While the critics have plenty of thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Justice League, aka “The Snyder Cut,” the director’s near-mythical version of the 2017 DC team-up believed irretrievably lost to the cutting-room floor — there’s rarely, if ever, been a bigger coup driven by a single fan army.
You likely know the story by now: Zack and his producer wife, Deborah Snyder, left the would-be superhero blockbuster uniting Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg following the tragic death of their daughter Autumn at age 20 and a falling out with Warner Bros. The studio brought in Joss Whedon, whose bonafides included The Avengers, to reshoot and reshape the film resulting in a critically reviled, box-office-bombing debacle. As Warner Bros. began to rethink its entire DC Extended Universe, a grass-roots campaign emerged on social media, with fans lobbying the studio to release the "Snyder Cut." #ReleasetheSnyderCut became widely shared (and often mocked), spinning off into online petitions, banners, billboards and significant donations to suicide awareness and prevention programs in honor of Autumn Snyder.
“The catharsis, the love we felt from the fan community was palpable and changed the way we started thinking about the movie. They had to convert us first, probably,” Zack Snyder tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent virtual interview alongside Deborah (watch above). “And through their huge support of the charities, fans have raised over half a million dollars for suicide prevention and for mental health awareness. That kind of work has to make a believer out of you eventually. … We can’t thank them enough.”
Many doubted a director’s cut even existed until March 2019, when Snyder confirmed that he had saved a rough version of his film on his hard drives. Even then, the notion of a Snyder Cut release was still considered “a pipe dream,” with Zack and Deborah essentially deferring to Warner Bros., with whom they had a shaky relationship.
At that point, Zack says, the couple had “zero confidence” that Warner Bros. would bite and the film would become a reality.
“I was just trying to support the fans who were fighting and saying there was a cut, and the huge backlash that they were getting from people saying there wasn’t,” the director explains. “I was more just trying to support them and give them a shelter from the storm, if you will. I didn’t think it would result in what it’s resulted in.”
That would be this week’s release of the four-hour-long Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which Warner Bros. green-lit in February 2020 and, a few months later, announced would premiere on its new streaming service HBO Max. The film, which includes a newly shot sequence involving Jared Leto’s Joker, has received mostly positive early feedback — and nearly universal recognition that it far surpasses Whedon's controversial two-hour theatrical release four years ago.
As laudable as their efforts have been in supporting the Snyders and suicide prevention programs, there has remained a stigma attached to a vociferous portion DC’s fanbase for toxic behavior and hostility towards non-believers. Unlike, most Marvel movies, for example, DCEU entries like Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Justice League drew largely negative reviews — leading a subsection of fans to target critics and naysayers. Some film writers even questioned if the release of the Snyder Cut would be “a win” for toxic fandom.
In a February interview with Cinema Blend’s Sean O’Connell, Zack fiercely defended his fanbase. “In regards to that toxic fandom, or it’s ‘a win for toxic fandom,’ again, in what world does this ‘toxic fandom’ raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for suicide prevention? How is that toxic fandom?”
Those widely shared comments drew blowback from journalists, bloggers and social media users who’d been personally harassed or threatened by DC fans and felt Zack was marginalizing if not flat out denying that abuse.
The filmmaker took a more diplomatic approach in addressing toxic fandom in our interview, though it’s clear both he and Deborah prefer to focus on his base’s undeniably positive actions.
“I think that applies to every field,” he said when asked if the stories of harassment have made him reconsider his view of his fans. “I mean certainly in fandom that exists, but it exists now we know in the work place, and it exists in every walk of life and I think it’s important for us to really try to emphasize the good as much as we can.”
Says Deborah: “[We need] just a little bit more caring of how we’re talking to people and how we’re treating people. ‘Cause you don’t have to like everything and you don’t have to agree that there’s a way to do it that you can still express your opinion without being hurtful or personal.”
“What we’ve done with the fan community and what they’ve done frankly for themselves is they’ve gotten behind a cause that’s transcendent of the community, of the movie,” Zack adds. “And therefore it causes all of us [to ask], ‘What is our higher desire to do good?’ And I think if that’s the emphasis and that’s the thing that gets attention, then hopefully we start to teach ourselves to be better.”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now streaming on HBO Max.
— Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo
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