As superhero movies go, Zach Snyder’s Justice League was legendary before anyone had ever seen even a minute of the 4-hour-long remake. Actually, to call it a remake isn’t entirely accurate. If you ask a fan, they’ll tell you this is the version that was always meant to be.
Snyder was the original director of the 2017 film before leaving the project due to intense personal circumstances. Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon, who had previously directed the Avengers movie and its sequel for Marvel, to finish the project with the footage already captured. The film was considered a bomb, with Warner Brothers losing a reported $60 million after spending $300 million on one of the most expensive films ever made.
It was also widely panned by critics and fans, leading to calls for Warner Bros. to release what became known as the “Snyder Cut.” When WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, one of the things it made clear was that it would finally do just that. The company even agreed it would spend another $70 million–on top of what it already lost on the original–on a film it would never release in theaters. It would be exclusive to the new streaming service.
Now it’s here. I’m not really qualified to say whether it’s a great movie. I’m not a film critic, or even a huge superhero movie fan, for that matter. The reviews on that appear to be mixed, mostly based on a few peculiar decisions made by Snyder that affect the overall watching experience.
For example, the film was released with a 4:3 aspect ratio, instead of the widescreen most people have grown used to for feature films. As a result, if you watch the film on your large screen television, you’ll have black bars on both sides–meaning the best device to watch this film on is probably an iPad.
Also, did I mention it was over four hours long? Still, that doesn’t matter, considering the only people who are really likely to watch this film are super fans–it’s hard to imagine anyone else sitting down for an afternoon to watch it.
And, of course, you have to be an HBO Max subscriber. You can’t watch it in theaters. Then again, that’s the point.
It might seem counterintuitive considering we’re talking about spending $70 million, which is real money, on something for which you’ve already lost almost that much. And, it’s a film that casual audiences probably won’t care that much about anyway.
Except, the fact that WarnerMedia decided to make the film at all was an incredible win for its brand. It told DC Comics fans that the studio was invested in those characters in the same way Disney is invested in all things Marvel.
It also got the studio months of excitement as super fans waited for the version of the film they wanted to see. Sure, catering to super fans is expensive in this case, but even if they’re the only people who really care, they are absolutely who you should absolutely make things for. Those are the people who will absolutely sign up for your streaming service if you give them what they want.
Finally, WarnerMedia already said it would release all of its feature films this year on HBO Max at the same time it releases them in studios. This move just shows that the company is all-in on streaming. It shows that the studio is committed to building out its already formidable content library with exactly what its fans want, giving them even more reasons to sign up, and more importantly, to stick around.