While some are clamoring for a Zack Snyder director’s cut of ‘Justice League’, there was almost a 100% Snyder-free version of the DC team-up film. Though ‘Justice League’ opened weakly, it has managed to hold up fairly well at the box office. Fan response has been kind, but critics hated it. But we almost didn’t get a ‘Justice League’ film at all, at least not one with Snyder attached, following the debacle of his ‘Batman V Superman’ which was universally trashed by both critics and filmgoers.
Snyder reported to the infamously lax Warner Brothers exec Greg Silverman who was very hands-off. This resulted in ‘Man of Steel’, which was nowhere near the debacle of later films, but still rubbed many the wrong way with its darker tone, which culminated in Superman snapping his enemy’s neck. This led directly into ‘BvS’ which cranked the darkness to 11 and as a result was rejected by both critics and audiences.
According to an insider, WB executives urged Silverman to remove Snyder from ‘Justice League’. While Silverman was apparently harsh on Snyder after ‘BvS’, to remove him would have been seen as a sign of weakness and that WB’s DC Comics franchise was in trouble.
As this insider put it:
“They were already in deep prep on ‘Justice League’ and it would have cost a fortune. There’s stickiness to a director because there’s so much cost to unstick him. Warners is a studio that almost to a fault always wants to project strength.”
Following the ‘BvS’ mess, Silverman stepped down from his post and was replaced by Toby Emmerich. The decision to keep Snyder appears to have come from WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara, but WB kept pressuring Snyder to make ‘JL’ lighter, like Joss Whedon’s ‘Avengers’. Contrary to reports, Whedon was brought into the project much earlier than many realize and he worked alongside Snyder on trying to lighten ‘JL’. It became of a tug-of-war as the studio seemed to favor all of the fun elements Whedon presented. For Snyder, who was coping with the suicide of his daughter, the insider said “It stopped being a good situation on any level.” This led to his leaving the project completely, with Whedon tasked with handling post-production and reshoots. Reportedly, Whedon cut more than an hour of Snyder’s footage to fit the two-hour run time that WB insisted upon.
Behind the scenes, WB entered into a merger with AT&T. ‘JL’ had to meet its November 17th opening in order for Emmerich and Tsujihara to get their most sizable bonuses before this went into effect. And once again, changing ‘JL”s release date would have been seen as another sign of weakness.
“[Emmerich and Tsujihara] wanted to preserve their bonuses they would be paid before the merger… if they pushed the movie, then their bonuses would have been pushed to the following year and they might not still be at the studio.”
The finished ‘Justice League’ is referred to as a Frankenstein, cobbled together from too many hands. The vision isn’t clear even to casual viewers, 100,000 of whom signed a petition to have Snyder’s original cut of the film restored for home video. But considering that most of the viewers who saw ‘BvS’ which was Snyder’s pure vision, it’s not exactly likely that an all-Snyder version would have done well at the box office. It might have torpedoed the DC film franchise entirely.
At this point, with the behind-the-scenes shuffling– the merger with AT&T– it’s unclear how WB will proceed with these films, but at this point, ‘Aquaman’ is in the can and due for release next winter. David F. Sandberg is on the verge of shooting ‘Shazam!’ And Patty Jenkins is on board to direct the sequel to WB’s one clear DC Comics winner, ‘Wonder Woman’. Whedon is also still at work on ‘Batgirl’, so that looks likely as well. Anything else…? It’s a bit of a mystery.
Source: The Wrap