“Stark Raving Fan” is a column about one man’s love for all things involving popular culture – television, movies, and all facets of pop culture from here to there. Of course, it’s not the kind of love that unite a group of people like a bunch of hippies. More like the kind of love someone has when they’ve blown a gasket and have something to say. After all, aren’t we all just driven mad by fanaticism sometimes?
In what world do we live in that finally, finally, we have a successful and wildly popular DC movie? Yet, here we are and, no, this isn’t some delusional fantasy world envisioned by larger-than-life machinations ruling the planet. Indeed, Yet, Wonder Woman serves as one of a handful of films that made the summer 2017 movie season tolerable. In just a few weeks we’ll segue into the fall, pumpkin-spice-everything infecting every ounce of our lives and water gathered around breakrooms en masse discussing their favorite television shows. (Hooray, Walking Dead is just around the corner!) But while we ease away from the big budget blockbuster spectacles that usually take over our favorite movie theaters in the summertime, the fall usually brings a more muted tone. Well, at least until November. And this year we have not one, not two, but three tentpoles to look forward to. One of them just happens to be Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
I’m sorry, did I say Zack Snyder? My bad. I meant Joss Whedon.
Whoever ends up with the credit, there’s one fact that remains behind – and that’s Warner Brothers has deftly decided to push Snyder to the curb and bring in a different influence altogether. And while I will fully admit I’ve blamed Snyder for the early failures the DCEU suffered under his guidance, this is not the way to send off the creative force that got your franchises started in the first place. Zack Snyder deserves better than a tip of the cap – and a movie totally rejiggered without his involvement.
How is it I know that Snyder’s wandered off into the sunset? Well Mashable received word that, thanks in part to the massive success of Wonder Woman around the world, DC Films/Warner Brothers is plotting their franchises with less involvement by Zack Snyder and more an influence by Geoff Johns. Now, I know what you’re asking yourself. Self, Snyder is responsible for launching the DCEU for Warner Brothers and has slowly gotten their series of films on track, growing the audience share, and determining the future of their characters. Why would the studio want to oust such a hailed and accomplished director from its pole position? And the answer? The sharp critical response to the various entries of the DCEU, save for Wonder Woman (which was more influenced by Patty Jenkins than Zack Snyder). Let’s face facts here. The number of people who actually think Man of Steel is a fair and accurate representative of Superman are about as many people who think a live-action Jetsons sitcom is necessary. The problem there isn’t with Henry Cavill, who actually could make a great Superman if Snyder wasn’t overly fascinated with continuing the tropes that Christopher Nolan set out with in his Dark Knight Trilogy.
Yes, here we are, it’s 2017, and we’re still trying to explore allegories Nolan explored in his three films. It’s almost like Snyder, who is a fully grown adult (just with a nine year old’s temperament guiding his “grand” and “bold” visions), can’t read at all. Nolan has spoken at great length in numerous interviews that he set out to explore different themes for his trilogy and didn’t want those ideas explored in a future DCEU. The Dark Knight Trilogy exists on its own, yet somehow Snyder waved off Nolan’s suggestions and ran with it anyway. What have we gotten out of it? A trio of movies devoid of any sense of fun, dark muted palettes, and angst-ridden “heroes” who pay no mind to mayhem, chaos, and death. “Screw the people, I’ll just destroy the Denny’s and the bank!” said no Superman that I’ve ever gotten joy out of watching.
Why can’t Warner Brothers just put on their big-boy pants and admit that Snyder didn’t fully go off quietly into the sunset to deal with family drama? I would dare say that the studio more than strongly advised him to step away from Justice League‘s post-production schedule. In fact, I’m sure they told him flat-out just to beat his feet. Now, follow my rationality here. Let’s connect the dots, at least the dots I’ve seen. Last July, at San Diego Comic Con, the first footage from Justice League hit and the Hall H crowd didn’t faint from their fandom. They were excited, but not blown away. The early trailer was almost cringe-worthy in certain parts. People weren’t as receptive to the footage as Warner Brothers hoped. Me, well, I thought I was looking at the sequel to Watchmen but with Batman, Wonder Woman, a very cheesy-CG enhanced Cyborg, Conan the Barbarian err Aquaman, and a speedster wearing armor designed by Tony Stark embossed with chicken wire. Here, exhibit A. This is the trailer from 2016.
I still have to laugh watching this. This was not a good trailer, even if most of the shots were made exclusively for the buzzy Comic Con crowd. And, I dunno how this hiring transpired, but back in March Joss Whedon boarded the production. Yes, the uber fan boy who did a whole lot of good for Marvel Studios. Hell, Whedon has Feige’s blessing to go help out Justice League. And yet, the trailer shown at this year’s San Diego Comic Con is something wholly different from 2016’s trailer. The colors are more vibrant, the dialogue sizzles and pops off the tongue, and the story seems to make more sense. And you know why? Because the trailer we saw isn’t from a movie overseen by Zack Snyder.
It’s a movie completely overhauled and retooled by Joss Whedon. One without Snyder’s final say on the cut.
Where did Warners change their mind? Was it the constant critic backlash against Snyder and his desire to use Nolan’s Batman films as a mold? (I mean, after all, wwwhhhyyyy sssoooo sseerrriiioouss?) Was it unenthusiastic criticism from both fans and industry professionals? Or did the box office numbers just finally break the camel’s back?
Now, before you tell me that both Suicide Squad and Batman Vs. Superman both raked in boffo box office receipts, take a look at the overhead. The marketing and production costs. It sure as hell ain’t free to put your biggest stars on soft drinks, salty snack bags, and cereal boxes. You still need to shell out dough for that kind of publicity. And at the end of the day, with all the numbers tallied and the books balanced, both movies were a solid kick in the crotch with a pair of steel-toe boots. Both films came in way under executive expectations. And they knew a change was needed, even if Snyder was too hellbent on realizing he needed to take a break, clear his head, get back in the game instead of working harder and distancing himself from the elephant in the room.
In case why you forget why Snyder initially left production, let’s rewind our story. This all began back in May, when Zack and Deborah Snyder jointly announced their vacancy from November’s Justice League to deal with the suicide of their daughter. Joss Whedon, who had been assisting Snyder with post-production of the movie, was promoted to finish the blockbuster, tie up all the loose ends with editing and post-production, and deliver the completed film for screening. Of course, now we know that Whedon’s efforts on Justice League are much more substantial than just editing the film, no no. Instead, Whedon has been toiling with reshoots for two months to the tune of an additional $25 million added to the film’s budget. Reshoots are a normal process on any given film, bringing back the principal actors for two or three weeks for pick-up shots. But no, instead these reshoots are pretty much erasing most of what Snyder had lensed. Right, so Snyder’s work on the action scenes are fairly intact, that much Snyder has always been fantastic at. But the dialogue? The in-between? Seems like Whedon is completely changing the movie so we don’t get another Batman Vs. Superman in theaters, doesn’t it?
And as much as I tear the Snyder’s DC movies apart, never would I openly kick a hurting man when he’s down, especially a topic as serious as losing one’s daughter so young. Listen, Zack Snyder has made some fantastic films in his career. He made the impossible possible when he remade Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, with many thanks to a then-unknown James Gunn. 300 was a game changer in terms of making movies, using blue screen to craft a feature film and blend actors in with CG backgrounds seamlessly. And then you have Watchmen, which I still rank in my top five comic adaptations of all time. (I’ll save that explanation for another time.) But Snyder is hurting, he’s had his heart ripped out and his world flipped on its head. I personally cannot imagine the grief he and his wife are saddled with in the passing of their daughter. Was it wise for him to keep working when internally his emotions were a tug-of-war with his sense of purpose? Probably not. But that was how he was coping. Justice League was kept him rising from bed each and every morning.
The circus just doesn’t end with Snyder being shot out of a cannon into safety netting either, no no. The torrid tale even gets stranger as the days and weeks go by. Actor Joe Morton revealed in an interview that Joss Whedon totally lightened Justice League‘s tone, with much of the exhaustive reshoot schedule aimed at making Victor Stone/Cyborg more likable instead of a steely douchebag. Casey Affleck mused that his brother Ben was going to abdicate his title of Batman following this fall’s box office blockbuster, only to have a PR representative scuttle the comment the following day and gush on Ben’s love for both Matt Reeves’ The Batman and playing the Caped Crusader. Speaking of Ben he spoke to Entertainment Weekly and praised the unorthodox nature of both Snyder and Whedon’s different yet distinct directorial styles, attempting to quell concerns that the film may be slightly incoherent with Whedon stepping in. (I find that rather odd because, with a production this haywire, trying to spin positive this way looks a bit foolish. I see what you’re shoveling, Ben!) And now, with Whedon fully in control, word broke that the Director’s Guild of America is pleading with Warner Brothers to give Whedon not just a script credit but also a co-directing credit as well.
With all of the news and rumors orbiting production – which is at the tail end of reshoots may I add – I have to wonder how much of the final cut will even resemble what Snyder initially shot. Batman-On-Film reported a very debatable rumor, one I actually wouldn’t disagree with, that much of the Snyder’s work on Justice League was deemed unwatchable. Whedon not only reworked most of the movie but changed the original ending too, which apparently drew the ire of Warners executives. So we’re still supposed to believe Snyder walked away to tend to family matters? Because, to this angry nerd, Snyder was told to take the train. That his work wasn’t up to snuff. That a slew of additional shooting was necessary to gussy up Justice League. Oh, I don’t think Snyder was flat out told to leave production, but more strongly urged to take time for himself. Let’s face the facts, though. Given the rumors, reports, and news running rampant in the trades – Snyder was shooed away with a pat on the back, not just from this movie but most likely from influencing future DC installments for good.
And who is taking over as the madman leading the future of the DCEU, to ensure the vision of the extended universe isn’t as dour and depressing as Batman Vs. Superman? None other than Geoff Johns, who not only serves as DC Comics’ current president but has also woven a somewhat cohesive and immensely popular shared universe on the CW Network.
You can hate Marvel. You can hate DC. But with the two producer heads of the biggest franchises in fandom palling around together, well, let that notion offer you a glimmer of hope. See, Johns got his start working with director Richard Donner. You know, little movies like Lethal Weapon and, yeah, you know, Superman. A hopeful, optimistic, bright, and rosy guardian of Earth who wasn’t dour and down and brimmed with anger. Feige too got his early beginnings by working as a production assistant with Richard Donner. Both Johns and Feige worked together. Their friendship struck there what is now ages ago and has become a solid and trusting brotherhood that has endured for decades. Feige’s movies with Marvel Studios have balanced seriousness, fun, flair, and pomp all in one. Johns’ very first movie with his creative say? Wonder Woman. Need I say more?
So I’ll leave you with this one final musing, dear readers. If Snyder left on his own accord, stepping aside to deal with grief and figure out his life, then why on Earth would he go and delete Justice League logos from his Twitter back in July? At that point in time, namely around July 17th, reshoots were in full swing too. So, for someone who spent months through varying stages of production on a movie – why suddenly up and remove the logo from your header? Because I don’t think he left the movie in Whedon’s hands voluntarily. Here’s an image of his Twitter from the day George Romero passed away.
I rest my case. Of course I’ll still be seeing Justice League in theaters – I’m a fan at the end of the day, just with some very strong opinions – but even so, Warner Brothers shouldn’t do Snyder this dirty. Have some damn respect for the man after all. Without his vision your precious DCEU would be absolutely nowhere. And now we’ll have to hope that both the wild imaginations of both Joss Whedon and Geoff Johns are the answer that DC Films is looking for going forward. Until next time Fan Fest fam you keep reading them and I’ll keep writing them.
Jerrold spent his childhood in southeastern Pennsylvania ingesting far too many TV shows and movies, thus creating a stark-raving mad geek. He’s a movie aficionado, binge-watches Netflix, and is a total TV junkie. His addiction has led to an unhealthy and rabid obsession of various geek pantheons – Star Trek, Star Wars, both DC *AND* Marvel,
cult 80’s and 90’s television, Supernatural, The X-Files, Doctor Who, and, and…holy overload. He’s still waiting to run away in a 1967 Impala or a blue police box.