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The Snyder Cut | Wouldn't Be The First Time a Director Got a Second Chance

It seems that a fairly common occurrence amongst movies tied to Warner Bros. is the magical disappearing/reappearing director. Does that mean there's hope for the Snyder Cut? I certainly hope so!

Ever since Justice League hit cinemas in 2017 - possibly even before - fans have been calling for Zack Snyder's original vision to be released. Snyder famously faced issues regarding the darker tone and longer run times his movies were taking, especially after the negative response to 'Batman v Superman'. This of course led to rewrites of the superhero team-up movie, and certain plotlines established or teased in 'BvS' - including the epic Knightmare scene - being dropped. The director then left the production after the tragic death of his daughter. Joss Whedon was brought in by the studio to finish the movie, this included the completion of post production and some major reshoots, further altering the movie. All of which resulted in a movie that is drastically different to what Snyder originally intended.

But does all this mean we will never see the fabled Snyder Cut? A movie spoken of like the aliens kept at Area 51... whoops I've said too much!

Zack Snyder certainly isn't the first director to leave or to be "removed" from a movie production. He also wouldn't be the first director to get a second shot at creating their version of the movie years later. Warner Bros. replaced Richard Donner with Richard Lester on 'Superman II' (1980) and just neglected to tell him. It wasn't until 2005 - after fans campaigned relentlessly - that Donner was given the chance to assemble his own version of the movie, and at first he was reluctant to do so. Work was done to remove the slapstick elements installed by Lester, returning the movie to the darker tone that Donner intended, similar to that of 'Superman: The Movie' (1978). "The Richard Donner Cut" was released in 2006, to coincide with the release of Superman Returns.

Helgeland (left) and Donner 

A similar thing happened to writer/director Brian Helgeland - oddly enough, someone who Richard Donner had taken under his wing - on his directorial debut, Payback. The two met when Donner spotted the young Helgeland outside the Warner Bros. gate with a sign that read: "Will write for work, for money". After speaking to him, the veteran director decided to give Helgeland a chance, first with rewrites on the Sylvester Stallone starring 'Assassins', and then  writing the script for the Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts thriller 'Conspiracy Theory'. He also adapted the book 'L.A. Confidential' for the 1997 hit of the same name, which would later win him an Oscar. During post production on Conspiracy Theory, Helgeland was working on the script for Payback - a story based on the novel 'The Hunter' by Donald E. Westlake - when Donner asked him to find Gibson and inform him that he was running late. When Helgeland found him, he had the partially written script under his arm. Gibson asked about it and expressed interest in reading the completed script, even after Helgeland explained it was something he wanted to direct himself.

Having read the script, Gibson was keen to take on the starring role with Helgeland in the director's chair, and 13 weeks later they were filming on location in Chicago. However, what started like a dream come true for Helgeland, eventually turned into a nightmare. After filming a large percentage of the movie, the studio was unhappy with the dark tone the movie was taking - sound familiar? Despite requests to make changes, including from Gibson, Helgeland decided to stand his ground. And two days after he won the Oscar for 'L.A. Confidential' - something he thought would save him - he was fired from the production. The entire third act was changed, and alterations were made to the rest of the movie, including a 'Blade Runner' style narration by Gibson (designed to make his character more likeable). These changes delayed Payback's release by a year, finally hitting UK cinemas in March of 1999.

Much like with Richard Donner and 'Superman II', it wasn't until 2005 that Helgeland got the opportunity to complete his version of the movie. In an interview with, he said he was contacted by someone from Paramount who asked him about putting together a TV transfer of the movie. Helgeland refused, instead arguing for the opportunity to put together his director's cut, a move that was supported by Mel Gibson, whose company 'Icon' produced the movie. The actor apparently felt guilty over Helgeland's removal from the production.

The studio granted Helgeland access to the entire film stock. He decided to remove the grey tint that had been applied to the theatrical cut, as well as Gibson's narration, restored several scenes as well as the original third act, and even recorded a brand new score. Interestingly, Helgeland made certain choices that differ from his way of thinking during shooting back in 1997, something we might not see with the Snyder Cut. The result of all this work is - in my opinion - a far superior movie, the theatrical cut is still good, but Helgeland's is better. Payback: The Director's Cut (also known as Payback: Straight Up) is grittier and more realistic, it doesn't shy away from the fact that Gibson's Porter is a violent criminal. It's still just as much fun watching him bludgeon his way through the criminal underworld in search of his $70,000. In fact, if anything, it's more fun.

So if Richard Donner and Brian Helgeland can get a second chance, surely Zack Snyder can too. It's not like his version of Justice League could be any worse than the theatrical cut.

Warner Bros. may be moving the DCEU in a new direction, but there's still a lot of interest in seeing what could have been, and not just from fans. Snyder has also received the support from major cast members and some of the crew. Thankfully several members of the Justice League have flourished with their own solo movies, and the future looks bright for them. Hopefully 'Wonder Woman 1984' will not be too badly affected by the corona virus outbreak, although a delayed release seems inevitable at this point. 'Aquaman 2' is also in the works. 'Shazam!' proved a real hit back in 2019, and as well as the upcoming sequel it would be great to see the juvenile delinquent team up with at least some of the League - rumour has it that Superman will cameo in 'Shazam! 2'. We're still waiting on a solo movie for the Flash, but Ezra Miller's appearance in the CW crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths", provides some hope. The future is less bright for Cyborg and Ray Fisher, whose chances of a solo outing have all but dissipated. Although there is said to be some interest in the character's return, sources indicate - rather disappointingly - that it would be without Ray Fisher. Warner Bros. are reportedly displeased with Fishers rather vocal support of Zack Snyder.  

Things are much the same for Henry Cavill's Superman, despite the aforementioned interest in his appearance in 'Shazam! 2'. Overall I am not the biggest fan of Superman, but Cavill did a lot to change that. His portrayal of the last son of Krypton is nothing short of fantastic, and 2013's 'Man of Steel' is one of my favourites in the DCEU. However, it remains unclear as to whether he will ever don the red cape again.

Then there's the Dark Knight. Ben Affleck has exited the role, and Matt Reeves 'The Batman' with Robert Pattinson does look very promising. But even after early scepticism, Affleck stunned many of us with his stellar performance both as Bruce Wayne and Batman. And despite a couple of dodgy lines - something about 1% chances and absolute certainties - he brought real gravitas to an older, more downtrodden Bruce. For a time we looked forward to a potential series of Batman movies, both starring and directed by Affleck. That time may have passed but it would still be great to his Dark Knight go out with more of a bang, like the character deserves.

Throughout his campaign, Snyder has repeatedly hinted at reshoots, and now there are rumours circling that Warner Bros. may provide $10 million to complete the movie. "Zack Snyder's Justice League" would then be used to promote the upcoming streaming service HBO Max, which debuts in May 2020. As much as I'd like to see the Snyder Cut on the big screen, this would make for a satisfactory compromise.

In other words... if we believe there's even a 1% chance that the Snyder Cut is better than the theatrical cut, we have to take it as an absolute certainty!

Yeah, that line still doesn't work, but the sentiment is there. We need to see the Snyder Cut, and if other directors can get the chance to revisit projects that were taken away from them, why can't Zack Snyder get that same chance?

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