Inevitably, it’s the most extreme end of fandom that catches the media’s eye. Whether it’s a Star Wars obsessive presenting a 46-minute, female-free edition of The Last Jedi or bizarre petitions to ban the 2016 Ghostbusters, fan frustration can sometimes take on strange-looking (and ugly) forms when it spills out online.
Occasionally, though, fan frustration can result in something unexpectedly creative. Take ForSnyderCut, for example: a website set up by DC and Zack Snyder followers who want Warner Bros to put out a version of Justice League that hews more closely to the original director’s intentions.
Where some fan-led campaigns read, look or sound like movements hastily cobbled together in a fit of pique, ForSnyderCut is very different: its website is superbly designed and thoughtfully laid-out. There are essays and opinion pieces; links to external news items, petitions and filmed interviews with Snyder and other members of the Justice League cast and crew.
There’s also a detailed, reverse-chronological timeline, which serves as a primer for the whole Justice League situation. The project’s announcement back in 2014, back when Warner Bros was still in the process of building an interlinked superhero universe to rival the MCU. We then see Warner’s gradual erosion of confidence in its own slate, as executives were shaken around, removed and appointed in the wake of the less-than-stellar reaction to Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The subsequent plans to “lighten up” the tone established by Zack Snyder in both Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman; then, most poignantly of all, Snyder stepping down from the whole enterprise following a tragic event in his family.
It was at this point, particularly for Snyder’s fans, that Justice League took its controversial turn. In the director’s absence, Warner brought in Joss Whedon to oversee rewrites and the shooting of new scenes; producer Charles Roven insisted that Whedon’s reshoots amounted to about 15 to 20 percent of the finished film. Rumours abounded that the percentage was far higher.
The rest – scathing reviews, memes singling out Henry Cavill’s top lip – is so much superhero history. ForSnyderCut presents a condensed version of it, with the fallout from Justice League‘s release illustrated with links to news stories from bigger names that also want to see an alternate cut of Snyder’s movie. These include the movie’s cinematographer, Fabian Wagner, Ben Affleck’s stunt double, Richard Cetrone, Ciaran Hinds (who appeared beneath lots of pixels as the villain, Steppenwolf) and uber-geek, Kevin Smith.
The site’s real substance, however, comes from its surprisingly voluminous archive of essays, many laying out an argument for the Snyder cut’s release, others providing more general analysis: why, for example, Man Of Steel and Batman v Superman were misunderstood by their detractors, and why Snyder’s portrayal of Superman was more fitting than some of his more damning critics maintained.
For this writer, the Snyder-led DC movies were something of a mixed blessing. Snyder’s a distinctive, maybe even visionary director, yet his version of a more conflicted, militaristic Superman was an acquired taste. But having seen the compromised disappointment that was Justice League, the technical control Snyder had over his own work fell into sharp relief. We didn’t necessarily like all the ideas he put on screen in Batman v Superman, but they were evidently his ideas – and to borrow a shop-worn phrase, the money was all there on the screen. Justice League, at times, looked more like an extended TV episode; Snyder often appeared restless when he was asked to shoot extended dialogue sequences in his movies, but they were rarely anything less than cinematic.
Some of the essays on ForSnyderCut, meanwhile, provide some pretty solid arguments, even if you aren’t a slavish fan of Snyder’s work. Massimiliano Orione, for example, rightly points out that the theatrical version of Justice League completely fails to pay-off some of the story threads originally set up in Batman v Superman:
“…most of all, Warner Bros decided to erase from the movie all links to the Knightmare scene shown in Batman v Superman: a scene that was supposed to show how Superman, tempted by Darkseid, could have decided to be a God to mankind but instead choosing to be their protector.”
Another writer, JD Miller, makes a similar point: in pressing for a lighter, two-hour cut of Justice League, Warner wound up curtailing the story it had already spent three movies trying to establish – and short-changing the arcs of several new characters to boot:
“We need Victor Stone’s story. We need to see Lois and Clark reunited. We need to see a tone appropriate Batman atoning for his actions. We need Atlantean backstory. We need the Green Lanterns. We need the real story of Steppenwolf. We need Darkseid. We need that connective tissue in the narrative that originally smoothed the plot. We need the scenes Zack originally shot and was proud of.”
Admittedly, not everyone will get on board with all the opinions expressed on the site – if you don’t have the same breathless appreciation for the director’s movies, ForSnyderCut won’t change your mind – but it’s still fascinating to see so much passion laid out in one website. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to love Snyder’s movies to agree that, yes, an alternate cut of Justice League would be fascinating to see.
The greater question, of course, is whether Snyder’s fans will ever get what they’ve been campaigning for. A few weeks ago, there were encouraging rumours that an earlier cut of Justice League, lasting some three hours and overseen by Snyder himself, still exists. According to a Reddit Ask Me Anything session by an unnamed effects artist on the film, that rumor is, however, “1000% bullshit.”
More recently, it’s emerged that the forthcoming Justice League Blu-ray will contain a few deleted scenes and bonus features, but there’s currently no sign of an extended cut. If there’s a longer version of Justice League out there in an edit suite somewhere, it could take a very long time to finally appear in full public view.
For some, then, ForSnyderCut might seem like a bit of a wail in a hurricane – a well-meant but doomed attempt to pressure a studio who’s probably fairly happy to draw a line under Justice League and move onto other areas of its DC slate. Certainly, the middling response to Justice League as it stands, and the millions of dollars it would take to finish a Snyder cut’s special effects and sound mixing, wouldn’t exactly endear Warner Bros to the idea. Particularly when we consider the reports that, even with a global take of some $655 million, Justice League has barely started to break even by the time its production costs, prints and advertising are all taken into account. For a film once billed as a potential Avengers beater, it’s an awkward state of affairs.
But then again, it’s also heartening to see a group of fans come together and use their collective interest to create something positive. There are some worthwhile and thought-provoking pieces of writing, and links to a few worthwhile pieces on other sites we hadn’t previously encountered, including this one about Amy Adams’ incarnation of Lois Lane.
Even if the Snyder-approved Justice League takes years to appear – or never appears at all – ForSnyderCut at least stands as a digital monument from the franchise’s more devoted fans. It’s a recent instance of passion, affection, infuriation and ire being turned into something positive.