Behind-the-scenes troubles or ‘production hell’ is not uncommon, but no production of the 21st Century is as fascinating and peculiar as that of Batman V Superman and Justice League. Dear lord, I hope someone writes a book about the Snyder era of the DCEU one day, one that contains all the juicy information we need about what exactly went down behind the scenes of Batman V Superman and Justice League (and Suicide Squad too for that matter).
Before we get to the new information that Snyder dropped, here’s a simplified version of everything we know so far. When Zack Snyder helmed Man of Steel, there was no actual plan in place yet for an interconnected DC Universe. But perhaps having seen what Snyder did with the movie, Warner Bros decided that it would be great to use that as a launching pad and kickstart the universe.
But instead of taking their time with it — we honestly have no idea if it’s Snyder’s fault or the studio’s fault; it seems like a mixture of both — and focusing on standalone movies first, Warner Bros decided to go with Batman V Superman feat Wonder Woman with special appearances from Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash.
Well, safe to say, that movie didn’t go as well as Warner Bros would’ve hoped. Batman V Superman was rather poorly received by critics (27% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 4.94/10). Look, the voices of critics can be inconsequential if a movie crushes at the box office — look at Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise. Unfortunately, BvS went on to gross $US 873 million at the global box office and while that’s a lot of money, a movie centred around two of the most popular fictional characters of all time surely should’ve made more. Warner Bros seemed to think along the same lines too.
This is when the studio started to panic big time. It seemed like Warner Bros only read the headlines of a lot of reviews and came to a conclusion that the problem with Batman V Superman is that it’s dark, when in fact, the problem was with its incoherent screenplay.
In a panic movie, WB then grabbed Suicide Squad out of David Ayer’s hands and sent it to a trailer company to make it “lighter” and “more hip” or whatever it is they were trying to achieve… and we ended up with a messy two hour long 90s greatest hits music video.
The poor reception of Suicide Squad and the lack of leadership over at Warner Bros only put Justice League in an even tighter spot. Instead of allowing Snyder to make the movie that he wants to make, WB started to breathe down his neck and pushed him to make major alterations to his screenplay.
Somewhere around May 2017, Snyder had stepped down as the director of the DCEU team up movie because of personal reasons (mainly, to take time to heal after his daughter’s suicide). However, there were rumours swirling around that Snyder had already parted ways with WB much earlier than that because of creative differences.
To salvage the whole situation — at this point, Warner Bros’ DC division was crumbling rapidly — the studio brought in director Joss Whedon, the man who directed The Avengers (2012). Whedon oversaw massive reshoots and post-production, and received a co-writer credit. Justice League was released in November 2017 to mediocre reviews, little to no interest from fans and barely broke even at the box office ($US 657 million).
What’s also fascinating is that Zack Snyder hasn’t stopped talking about both Batman V Superman and his what-could’ve-been Justice League movie. Most directors in this situation would just move on with their lives, especially since Warner Bros/DC has clearly moved on from the Snyder era.
Yesterday, Snyder after a screening of his Batman V Superman ultimate edition, Snyder took some fan questions and revealed new information about his Justice League screenplay, which he co-wrote with Chris Terrio. The following is reported by Stephen Colbert of ScreenRant on his Twitter account.
“When this movie came out, understand that Chris Terrio and I had finished the script to Justice League before BvS came out. Some people didn’t like the movie. A vocal minority. So they said ‘there’s a lot of stuff we don’t want you to do’ so we did a rewrite from that script. So the original Justice League script, we didn’t even shoot. The really scary version. Because we were really nervous after the response.”
Okay, first of all, the people who loathe The Last Jedi are a vocal minority as reflected by the film’s critical score and box office numbers. Batman V Superman, despite featuring the trinity of DC comics couldn’t cross the $US 1 billion dollar mark, after a strong opening weekend. This proves that the word of mouth surrounding the movie was rather poor.
Snyder then goes on to explain the infamous dream sequence in Batman V Superman.
The truth is that the Knightmare sequence in this movie is always something that I intended to explain and we end up in a future Earth where Superman has succumbed to the Anti-Life equation and there are a few surviving members of the Justice League, and a broken Cyborg was working with Batman to send Flash back to warn Bruce.
There was a scene in the trailer, apparently it didn’t make it into the movie, where Bruce says Flash came to him and warned him that ‘Lois was the key’ and something darker was coming. They worked out a complex (and nonsensical) time travel formula. But the Earth has to be in the right position when Flash jumps or he’ll jump back in time into space.
And Cyborg asked when Batman wanted to send Flash back between 2 windows. Batman said ‘Which one would you send him in if you didn’t ask me?’ and then tells Cyborg to do the opposite. Darkseid was supposed to boom tube into the Batcave and murder Lois!?!?
A lot of what Snyder said is genuinely fascinating. And being the BvS apologist that I am (It’s good, not great), I would love to have seen Snyder’s original vision for Justice League take form. Having said that, the post-Snyder era of the DCEU has been so much better. It seems like the folks at Warner Bros and DC have finally found their rhythm.
Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman was a few strokes short of being blockbuster perfection. Aquaman is thoroughly captivating from start to finish and the early reviews of Shazam! have been highly positive too. On top of that, we also have James Gunn’s Suicide Squad reboot and a noir-Batman film series spearheaded by the highly talented Matt Reeves.