For as long as Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2017 Justice League has existed, a portion of fans have stood behind an adversarial belief: this isn’t the movie Zack Snyder wanted to make.
The “Snyder Cut” is a proposed, a rough cut that the director cut together before leaving the project to spend time with his family after a personal tragedy. Believing that there’s a pure version of Justice League waiting in the wings, locked up by Warner Bros. to cover their tracks after hiring Joss Whedon to shoot additional portions of the finished product, the “Release the Snyder Cut” campaign has trickled out through Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube and more, and half a year after release, diehard proponents of the movement track Snyder’s every move on Vero, a social network platform that’s become the director’s home for behind-the-scenes photos, looking for proof.
Now, as San Diego Comic-Con kicks off without the dominating presence of Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. Pictures, is poised to have the biggest panel of the convention, Snyder Cut fans are hoping to hear confirmation of their beliefs. A new report from the Wall Street Journal states otherwise. Not only are senior executives at Warner Bros. reiterating that nothing will be announced at Comic-Con, they’re insisting a Snyder Cut doesn’t exist.
According to the report, Synder assembled a rough cut after he wrapping principal photography on the movie in late 2016. The director never intended for that footage to hit the screen — in fact, Snyder supervised the scenes that Whedon wrote for the reshoot, only stepping away from shooting them himself to be with his family.
This isn’t fazing Snyder diehards. They’ve pointed to the rough cut as evidence of the “Snyder Cut.” A spokeswoman for Snyder also revealed that the director “never watched the version of Justice League released in theaters,” alluding to the possibility of tension over the finished product. Still, Warner Bros. and Snyder’s representatives all suggest there’s no director’s cut to be released.
The Snyder Cut contingent pushed back against the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Twitter:
Justice League premiered to mixed negative reviews, and even more hostile reactions from those involved with the “Release the Snyder Cut” campaign, who perceive the washing away of Snyder’s voice by Whedon. Many fans have voiced feeling betrayed by Warner Bros. after years of supporting Snyder’s vision, and any snippet of a movie-that-could-have-been keeps the hope alive.
“As a fan, who Warner Bros. has featured front and center whenever their film does not play well with critics (see social media posts on King Arthur, Suicide Squad), I feel betrayed,” one Snyder Cut proponent wrote on Medium. “For Zack Snyder and his gift for exceptional vision, the least we can do is release his cut for Justice League. If us fans are haunted by the version of Justice League that could’ve been after spending two hours watching it, I don’t know what that does to the person that actually spent a year working on it.”
Bob Rehak, an Associate Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College, who focuses on fandom culture, tells Polygon that fans of expansive, continuous series like Star Wars, Star Trek and even Snyder’s DCU, want those involved with projects to stick to the original tone. This, Rehak said, displays a master understanding of a world that fans adore. Often times when fans revolt, it’s because someone has taken creative liberty that doesn’t gel with an audience’s perceived vision of what the final product should be — like Justice League or Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
“Any modification is a threat,” Rehak said. “You can take a smallish, vocal subsection of the fandom, and it makes it seem as if that subsection dominates, and characterizes the fandom overall. I think that’s actually the stakes of mainstream culture looking in at these battles or getting hints and whispers of these battles that are happening internally in fan communities and saying, ‘Geez, these fans!’ It’s the return of an old stereotype about fans, which is how obsessive they are, and rigid they are, and how they have fights over nothing.”
The campaign to release the Snyder Cut has become aggravated over the months since the theatrical cut’s release. Richard Cetrone, a stunt double on Justice League, was tracked down by fans on Facebook who demanded answers over whether the Snyder Cut was real. Cetrone’s statements, which were screenshotted and shared over Twitter and Reddit, quickly spread. Cetrone had to reach out to publications, like Polygon, to amend the situation that quickly got out of hand.
Other Snyder Cut believers, like YouTuber and cosplayer, Itzmoe, organized “peaceful photo ops” to rally in front of Warner Bros. with a giant sign demanding the studio release Snyder’s version.
“I’m the kind of person ... I take action,” Itzmoe said in the video above. “I was so frustrated because I saw [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice] — the director’s cut, I was one of the few lucky ones who got to see it in a theater ... and I thought the Ultimate Edition was so much better. I thought it was such an injustice. I felt so bad for Zack and the crew that this better version was not seen by most people in theaters where it should have been seen.
“I was hoping [Warner Bros.] wouldn’t make that same mistake with Justice League, and they seem to have made that mistake again.”
Itzmoe told Polygon at the time of the rally that, “Even if it’s not a whole cut, even if we get to see some of the scenes that they cut out, I would be happy.”
“We just want to see some of what they cut out, because it seems like they cut out a lot. The fans deserve it,” she said. “Zack deserves it.”
Still, Warner Bros. executives and Snyder himself suggest the same point: nothing is going to be released, and any assembled rough cut was never meant to leave the cutting room.
The sense of ownership over Snyder’s previous work keeps fans adamant in the face of facts. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Whedon, a target of the “Release the Snyder Cut” fury, pulled back to examine the paradox.
“Now that everybody can reach you directly, if you happen to be on social media, there is definitely a sense of not just ‘We know better,’ but also ‘We should have the right to dictate,’” Whedon said. “That’s mean, but I was sent lots and lots of — not death threats — but more just polite inquiries as to why I have not died or killed myself yet, all because of Natasha and Bruce having a romance [in Avengers: Age of Ultron].”
Rehak said it’s a problem of the moment; one where fandom has discovered a platform, the internet, that makes voices louder than ever before. People can add a hashtag to their tweets, like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, and find a whole swath of people echoing the same frustrations and complaints they have.
“Scale is very tricky in the age of the internet,” Rehak said. “When people learn these kinds of weaponized ways of discoursing at each other, and once those tactics get into play, it doesn’t really matter how much of the community they speak for. It tends to kind of paint the whole community with a really broad brush. That worries me, because I would far rather live in a world where there are a million voices and perspectives, and kind of everything is up for grabs, rather than these power blocks that have kind of locked down the linguistic terrain, so that there are things you can’t say and things you’re not allowed to say. I think that’s problematic.”
In the wake of the Wall Street Journal’s lighthearted piece, Twitter users have launched personal attacks against the publican, calling the report a “hit piece.”
The Wall Street Journal’s story ends with a quote from one Snyder Cut campaigner, who suggests that fans are willing to wait for the cut. As they do, the movement continues to meme-ify in the same space where the campaign is waged. People mock it on Twitter, other DC fans mock it on Reddit, and even illustrators working on Batman comics are mocking the Snyder Cut fanaticism. Unfortunately, there is a segment of fandom that’s not a laughing matter. As the Star Wars fandom has seen over the recent weeks, it’s a recipe for escalation.
Rehak said the most important thing to keep in mind is that while fandoms should be aware of reactionary, loud voices in their communities, they are not the majority.
“Their force comes from the perception that they are huge in number, when they are really not. That’s just as important as acknowledging their campaigns, and their presence.”
Warner Bros.’ panel at San Diego Comic-Con will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. According to the studio, the Snyder Cut of Justice League will not be announced there.