Batman V Superman and Justice League screenwriter Chris Terrio has openly discussed his disappointment in the theatrical cuts of the films.
In an in-depth interview with Vanity Fair, Terrio broke down how corporate meddling and misleading marketing resulted in a mixed reception for the two movies.
Terrio previously worked on the Academy Award-winning film Argo with Ben Affleck. When Affleck was cast as Batman, Terrio was brought on to help assuage the actor’s concerns. However, since Terrio came to the project a little late, he had to work with a pre-existing draft.
Ben [Affleck] called me and said that he was working on this film, which was a Superman film in which he was going to play Batman. So he asked if I would read the script and consider doing a rewrite. He asked if I would do some character work. So it was already determined and storyboarded that Batman was going to be trying to kill Superman and that Batman was going to have gone down a dark road. He was branding criminals, and it had certain dark elements that were non-negotiable and already in the story.
How weird and interesting that Batman branding criminals was already in the initial draft. However, Terrio wanted to inject character work and motivations into the story. Bruce Wayne’s motives clicked when Terrio came up with the idea of Wayne being traumatized by the events of Man of Steel.
Chris Terrio Hates the Name ‘Batman V Superman’
Chris Terrio did not mince words about the title of the movie. He hated the title Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. According to him, it misled theater goers into thinking that the film would be a brainless fight fest.
I heard [the title] and I thought, It just sounds self-important and clueless in a way. Tone-deaf. The intention of the film was to do something interesting and dark and complex, not quite as Las Vegas, bust ’em up, WWE match as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice…
Anything and everything was attacked because the reviewers questioned the motives behind the film. And to some extent, I don’t blame them. The marketing promised this mindless fight movie, and any attempt to make something real or complicated was just met with anger and vitriol because [the audience] just didn’t assume good intentions.
Ultimately, Terrio’s biggest issue with the film is that the theatrical version cuts out too much of the background and character work. This resulted in the movie making less sense.
I was proud of the script when I completed it, but it turns out that when you remove the 30 minutes that give the characters motivation for the climax, the film just doesn’t work…That stuff was later restored in the extended version. I guess it’s called the [The Ultimate Edition].
So this house of cards that had been built in order to motivate this clash between America’s two favorite heroes made no sense at all. That was what happened with Batman/Superman. The movie was always was going to be dark… But what hurt was the criticism that the script was not coherent, because when I turned in the script to the studio—which they, by all accounts, were happy with—it made sense.
Chris Terrio Hates the ‘Justice League’ Theatrical Cut
After a mixed experience writing Batman V Superman, Chris Terrio had an even worse experience writing Justice League. According to him, the studios gave even more notes. To make matters worse, when Zack Snyder stepped away from the film, a huge chunk of Terrio’s script was re-written by Joss Whedon.
The other issue while writing Justice League, the studio was adamant that the film should be under two hours. However, that task proved to be insurmountable given the number of characters in it.
When the movie was taken away [from Zack Snyder], that felt like it was some directive that had come from people who are neither filmmakers nor film-friendly—the directive to make the movie under two hours, regardless of what the movie needed to do, and to make the colors brighter, and to have funny sitcom jokes in it… So Justice League needed to establish three of the characters; it had to create a long game mythology for the DC Universe. It had to resurrect Superman because he was dead at the end of the last movie. I just don’t know how you could do all that in under two hours. Maybe the 2017 release proved that you couldn’t.
Taking his name off ‘Justice League’
Eventually, when Terrio saw the theatrical cut of the film, he was so disgusted by it, he wanted to take his name off the writing credits. Unfortunately, it was too late, since the movie’s print reels were already created and distributed with Terrio’s name in the credits.
I drove to the studio and I sat down and watched it a couple of weeks before release. I immediately called my lawyer and said, “I want to take my name off the film.” [The lawyer] then called Warner Bros. and told them that I wanted to do that.
Prints had already been struck or hard drives burned or however they deliver movies these days. The elements were on their way, and to remove my name they would have had to restrike the prints or redo the digital copies, and the film could be delayed. It would be an international scandal and news story. So I shut up and I said nothing publicly. I’ve never said anything about Justice League since then, but the movie doesn’t represent my work.
On ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’
In the end, Chris Terrio is relieved that his uncut version of the Justice League script lives on in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. He considers it to be a stronger, if unruly movie.
I am so happy and relieved that all these thousands of artists and craftspeople all over the world finally can have their work seen by the public, and all the work that Zack and the actors put into this can now be seen. It’s sort of a gift that we got from HBO Max, because it wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago… It might’ve been a big, unruly beast, and obviously it’s four hours and the movie is maximalist and it’s operatic and, sure, it’s a little crazy, but I think the movie is crazy in the best way.
HBO Max currently carries both Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Batman V Superman: The Ultimate Cut.
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