I’m a fan of creators having control over the things they create. Yes, to a degree, all art is a process of collaboration, whether it’s written or visual. But there’s nothing worse than seeing a creator either forced down an avenue they don’t want to explore or having their entire project taken out of their hands. The latter, it seems, is what happened with 2017’s Justice League movie. Full disclosure: I’m pretty neutral on Zack Snyder as a filmmaker—I’ve liked some of his films, and I’ve disliked some of his films. I’m also pretty neutral on the fandom that surrounds him—every fandom has positive and negative elements, and I think it’s disingenuous to paint any fandom based on its worst aspects. So, I don’t have any skin in the discourse that surrounds the Snyder Cut. What I do have, however, is an interest in the behind-the-scenes stories of films like Justice League. This interest is what brought me to Sean O’Connell’s Release the Snyder Cut. Going into it, I was hoping for a well-sourced examination into the making of the Justice League movie—what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how we got to a point where Snyder’s original cut could be made. Unfortunately, that’s not what the book is. Instead, O’Connell’s book reads as more of an extended blog post, briskly chronicling the history of the DCEU—from its earliest days with Man of Steel up until the disastrous theatrical release of Justice League and the subsequent fan-driven campaign to restore Snyder’s original cut. It’s fine, but there’s not much here that isn’t available elsewhere. (3 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss. All thoughts are my own.
Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League by Sean O’Connell
Release the Snyder Cut is an entertaining, investigative, and emotional recap of 2017’s failed Justice League movie, followed closely by a breakdown of the exhaustive efforts by a dedicated fan base to unearth director Zack Snyder’s unfinished version. We’re currently in the golden age of superhero blockbusters. Movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Joker, and Avengers: Endgame routinely break box office records and compete for Oscars. Yet, Zack Snyder’s 2017 behemoth Justice League—a veritable sure bet at the Hollywood casino—tanked miserably, and the behind-the-scenes reasons for the movie’s demise are fascinating. The true story behind Justice League’s failure is only half of the juicy narrative, though. Snyder—who left the project months before filming concluded—still fans the flames that surround the rumor of a “Snyder Cut” of the film. This allegedly is the version of the story he wanted to tell before the studio, Warner Bros., pulled him off of the project. Hence, the “Snyder Cut.” Pop-culture fans love a meaty mystery, and the controversy swirling around the lost Snyder Cut of Justice League has been captivating comic-book movie fans for years. Additionally, an army of passionate DC and Snyder fans are committed to getting the “Cut” released. They already have gone to incredible lengths to fight for the movie’s opening, and have found strength, support, and charitable goals in their global “family” of Snyder Cut supporters. Their stories are remarkable, and the book is just as much about the dedicated fans who make up the Snyder Cut movement as it is about the unreleased film. Their efforts finally paid off with the recent announcement that Snyder’s cut will be released in 2021 by Warner Bros. and HBO Max. Release the Snyder Cut tells the entire story.
First things first, if you’re coming to Release the Snyder Cut for an in-depth look at either the making of Justice League or the fan-driven campaign to get Warner Bros to release Snyder’s original cut, this isn’t the book for you. Not only is it too short to go into any real depth on either of those subjects, but it also tries to cram both of them into its short page-count. What results is a book that never dives below the surface level of anything it’s trying to discuss. In terms of its attempt to cover the history behind Justice League and the DCEU, Release the Snyder Cut bites off a bit more than it can chew with its page count. There are just too many things to discuss in too small an amount of time for O’Connell to be able to do so in a satisfying manner. He breezes past the beginnings of the DCEU, essentially recapping the making-of, and reactions to, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, using this as a precursor to talking about the behind-the-scenes drama that befell Justice League.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if he had a bunch of information about what happened behind-the-scenes of Justice League. But he doesn’t. It quickly becomes clear that O’Connell doesn’t have much to report here that hasn’t already been reported. Sure, he’s got a new interview with Zack Snyder that he sprinkles excerpts from throughout the book, but there’s not much from that interview that reveals anything particularly enlightening. It’s just a few anecdotes about how he feels about his fanbase and, vaguely, about how he and Warner Bros initially parted ways in 2017. Devoid of anything new or revealing, much of what Release the Snyder Cut says about the making of Justice League has been reported elsewhere, and in more depth, already. The book sort of reads as an extended blog post that’s simply aggregating and rewording information that already exists. It feels more like a really long book report or Wikipedia summary than a journalistic book about the making of a film.
Even with that in mind, this could have still been something special had O’Connell pivoted towards exploring the Release the Snyder Cut movement with the depth he couldn’t afford to Justice League’s actual production. And, at times, it does seem like that’s what he’s trying to do. Numerous chapters feature fairly long excerpts from interviews O’Connell’s held with various members of the Release the Snyder Cut movement. And these are kind of interesting. But, again, he never really goes into any depth with it. There’s no real discussion about how the group managed to do any of the things they did; he just reports on it and occasionally gets the opinion of someone who was kind of involved. To a total outsider, it doesn’t seem like O’Connell managed to snag any interviews with anybody who could be classified as a leader of the movement—he mostly seems to just be talking to random people who participated in the campaign.
Like with the lack of depth in his examination of Justice League’s behind-the-scenes woes, the lack of any kind of true peek behind the curtains of this fan-driven campaign hurts the book. None of the interviews with the members of the campaign are particularly insightful or revelatory. It’s nice getting to hear from them and getting to see a fanbase that’s done some positive things (for all that’s been written about the negative side of the Release the Snyder Cut movement, they’ve also raised quite a bit of money for the AFSP), but throughout the book, I felt like I wanted to hear more about them. The book’s synopsis suggests this is the untold story about the folks who campaigned for Warner Bros to release Snyder’s cut of Justice League, but the book’s not really about them. Half of it is spent on recapping the history of the DCEU/the making of Justice League, a quarter of it is spent recapping what the campaign did, and then that final quarter is spent talking with some of the people in the campaign. Again, I can’t say any of this is bad, but it is disappointing.
And, ultimately, that’s how you could describe Release the Snyder Cut as a whole. It’s a competently written piece examining both the behind-the-scenes drama that led to the disaster that was the theatrical cut of Justice League and the fan-driven campaign that led to Warner Bros allowing Zack Snyder to complete his original vision for the film. But, aside from these brisk overviews of these topics, the book doesn’t offer much that’s unique. It’s a quick read, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price. If you’re interested in learning about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film, you can find all of that from various media reports pretty easily online—though, I suppose, it is pretty nice to have so much of it aggregated here for those who have only a cursory interest. If you’re interested in how the Release the Snyder Cut campaign did the things they did, you’re not gonna find that out here. You’ll hear about what they did, and you’ll hear about how a few of the people in the movement felt, but you won’t get any real insight into how things are run. The book is a solid recapping of all that’s happened since Justice League was made—but not much more. I’m not sure it’s worth the price of entry.
3 out of 5 wands.