Studios Should Respect Filmmakers’ Vision and Not Restrict Their Artistic Efforts

Garrett Hartman

 

March 2021 saw the release of Warner Bros.’ Snyder Cut and DC Comics’ Justice League. This newer version of the film, edited under the guidance of original director Zack Snyder, extended the original film's runtime of two hours to a lengthy four, in the process taking a mediocre superhero film, to an impressive epic. 

 

For those who are unaware, in May 2017, a family crisis pulled Snyder away from completing the film ahead of its then-November release date. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film in his place, primarily overseeing post-production.

 

Some have blamed Whedon for the failure of the original film. However, many of the fixes to the film's biggest issues come in the form of the two hours of additional footage. It seems unlikely that Warner Bros. would have approved sending out a four-hour film regardless of which director was behind it. The problem with Justice League was never Whedon or Snyder; the problem was with Warner Bros. itself. 

 

When the film hit the silver screen, it was met with middling reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for the original release gives it a 40 percent rating from critics and a 69 percent audience score, a marked difference from the Snyder Cut’s 71 percent critic rating and 96 percent audience score. Disappointed fans began the call for Warner Bros. to release the original rough cut of the film Snyder had created before his departure -- this movement is arguably what brought us the extended cut four years after the film's original release. 

 

 

When dealing with multimillion-dollar film budgets and high-dollar intellectual property, it makes sense that studios would want to control film production. However, when film or any art becomes more of an industry than an art form, the medium will inevitably suffer. In an interview with UPROXX, Snyder described his time working with Warner Bros. on his cut of Justice League as torturous, seemingly having a dispute with Warner Bros. over wanting to include Green Lantern in the epilogue for the film. A recent Screen Rant article compiles a list of Snyder’s projects that were altered or canceled entirely by Warner Bros. Several Snyder films have multiple released cuts; however, it seems few of these actually contain his true vision for the films. 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the extended edition of Batman v. Superman, which had an additional 30 minutes of content that drastically improved the story, as well as the two hours of improvement added to Justice League, it seems that trusting the artist -- or at least trusting Snyder with his own films --  results in a significantly better product. Art simply isn’t a commodity that can be mass-produced. However, one studio has just about done it. 

 

Disney’s Marvel films have transcended the label of film and become a cultural phenomenon. The release of Marvel’s Avengers Endgame in 2019 was a release like no other. The film was capping off nearly 10 years of interconnected Marvel films beginning all the way back in 2008 with the first Iron Man film. Upon its release, Endgame even briefly snagged the record for the highest-grossing box-office release of all time, before a re-release in China returned that spot to Avatar

 

 

The point is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a massive success. The franchise has 21 films to date with another 11 in the works, not including the Marvel TV shows debuting on Disney Plus. Disney has consistently been churning out two to three Marvel films a year, with massive success. While critics of the franchise make fair complaints about predictability or the snarky quips every protagonist has seemingly contracted from Tony Stark, the films have an undeniable air of quality and charm to them. Disney has stumbled on the perfect combination of artistic trust and commercialism to create a multimedia cash cow rivaling the power and influence of the Star Wars franchise, a concerning prospect considering Disney now owns both of those properties. 

 

For a large corporation, Disney has a pretty good track record for studios producing consistently great work. Similar to the MCU, Pixar has continued creating tremendous films since its acquisition by Disney. While Disney’s monopolistic hold on childhood is arguably a bad thing, its  management seemingly has a good intuition as to whom to trust and how to manage massive properties.

 

 

The pursuit of a massive franchise of its own was likely the motivation for Warner Bros.’ decision to make the DC films like Man Of Steel and Justice League. However, simply having popular superheroes is not enough to make a franchise of the level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The talent and collaboration of the artists and the smart management by Disney is what has created the entertainment behemoth.

 

This desire to find one massive franchise a studio can milk to death is arguably making executives miss how lucrative it can be to just make one good movie. According to MarketWatch, Warner Bros.’ R-rated super-villain origin story, Joker, was a film that executives didn’t anticipate to be a massive success. Made on a small (for films) 50-million dollar budget, Joker was not poised to be a blockbuster hit. However, when it was released, Joker’s global box-office topped $1 billion, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film ever released. 

 

 

20th Century Fox’s Deadpool was a similar success story. Deadpool was another film made on a small budget that was a massive financial success. Joker and Deadpool were massive risks that paid off. In a hyper-saturated comic-book-movie era, these films serve as an edgy and subversive reflection of the fun PG-13 romps of the Avengers.

 

Taking risks and pushing boundaries is what creating art is all about. Instead of pumping millions into films that try to emulate the success of others, studios should consider funding more low-budget films, letting filmmakers take risks, and showing the studio executives what people really want.

 

Author Bio:

Garrett Hartman is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. He is a California State University, Chico student double-majoring in media arts design technology and Journalism/PR. A lover of pop culture, Garret enjoys a wide array of film, television, video games, and literature. However, as a drummer in a rock band and an alt-rock enthusiast, music holds a special place in his heart.

 

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