Way, waaaay back in 1927 acclaimed German director Fritz Lang released his latest film, Metropolis. The film’s opening day release… didn’t go well.
In fact, critics and audiences did not like the film. Noted science fiction author H. G. Wells, the man who wrote the seminal The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man, wrote a scathing review for The New York Times panning the film. The review began with the line: I have just seen the silliest film (If you’re curious, you can read the full review here).
Immediately after the film’s debut, UFA, the German studio which financed the film, feared they had a major flop on their hands. The film cost them a lot of money to make and if their investment failed to bring back residuals, they would be bankrupt. Almost immediately after the film’s debut, studio hands began trimming Metropolis down from its initial 2 hours and 22 minute run time.
The film didn’t do terribly over its initial release but over the ensuing years, a most curious thing happened: The film developed a strong following. This prompted many to try to find the cut scenes from Metropolis. Unfortunately, back in 1927 when those cuts were made, there was no sense of film permanence. The scenes that were cut back then were discarded without much thought.
Famed musician Giorgio Moroder spent considerable time and effort looking through various versions of Metropolis available and put together a what was for that time the most complete version of the film. He then enlisted several famous musicians including Freddy Mercury and Pat Benatar, to create a soundtrack to this version of the film. In 1984 Giordio Moroder’s version of Metropolis, complete with this new soundtrack, was released to theaters. It had a very big influence on me, not least of which was inspiring the creation of my first major work, The Dark Fringe…
Though Moroder’s reconstruction of Metropolis was incomplete, the opening frames of the film, wherein it is noted that Metropolis remains incomplete and scenes were still missing, inspired a new generation to pursue those pieces. But it wasn’t until much later, 2008 in fact, that a gentleman by the name of Francisco Peña discovered a full-length copy of Metropolis in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires. He brought it to the attention of others and this almost complete (it still lacks at least one short sequence which was too degraded) version of the film was finally released to the public (you can read about that in this article by Larry Rohter and presented in The New York Times).
Today, you can purchase a wonderful copy of the film that restores, as best as possible given today’s technology, Metropolis to its original version.
Many decades after that initial release of Metropolis, director Richard Donner was hired to undertake an ambitious project: Make a film version of the beloved comic book hero Superman. But the movie’s producers, Ilya and Alexander Salkind, were interested in making not one but two films at once: Superman and Superman II. The strain of doing two films at the same time became a little too much given the deadline to release the first film. Director Richard Donner abandoned work on Superman II after completing approximately 60% of it to focus on completing Superman. However, once that film was completed Mr. Donner was fired by the Salkinds and he was unable to finish his work on Superman II. Richard Lester finished the film and was listed as its director, though it was clear much of Richard Donner’s work remained within it.
Given the quality of Superman, fans for years were curious to see what Donner’s version of Superman II would be. Some twenty six years later, Warner Brothers allowed work to be done to finish -as best was possible given only 60% or so of the film was completed- the “Donner Cut” of Superman II. It was released in 2006 and now people are able to see the theatrical cut of Superman II along with Donner’s version… though the later features an ending which likely would not have been used had Mr. Donner been allowed to finish the film.
Fast forward to a few years ago. After much controversy upon the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Brothers found themselves extremely nervous about director Zack Snyder’s take on the DC Hero pantheon. While BvS made a ton of money, a vocal contingent of fans and most critics hated the film. In fact, so vociferous were the critics that Warners desperately tried to “fix” the subsequent DC Comics movie release, Suicide Squad, to avoid the critical savaging BvS received.
While there were many who hated BvS, there were also many, like me, who liked the film. Indeed, I feel Warners did Mr. Snyder no favors releasing a cut down version of the film to theaters. When the Ultimate Edition, or rather the “Director’s Cut” of BvS was eventually released, it was clear this was the superior product and what should have been released in the first place.
Mr. Snyder continued working on Justice League. While nearing the end of his work, tragedy would strike his family. Mr. Snyder’s adopted daughter committed suicide and the director stepped away from the film. Joss Whedon, known for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and the first two Avenger films, already at work doing script fixes on JL, was given control over the film.
He began re-shoots and when Justice League was eventually released in 2017, it was met with shrugs. It was an “ok” film, to me, and it did decent box office but nothing like what the studios felt it should have. Many have stated the film was a flop and lost considerable money but with a cumulative worldwide gross of $614,729,668 (this is according to IMDB.com), I wonder if it did indeed lose money.
Regardless, the Joss Whedon “take” on Zack Snyder’s film was the version of the film that was released and, to date, that’s the only one available to be seen.
Which brings us to the point of this entry: Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League.
At first and shortly after the theatrical release of the film, there were many who clamored for the release of Zack Snyder’s version of the film. There were many who scoffed at that. There was no Zack Snyder version of JL, they said, and those asking for it were either misinformed or foolish to think such a thing existed.
But over time, statements from those actually involved in the making of the film filtered out and it soon became clear there did indeed exist some kind of at the very least rough cut of the film. One suspects this rough cut is likely missing some special effects work -a not insignificant thing- yet certainly one can today feel comfortable assuming there is more Zack Snyder Justice League in Warner’s film vaults than there was Richard Donner Superman II.
The critics of Zack Snyder -and there remain many out there- continue to throw cold water on the whole affair. While many now acknowledge there is at least a rough cut of Snyder’s JL, they wonder why people still bother.
Let it go, they say. Or Warner Brothers will never spend money to complete a version of this flop. The studio wants to move on and so should you.
I’ve read this sentiment more than once and it seems to be one of bigger arguments made by people who don’t care for Zack Snyder’s work nor the idea there may be more of it out there.
Give it up already.
Understand, I don’t know if the Zack Snyder version of Justice League is good or crap. And while I pointed out the tortured history of both Metropolis and Superman II above, in no way do I mean to suggest Snyder’s version of Justice League will turn out to be remotely as classic as these films are considered today.
Yet… why deny others who are clearly interested in seeing this film their opinion and hope that Warners can eventually be convinced to release this version of the film? Why brush them off with a “get over it” type statement?
If there weren’t those who gave a damn, we would never have seen the full or director versions of Metropolis or Superman II.
Further, the interest in the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League is somewhat unique. There is nowhere near the same level -if at all- of interest or fan attention to David Ayer’s original cut of Suicide Squad. Or Gareth Edwards’ original version (with the original ending) of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Or the Josh Trank’s cut of Fantastic Four.
There most certainly exist versions of these three films in the vaults of the studios that financed them yet public attention is not there for them as it is with Justice League.
I suspect this is due to the fact that, unlike the others listed above, Mr. Snyder had two films in the DC universe under his belt and people therefore had a history to judge his third film on. They found what was released lacking and want to see what he would have released, had he been able to.
But you know what? I’d be curious to see those director’s cuts of the other films as well! As a film fan, I’m fascinated with the process of making movies and I’m incredibly interested in seeing something that never was… yet could have been.
Here’s the bottom line for those who say “get over it”: If (a BIG if) the Zack Snyder version of Justice League is eventually released… how will it affect those who hate Zack Snyder’s DC work?
Not at all.
For those who have no interest at all in seeing Zack Snyder’s Justice League can go right on ignoring it. I can pretty much guarantee you absolutely NO ONE will force you to see the film. So if you think Zack Snyder’s work is crap and the film Gods conspire to release a Snyder Cut of Justice League, feel free to completely ignore the thing!
But why take away others’ interest and curiosity because you don’t give a shit about it?