Fandoms truly know the meaning of ‘pester power’, and in our modern era, the internet has made mobilisation much easier. Back in the day, it took a major concerted effort to get fans to mount letter-writing campaigns to try and get studios to listen to them – it’s how the original Star Trek got renewed by NBC for a third season when it was on the verge of cancellation.
Nowadays, however, it’s less difficult, thanks to tools like social media. With a few clicks and a strategic hashtag or two, a massive groundswell of fan support can get up and running in the blink of an eye, and soon hit critical mass, becoming a global trending topic in just a few hours. The latest one to claim success is the ‘Snyder Cut’ movement, following an announcement in May by WarnerMedia in relation to Justice League.
The finalisation of that movie had hit problems when the director, Zack Snyder, had to step down during the post-production process, due to a family tragedy. The studio’s execs were already looking for a two-hour run time, and Snyder had filmed around double that; it seems that they also sought a lighter tone than Snyder’s previous DC movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
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Warner Brothers took the opportunity to parachute Joss Whedon into Snyder’s place, in order to finish the film’s production. Whedon was seen as a safe pair of hands, as he’d written and directed Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, along with the sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and co-created the spin-off TV series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. As such, Whedon was seen as a decent prospect to deliver a bankable picture.
However, Whedon’s Justice League wasn’t only critically derided, but also fell somewhat short of Warner Brothers’ expectations at the global box office, which appeared to spell the end of the ‘Snyderverse’. Stories began to come out about a rough cut of the film having been completed before Snyder’s departure, which sparked up a campaign encapsulated by viral hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media channels.
Snyder also added fuel to the fire with a post made on Vero back in December 2019, which showed an image of multiple film cans, all marked with “Z.S. JL Director’s Cut, Running Time 214”, along with a caption: “Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does”. Unexpectedly, during a live online commentary of his film Man Of Steel which took place on Wednesday May 20th, he announced that his long-fabled ‘Snyder Cut’ was to become a reality.
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WarnerMedia was about to launch its streaming service – HBO Max – a week later, and it had been looking to drum up as much interest as possible. Overtures were made by Warner Brothers chairman Toby Emmerich for Snyder to finish his vision of the film, to be released exclusively on HBO Max. A deal was reached, and Snyder then set about the task of reassembling all his original post-production crew, so that he could bring his version to fruition.
He also contacted all the film’s stars, letting them know their services may be needed for new material to be shot. The budget of completing what’s now officially known as Zack Snyder’s Justice League has been estimated in the range of between $20 and $30 million, although further updates suggest it could even exceed that, depending on the final amount of work which is required by Snyder to complete the project.
Snyder has said that he believes only a quarter of what he did ended up in Whedon’s cut, not only because of its 120 minute run time, but also because of Whedon’s extensive reshoots. Entire characters and plotlines excised from the theatrical edit will be reinstated in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which may either be a film with a full duration of anything up to four hours long, or instead hit HBO Max in the first half of 2021 as a six-part mini-series.
However, there are many more features out there which ended up hitting cinemas as compromised versions that ultimately varied significantly from the director’s initial artistic intentions. Here, we take a look at a few of these movies which could potentially benefit from the ‘Snyder Cut’ treatment.
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The Avengers (1998)
It seems that 1998 wasn’t a classic year when it came to big screen adaptations of classic 1960s TV programmes: Lost In Space was one such poorly-received example. Another was Warner Brothers’ version of the cult, campy spy drama The Avengers. Based on what’s perhaps the show’s best-known era, when Patrick Macnee was accompanied by Diana Rigg, the roles of John Steed and Emma Peel were filled by Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman.
Early test screenings of the film weren’t well received, and this led the studio to cut director Jeremiah Chechik out of the process of finishing the movie, with Warner Brothers releasing an edit which had been trimmed from Chechik’s original 115 minutes down to just 89. It also meant original composer Michael Kamen’s score was dropped, and he was unavailable to do a new version to better suit such a drastic re-edit, along with its much different tone.
Now, more isn’t always necessarily better (as evidenced by the three-hour TV cut of Superman: The Movie); with The Avengers, however, it might make all the difference, with the missing material helping to render the storyline more comprehensible. Chechik has repeatedly said he’d re-edit the movie gratis, and with Warner also owning HBO Max, this may finally be the perfect opportunity to restore The Avengers, and help redeem its reputation.
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Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
The last film to star Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel was also the final nail in the coffin for Superman on the big screen for nearly two decades. Producers Alexander & Ilya Salkind sold on the Superman movie rights to Cannon Films after diminishing box office returns. Cannon had convinced Reeve to reprise the role one more time, promising he could be involved with storylining the movie, and that they would also bankroll his own project, Street Smart.
However, the film started to run into trouble when Cannon slashed the budget from the projected $30 million down to $17 million, leading to Milton Keynes replacing New York as Metropolis, and Baldock in Hertfordshire being the location for the Kent farm in Smallville. The reduced finances also meant that the visual effects looked far less polished than its three predecessors, and even appeared to be unfinished at points, with some shots being repeated.
Although some deleted footage ended up on the DVD, the co-writer Mark Rosenthal claimed on the commentary that around 45 minutes of material has yet to be seen. Perhaps WarnerMedia could have HBO Max make a newly re-edited version, with new visual effects, along with reinstating at least some of the absent scenes, such as the portions with Clive Mantle as the first Nuclear Man, a character who was totally removed from the theatrical release.
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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
In June 2017, with a few weeks of principal photography to go, the co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were removed from Solo: A Star Wars Story by Lucasfilm, with “creative differences” being cited. Ron Howard was brought in after a brief hiatus, not only completing the remaining block of filming, but also several weeks of reshoots. By the end, it’s estimated Howard had filmed 70% of the finished feature.
One of the consequences of extending production was that actor Michael K. Williams, who’d beencast by Lord and Miller as villain Dryden Voss, couldn’t return for the reshoots, as he was already committed to start work on another movie, The Red Sea Diving Resort. As a result, Howard recast the role with Paul Bettany, and all of Williams’ scenes were refilmed with Bettany instead.
It’s unclear if Williams managed to complete all the scenes that featured Voss, but there may be enough to potentially reinstate him; some limited additIonal filming may also be possible, if more material is needed. There’s a precedent for having a fired director return to complete their own edit of a film, in Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut; if Disney brought Lord and Miller back, they could finish their vision of Solo, for showcasing on Disney+.
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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
William Shatner’s only time at the creative helm of a Star Trek motion picture unfortunately wasn’t as well-received as some of its antecedents, something that wasn’t helped by it being swamped at multiplexes that same summer by a series of other major blockbuster releases, such as Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, Licence To Kill, and Batman.
Shatner’s ambitions had also been hamstrung by the film having its budget cut significantly, along with Industrial Light & Magic being tied up working on the opposition’s releases. It meant that the VFX looked much cheaper than usual, and lacked the high quality which ILM could deliver. In addition, Shatner had to rework the climax of the film, due to problems during production.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy were to have been pursued by a phalanx of ten ‘Rockmen’, but at $350,000 apiece, the budget wouldn’t stretch to it, and only the one could be fabricated, but it looked unrealistic and was ultimately unused. While nowhere near as major an overhaul as the ‘Snyder Cut’, CGI could be used to replace the visuals and finally bring the ‘Rockmen’ finale to life, helping redeem Shatner’s enterprise.
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Suicide Squad (2016)
Now that the ‘Snyder Cut’ is actually to become a reality, calls of #ReleaseTheAyerCut have begun, demanding that Warner Brothers brings out the original version of Suicide Squad. There seems to be a consensus that director David Ayer’s vision for the film was significantly hobbled by the studio’s interference over its tone and content, as well as a push to get the movie out for a release date which was set in stone.
Negative feedback about Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice caused studio execs to become rather edgy about the ‘Snyderverse’, and the initial cut of Suicide Squad was proving to be equally dark, rather than matching the much lighter and far more fun tone indicated by the initial trailer. Multiple editors were reportedly brought in to try to shape the movie, leading to there being two edits: one being the studio’s, the other Ayer’s.
Test screenings seem to have then led to a halfway house being reached, with the theatrical release being a hybrid of the two different versions. With James Gunn’s sequel The Suicide Squad planned to hit cinemas in August 2021, this appears to be the perfect opportunity for WarnerMedia to get a companion piece for Zack Snyder’s Justice League ready, by having Ayer’s take released on HBO Max, which would also help get publicity for the follow-up.