I can talk about this issue for hours! I can talk about the many times I've been hired to direct projects only to realize that what they really needed was a 'yes man' to THEIR "vision". But before I get into this, let's back up a little and give you a small context about the movie Justice League.
Zack Snyder had already completed most of the principal shooting when he had to step down because of a personal family tragedy. Or at least that was the narrative. No no, the tragedy was real! But it turned out that it was used as an excuse to remove him from the project because his first cut, was said to be "unwatchable" by the studio. The proof is that when they hired Joss Whedon, he didn't just complete the film - he did $25 million worth of reshoots. Watching the end result you could see he was just there to satisfy a bullet point list set by studio execs. The result was a movie that had lost it's intent and identity to the dissatisfaction of the fans of the franchise. This is unfortunate, since Joss Whedon's background in superhero movies (The Avengers & The Avengers : Age of Ultron) is amazing! And I certainly don't want to "bash" him for Justice League 2017, since my best guess would be that he was also limited to what can be done, and was probably there just to satisfy some studio exec's memo on how they wanted it. Essentially a "clean up" job just to get the movie out! This ofcourse was not without the behind the scenes tension that this movie had caused.
Watching Snyder's version, maybe 25% of it borrows from the theatrical version. And even there, within that previous footage, there are still subtle dialogue changes and additional takes embedded in this new cut. The rest is fresh footage that Snyder previously shot that was never used. Only one new scene was filmed. The result a 4 hour movie exactly as the director intended in his vision!
What went wrong? It doesn't matter! What matters is that the SnyderCut gives us a rare case study of an A to B comparison between the director's vision vs the studio's dry, statistic driven, marketing exec suit wearing version! The reason it's rare is because you never really get to see what the director originally intended because its too much work and money to make a "director's cut" (something that's common in commercials and music videos) In fact just to complete Zack Snyder's version, it cost $70 million to finish! Which was more than the entire budget of Todd Phillips' "Joker"! But the result justified him! And if there's any doubt about the end result here's a picture that says it all!
This makes you wonder, how many movies that were a disappointment by admittedly talented directors that had great success in the past were a result of studio interference rather than a failure from the director's part?
There is no reason to analyze why the SnyderCut was so much better, but if you are keen to know why, then watch this great analysis by Filmento which after having watched it myself I completely agree!
This is a reality most directors have to face, a paying customer that interferes with the director's vision to a point where the final result is awful! The good directors, besides having talent, are also master negotiators! But believe me it takes a lot of energy from you, something that Zack Snyder didn't have after his personal family tragedy while filming. He simply didn't have the energy to waste trying to convince the person paying for the project why most of their ideas are not going to work or why his version will!
This is the problem when you are talking about creative projects where aesthetics is paramount, but also not a tangible item. Imagine saying these words to other professionals. Imagine a doctor telling a patient "We're gonna perform a surgery, we'll start by opening this area first then..." and then the patient interrupts by saying "Well, since I'm a paying customer I demand to be opened from this spot first..." It would never happen!
Ask anyone in the creative field and I guarantee you every single one has a horror story about a client from hell! in fact there's a site called clientsfromhell.net simply because there is no clear line on where the client's limits are, when we are talking about what shade of blue the logo must be! It's not tangible like the surgery performed by the doctor!
Zack Snyder's version proves all of that. It should also be a lesson on why when you hire someone for a creative job, you should let them do what you hired them for. I cant tell you how many times I had to tell clients that they didn't need me after hearing what they wanted. Their ideas were 'creatively' far from mine, I would tell them "Just hire a D.P and film it, you've already made up your mind on how you want the project to be done!"
All this wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the # ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement itself. It’s impossible to watch this movie without thinking about how a whole lot of people really really really really wanted this version of the movie. But regardless of how you feel about the Snyder Cut, one thing's certain. After its release, HBO Max and Warner Bros. will have an interesting dilemma on their hands. The four-hour extravaganza ends on a cliff-hanger that warrants a sequel. Fans will ask for more, and they have already started to by using a new hashtag, # RestoreTheSnyderVerse. It's not as if there weren't plans for a sequel. In the film's production notes, Snyder confirms he was planning second and third "Justice League" movies. An official exhibit for the film in Dallas features artwork for Snyder's planned trilogy. If successful, the Snyder Cut may set a precedent for other streamers and studios to consider longer films or director cuts of their projects. If this happens this will be Zack Snyder's true legacy and real win!