Release 'The Snyder Cut'? Why Warner Bros. won't give 'Justice League' superfans what they want

Key Points
  • Warner Bros. and DC Comics' "Justice League" underperformed expectations compared to recent superhero movie successes, including "Wonder Woman," "Aquaman" and "Joker."
  • Some fans are pleading with the Hollywood studio to release a cut of the film by Zack Snyder, who had to leave production due to a family tragedy.
  • In an era of streaming, blu-ray and DVD director's and extended cuts being common, the technology is available.
  • But movie experts do not expect Warner Bros. to release "The Snyder Cut."
Source: Justice League

In 2017 Warner Bros. released its big DC Comics superhero team-up movie, Justice League, to battle Disney Marvel Studios' Avengers franchise. It lost.

"Justice League" was released to harsh critical reviews (40% on Rotten Tomatoes) and while it earned $658 million worldwide, that was on a $300 million budget and with domestic gross only reaching $230 million.

"Justice League" still has a grip on a portion of the DC fan base, but that doesn't mean Warner Bros. will release Snyder's version of the film.

The film, a kind of Frankenstein's monster of a movie, was co-written and co-directed by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. Although the pair didn't really work on the film together.

Whedon was brought onboard after executives balked at Snyder's initial cut of the film. Warner Bros. wanted "Justice League" to have more humor, like the films from Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and who better to handle that than Whedon who directed two Marvel films?

Snyder ultimately ended up leaving the project due to the death of his daughter.

Snyder's initial cut was 214 minutes long and contained dozens of scenes that fleshed out characters' backstories, developed the mythos of the world in which "Justice League" was set and teased upcoming films. While the main plot of the film remained, much of Snyder's secondary plot was cut in Whedon's rewrites in an effort to streamline the film.

Because Whedon's version altered so much of Snyder's vision, fans have clamored to see the director's cut of "Justice League," believing it to be the purest version of the film. On Twitter, the hashtag #releasethesnydercut has trended on and off since the film's theatrical release.

Source: Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck, who portrayed Batman in the film, and Gal Gadot, aka Wonder Woman, recently tweeted out the hashtag in support of the release. The superhero actors joined their co-stars Jason Mamoa (Aquaman), Ray Fisher (Cyborg) and Jeremy Irons (Alfred) who have all previously spoken out in support of Snyder's cut of the film.

Despite the fan demand for the film, it's unlikely that Warner Bros. will release Snyder's version of the film. For one, it was never a complete, polished film.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith, who hadn't seen the cut, but knew others who had, said Snyder's version wasn't finished during an interview on CinemaBlend's "ReelBlend" podcast.

"It was a movie that people in production could watch and fill in the blanks. It was certainly not meant for mass consumption," he said.

Warner Bros. declined to comment.

Warner Bros. focused on the future

There are many good reasons why Justice League's fans may not get the perceived justice they want.

"I haven't heard one word about releasing that cut," Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, said.

Warner Bros. isn't focusing on past films, but instead is looking to the future of DC movies.

After a series of misfires, which included lackluster critical responses to "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad," the studio has hit its stride with hits like "Aquaman," "Wonder Woman," "Shazam" and Todd Phillips recent "Joker" origin story.

Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice Media, said not dwelling in the past is a primary reason why a Snyder cut seems unlikely.

"They recognize that their start to the DC era of movies didn't go as well as hoped," Robbins said. "They've also made a lot of strides since then that have done really well and were more well-liked by fans."

It's likely Warner Bros. wants to keep moviegoers focused on its upcoming titles like "Birds of Prey," "Wonder Woman 1984," "The Batman" and a possible second "Joker film."

Warner Bros. also doesn't want to insult the filmmakers and crew that it brought in to patch up the project, Robbins said.

The directors, meanwhile, have moved on to other productions. Whedon had been hired to direct a "Batgirl" film for Warner Bros. but ultimately decided it was not a good project for him. Snyder is currently making a zombie movie for Netflix.

Not to mention, there may be little to no financial benefit to releasing Snyder's cut.

"The studio probably, honestly wouldn't make a lot of money from it. Would they want to spend anything to update or finish a lot of the visual effects work that probably wasn't complete yet?" he asked. "Even if the studio wants to, would they be willing to spend the money to put it out there on something they realize probably won't make their money back on, after the original movie already under-performed?"

Superhero fans' power has increased

Superhero fans and actors do have some power when it comes to influencing Hollywood film studios.

Notably, the cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy" rallied behind director James Gunn after Disney fired him for tweets he posted a decade ago. He was later reinstated to write and direct the third installment of that franchise.

And fans outraged that Disney and Sony could not come to terms on how to keep Tom Holland's Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe swayed the companies to eventually strike a deal.

Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Drax (Dave Bautista), Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) in "Avengers: Infinity War" from Disney and Marvel Studios
Source: Walt Disney

Even fans outside of the superhero genre have been able to influence productions.

Just days after releasing the trailer for "Sonic The Hedgehog," a film based on a video game character of the same name, the film's director tweeted in May that Paramount and Sega would be redesigning the character.

Longtime fans of the speedy blue hedgehog had found the character's facial features, including human-like teeth, and his body proportions to be inconsistent with the Sonic they grew up with in the '90s. The film was supposed to be released in November, but has been pushed to February 2020.

But there is one big difference between these films and "Justice League:" the studios have lots of money riding on the future of these movies.

"It's still developing at this point," Robbins said. "My perspective is if we are still talking about this in six months, there really might be something to it."

Until then, fans of the Snyder cut will have to take solace in the fact that the stars of the movie seem to be on their side, a fact that both Bock and Robbins say is notable.

"Put it out on DVD/Blu-Ray and streaming," Bock said. "It can't hurt the film, which is a speed bump, at best, in the DC universe. The general public doesn't really care one way or another. This is mostly super fans and media types."

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