Praise be “Aquaman” — does the DCEU even deserve Zack Snyder?

Ben Affleck and Zack Snyder on set

Zack Snyder was supposed to be the DCEU's champion but is he to blame for past failures?

American filmmaker Zack Snyder had a glorious future ahead of him when he stepped up to the challenge of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). He had proven with 2009's Watchmen that he could bring frightening and staggering worlds from the page and onto the cinema screen, translating the vision from one medium to another while adding his own artistic flourishes. After the film - which may be one of the best superhero efforts ever made - many called for him to continue a career in comic book adaptations; he did just that. 

After such duds as Sucker Punch and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Snyder arrived at Man of Steel, a long-awaited, more sincere Superman outing, or at least that was the plan. There are things that Snyder did very well with the film, which marked the launch of the DCEU. It was created to compete with the MCU but also offer a tonal alternative, and fortunately, enough audiences were invested to continue the journey with the next instalment in the franchise. 

The follow-up - 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - remains rather fascinating. Acting as the second entry into the DCEU, Snyder's ambitious crossover was teased as one of the most exciting blockbusters of the decade, and when trailers arrived the project became one of the most widely anticipated in recent memory. How would this film work? General audiences couldn't wait to find out. However, when it arrived it was met with critical hostility, followed by baffled scrutiny from the general public. To this day, it remains one of the most divisive high-concept movies of the century. 

It's frustrating, because if you isolate certain elements of the film then there is a lot to admire. Perhaps there was simply far too much to introduce in one feature, as only Superman had been introduced prior. This does help to explain why the extended cut is the superior version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was a mess, but a perplexingly promising one. Were we still ready for Snyder's three-hour Justice League? Apprehensively, yes. It's a shame we never saw it. 

As reported by ScreenRant, Snyder's script for Justice League was never even shot. The film is the lowest-grossing DCEU effort to date and would certainly be the most abysmal if not for the existence of David Ayer's Suicide Squad, of which the director also expresses dissatisfaction with the final product. Snyder had so much to cram into Batman v Superman that it literally feels set to burst. Yet, now that all of these characters had been established, Snyder's vision could finally have materialised with a mammoth cut of Justice League. Audiences are currently overjoyed that Avengers: Endgame will be over three-hours long, so runtime isn't quite the touchy issue it once was. 

Obviously, the two-hour cut of Justice League had been butchered. Although, perhaps what many were not aware of is that the material which had been butchered didn't even conform to Snyder's vision to begin with. So, the mythical "Snydercut" which fans often plead for wouldn't really make up for the fact that he was cheated of delivering audiences his true superhero culmination. He had to exit the film towards the very end as a result of his daughter's tragic passing, and the project was taken over by Joss Whedon. Despite his takeover, Justice League isn't Whedon's, neither is it Snyder's; it's the studios' Frankenstein's monster. 

Many argue that the DCEU is on track now after such spectacular hits as Aquaman and Wonder Woman, with directors like Patty Jenkins and James Wan injecting fun and heart into the franchise, far from the more nihilistic and sinister content of Snyder's efforts. The studios are clearly onto something with both of these properties, as fans are counting down the days for Wonder Woman 1984 next year.

On paper, it's clear that Snyder' absence has helped save the reputation of the DCEU. On the other hand, if they'd have kept their faith in him for Justice League, we could have witnessed something potentially extraordinary, far beyond the aforementioned recent hits. It was a harsh decision to scrap it completely, so perhaps the studio doesn't deserve to discover what could have been. Fans will remain forever curious. 

In other news, is there a reason behind Wonder Woman 1984's severe delay?

Have something to tell us about this article?