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The JSA Killed the Snyder-Verse

BY MATT TUCK

As much as I want to see a Snyder Cut sequel, it is not happening, and you can indirectly blame Marvel and Dwayne Johnson for it.

The fans have spoken, and the hashtags are trending. #RestoretheSnyderverse. Despite the vocal public outcry, the Warner Brothers executives are firm: the Snyder Cut was the end.

Enter: the biggest box-office draw in the world, Mister Action-Comedy himself and executive producer of DC’s hit movie, Shazam!, “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.

Before anyone draws the wrong conclusion, this is not a conspiracy theory. I am not saying Dwayne Johnson and the rest of the Illuminati are pulling the strings to keep the Snyder-verse down. I have nothing against Johnson. I think he is great at what he does, and I have been a fan since his WWE days. As far as I am aware, he has nothing to do with the matter of the Snyder-verse whatsoever, and why would he?

What I am saying is that the future of the DCEU is firmly hinged on his upcoming film, Black Adam, and it will be the centerpiece for DC’s next attempt at duplicating the MCU’s Avengers. Starting with that movie, all roads will lead to the Justice Society of America.

THE ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT DCEU

Not only will Johnson bring Black Adam to life, but the recent news that Pierce Brosnan will portray Doctor Fate only solidifies that the upcoming film is meant to establish the JSA in much the same way that Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice laid the foundation for the Justice League. 

WB may not have made it official just yet, but we all know the JSA is being built around Black Adam. In addition to Teth-Adam and Doctor Fate, there have been casting announcements for Hawkman, Atom Smasher, and Cyclone.

WB is clearly prepping for its next epic team-up movie, and the fan speculation is that Black Adam will set the stage for Shazam! 2. There has been plenty of talk about Henry Cavill reprising his role of Superman for the sequel, though that looks like it will not happen. Even without Superman, having Johnson’s Black Adam battle Zachary Levi’s Shazam/Captain Marvel will make for box office success. Once that movie has wrapped, I expect WB will continue its JSA worldbuilding with the Hourman feature film.

Considering that Hourman is a relatively obscure character, it seemed random that he would get a solo feature film ahead of many better-known properties, like Nightwing, the Atom, or even a big-screen Teen Titans. What this points to is WB looking to compete with Marvel Studios on their own, action-comedy turf. 

THE JSA VS. THE SNYDER-VERSE

WB wanting to appeal more to families and mainstream audiences in general is what truly put the nail in the coffin for the Snyder-verse, at least for now. WB wants a piece of the MCU pie, and their recent movies all fit the Marvel mold.

Even before Joss Whedon’s Justice League underwhelmed audiences everywhere and brought the DCEU to its knees in 2017, Marvel’s formula for success was far ahead of DC on the silver screen.

While Snyder carved out a superhero niche for himself first with Watchmen and then with Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman, fans were divided on his films. There was much to like about all three films, but they were not without their serious flaws. The BVS “Martha” scene still makes me cringe, and Jesse Eisenberg was not right for the part of Lex Luthor. At the time, many fans complained that Man of Steel’s colors were too dark, prompting some editing wizards to brighten the palate on YouTube. 

The result was lackluster performances at the box office. Yes, both movies were overall profitable, but they were nowhere near the level of the MCU. Of course, Snyder has said that he never intended to compete with Marvel, but instead he wanted to create something different in the superhero genre. He certainly accomplished that feat, but I imagine the WB front office had higher expectations, at least in terms of box office prizes. 

As I have theorized before, that may have been why WB hired Joss Whedon to finish Justice League in the first place. Snyder was not looking to battle Marvel for cinematic universe dominion, and, as we see in the Snyder Cut of Justice League, his movie was starkly different than anything in the MCU. So WB brought in Whedon to give the JL an Avengers overhaul, and reportedly that is what the test audiences preferred

Then came the Justice League’s box office nuclear bomb. By and large, fans hated Whedon’s interpretation of the League, but I believe WB got exactly what they paid for; it just didn’t go to plan, obviously.

THE PERFECT STORM FOR THE SNYDER CUT

By 2018, the DCEU was being propped up by the success of the first Wonder Woman movie that preceded Justice League. Wouldn’t you know that Wonder Woman was much closer to being an MCU action-comedy versus Snyder’s brooding entries. WW was equal parts Captain America and Thor, and audiences loved it. Thus, WB followed the same MCU formula for Aquaman, and the combined success of that movie with WW kept the DCEU ship from sinking. 

You could say that the Snyder-verse was four years ahead of its time. Had Zack Snyder completed Justice League in 2017, I have no doubt that it would hardly have outperformed MOS or BVS at the box office, and it likely would have been the end of the Snyder-verse all the same. Fans were not ready for an R-rated Justice League or even a dark, gritty PG-13 JL just like they weren’t ready for it in Snyder’s first two DCEU movies. 

That begs the question, why was the Snyder Cut such an overwhelming success only a week ago? That is simple: fans expected something new and much different than the slapstick comedy routine of Justice League ‘17. The Snyder Cut could only have been such a massive hit under these unique circumstances. If this movie had transpired at any other point, general audiences would not have accepted it.

THE START OF SOMETHING NEW

All that brings me back to my original point: after four years of lighthearted, action-comedy superhero entries like Aquaman, Shazam! and Wonder Woman 84, WB’s top brass clearly has a new path for the DCEU that avoids the Justice League altogether, and there is no place for the Snyder-verse in the new universe. 

The pieces are in motion for a DCEU that trades the JLA for the JSA. Despite the Snyder Cut’s huge win for fans, it is highly unlikely that we will see a sequel. That is why Ann Sarnoff said the Snyder trilogy is complete and done. Frankly, it ended four years ago with 2017’s Justice League.

WB is aiming for the DCEU to compete with Marvel, for better or worse.

For my part, I would love to see a more serious counterpart to the silliness of the MCU. WandaVision’s sitcom slapstick grated my senses like sandpaper, and I could hardly sit through Endgame’s comedy-fest of a time heist. I would welcome a JL sequel in the same vein as the Snyder Cut, but I am afraid that is not in the works, and it may never be. Certainly, launch the hashtags. Keep the dream alive. It worked once, and it could work again. But don’t count on it.

Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.



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