The DCEU v. Zack Snyder
By Sal LoCicero | March 13, 2021
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be available to stream on HBO Max, March 19th. As the days pass, the closer we get to the big event. DC Comics has gone through their struggles over the past decade, trying to outdo the MCU by introducing fans to their own universe. On paper that was a very intriguing idea, but the final product was somewhat of a misfire. Zack Snyder has been working with DC for 20 years now and that alone has presented many highs and lows.
ZACK SNYDER: PRE-DCEU
Before the DCEU, Zack Snyder was just a small filmmaker who directed a script that was created by writer/director James Gunn (Guardians Of The Galaxy), a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 cult classic, ‘Dawn Of The Dead’. The remake, which received solid reviews from critics, gained over $102 million worldwide. Both Gunn’s script and Snyder’s direction was admired by fans. In 2006, Snyder went down the comic book path to write and direct an adaptation to one of Frank Miller’s beloved Graphic Novels ‘300’. This movie brought more attention and drew controversy around the filmmaker. When ‘300’ released critics hated the film; calling it “overly violent”, “juvenile”, and “stupid”. However, once the fans got a chance to see it, all ate it up. ‘300’ went on to gross over $400 million worldwide, making it the 7th highest grossing R-rated box office feature of the time. Two years later, Snyder went on to write and direct another graphic novel adaptation, this time from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. ‘Watchmen’ was one of the few movies in Hollywood that went through many difficulties. It is one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, making it onto Time Magazine’s 100 best novels. Since the 90s, many filmmakers in the business signed on to develop a feature out of ‘Watchmen’; although, deciding to abandon the project due to advanced technology, creative differences, or the fact the story’s subject matter was too complex to adapt into a successful feature. This was until Zack Snyder signed onto the project. Fans of the source material were over the moon when the news broke out that a ‘Watchmen’ feature was finally on its way. When it was released to the public, it received extremely mediocre reviews. Critics were not pleased with the final cut calling it; “long”, “boring” and “complex”. Unlike ‘300’, the fans weren’t satisfied either. Many complained that ‘Watchmen’ was not accurate to the source material. It has been stated that if you had never read the graphic novel, you wouldn’t be able to wrap your head around the movie. This is also when Snyder began to show his style of filmmaking - style over substance.
DC BEFORE THE EXTENDED UNIVERSE
Over the years, DC has gained success with their movies and TV shows. Back in the 1940s, Columbia Pictures distributed the theatrical serial, ‘Batman’ which contained 15 chapters, as did the sequel ‘Batman and Robin’. In 1950, Warner Bros Television brought Superman to life on TV, with ‘Adventures of Superman’.Then in the 60s, Warner Bros Television introduced everyone around the world to Adam West as the Caped Crusader. After the first season of ‘Batman’ finished airing on May 5th, 1966, a few months later, ‘Batman: The Movie’ was released in theaters. After more television shows from DC aired, Warner Bros Pictures released their first ever big studio feature with ‘Superman: The Movie’ proving to be both a critical and financial success. It earned over $300 million worldwide and became the second highest grossing film at the box office in 1978. In 1980, a sequel to ‘Superman: The Movie’ was released and while not as financially successful as its predecessors, it still left its mark. It was not until 1989, when Warner Bros and Tim Burton reinvigorated the famous Caped Crusader and introduced audiences around the world to Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in the cultural phenomenon that was ‘Batman’. The movie earn over $251 million worldwide and became the #1 highest grossing movie of that year. Once the franchise went through hell with Joel Schumaker taking over the franchise, the company tried to bring Batman to life again. There were a few filmmakers who signed on to remake Batman who ended up leaving the project. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan, who had been known for ‘Memento’, signed on to develop one of the most beloved movie trilogies of all time.
MAN OF STEEL
After the tremendous success of The Dark Knight Trilogy, WB and DC Comics were at the peak of their success. In 2013, they released a new and unique vision to Superman titled ‘Man Of Steel’, written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer and directed by Zack Snyder. This was Nolan and Snyder’s first collaboration on a project, so it was very interesting to see how this reincarnation of Superman would turn out. The teaser trailer, which released a few days after ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ hit theaters, gave a new yet unfamiliar look at Superman.
Four days before ‘Man Of Steel’ hit theaters, many critics got to see it and their responses were mixed. The criticisms toward ‘Man Of Steel’ were that it had “somber and dark tone/no optimism, too much CGI action sequences, no character development, and being too similar to other blockbuster films while also being a formulaic Superman origin film.” If you stop and think for a moment, some of the criticisms surrounding this movie sounded similar to the criticism towards ‘300’. Just like ‘Watchmen’, when ‘Man Of Steel’ released worldwide, moviegoers were not pleased. Most fan criticisms involved the film's final fight sequence and its outcome. Superman commits murder! Many were shocked and angered by this decision which caused nonstop debating around that two minute scene.
DAVID S. GOYER
When you think of ‘The Dark Knight’, what mostly comes to your head is Christopher Nolan, which makes absolute sense! Nolan wrote, produced, and directed all three of his Batman films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises). However, Nolan was not solo when developing the story. David S. Goyer co-wrote the Batman films with Nolan. This is the man who also brought ‘Blade’ to the big screen. After seeing the success that came out of those films, both Nolan and Goyer went on to co-write ‘Man Of Steel’. During pre-production, all three filmmakers; Nolan, Goyer and Snyder, had creative differences with the ending. Goyer and Snyder both agreed with the idea of Superman commiting murder. Nolan, when told about the idea, was opposed to it from the start. However, Goyer and Snyder both felt that an ending like that would be necessary for the type of story they were telling. DC Comics also approved of it. Goyer was also inspired by Man Of Steel’s dark tone considering how successful ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ became.
BATMAN v SUPERMAN
After ‘Man Of Steel’, Snyder began working on ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’. This production took three years to complete. This was due to creative differences from Snyder and WB. WB even stated that the official reason as to why it was taking a while for the studio to finish, was so that the filmmakers could have more time to “realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story”. On March 25th, 2016, the long-awaited follow-up to ‘Man Of Steel’ had finally arrived. While its box office run was great, the reviews were the opposite. Both critics and audiences were not happy with the end result. Many fans were disappointed and felt that the movie was too convoluted with its plot, structure, characters, and its set up for the DCEU. The only strong aspects were Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, the IMAX scenes, and the nightmare sequence.
When ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ hit theaters, it made a ton of money its opening weekend but after a few weeks, its box office numbers began to decrease. Three months later, Marvel Studios released ‘Captain America: Civil War’. Due to the anticipation and how much it pleased fans, Civil War went home with $1.1 Billion at the worldwide box office, making it the fourth Marvel movie to hit a billion dollars. The success of Civil War did not make DC Comics too happy. In Summer 2015, Suicide Squad’s Comic Con teaser debuted. It gave off a very dark and sinister vibe.
Although, with more trailers released on YouTube, the more people began to get excited. On August 5th, 2016, ‘Suicide Squad’ hit theaters with the hope that it would be at the very least; good. Almost everyone despised ‘Suicide Squad’. It received even more hate than ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’. Many stated that it was uneven, lacked originality, had a weak storyline, a crap villain and Jared Leto as Joker was deemed the worst with many of his scenes not even in the movie. Later on an extended cut was released for home video but even that didn’t do much for the fans. Recently, David Ayer reached out to fans on Twitter stating that his cut of ‘Suicide Squad’ was botched by the studio. After the release of ‘Captain America: Civil War’, DC Comics felt that Captain America won audiences over because it was light and funny, so why not do the same with ‘Suicide Squad’. Obviously, this decision back-fired in their face.
In 2017, ‘Wonder Woman’ became a huge success. It was the first DCEU film to be certified “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. It wasn’t dark, it wasn’t sinister-like, nobody twisted anyone's neck, there was no Martha controversy, and no one had the word ‘Damaged’ written on their forehead. ‘Wonder Woman’ was a fun, adventurous superhero movie that had a great story and included a fantastic leading role from Gal Gadot. However, things took a major turn. Before Wonder Woman’s release, the news broke out that Autnam Snyder, daughter of Zack Snyder, had committed suicide on March 20th, 2017. After the tragic news, Snyder stepped down from the production of Justice League to deal with his family’s tragedy. Although reasons as to why Autnam committed suicide was never revealed to the public, later on it was said by Snyder that she had been suffering from depression. Months later, Joss Whedon (Marvel’s The Avengers) joined the project to finish ‘Justice League’.
JOSS WHEDON'S JUSTICE LEAGUE
On November 17th, 2017, ‘Justice League’ had arrived in theaters. Most audiences agreed that it was better than ‘Batman v Superman’ and that it was fun to watch. This was mainly due to Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon was one of the most popular names in the industry. In 2012, he brought “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” to life with ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’. So it made sense why Justice League was very entertaining. After Joss Whedon’s Justice League, fans of Snyder’s grew more and more upset. While many loved Joss Whedon and his filmmaking style, fans of Snyder went mad. Many die hard fans took Whedon’s version as a complete insult to Zack Snyder. They hated the CGI, the villain, the plot, its short runtime (2 hrs), and the entire tone. The film didn’t do anything for the critics either; although it got a better RT score than ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ and ‘Suicide Squad’. Not only were the fans upset about the film, so were the cast; especially Ray Fisher. Fisher had a troubling experience during the production. Fisher had stated that Whedon’s behavior on set was “abusive and unprofessional”. More of Justice League’s cast members broke their silence about Whedon’s part in making ‘Justice League’. Gal Gadot had claimed her time with Whedon on the set “wasn’t the best one”. An investigation of the crew and Warner Bros had occured and was later addressed.
THE RISE OF THE SNYDER CULT
The beginning of Zack Snyder’s toxic fandom had begun. In ‘Man Of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice’, Snyder was teasing his own universe that he wanted to extend. One of the many issues surrounding BvS was that it was too focused on setting up a universe than focusing on its own story. While many fans were upset about this, others accepted that and wanted more. Once Snyder stepped down, his fans were very upset that his vision wasn’t in ‘Justice League’. More of his fans started writing on social media with now famous and historical hashtag “#releasethesnydercut”. This trend went on for three years. If this were any movie or TV show, eventually the fandom around it dies down after a while. But that was not the case with Zack Snyder fans. The Snyder fans went berserk with hashtags, twitter arguments, logos, advertisements, and even putting up a gigantic billboard up in the city calling for WB to ‘Release The Snyder Cut’. This topic went on like a broken record. It's nice to know that the fans care about a creator’s vision. Not that it’s wrong at all, It’s actually very kind and supportive to a filmmaker. What’s not ok, is to keep whining and starting a feud about it on social media for years. Snyder’s fans went on and on about his cut, claiming that it did exist and how all the haters are idiots.
THE SNYDER CUT
As the confrontation between fans continued, DC started to move on from Zack Snyder. In December 2018, ‘Aquaman’ was released. Writer/Director James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) stepped away from the horror genre to create a fun and adventurous movie about the ‘King Of The Seven Seas’. Luckily for the DC Extended Universe, ‘Aquaman’ made it into the “billion dollars club”, grossing $1.148 billion worldwide. In April of 2019, DC released ‘Shazam’, which wasn’t a huge box office success; but more so considered a critical one at that. But both movies were very fun and enjoyable. In 2020, DC released ‘Birds Of Prey’ and Wonder Woman 1984’. Also that year, Snyder fans continued stalking on Twitter. On a live zoom meeting with Zack Snyder and fans, the filmmaker finally confirmed that his version of Justice League did exist and that he was working on it. Fans were ecstatic! He announced that it would release on HBO Max in 2021. The fans, after all the chaos created, got their way. The only great thing to come out of all this, was that the fans raised over $500 million for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
So, now what? ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is coming in one week, David Ayer has been releasing more information and footage from his own cut of ‘Suicide Squad’, and fans are now starting the next hashtag “releasetheayercut”. What will happen when Snyder’s movie releases? What will that mean for studios? What will the impact on Hollywood be? Will this change the way studios partner up? What will this mean for DC Comics? We already know that Snyder is moving on from DC. His next movie titled; ‘Army Of The Dead’, will be released on Netflix May 21, 2021. But what will happen after ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’? What happens if it succeeds? What will probably happen is that the fans will continue their antics; posting on social media and tweeting obsessively, wanting a sequel which will start yet another social media feud. But, until March 18 (or sooner) comes, we’ll have to wait to see what happens.
What are your thoughts?