The more I read about what went on with the making of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, the more I’ve come to understand how misguided Warner Bros. has been about their understanding of the characters in those films.1 Likewise, how inept they have been in crafting coherent stories that are worth telling.
Before Joss Whedon was brought in to rewrite and direct Justice League, Chris Terrio had written the script. It was his words that were being filmed by Zack Snyder and his crew. After Snyder’s exit from the film, the whole thing went off the rails, leaving Terrio behind and feeling frustrated.
The 2017 theatrical cut was an act of vandalism. Zack may be too much of a gentleman to say that, but I’m not.
He’s got well-considered opinions to back this up. He’s not just mindlessly pissed about how things with both films turned out. Seems that Warner Bros. just doesn’t understand the necessities of storytelling:
I was proud of the [Batman v Superman] script when I completed it, but it turns out that when you remove the 30 minutes that give the characters motivation for the climax, the film just doesn’t work. As we learned from the two versions of Justice League, you can’t skip on the character and think the audience will give a shit about the VFX. That stuff was later restored in the extended version.
None of this is surprising to read. Since Justice League came out in 2017, it’s been clear that there’s a fundamental problem with how Warner Bros. handled the making of the film:
When the movie was taken away, that felt like it was some directive that had come from people who are neither filmmakers nor film-friendly—the directive to make the movie under two hours, regardless of what the movie needed to do, and to make the colors brighter, and to have funny sitcom jokes in it.
Contrast that to his approach to Batman v Superman:
I came into it thinking the only way that this could work is as a fever dream or as a revenge tragedy. I thought, How do we create a story in which Bruce Wayne is traumatized by the war of Krypton coming to Earth, and in which he enters into this kind of madness? He becomes Captain Ahab, and he won’t listen to saner voices, like Alfred, for example, who are telling him to just see reason. He’s a man possessed.
This is clearly someone who understands the motivations and nuances of the characters. He knows what it takes to write a good story. It’s just a shame that his role will always be subservient to studio heads and money people who think they know better:
These [investor] guys were in charge because they controlled the money at the very top of the pyramid. They were making big decisions—not the film executives we’re talking about, but Wall Street guys. One guy, who I can only describe as the man who Central Casting sends you when you’re trying to cast Douchebag #1, pulled me aside and started telling me how to write Batman.
There’s a lot more that can be quoted in this article, but this is a good primer. It’s a fascinating interview that’s worth reading. I’ve always enjoyed Snyder’s vision for these characters. Now, I’ve also come to understand that he’s not the one who’s been the issue with the films. If they’re not your particular cup o’ tea, that’s fine. If you want brighter, more comedic, less serious superhero movies, then watch a Marvel film. However, not all superhero films have to be copies of, say, Iron Man. They can be darker visions like Snyder’s have been. He’s been consistent in his storytelling and love for the characters he’s bringing to the screen. Unfortunately, his work appears to be hamstrung by those working above him.
It’s a damn shame that Warner Bros. isn’t run by people who understand the films they’re making. 🎥