Since last November my timeline on Twitter has been a source of drama. Major drama all centered around the theatrical release of Justice League. Because of the dramatic tonal and pacing changes that were enacted by WB during the reshoot process, the film that we ended up getting was not only different than what was originally intended by the creators, but different than what many of us were expecting as fans of the DC Extended Universe. I liked it enough to see it three times in the theater and a number of others did as well, but the hardcore fans of Zack Snyder's work were outraged and felt nothing short of betrayed by WB for what amounts to "a grave and egregious crime" committed against them and against Snyder himself, who is literally seen as a figurative martyr to many and a complete pariah to many others, depending on what side of the fence you sit on with his work.
I don't like negativity. After the social media slog that followed the release of both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, I spent the better part of a year weeding out my Twitter feed of people who were only interested in bashing the DCEU and everything that had been done in it to that point with the exception of Wonder Woman, largely seen as the "darling" and in many cases "only good movie" of the entire franchise. Those people can feel however they want, I just didn't want to see their negativity on my timeline. Justice League felt like all of my work to clean that up was in vain because the people that I thought were more positive about the DCEU had now turned on it, so I've spent a good part of the past few months muting and in some cases unfollowing and/or blocking people who simply can't let go of their angst for it. It's been disappointing, but necessary for someone like me that doesn't like being negative.
I should have known that the digital home release of the movie wasn't going to make things any better. The angst had actually calmed down a bit from the original theatrical release but the fires of Hell got stoked once again when people saw the deleted "Black Suit" scene from the movie in which Henry Cavill's Clark Kent/Superman walks down a hallway of the Kryptonian ship past a suit of armor from Man of Steel and the black solar suit that all of the fans were hoping to see, before donning his classic red and blue costume once again on his way to join the Justice League in their final battle against Steppenwolf.
Add to that another deleted scene in which Superman meets Alfred in full costume before flying off to that battle, proving many of us right from months before when we proclaimed that it was indeed the Last Son of Krypton that Alfred was talking to at the end of the SDCC 2017 trailer and you now have a dangerous cocktail of rage, disappointment and outright vitriol for WB/DC that has well, "poisoned" my timeline altogether for the umpteenth time. The Hans Zimmer score underneath both of these scenes only made it worse as its absence was one of the chief complaints from fans about the theatrical release and now the "bombshell tweet" from Josh Dickey about Zack Snyder having been fired from the movie well before he officially stepped down from it, corroborated by other writers who claim to have also secretly known this "fact" has only intensified a pool of drama around this movie and the DCEU that just won't go away.
Honestly it's all predictable and I should have seen it coming. Alright, I DID see it coming but it still sucks that it has to be like this. I knew from the moment that DCEU fans turned on this movie that any news that came out later, any extra scene that was revealed to us, any interview or small indication of "the truth" about the movie's production would be latched on to and touted as a smoking gun of blame aimed right at WB and their "egregious crime" committed against a loyal fandom and the director we have defended proudly for the past two years while seemingly the rest of the world critically dug him a grave, dropped him in it and danced on his coffin.
Now I have to deal with an angry, drama filled Twitter timeline. Again. For the umpteenth time. I'm not even sure if I will touch Facebook at this point.
Look, on the one hand I get the outrage completely. We've seen ample indication to this point from several actual points of reference that Snyder's original plan for Justice League was ditched by WB in favor of what we actually got in theaters, which was only part of what he intended for the project. That definitely hurts the fans that wanted to see Snyder's vision carried out in full force and considering how much the studio previously meddled with the theatrical version of BvS it feels like WB not only "didn't learn their lesson," but doubled down on the second-guessing that seemingly doomed BvS and later Suicide Squad in the process. These deleted scenes from Justice League that pretty much contain exactly what fans have been complaining wasn't in the movie only adds to that outrage and intensifies it. If you're someone that takes this all personally then you certainly feel betrayed and more than unwilling to trust WB/DC ever again no matter what they do, especially if it means they used the Snyder family's tragedy as a cover of sorts to mask that they "fired" Zack from Justice League.
On the other hand, I'm tired of the outrage completely, for several reasons. First off, it's a movie. I know that we as fans feel far more connected to these properties and films because of the emotional reasons we watch and follow them in the first place, but calling it a betrayal is the height of silliness to me. Movies don't betray you and neither do studios. Studios make movies as a business and their job is to put out a product that they believe people will watch and enjoy. Sometimes they are right and many times they are wrong. This is largely the latter, so they screwed up. They made things worse for themselves in terms of box office, franchise perception and fan perception. That's a mistake, not a betrayal. As difficult as it may be for a lot of DCEU fans to believe, WB actually did think that what they were changing Justice League into was going to work and work big. The fact that they were very wrong about that doesn't make what they did a betrayal because it wasn't personal in nature. They didn't change Snyder's vision just to spite him or cheat you out of a transcendent experience. They did it because they thought it would work out. I still say that a gross underestimation of BvS's negative audience response is what doomed Justice League from the beginning, but that's just another mistake that WB made in this process.
Second, as I said before no matter what we were going to get in the way of extra scenes, extended looks or any other added content for the movie, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. We were all going to say "Why the hell did you cut this?" no matter what it was because most of us thought the actual movie needed or at least could have used more. Even those of us that like Justice League like myself feel that way. It's no secret that the one thing I hate about the movie's production was the runtime edict enacted by WB CEO Kevin Tsujihara that decreed the movie be no more than two hours long. That was a stupid decision and by far the most egregious mistake made by WB in my opinion. Just another 10 to 15 minutes tops could have added both of the Superman deleted scenes along with other scenes we know were cut from the film like the Lois and Clark ring scene from the last Justice League trailer, the Cyborg rooftop flight scene that many of saw an unfinished version of, the Barry Allen-Iris West scene with the shattered glass that we saw parts of unfinished and in the trailers, and it could have also lengthened the end sequence that features the classic "S reveal" by Clark Kent before he flies off as Superman. Was 2 hours and 15 minutes really that much of a problem? Especially since you had already allowed the budget of the movie to be blown out of whack? Your most successful movie at this point, Wonder Woman was 2 hours and 29 minutes long. Why was THAT allowable but anything over 2 hours was unacceptable for Justice League? Oh yes, because it was Snyder-directed and you didn't trust him. Well that sucks and it was a mistake that cost you, but you made that bed and now you get to sleep in it WB. See? Even I'm not totally happy with what they did, but the point here is that anything added to the movie was going to be embraced by us all no matter what after our initial reaction to the movie.
Finally, we really need to understand that WB/DC are the ones in charge of this property and ultimately have the right to make whatever decisions they are going to make that they think will benefit their business. Again, it's difficult for many fans to understand this but they really thought that what they were doing with Justice League was going to work. They wouldn't have done it otherwise and just because it's easy for us to look at what they did and point out what they did wrong does not mean that they had no right to do it. Some of you don't want to hear this but as with everything else when it comes to movie appraisal, it's all subjective. We have our own biased opinions about what Justice League should have been and what we wanted to see and others have theirs. WB's opinion decisively differed from many of ours, myself included and the result is the film that we received. The ensuing drama and social media chaos that has followed it SHOULD serve as a learning opportunity for WB on what to do next time, even if it means "Don't let Snyder direct any more." That sucks for those of us that are fans of his work and applaud what he did with MoS and BvS and how he established the entire DCEU in the first place, but if the owners of the property were ultimately disenfranchised with what he was doing and it was achieving results they didn't like, then it is in their best interests and the best interests of their franchise to move on without him at the helm for any more of their movies. If they are more willing to trust James Wan (director of Aquaman), David Sandberg (director of Shazam), Patty Jenkins (director of Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 2), Matt Reeves (director of the Batman solo movie), Gavin O'Connor (director of Suicide Squad 2), Chris McKay (director of Nightwing) and now recently John Francis-Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (directors of Flashpoint) then that's what they need to do going forward. Time will tell if that actually is the case here and there is plenty of reason to be skeptical given WB's track record in the past two years, but we have to wait and see what the studio does next.
The bottom line of all of this is that the first five movies of the DCEU have been nothing short of a learning experience full of good decisions and plenty of mistakes for WB that we can only hope they learn from going forward. I've said before on Twitter that though the DCEU feels like it has been around for awhile because it's been five years since MoS was released, it's only five movies in and is still a very young franchise. Admittedly this particular one seems to have had a much steeper learning curve than others we have seen, but that's still what it is nonetheless. It is regrettable that Justice League, a movie so anticipated by fans and audiences alike for so long had to be part of that learning curve but that is what has happened now and it is time to see what this franchise does moving forward to actually learn from its mistakes. For many of course, that's a bridge too far and there is nothing more for them to see. The "betrayal" felt by many fans toward Zack Snyder and the fans who enjoyed his contributions to the franchise is enough for them to disengage completely and withdraw any and all support for WB and/or the DCEU from now on. If this is where you are at as a fan, that is your business and you are allowed to do that if you wish for whatever reason. It's not something that all of us are going to do though, nor is it something that we should be pressured into doing either.
Like I have said before, WB has made numerous mistakes with the DCEU to this point and I think that in many ways the 13-month break between Justice League's release and Aquaman's release in December of this year really is a blessing in disguise because it allows WB/DC an organic separation point from the slog of their first five movies to what they are going to do in the future. There are reasons for a DCEU fan to still be optimistic about the future of the franchise. They did promote New Line Cinema producer Walter Hamada to oversee the franchise in January and despite a healthy social media presence from both James Wan and David Sandberg, we have yet to hear of any drama or interference issues with either Aquaman or Shazam to this point. Certainly not to the level of what we heard and/or saw with BvS, Suicide Squad, Justice League and even reports from Wonder Woman that turned out to be erroneous. Those are pluses right now with regard to WB learning its lesson from the start of the DCEU. Let's hope that it continues that way.
Again, this could have been a lot less messy than it is right now. Had WB done a number of things differently with regard to the DCEU in its first five movies then we wouldn't be in the place we are at right now as fans, many of us ready to storm the castle of WB to make them "pay for their crimes." It's all hindsight though, which is always easy to see after the fact. I've seen people angry that so many of the "Joss Whedon jokes" like the "thirstiest woman" line, the "anal probe lady on TV," the "Flash falling on Wonder Woman" gag and also the Russian family subplot were left in the movie but the Superman scenes were cutout. Ultimately, there was a way to keep ALL of that in the movie and it would have satisfied a lot more people on both sides of the coin with regard to Justice League than there are right now. At the end of the day though, those are mistakes that those of us who are still DCEU fans hope that WB learns from for next time and make no mistake, there will be a next time. Arthur Curry's story will be told in December, followed by Billy Batson's in April of 2019 and then a number of others in the pipeline after that. The fanbase is shifting right now because of the Zack Snyder-centered drama in the wake of Justice League but the DCEU remains constant in its existence. Now we have to see if it can gain and then maintain some consistency in what it wants to do as a franchise, those of us that still believe in its potential.
I just hope the social media drama surrounding it isn't too loud for the rest of us to hear it.