Say what you will about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but the director’s streaming superhero redux managed to branch the DC Extended Universe movies off into its own tangential timeline, which has since been dubbed the “SnyderVerse” by the fandom that now passionately hashtags for its restoration in the studio’s main continuity. While recent revelations about Snyder’s rough relationship with Warner make this restoration unlikely, the director isn’t entirely shutting the door on such a notion.
We know that Snyder, once the driving creative force behind Warner’s DCEU, was already the odd man out with the studio by the time a personal tragedy incited him to relinquish the director’s chair of 2017’s Justice League to Joss Whedon, but a recent comment from the director has stamped the idea with a powerful punctuation. While Snyder’s focus right now may be this month’s release of his new feature, Netflix-bound horror film Army of the Dead, a promotional interview with Jake Hamilton saw him field the inevitable SnyderVerse question with an answer that’s rather inauspicious for its advocates.
“Warner Bros. has been aggressively anti-Snyder, if you will,” reveals Snyder. “Clearly, they’re not interested in my take. But I would also say that they certainly weren’t interested in—I would have said originally—in my take on Justice League. They certainly made decisions about that. I love the characters and I love the worlds and I think it’s an amazing place to make a movie and it’s glorious IP, so there’s that.”
Indeed, Snyder’s status as persona non grata with Warner has been bluntly revealed, rendering the mere existence of Zack Snyder’s Justice League even more of an industry anomaly. The film, a four-hour tour-de-Snyder streaming offering that hit HBO Max on March 18, is the culmination of a nearly four-year effort by Snyder to press Warner to release the director’s pure vision of the film to contrast with the trimmed-down Whedon-directed theatrical release. Ultimately, proponents hailed the once-mythical manifestation of the Snyder Cut as a triumph—opacity of its streaming metrics notwithstanding—and their efforts have switched to a new hashtag campaign, #RestoreTheSnyderVerse, since it’s been revealed that Whedon’s film, not Snyder’s, was still considered Warner’s canonical version. It’s a development that obviously doesn’t sit well with Snyder’s vocal fandom, which has become empowered by its achievement of essentially having willed the Snyder Cut into existence.
“I don’t know what could be done as you go forward other than, I think the fan movement is so strong, and the fan community is so—the intention is so pure, and I really have huge respect for it,” muses Snyder on the significantly narrowed chance of his return to the DCEU. “I would hope that cooler heads would prevail with them and that they would see that there’s this massive fandom that wants more of them, but who knows what they’ll do.”
Snyder does seem to offer his fans a small silver lining for some kind of reconciliation of the SnyderVerse. However, it’s important to remember that his fallout with Warner was the culmination of an initially promising working relationship that saw him tapped as the primary creative force behind a Marvel Cinematic Universe-like shared universe of DC Comics movies, beginning with his 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel. While that film’s worldwide gross of $668 million wasn’t especially impressive against its $225 million budget when all expenses were taken into account, the studio still stuck to Snyder’s plans. Then Snyder brought Batman into the fray, played by Ben Affleck, for a crossover-setting quasi-sequel that would become 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. However, that film’s $873.6 million worldwide take wasn’t a significant improvement to its Batman-less predecessor against an upped $250 million budget.
The backs of studio suits had effectively turned by the time Snyder got to work on follow-up Justice League. Warner’s once-accommodating approach was significantly altered, resulting in the tightening of Snyder’s creative leash, since the studio had attributed the poor performances of the previous films to the director’s bleak, iconography-imbued approach.
Since Warner wanted to protect the rapidly-expanding budget it had invested, production of the ensemble-driven third film became a battle with Snyder’s movie moroseness as the studio attempted to lighten his tone by injecting comic relief moments to make it into a popcorn-friendly crowd-pleaser. The studio habitually nixed many of the ambitious, plot-diverging concepts that would eventually surface in the Snyder Cut. Deepening the divide, DC Entertainment creative chief Geoff Johns and Warner Bros. co-production head Jon Berg were deployed to “babysit” Snyder, a dynamic that was already irreparably damaged by the time of Snyder’s daughter’s death.
Of course, even on the back of team member Wonder Woman’s solo film success earlier that year, Whedon’s 2017 Justice League movie flopped, having grossed $657 million worldwide, failing to make a lofty $750 million break-even mark. While Warner likely preferred to leave that film in the past, especially since they’d found success and acclaim in the solo movie arena with Wonder Woman and, a year later, with Aquaman, the eventual manifestation of Zack Snyder’s Justice League came about due to substantial support—notably from the film’s stars—and possibly a “in for a penny, in for a pound” mentality to salvage the $300 million-budgeted box office boondoggle in some manner. While said cinematic salvaging would cost Warner an additional $70 million to complete its visuals, the Snyder Cut certainly got people talking.
One might be left to wonder if Warner—perhaps after a few more years pass in the rear-view mirror—will eventually return to the mentality that, having already invested an insane amount of money in the SnyderVerse films, that there might be something salvageable. After all, Snyder recently revealed his plan for the never-realized proper Man of Steel sequel to bring city-bottling cyborg Brainiac to the big screen for the first time. Considering how Warner’s plans for its DC live-action films and television shows (e.g. HBO Max’s Green Lantern) are broad but rudderless—especially on what’s considered canon—there remains an ever so slight chance that someone at Warner might just revisit the SnyderVerse. For now, though, such a notion is dead on arrival.