Seemingly, Warner Bros. Discovery and DC cannot avoid the controversy, as Henry Cavill’s departure as Superman lands in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In the interim, though, there’s one person who must be having the last laugh here: Zack Snyder.
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The architect of what was once known as the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) kicked off his plans for a shared universe with the release of Man of Steel in 2013, which debuted Cavill as Superman. However, the less-than-stellar reception towards his grittier take on superheroes in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice resulted in the studio taking hold of the reins deep into the production cycle of Justice League. Since then, it appears as if Warner Bros. and DC have struggled to identify what they actually want to do with these characters, as direction changes more times than a dog circling for a place to lie down.
There’s no two ways about it: The narrative created by the studio was that Snyder’s films were far too violent and gritty for what it wanted in a shared comic book movie universe. He simply failed to deliver what everyone expected of him.
Except this is an incorrect statement. After the monumental success of The Dark Knight Trilogy, the studio looked at what Marvel Studios was starting to build and wanted to get in on it. Yet, Warner Bros. knew one thing: People seemed to like Christopher Nolan’s take of Batman, which was far more grounded and darker than other superhero properties.
Nolan and David S. Goyer had an idea for a new Superman movie, which would become Man of Steel, but the British director wanted out of the superhero game, choosing only to stay on as an executive producer. Speaking about the decision to pick Snyder as the director to The New York Times, Nolan said, “[Zack has an] innate aptitude for dealing with superheroes as real characters. That was what a new approach to Superman required. He understands the power of iconic images, but he also understands the people behind them.”
Yet, here’s the thing: Warner Bros. was firmly behind this idea since Nolan had made them a few billion with three films. Choosing to differentiate itself from the burgeoning MCU and keeping in line with what brought success, Warner Bros. thought realistic and grittier trumped brighter and lighter stories. In the end, the majority of the audience reacted adversely to it. Although, time has shown that the audience may be changing their opinions on these films – much the same way as everyone lauds Snyder’s Watchmen now but ignored it back in 2009. Snyder, though, took the brunt of the blame, as the studio refused to accept responsibility that it had greenlit and agreed to this direction. Instead, it found the perfect scapegoat for something that didn’t click with the fans.
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The promise of a course correction
Since Snyder left the Justice League production, Warner Bros. has tried to paint a picture of a different DCEU on the horizon: a well-oiled machine that has a clear path in sight. The studio was finally listening to fans – apparently. While there were some successes such as Aquaman, The Batman, and Joker, it never felt like the DC film universe ever gained real momentum or knew where it was going. Effectively, it found itself with three Batman actors in the same year, since no one knew who was coming or going.
Of course, it wasn’t helped by the fact the Restore the SnyderVerse movement hijacked every announcement or move the studio made. Yet, Warner Bros. also toyed with the audience here, keeping some elements of the SnyderVerse while discarding others. It’s only rational that fans would find a glimmer of hope in this, since there was no clear path outlined of what was actually happening.
So, in the five years after Justice League, the studio successfully created more confusion about its properties than anything Snyder had done in the four years prior at the helm. Say what you want about his films, but it appeared like he had a plan in place, while the same can’t be said about Warner Bros. Of course, the studio wasn’t helped by the fact it underwent a major upheaval with mergers and executive shake-ups in this time.
The DCU starts at a handicap already
Co-CEOs of DC Studios, James Gunn and Peter Safran, have a mighty job on their hands. Hired to bring continuity and cohesiveness to the studio, they have had to make tough and unpopular decisions, which included waving goodbye to Henry Cavill’s Superman, who had just returned in Black Adam a few months earlier.
Now, the decision to include Cavill’s cameo in Black Adam does seem incredibly baffling, especially since it could have been cut altogether, but it was also before Gunn and Safran had presented their DCU plan to Warner Bros. Discovery.
From the outside looking in, it appears as if DC Studios’ overall plan is a great reset and to start from scratch. Considering everything that has gone wrong in the past, it’s probably the wisest idea since the studio has painted itself into a corner too many times. That being said, its decisions will now be scrutinised harshly and every move will be criticised even more, as fans will undoubtedly feel resentment for losing some fan-favourite actors. Although, it appears as if Gunn and Safran are fully aware of this already.
Zack Snyder is vindicated
At the moment, there’s no disputing that the DCU is in total turmoil. No one understands what’s going on and fans feel disheartened by the lack of transparency from the studio. Everyone is biting their nails, wondering if movies that have been announced already are going ahead or if they will be cancelled any day now.
More importantly, all the detractors of Zack Snyder can eat their words now. While some people may not like his movies – and that’s fine – he was never the culprit for the DC film mess. That falls all on Warner Bros. and its decision-makers over the years.
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Tell us, do you think Zack Snyder has been vindicated by all the DCU drama? Let us know in the comments.