After much build-up and fanfare, the re-worked, Zach Snyder version of the re-worked Joss Whedon version of Justice League is upon us. Is it everything you expected to be? Well, if you expected it to be darker in tone, then definitely. Long? Oh boy, yes. Too long. Because it’s also chocked full of exposition and truly odd, unnecessary scenes. And that’s just in the first of the film’s four hours. If you set aside the dynamics of the film’s production, however, it still may pose a greater dilemma for franchises like Star Wars, and the industry as a whole.
As we know, Zach Snyder was forced to step down from directing the theatrical Justice League release. Warner Bros. replaced him with Joss Whedon. Whedon has, arguably, produced some top-notch entertainment, from Firefly to The Avengers. With him taking over, it stood to reason we’d still get a decent, final product. Several years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone arguing that to be the case. To the contrary, the theatrical version was an unmitigated mess. But… and herein lies the problem with the Snyder cut: does it set a bad precedent for the studio to cave to fan demand and allow Snyder a do-over?
Does the Zach Snyder cut of Justice League set bad precedent?
Let’s be honest – what Warner Bros. did here is unprecedented. This isn’t just a “director’s cut” of a film. That usually entails little more than some additional editing and reinsertion of previously cut footage. Here, conversely, the studio gave Zach Snyder another $70 million dollars to overhaul a previously released film. Warner Bros. didn’t need to. No, this had its roots in fan backlash to the theatrical Justice League. If you think differently, you’re kidding yourself. The question now is whether this will have a ripple effect through the industry.
Let’s take Star Wars, for example. The sequel trilogy started off well enough, if a bit too familiar in plot. Notwithstanding, it went off the rails sideways with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi and never recovered. Fans have screamed to erase that film from canon since shortly after its premiere in 2017. Likewise, there’s a movement to effectively replace the entire sequel trilogy altogether. Will Disney cave to the same pressure in the way Warner Bros. did with Zach Snyder and Justice League?
The effect on Star Wars, other franchises
There are subtle hints that Star Wars is already in the process of doing so. Despite launching an entire new era of the franchise with The High Republic, the focus for Star Wars live-action is leaning heavily towards the era following Return of the Jedi. The Mandalorian is already a huge success. So much so, in fact, that it has spawned multiple spin-off series in Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, and Rangers of the New Republic. Those stories all fall within the gap between ROTJ and The Force Awakens… effectively creating a whole new sequel era of Star Wars. Was what happened with Zach Snyder and Justice League a coincidence, or catalyst?
Sure, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy may deny it. Notwithstanding, t’s likely no coincidence that the entire focus for every new Star Wars production takes place prior to the era of the sequel trilogy. (The only possible exception is Taika Waititi’s feature film, the subject of which we don’t yet know.) It very much seems that Disney is taking a page from Warner Bros. book in rewriting history… as many (most?) fans desire. Just how much of an influence Zack Snyder and Justice League will have on the Star Wars franchise, and others, remains to be seen.