Zack Snyder’s influence on Warner Bros.’ DC Cinematic Universe (DCU) can be seen in almost every corner of the studio’s superhero movies.
Whatever camp people fall into, whether they hate Snyder’s work or love it, there’s no question that Snyder has irrevocably contributed to the movies that have come out of the DCU so far: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League. Whether he sat in the director’s chair calling the shots or watched from the sidelines as an executive producer, ensuring each movie fit within the mold of the DCU, Snyder has been present.
He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Snyder will continue to be involved with the DCU, but after a new report from The Wrap suggests ongoing internal debate over what Snyder’s future looks like, one question looms: Will Snyder direct another DC movie for Warner Bros.?
Signs point to “no.”
After Batman v Superman’s critical failure, Warner Bros. executives raised concerns about Snyder’s role as director on Justice League, according to a new report from The Wrap. The report suggests that executives pleaded with Warner Bros.’ president Greg Silverman, who worked with Snyder as a producer on 300 and Dawn of the Dead, to remove Snyder from Justice League and hand the project to someone else.
Despite heavy criticism, it wasn’t enough to fire Snyder from Justice League. Snyder remained attached to Justice League as director until earlier this year, when Snyder announced he was stepping back from the movie to cope with his daughter’s suicide. Executives wanted to give the director and Deborah Snyder, a producer on the film and his wife, time to grieve, leading to conversations about whether Justice League’s release should be delayed, according to The Wrap.
Snyder decided to throw himself into work as a refuge from the family tragedy, but realized he couldn’t work and cope with his grief at the same time. Warner Bros. found a new director to finish the product, bringing on Joss Whedon for additional reshoots and post-production work.
One source told The Wrap, “I think Warner Bros. biggest misstep was not pushing the release of Justice League when Snyder had to step aside.”
Rushed release dates and questionable handling of the franchise isn’t a new story; neither are reports about Warner Bros.’ growing distant relationship with Snyder. In July, Mashable published a report citing tension between Warner Bros. executives and Snyder following the poor reception of Batman v Superman.
Warner Bros. was sympathetic to the Snyder family, according to both Mashable and The Wrap, but the studio began to look beyond both Deborah and Zack Snyder’s role in the DCU. According to Mashable, “as the DC Extended Universe moves forward, the Snyders will no longer have anything like the level of creative influence that got the franchise to this point.”
Current Warner Bros. president, Toby Emmerich, told Mashable that the Snyders “remain an important part of the Warner Bros. family and are actively involved in several upcoming DC pictures,” but multiple sources told the site a different story. Sources told Mashable their involvement will be distant, lacking the creative freedom they had on movies like Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, adding that the Snyders were taking time to examine their future with the studio, “which is understood to include Warner Bros. films not within the DCEU.”
It’s not just executives and insiders who reportedly have concerns with the direction Snyder wanted to take the movies in. DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer, Geoff Johns, was reportedly unhappy with Snyder’s decisions regarding the comic book publisher’s characters since Man of Steel. A source told Vulture that when Johns saw a controversial scene in which Superman breaks the neck of General Zod, he was concerned it was too dark for Superman.
“Geoff Johns and Diane [Nelson] were reading scripts, and Geoff Johns, to his credit, was concerned that there was not enough lightness or humor, given who the character is,” a source told Vulture. “Geoff definitely raised that point, but that current administration didn’t care that much about what Geoff Johns thought.”
That’s unsurprising considering actors involved in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman — including Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot — have gone on the record to say the same thing.
“I can understand people saying [Batman v Superman] was too dark, or this was outside the tone of what I’m used to seeing with a Batman story, and I think that’s a fair criticism,” Affleck told Empire Magazine ahead of Justice League’s release.
If Batman v Superman was deemed too dark by stakeholders and executives at Warner Bros., this summer’s Wonder Woman represented the breath of fresh air the studio needed. The most popular and highest grossing movie of the summer, Wonder Woman became a beacon of light for the franchise for many who didn’t want another grim, gritty movie — including Cavill.
Cavill told Rake Magazine just before Justice League that the “right mistakes” had been made, leading up to Wonder Woman’s release, alluding to Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Cavill was adamant about Wonder Woman representing how other DCU movies should be made.
“We can start telling the stories in the way they need to be told,” Cavill said. “It is even better to come back from a mistake or stylistic error into the correct vein because it will make it seem that much stronger. Wonder Woman was the first step in the right direction.”
To Warner Bros.’ credit, the studio tried to do just that. Whedon was brought in to lighten up Justice League and make it less bleak. A report from Variety published in July alleged that Warner Bros. was spending “$25 million on extensive reshoots,” allowing Whedon to “punch up the dialogue” and work on “‘connective tissue’ that was needed to link sequences.”
Snyder kicked off the DCU, but it’s evident from the studio’s upcoming release schedule that he’s no longer the sole visionary creating a world that can rival Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman and will return for the movie’s sequel. James Wan is directing the stand-alone Aquaman movie and, although the Flash and Cyborg stand-alone films don’t have director, it seems unlikely that Snyder is being considered, based on reports. Matt Reeves is set to direct The Batman, Suicide Squad’s David Ayer will return for Gotham City Sirens and Martin Scorsese is reportedly set to produce a stand-alone Joker movie, which will be directed by The Hangover’s Todd Phillips. Whedon will return to the DCU to direct a stand-alone Batgirl movie, too.
Snyder played a formative role in developing the DC cinematic universe that has some of the most dedicated fans — and critics — in genre entertainment. Again, Snyder won’t step away from the DCU completely; he’ll remain as an executive producer alongside his wife.
But unless Snyder can figure out a way to adapt his directorial style to fit within the new vision Warner Bros.’ has for its DC Universe, he’ll be left in the cold. The era of grittier, moody superhero movies that he became famous for belong to an era of Warner Bros. past; the lighthearted, funnier tone set by Jenkins and Whedon represents the films of Warner Bros.’ future. That’s not to say Snyder couldn’t be brought back to direct a tentpole DC movie; anything is possible and Warner Bros.’ hasn’t publicly stated Snyder will no longer be in the director’s chair. He could return for another major event in the DCU few years after some time away.
For now, it looks less likely that Snyder will return to direct a DCU movie for Warner Bros.’ anytime soon.
Polygon has reached out to Warner Bros. for comment.
Update: A Warner Bros. spokesperson told Polygon, “Zack Snyder is not currently scheduled to direct a DC film, but he is serving as a producer or executive producer on upcoming DC pictures such as Wonder Woman 2 and Aquaman.”