Some years back, I was involved in a film project that, in retrospect, was doomed from the start, but of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I hadn’t made anything in a while, so I got involved when I shouldn’t have and ignored repeated warning signs. To quote a line from the great Bojack Horseman, “When you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like regular flags.”
One of the people was not a producer, had no experience being a producer, brought nothing to the table to earn the right of being a producer other than having made an introduction early in the process, and yet, was not only a producer on the project, but they ended up calling all the shots. I blame myself for this, for allowing it to happen, but, again, I wasn’t in the best place, and mistakenly thought that, by constantly acceding to the whims and demands of this person, I was keeping the peace and preventing the project from going off the rails. In fact, the exact opposite happened.
Once this person realized that I wasn’t going to stand up to them as much as I should have, they were no longer satisfied with my subservience. No, this person kept pushing it, further and further, simply because they could. They went out of their way to undermine me — really, to completely destroy me, if possible — and consolidate power for themselves, regardless of what it meant to the project.
In this case, it meant death, and this thing that had so much potential died quite badly.
Again, I blame myself for a good deal of what happened, because I should have known better. I’d been in similar situations before and should have seen how it would go, but I was blinded by two mistaken notions: a need to make something I was proud of regardless of the obstacles, and a sure belief that I could fix everything and ultimately save it.
But, while the whole thing was a miserable experience, it was not a truly negative one, because I learned a great deal from it. One of the key lessons was the reminder that allowing a bully to get their way never placates them, it only encourages them to try and take more. The only way to truly stop a bully is by saying “no,” and proverbially punching them in the nose.
Which brings me to the news that emerged last week about how many people at Warner Bros. quietly believe that last year’s release of Zack Snyder’s four-hour cut of Justice League was an enormous mistake.
The thinking at the time was that, by releasing this thing (on HBO Max), the studio would mollify Snyder’s rabid fanbase and they would go away, satisfied that their voices were heard and that they had a say in the kind of content that a massive corporation made.
It was an impressive victory for the “Snyder Cut” crowd, to say the least, but as many of the folks in the executive suites now realize, giving bullies what they want does not make them happy — it only makes them want more.
And make no mistake, Zack Snyder and his fans are bullies. They comprise a troll army that is almost Trumpian in its behavior, fervently believing that its hero is a genius filmmaking god who can do no wrong, and whose work has layers and subtext that the man himself could never actually conceive. The object of such idolatry, for his part, does nothing to discourage this behavior. On the contrary, after Adam Wingard asked Snyder to get his fans to stop review-bombing Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong, Snyder showed empathy but reportedly refused to call off the proverbial dogs, saying in a later statement that “I do not control my fans. They have their own will and their own opinions; you really give me too much credit.”
But is that really true, or is it the very essence of false humility and bad faith? Snyder’s fans take their cues from Snyder to some extent, so while he claims they are beyond his control, and nothing more than fans, many are actually members of the so-called media — fanboys with megaphones who trumpet out Snyder’s propaganda as if it is gospel. For instance, the circumstances under which Snyder originally left the Justice League project years ago are not what Snyder claims they are. I know this first hand, from several different sources who were either directly involved or had intimate knowledge of the whole affair. And yet, plenty of so-called journalists who should know better parrot WB’s company line to a pathetic, pandering degree, regardless of its verisimilitude.
For all the credit that Snyder’s fans give him, his truest gift is not as a filmmaker, but as a self-promoter. At that, he is a genius, stoking the fires of his own fandom to get what he wants under the guise of it being what The People want, all while he denies pulling, let alone even holding, the strings.
Snyder banged the drums for months to get his cut of Justice League out there, constantly dropping hints and making it seem like he had finished a movie that he hadn’t come anywhere close to finishing. That’s why Warner Bros. had to reportedly spend $70 million to complete it. The Snyder Cut wasn’t a thing at all, it was a figment of his imagination that he willed into being by banging his shoe against the lectern until he got what he wanted — excuse me, what “the fans” wanted. For that, he should be commended, as should his followers — both witting and unwitting — who helped him make it happen. They fooled Warner Bros. once but the real shame would be if the studio allowed it to happen again.
The studio clearly believed that the bullies — Snyder’s fans — would be sated by the HBO Max release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and for more than a year they’ve been seeing just how wrong they were. Instead of saying “thank you” and moving on, the bullies have instead dug in their heels and demanded more, because that’s what bullies do when you give them what they want. They want the reins of the DCEU handed back to Snyder (who seems perfectly comfortable making Rebel Moon movies for Netflix, they want David Ayer and Cathy Yan to have their own cuts of Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey released, and they want Henry Cavill back as Superman. They want this, that, and the other thing, and until WB tells them they can’t have something, they will continue to expect the studio to acquiesce. Otherwise, they’ll be forced to bully executives into submission again with billboards and skywriters and who knows what else.
You would think that in a town full of bullies, the situation that WB finds itself in would have occurred to its leaders. Personally, I am an enormous admirer of Toby Emmerich, the head of Warner Bros. at the time the Snyder Cut decision was made, but there is no denying that he and his team made a horrible miscalculation here.
I know hindsight is 20/20 and all, but it wouldn’t have taken a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to see at the time that this was only going to encourage Snyder and his fans. I know this because I am neither a brain surgeon nor a rocket scientist, and I said this aloud to several industry friends when the announcement was made, predicting, and I quote, “This is not going to end well.” Sure enough, it did not, and here we are.
The new Warner Bros. overlords need to nip this practice in the bud, and they need to do it today. A simple announcement that the studio will be starting from scratch with regards to its DC characters, thereby pulling the plug on the Zack Snyder era and reiterating that he will no longer have anything to do with its stable of characters, nor will any amount of begging, pleading, demands or threats change this. That would be a good first step. The next would be to move on as if the whole thing never happened.
Bullies need to be told “no.” Barring that, they need to be punched in the nose. These Snyder trolls are no different. We’ll see how new Warner Bros. Discovery boss David Zaslav decides to deal with them.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.