The theatrical cut of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice provoked poor reactions from critics, but left fans eager to see a director's cut. As a result, we got the Ultimate Edition, an extended version of the film that added a lot to the theatrical release. To this day, many fans of director Zack Snyder's work argue that this should have been the film released at cinemas.
Fans are eagerly demanding a similar director's cut of Justice League, given the film is essentially the product of two directors. Snyder stepped down earlier this year due to a personal tragedy, with Joss Whedon taking over the project, and the finished film carries both of their styles.
One fan has actually launched a petition calling for Warner Bros. to release a director's cut that gives fans a chance to see Snyder's original vision. Intriguingly, the petition claims that Snyder presented a finished version of Justice League to Warner Bros. execs earlier this year. According to the petition, Warner Bros. was happy, but Snyder wasn't. That's when Whedon was brought in, and of course he ultimately took over post-production.
Does This Version Even Exist?
Sadly, as interested as fans may be in seeing this Zack Snyder version of the film, the reality is that it probably doesn't exist at all. That becomes clear when you reconstruct the movie's history.
Justice League wrapped up initial production in October 2016, and then entered a post-production phase. At some point in the next few months, Snyder recruited Joss Whedon to help, particularly with writing key dialogue to bridge the gaps between scenes. Snyder's cinematic style has always been "moment"-driven — he's a master at crafting artistic scenes, but he's not great at transitioning between them. That's why Whedon was brought on board.
In May 2017, Snyder stepped down and Whedon took charge of post-production. It's important to stress that, at this point, Snyder bowed out completely. A week later, Whedon replaced composer Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) with Danny Elfman. According to Elfman, he was brought in so late that additional photography was still being planned out. As a result, he was actually working to storyboards rather than to actual footage, but it seems to have been a pleasant experience for the composer nonetheless. Crucially, Elfman claims that everything he scored ended up in the final theatrical cut.
That claim is important because we recently learned that Warner Bros. execs insisted Justice League have a runtime under two hours. Given all of Elfman's scenes made it into the movie, this demand must have been made before he joined the film. That means it was likely issued back when Snyder was actually in charge. The petition claims that Warner Bros. execs had seen a version of Snyder's film, and initially been happy with it. That doesn't fit with the idea that, even at this stage, Warner Bros. was insisting that the movie be cut to under two hours.
It's worth noting that the cuts may not be quite so severe as DC fans think. An early rumor suggested the original runtime was a whopping 170 minutes, but Snyder himself debunked that.
Sadly, it doesn't look as though this petition has any inside knowledge behind it. That version of the film likely never existed in the first place.
Could We Construct A Director's Cut?
But is it possible to reconstruct Snyder's version, to turn Justice League into the film it would have been had Whedon not been involved at all? That, too, doesn't seem likely. You have to remember that it was Snyder who recruited Whedon to work on post-production and to script dialogue for additional photography. That means some of these scenes were as much a part of Snyder's vision as the pre-Whedon work. However, they'll have been filmed under Whedon's direction, and never scored by Junkie XL. It's not possible to turn the clock back.
Worse still, you have to remember that post-production includes special effects, CGI, and manipulation of elements such as the lighting of scenes. If you want to get a sense of just how much of a difference post-production can make, compare the first and second trailers. You'll see the quality of the scenes changes dramatically, and the lighting and tone is completely different. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit the Warner Bros. edit bay in London while the studio was working on Wonder Woman. Even a few weeks before the film's theatrical release, key scenes still had temporary special effects and CGI.
This is important because you have to remember that any deleted scenes crafted by Zack Snyder were removed partway through the post-production process. They're unfinished, likely never had their scores added, and will only have temporary special effects. It's unlikely that many of these Snyder scenes will be in a fit state for release.
Worse still, imagine trying to blend these scenes into the finished product. The additional photography was conducted by Whedon, with important elements such as lighting under Whedon's control. There's no score from Junkie XL to be restored to them. It's simply not possible to blend the scenes together.
The sad truth, DC fans, is that this petition is misleading you. There is no evidence a full Snyder cut of Justice League ever existed, and even if it did, the cut scenes were likely removed before he even left the project. They were certainly unfinished, and are in no state to be edited back into the theatrical cut. What's more, if Warner Bros. were to release a Snyder-vision of the film, it would inevitably lead to a backlash. Fans would compare and contrast the two, arguing over which version should have been released, while others would complain at having spent money going to watch one version when another was about to be released. We saw hints of that kind of reaction with Batman v Superman, and Warner Bros. is unlikely to want a repeat.
It's time to face the reality that there is only one version of Justice League that we're ever going to see, and it's the one that's on the big screen right now.
What did you think of Justice League? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!