online backlash.
The Snyder Cut has become the scapegoat for everything wrong with the way fandoms engage with their favorite franchises when in reality, the issue is rooted much deeper in a fundamentally flawed social media system. Does that mean the actions of those who sought to harass, threaten, or belittle others are even remotely excusable? Of course not. Did Zack Snyder deserve the chance to complete the movie that he was hired to make? Yes. Both ideas can exist without one assuming form as the absolute truth.
But of course, when opinions are limited to 280 characters and outrage pieces garner the most clicks, the platform for sensible discourse becomes skewed toward binary extremities. By the time 2021 rolls around, my hope is that we’ll all have learned from this experience and be able to appreciate Zack Snyder’s Justice League for what it is – a director who got a second chance to fulfill his dream.
Do you think releasing Zack Snyder’s Justice League sets a bad example or is it encouraging news for directors hoping to work within the studio system? Let us know in the comments below!