Will the Snyder Cut of Justice League be any better than Joss Whedon's original?

Zack Snyder’s $30m edit for HBO Max could be darker than Whedon’s 2017 film, it could give more screen time to Ray Fisher – or it could just be just as bad

It took almost two decades for people outside Europe to be treated to a four-hour edit of Sergio Leone’s final masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in America, by which time Leone had long since departed this mortal coil. Blade Runner managed 25 years before the 2007 Final Cut restored Ridley Scott’s dystopia to its full glory.

Few would argue that either movie deserved a second, or even third look in the edit bay. Leone’s sprawling tale of Depression-era New York mobsters was gutted for the North American market and the action became chronological, against the director’s wishes. Few Blade Runner fans would suggest that the original theatrical cut has any value other than as a warning against injudicious studio interference.

And then there’s Justice League in 2017, which is also – at great expense – being restored to its original form for the launch of forthcoming streaming platform HBO Max. But it doesn’t appear, at first glance, to fit into the same category as some of its illustrious forebears.

It is reportedly costing at least $30m to make, largely because there is not an existing version overseen by its original director, Zack Snyder, who left the project in May 2017 before it was completed following the death of his daughter. A lot of work must be done from scratch. (Fans have long rallied on social media using the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut.)

Joss Whedon oversaw the completion of the film, which apparently departed hugely from the original plan. Despite lightening the tone with wisecracking superhero banter along the lines of Whedon’s work on Marvel’s Avengers movies, critics and audiences were unimpressed with the result. DC had hoped to deliver an ensemble movie that would allow characters such as Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, the Flash and Aquaman, as well as Ben Affleck’s version of Batman, to then spin off into their own standalone movies. In the end, Affleck departed the role – his interest reportedly sapped by the troubled shoot – and nothing has been heard of since about a Cyborg movie. (Though Aquaman did arrive in 2018, and a Flash flick has again been recently touted.)

Now it appears that critics were not the only ones disappointed with Whedon’s work. Fisher has been quietly flagging his disapproval during Hollywood’s Covid-19 hiatus, and last week shifted into what appears to be full-on attack mode. “Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable,” he tweeted.

Joss Wheadon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.

He was enabled, in many ways, by Geoff Johns and Jon Berg.


— Ray Fisher (@ray8fisher) July 1, 2020

While it’s not entirely clear what Fisher is referring to, the Twittersphere has been rife with rumours. The film-maker and podcaster Kevin Smith has alleged that Whedon “trash-talked” Snyder’s work on Justice League after taking over on set.

There have been suggestions that Snyder had planned to centre his version on Cyborg. In the theatrical release of Justice League, the part-human, part-machine superhero is very much a supporting character. This might explain some of Fisher’s antipathy towards the Whedon cut. However, it’s hard to know if this is the full story behind the young actor’s fury.

This week, Fisher said he was unable to offer specific details about Whedon’s alleged on-set behaviour, for fear he could be “sued into oblivion” due to a nondisclosure agreement.

Over on Twitter, it appears to be open season on Whedon. Of course, none of this means that Snyder’s forthcoming cut of Justice League is somehow destined to be a masterpiece, as some fans believe. It might be darker, it might feature more screen time for Fisher and restore characters such as Darkseid and the Martian Manhunter to the screen, but whether it will turn out to be any better than the Whedon cut is hardly a given.

I doubt we’ll ever get specifics from Ray Fisher re Joss Whedon, but here’s one I was the first to report:

Gal Gadot didn’t want to film this scene, so Whedon did it w/ a stunt double. That’s why you can’t see her face.#DC #DCEU pic.twitter.com/efliLlY2EW

— Grace Randolph (@GraceRandolph) July 1, 2020

We should probably remember that, at the time of his departure from the film, Snyder had only recently delivered one of the most risible superhero movies of all time in the cluttered, contrived and knuckle-headed form of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). There is an extended, alternate cut of that movie, too, released for home media formats a few months after the original film hit cinemas, and it is just as ill-conceived and poorly realised as the original theatrical cut … only longer.


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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