Justice League Was Apparently Micromanaged Even More Than We Thought

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/DC Comics.

When Joss Whedon was hired by Warner Bros. to help Zack Snyder re-shape the superhero cross-over film Justice League, the news came with an extra layer of significance. Whedon once served directer of two of Marvel Studios’ Avengers films and acted in a supervisory capacity for several more. His departure from that studio, after a well-publicized creative battle over Avengers: Age of Ultron, wasn’t an entirely pleasant one. Would Whedon’s new home at the rival comic book studio offer him what Marvel couldn’t: complete creative control? According to a new report, the answer—at least when it comes to Justice League—is: not quite.

When Whedon first signed on to help with Justice League, Snyder was still working on the project. The Batman v. Superman director then exited entirely due to a family tragedy—leaving Whedon to complete the project. Justice League producer Charles Roven told The Washington Times that Whedon re-shot “15, 20 percent of the movie,” but some rumors (and the tell-tale digitally-altered lip on star Henry Cavill) indicate Whedon’s contributions may have been much higher. He certainly had the unenviable task of creating a coherent narrative while, thanks to the studio’s order to bring Justice League in under two hours, hacking nearly an hour of Snyder’s original footage out of the completed project.

Though he goes uncredited as a co-director, Whedon’s contribution was so significant that die-hard Zack Snyder fans seem to believe there is a full, workable cut of Snyder’s Justice League out there and are demanding it be released. Though some of the cut footage—which erased Willem Dafoe’s Aquaman character Vulko and Kiersey Clemons’ Flash character Iris West from the film—that leaked online show’s Synder’s version of the film very far from done. Still, according to the Snyder faithful, all the issues with Justice League can be laid at Whedon’s feet. But it’s not accurate to give him that much credit.

Even those early reviewers who tweeted positively about Justice League, had to admit that the tonal clash between Whedon’s light-hearted take on superheroes and Snyder’s grim and dour one was significant. Apparently Warner Bros. stepped in to curtail Whedon a bit in order to make that transition a little smoother—starting with the film’s opening scene. In Batman action sequence that reads as both slapstick and grim, Ben Affleck’s caped crusader tracks down Holt McCallany’s burglar on the rooftops of Gotham. The scene opens with them, naturally, at odds and ends with them amicably parting ways so if it felt like there was something missing—that’s because there was.

McCallany—whose dry wit made him an instant favorite on Netflix’s Mindhunter—told Men’s Fitness: “I love Joss Whedon. My scene with Batman was originally conceived as a comedic scene. That’s how Joss wrote it, and that’s how we shot it. I thought it came out great, but the studio felt it would be a mistake to open the film with a completely comedic scene, so it was re-edited a little bit. I was disappointed.” It would appear Warner Bros. acted with a heavier hand on Whedon’s work than some had originally believed. No wonder the film is struggling at the box office.

This article first appeared in vanityfair.com

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