Jose Lopez contributed to this article.
After four years of online demands, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, also known as “The Snyder Cut,” was finally released via HBO Max on March 18, 2021. Previously, 2017’s Justice League was released to lukewarm reception from both critics and fans, and it generated less at the box office than 2013’s Man of Steel. With the Snyder Cut’s release, and public backlash against Joss Whedon, who reshot the previous film, is this a potential renaissance for the Snyderverse?
Well, it’s complicated.
|Film||Release Date||Critic Score||Audience Rating||Split||Domestic Opening||Domestic Gross||Worldwide Gross|
|Man of Steel||June 12, 2013||56%||75%||-19%||$116,619,362||$291,045,518||$668,045,518|
|Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice||March 25, 2016||45%||69%||-24%||$166,007,347||$330,360,194||$873,637,528|
|Suicide Squad||August 5, 2016||41%||60%||-19%||$133,682,248||$325,100,054||$746,846,894|
|Wonder Woman||June 2, 2017||76%||62%||14%||$103,251,471||$412,815,408||$822,303,505|
|Justice League||November 17, 2017||46%||63%||-17%||$93,842,239||$229,024,295||$657,926,987|
|Aquaman||December 21, 2018||56%||69%||-14%||$67,873,522||$335,061,807||$1,148,485,886|
|Shazam!||April 5, 2019||71%||76%||-5%||$53,505,326||$140,371,656||$365,971,656|
|Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)||February 7, 2020||61%||39%||22%||$33,010,017||$84,158,461||$201,858,461|
|Wonder Woman 1984*||December 25, 2020||60%||55%||5%||$16,700,000||$44,953,000||$164,053,000|
|Zack Snyder’s Justice League**||March 18, 2021||56%||90%||-34%||N/A||N/A||N/A|
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wonder Woman 1984 was released to both theaters and HBO Max on the same day.
**Zack Snyder’s Justice League was an HBO Max exclusive.
Similar to my analysis of Avengers: Endgame, I created composite critic and audience scores for the DCEU using both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic while compiling box office numbers from Box Office Mojo. While the franchise has generated $5.6 billion globally, it’s been met with lukewarm reception from both critics and audiences. On average, DCEU films have scored roughly 57% with critics, indicating mixed reviews. Audiences have been slightly more forgiving, with an average score of 66%—a 9 point difference.
The films haven’t done poorly at the box office prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, averaging $564,912,943.50 worldwide. Nevertheless, recent releases have failed to interest domestic audiences, and then the pandemic hit, hurting revenue even more.
What does this mean for the Snyder Cut, which is an HBO Max exclusive but is so far the audience favorite? Does this mean Warner Bros. honors Snyder’s vision for the franchise, using his proposed stories as blueprints? Or will they go in a different direction entirely, especially considering the divisive nature of his DC trilogy?
It should be noted that, with the exception of 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84), non-Snyder films featuring Justice League’s core heroes have done reasonably well. James Wan’s Aquaman (2018), which critics panned and fans found okay, remains the franchise’s highest-grossing film at $1.1 billion. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman (2017), the critics’ top choice, grossed over $822 million. Even David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016), which featured mere cameos of Batman and The Flash, grossed over $746 million (and won an Oscar for costume design).
All three films have upcoming sequels. Wonder Woman is getting a third film, despite the tepid response to WW84. Aquaman 2 is still set for release in December 2022. Suicide Squad’s sequel/reboot debuts this summer. Meanwhile, films like 2019’s Shazam! and 2020’s Birds of Prey (BoP) each grossed less than $400 million. While Shazam! is getting a sequel set to debut in 2023, plans for a BoP sequel have been canceled.
One thing is currently to the Snyder Cut’s advantage: WB, and maybe the industry as a whole, is seemingly making a pivot to streaming. Some of it was out of necessity due to the pandemic. Some of it was out of foresight. DC is already planning several HBO Max exclusives such as Green Lantern, Justice League Dark, and Peacemaker TV shows as well as Static Shock, Batgirl and Zatanna films. If this can be a major driver for HBO Max subscriptions, similar to Hamilton, The Mandalorian, and Soul for Disney+, it’ll be a huge win whether or not Snyder is part of the studio’s long-term plans. So far, it sounds like “his watch has ended.” However, WB said the same thing about the Snyder Cut before and here we are today.
Truthfully, I think Snyder will return to DC in some capacity, but he won’t be steering the ship. His relationship with the studio, actors, and fans likely grants him more opportunities, but perhaps smaller projects will suit him better than managing a full cinematic universe.
One thing is certain, however: fans love Zack Snyder’s Justice League. That may have to suffice.