The Snyder Cut
How Zack Snyder Is Shaking A Revolution At WarnerMedia
THE DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE
From the outset, the DC Extended Universe touted itself as a film-maker driven enterprise. The DC Extended Universe was the creative product of a four-headed brain-trust of Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Geoff Johns and Christopher Nolan. The shared universe experience pioneered onto the cinematic screen by Marvel, was an experiment at Warner Bros. that gave greater creative control to the film-makers, allowing them to shape their vision and bring it to the big screen with some measures of failure or mixed reception in the case of Zack Snyder's 'Man Of Steel.' On the other hand, with Patty Jenkins' 'Wonder Woman' there was some measure of excitement and success.
This contrasts with Marvel's top-down approach that presented a more unified vision planned over a decade that culminated in cinematic spectacle: 'Avengers: Infinity War' a villain-centered movie that broke the rules of cinema and story-telling with an ending where rarely seen on the big screen, the villain won!
In the case of the DC Extended Universe, the approach of deconstructing the myth of DC iconic superheroes has had mixed reception and even divisiveness. At the same time, the approach has had the consequence of generating passion and excitement for the particular version of characters seen on the big screen.
'MAN OF STEEL'
Despite its shortcomings, it is certain that 'Man Of Steel' (2013) resonated with general movie audiences in a way that questioned Superman as a character, as an icon and in particular, in his moral choices. Where Zack Snyder generated interest was in offering a muscular, visceral Superman filled with angst, alienation and power. Behind the lens of Zack Snyder, Superman lives again! He may not be the Christopher Reeve version or the George Reeves version, but he lives as a character, making mistakes, evolving and yes - even killing at a time of an alien invasion by his own people, the Kryptonians.
This is where Superman the icon is questioned in his morality: Within the Superman mythos, has always resonated that belief in good always opens "another way", a moral choice that avoids the taking of a life and the compromise with evil. Henry Cavill's Superman, however, is grounded in a realistic take on science-fiction: Zod is seen as an existential threat to the human way of life, which, unfortunately, has to be ended.
Make no mistakes! Superman does take lives. In 'Superman II' (1980), Superman seemingly kills the three Kryptonians in his Fortress of Solitude: Zod, Ursa and Non. Perhaps their end is open to interpretation.
Nonetheless, 'Man Of Steel' succeeded in showing the portrait of a Superman that lives in the real world and who in the face of certain death, is faced with real moral choices. That has to count for something.
'Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' (2016) takes the question of Superman living in the real world and transposes it onto the Christ metaphor - to its determined end! 'The Superman Question' poses the following question: "Must there be a Superman?" To which Senator Finch responds: "There is."
What is the main idea behind Zack Snyder's shared universe? In a BlackTree TV interview, Zack Snyder laid out his inspiration for 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice':
“I sort of wanted to homage the comic book [The Dark Knight Returns] in this movie as much as possible was to say thank you to Frank [Miller] for sort of giving me back Batman in a way that I could understand as modern…Even though we don’t follow that story, necessarily, the imagery that I chose to try to emulate in the movie was a way of me saying ‘thank you Frank’ for making my aesthetic.”
If we could distill Zack Snyder's vision, it would be to bring the comic book to the big screen.
What does this mean? Well, Zack Snyder is inspired by a grim and gritty take on iconic DC heroes that sees them existing primarily as beings of great power in relations of conflict with one another. It is a relation that has been part of the comics. At a base level, what Snyder is saying about Batman and Superman is that though they are eventually allies and best friends, they do not like each other.
The DC Extended Universe was originally a five-part movie story telling the story of Superman and the expansion of the Age Of Heroes with the Justice League, culminating in the imposition of the Anti-Life Equation on Earth.
With the tragedy in his family, Zack Snyder had to step away from 'Justice League' (2017), and Joss Whedon had to be brought in, overseeing reshoots that drastically changed Snyder's vision for the movie.
And it showed. 'Justice League' received a "rotten" average score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes citing the problems with its cinematography and its lack of a coherent vision.
It is certain that the release of the Snyder Cut on HBO Max in 2021 is a victory for democracy; in fact, a victory for the fans.
After the tepid performance of 'Justice League' at the box office in 2017, an online petition originally circulated that included 180,000 signatures. The petition used the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media. After two years and half of social media campaign, it appears the fans' voices were heard.
On May 20, 2020, Snyder announced during a Q&A after an online watch party of Man of Steel that the Snyder Cut would be released on HBO Max in 2021.
What does this mean for the DC Extended Universe? Though WarnerMedia has not voiced any plans to continue Zack Snyder's vision, it is a resounding victory for Zack Snyder's passionate following. With the popularity of online streaming services, it is a sign that Hollywood industries are now open to the power of the fans and in fact, of a more democratic approach.
WarnerMedia ought to take this development seriously. Disney showed the success of a top-down approach to film-making. What WarnerMedia is experiencing, is that DC properties may not necessarily be suited to follow a similar approach. Perhaps, more input from film-makers and the passionate fan base can help chart a way forward.