Look, internet… please don’t shoot the messenger. But it doesn’t look like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has taken hold of the imaginations of Warner Bros. executives in quite the same way as it has with fans on social media. In other words, don’t expect the legendary “Snyder Cut” of the Justice League movie to see the light of day any time soon.
If you don’t know what all the fuss about Justice League and the Snyder Cut is, it’s relatively simple. Zack Snyder left the production of Justice League somewhere near the end of principal photography after dealing with a terrible personal tragedy. Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to finish the film. In the process, a number of scenes that had been filmed (but not completed) were left on the cutting room floor, while others (infamously those involving Superman) were re-written and re-shot entirely, likely with an eye on avoiding the kind of backlash that met Snyder’s unfiltered vision on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Evidence of Snyder’s original plans for the movie could be found in trailer scenes that didn’t make it into the film, the “Knightmare” sequence from Batman v. Superman, the Flash’s mysterious message to Bruce Wayne in that film, and the countless series of images from unseen Justice League scenes the director has teased fans with on social media over the last two years. Snyder fans took up the cause almost immediately, blaming the film’s failure at the box office on the studio’s meddling, and mounting a coordinated effort on social media and conventions tied to the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut hashtag.
Recently, the idea has gained some steam, with some speculating that the Snyder Cut could be released as an exclusive to drive interest in the HBO Max streaming service, and the stars of the film itself taking up the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut banner. And while Jason Momoa himself claims to have seen the film (likely a rough edit with incomplete effects), VFX insiders who worked on the film don’t believe that the Snyder Cut was ever close enough to completion to be releasable without millions of dollars of work getting put into it.
But now a Warner Bros. insider has thrown cold water (again) on the hopes that the Justice League Snyder Cut will see the light of day any time soon. Variety reports that “there’s little appetite at the studio for spending the millions of dollars it would require to finish visual effects and editing work on Snyder’s version.” And hopes of a Blu-ray or streaming release? “That’s a pipe dream…there’s no way it’s ever happening.”
And really, it’s tough to blame them. While the final version of Justice League is probably not anybody’s favorite superhero movie, and it’s never cause for celebration when a director doesn’t get to realize their vision for a film due to circumstances beyond their control, the fact remains that the film was a critical and commercial dud. More importantly, Warner Bros. is finally on something of a roll with its DC movies, indicating that they may have managed to step out of the unpleasant shadow cast by its Snyder trilogy and 2016’s generally reviled Suicide Squad. No longer focused on trying to follow Marvel’s aggressive release date and shared universe schedule, the studio has delivered three films in a row that met with both critical and commercial success with Aquaman, Shazam!, and Joker (it’s four in a row if you don’t count 2017’s Justice League and instead skip back to that year’s beloved Wonder Woman) Two of those films hit the all-important billion dollar mark, something that none of Zack Snyder’s DCEU movies managed to do. And while box office receipts should never be confused with the quality of the product in question, they’re a language that studio execs understand.
2020 brings Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984, two movies with only the loosest of ties to more difficult productions like 2016’s Suicide Squad and the Batman v. Superman/Justice League one-two punch that KO’d the DCEU’s early form, with a healthy (but not overbearing) release schedule to follow. The studio seems to be betting that acknowledging a shared universe without being beholden to it (an approach that worked quite well for both Aquaman and Shazam!) will be enough to keep audiences invested. Judging by recent successes, they’re right.
Still, even speaking as a Snyder Cut skeptic, fans should never give up hope entirely, as we’ve seen this story play out before. Richard Donner, the director of what remains the most beloved Superman movie ever made, never got to complete his Superman II, was replaced by another director whose vision and tone were inconsistent with his, and over 25 years later Superman II: The Donner Cut finally made its way to DVD. While The Donner Cut was ultimately something of a disappointment, and felt more like a “completists only” look at what might have been, fans did eventually get their wish. Perhaps some day that will happen with the Snyder Cut. But at the moment, there’s too much riding on the continued success of Warner Bros.’ DC superhero movies for them to revisit the past and open old wounds.