On November 17th 2017, Justice League was released into theaters. I would be calling it ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’, but this movie did not feel like Zack Snyder’s. The film’s plot-line, score, and vital scenes were all cut from the film, resulting in a restructured, rescored, and reshot Justice League.
While 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice have been critically divisive films, the franchise still developed a passionate fanbase that brought commercial success. It is no secret that the DCEU has not done well with critics outside of Wonder Woman, but it has done well with general audiences. Up until Justice League, the four DC Films combined to gross more than 3 Billion worldwide.
In May 2017, The Hollywood Reporter released an article stating Zack Snyder had stepped down from Justice League to spend time with his family following the loss of his daughter. Warner Bros. then announced that Joss Whedon would take over as director and complete reshoots for the movie. Warner Bros. insisted that Joss would keep to Zack’s style and tone. After watching the film, this was clearly said to maintain PR as the end result was a caricature.
The additional scenes were catastrophic to the overall product of the film. An over comedic Batman, degrading jokes at the expense of female characters, horrendously written dialogue, awful VFX and poor color grading. Many scenes from Zack Snyder’s original cut were deleted and leaked online months later unfinished. Batman and Superman’s character arcs from the film felt empty and these iconic heroes were mostly pointless in the third act. Zack had stated that Cyborg was meant to be the heart of the film and that aspect is completely erased from the final product.
Whedon fired the acclaimed composer, Junkie XL, and instead hired Danny Elfman. Elfman claimed he had to perform the soundtrack from viewing storyboards of intended reshoots, not even actual footage. To be blunt, Elfman’s soundtrack sounded like a slowly dying carnival ride at many points in the film. Most of the character themes from Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and Wonder Woman are completely thrown out the window or altered so terribly that rather have heard nothing. Batman suddenly gets the Batman (1989) theme for no reason other than Danny Elfman’s own preference for his previous work. “Batman has only ever had one theme.” Referencing the theme he created over 25 years ago instead of the theme Hans Zimmer created for the character in the previous film.
Superman, the main character of this trilogy, doesn’t even get his own theme song to appear when he is on screen. Superman gets nominal minutes of the story to himself and that’s being generous. The third act reshoot is so obvious that Superman completely turns into the Christopher Reeve caricature and his arc from the previous few films is sped to completion in a jarring way.
I’m not putting all the blame on Joss Whedon either for what his work on Justice League. Joss was hired to write and reshoot scenes and that’s what he did. In my opinion, the fault lies on both Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers. It is unfortunate that we ended up with a film like this. It was incredibly disrespectful to Zack Snyder, it spat in the face of the fans who cherished this franchise, it catered to critics which maligned the film anyways and it was a commercial flop, ending its box office run with the lowest gross in the franchise.
It’s almost like Warner Bros. noticed their mistake after Snyder was forced off because they marketed the entire film with his footage, all of which is nowhere to be found in the theatrical cut. All of the behind the scenes footage on the Blu-Ray release only show how happy the cast is on Zack’s set. There is no footage of Joss filming his scenes, nor is there even the slightest comment on his time on the film. Ciarán Hinds had vocally disapproved of the final cut of the film and said he hopes Zack’s cut gets released some time in the future while it was also rumored that much of the cast did not agree with Joss’ direction.
Zack Snyder, who has spent almost a decade of his life constructing these films was met with disrespect to his work, disrespect to his cast, his fans. The fact of the matter is that regardless of anyone’s love or hate for his film, no director should have a film stripped away from him in such an unprofessional manner.
Speaking personally, I’ve had friends who suffered from depression and went through rough times and they have said that Man of Steel and Batman V Superman helped them. The character of Superman in Zack’s films is relatable with the way he has been trying to find his place in the world. I understand these films aren’t for everyone but if they can encourage people and inspire them to keep going, then these films are important and needed. Justice League was going to complete the Superman arc, with the world finally accepting him. To me, Justice League isn’t hopeful or inspiring. It doesn’t touch up on any important themes and rather transforms into a bland and empty comic book movie that turns meaningful heroes into cardboard characters.
Justice League did the opposite of what it was supposed to do. Instead of rounding out a trilogy and inspiring faith in this franchise, I find my once limitless hype for this franchise dwindle. At this point, I hope for two things. I hope that Warner Bros. releases Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League and that Warner Bros. lets the future directors in the franchise like James Wan, David Sandberg, Patty Jenkins and Matt Reeves make the films they want rather than pander to the lowest common denominator.