Zack Snyder, ‘Justice League’, and Cinema as a Tool of Healing

DC Films

Suicide is never an easy thing to discuss. For mental health awareness month and in light of certain events in the news, I personally felt it was important to talk about this. We don’t know the hurt that most other people go through or what really goes on beneath the surface, just what we ourselves personally choose to show the world. Now is a more important time than ever to listen to one another and show compassion in these troubling times.

In May 2017, deep into post-production of his passion project Justice League, director Zack Snyder stepped down from the film to properly deal with a family tragedy. That family tragedy ended up being the tragic suicide of his daughter Autumn Snyder. The studio then brought in Joss Whedon to see the film to completion, and Justice League hit its projected release date of November 2017. Snyder’s true vision lost to time. Or so we thought.

In the following months it was hinted that Snyder had filmed a lot more than was in the final product. Fans everywhere started asking anyone associated with Warner Bros. about his version of the film. Fan campaigns were started, hashtags were created (#ReleaseTheSnyderCut), and some toxic stuff went down including but not limited to online harassment and smear campaigns. But there is was also some positivity in the whirlwind of confusion; people were banding together to raise money for suicide and mental health awareness beginning in 2017 when Zack Snyder tweeted out support of the JED Foundation, leading all the way up to as recent as February 2020 when DC fans raised $32K for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Though there may be some loud, toxic and vitriolic voices in the online space, the campaign for the “Snyder Cut” has unearthed some good attention brought to some very important foundations and their essential work.

Then on May 20th, 2020 it happened. In a bombshell of an announcement following a Q&A after a watch-along with Snyder’s earlier film Man of Steel, he announced that he was putting together a four hour cut of Justice League set to debut on HBO Max sometime in 2021 titled: Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The internet erupted. People began debating the value of a finished film, if HBO/Warner was just giving into toxic fandom, or something more. For me personally, beneath all the messy layers of this, I see a father going through a healing process. Snyder no doubt seems passionate about these characters and stories, regardless of the outcome or reception of said films. To return to a passion project after such an immense and hurtful loss, is probably a part of the healing process. To get closure on one turbulent part of his life and in the same moment pay tribute to the daughter that he lost— who was one of his biggest supporters.

In late 2019, I lost one of my best friends to suicide. This friend meant the absolute world to me as growing up we frequented the cinema every week. We shared dreams, goals in life, and some of my fondest memories together. When I came out as transgender he was one of my biggest supporters and we never stopped remaining friends. Though I didn’t know the struggles or hardships he was facing internally. I took the news of his death very hard. Part of my healing process was continuing to write—screenplays and about movies— as he always said “I better see one of your movies in the cinema one day”. It’s what he would’ve wanted. I’m not saying I know Snyder’s situation, far from it, but I empathise with what he went through and I genuinely believe his heart is in the right place. In these turbulent times, we can all do a little more empathising. 

I don’t see this as a win for toxic fandom, fans, or studios in general. I see this as a win for a grieving father finally being able to deliver his vision to the screen. In a whirlwind of discourse and debate it’s important to remember the most important aspects of all of this: compassion and understanding.

*Note: This essay is dedicated to the memories of Autumn Snyder and Casey Keiper. May your lights shine ever bright.*

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favourite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing your words of compassion as a tribute to lives lost to ambiguities of everyday life. It gave me strength as I too am a sufferer and highly depressed individual, willing to survive only through my writing and reading works like yours.


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