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WB to Zack Snyder: “Thank U, Next”

Moving on.

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So… The Snyder Cut turned out to be pretty good. As a personal triumph for Zack Snyder, it’s hard to deny, and it’s also a much needed hit for HBO Max. Snyder’s press tour has also been a booster club for his planned Justice League Trilogy. He laid out the details to Vanity Fair for a “Five part trilogy” which…the numbers don’t quite add up, but okay.

The rest of Snyder’s trilogy would have seen a dark turn:

Snyder explains how this foreshadows the next two Justice League movies he had in the works: “Darkseid comes to Earth. Superman says to Batman, ‘Guard Lois. This is a war between me and Darkseid. If you can help me as a friend, keep Lois safe.’”

In the midst of these alien attacks, Luthor aligns himself with the invader. “Lex tells Darkseid that the key to Superman’s weaknesses is killing Lois Lane,” Snyder said. “For whatever reason, Batman fails. Darkseid comes back and kills Lois. Batman fails, he hesitates. They were in an argument.”

In other words, Batman is distracted, and Lois dies as a result.

And then:

The filmmaker explained that the MacGuffins of the #SnyderCut—the living, all-powerful machines known as Mother Boxes—would have helped to reverse-engineer history in the final reel of his franchise. “What happens in the post-apocalyptic world is, Cyborg works on an equation to use a Mother Box to jump Flash back in time to warn Bruce about this moment, where he didn’t have the courage to sacrifice himself to save Lois,” Snyder said.

Even with an eye-roll at fridging poor Lois, you can see that this would have been quite a tale. And while Snyder got to film a bit of his head canon dark future with added Joker for the lengthy epilogue, if you’re hoping all these revelations might spark interest at WarnerMedia in making the rest of the SnyderVerse a real thing….don’t count on it.

In a must-read interview with Variety, WarnerMedia head Ann Sarnoff lays out the DC film universe as it’s planned, and while she’s happy Zack got to do his thing, she makes it clear that it is firmly in the past. Sarnoff also has a good grip on a bucket of cold water to throw on any “Ayer Cut” ideas. Fans may wail and cry like a female chorus during a Wonder Woman action scene, but the new vision is the way forward.

I appreciate that they love Zack’s work and we are very thankful for his many contributions to DC. We’re just so happy that he could bring his cut of the “Justice League” to life because that wasn’t in the plan until about a year ago. With that comes the completion of his trilogy. We’re very happy we’ve done this, but we’re very excited about the plans we have for all the multi-dimensional DC characters that are being developed right now.

Well, who wouldn’t be in the mood for some “multi-dimensional DC characters”! Among those things being developed: The Suicide Squad, the John Cena-led Peacemaker spinoff of that, the Matt Reeves/Robert Pattinson Batman, Andy Muschietti’s Flash, the third Wonder Woman film by Patty Jenkins, the Ta-Nehisi Coates-written take on a black Superman and much more. Sarnoff doesn’t immediately seem like a big superhero fan — although her father-in-law Bill Sarnoff was instrumental in Warner Bros. purchasing DC in the first place — but she’s certainly smart enough to know that superheroes are a big part of WarnerMedia’s future, streaming and otherwise. And while the DCEU may never be Feige-tight, they know they need to tie it together:

They saw this character in movies and it had nothing to do with that character in TV. Creating that more unified vision, which is coming together with Peacemaker spinning off of “The Suicide Squad” and you’ll see a lot more of that going forward. You’ll also see original things in businesses that don’t relate, and that’s okay too, but we’re in charge of that decisionmaking about whether to connect dots or not.

We don’t want to be predictable. We want fans to spot Easter Eggs at the end of the movie that relate to a movie or show coming up or a show about to launch on HBO Max. We can harken back to something that was said in “The Flash” movie or there could be a cameo appearance of one of the actors from one movie into a current show.

There have been many attempts at putting a Feige-like figure in charge of Warner’s superheroic efforts, and it just never worked out. But for now, it’s sort of Jim Lee, says Sarnoff.

The connective tissue in the middle is Jim Lee, who oversees DC Comics. Jim lives and breathes the canon of DC and he works with all of the divisions to make sure the storylines are true to the canon. He helps them come up with ideas for new storylines. Jim is very much in the middle of everything. But the group together helps spur on new ideas. But there’s not one person calling the shots, because I want all the voices in the room to offer their expertise and knowledge of their formats.

If Lois Lane is the key to Justice League, then Jim Lee must be the key to all of this, because Snyder also invokes his name when talking about his planned Justice League timeline:

He even enlisted legendary DC Comics artist Jim Lee to help plot out the narrative, which he hopes to include in a book someday. “Jim Lee had done some drawings for me of the entire thing, the entire pantheon all the way to the new Batman after Batman dies,” Snyder said. 

So there is your new Holy Grail: “The Snyder Cut: The Graphic Novel” from concepts by Jim Lee. Break glass in case of the need for a sales boost.

That may be far in the future or never. For now, let everyone take their victory laps, and let’s hope that the folks running Warner Media have a firmer grasp of what makes a superhero movie tick than the ones who created the whole Snyder Cut vs Justice League dynamic in the first place.

(An earlier version of this appeared in The Beat’s weekly newsletter.)

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