In 2017, film director Zack Snyder, known for hits like 300, Wonder Woman, Watchmen or The Man of Steel, I was finishing The Justice League, the movie that was going to blow the box office around the world at the end of that year. Suddenly, he was struck by one of the worst tragedies that can happen to a parent: his daughter Autumn committed suicide. Snyder was absolutely devastated, but it was still a few months before he left the project. A very hard period mainly because of the loss and family tragedy, but also because Warner Bros., the studio that financed the film, did not agree with many of Snyder’s decisions for his film and the filmmaker was forced to fight each one of his movements.
As Snyder told Sean O’Connell, author of the forthcoming book Release the Snyder Cut: The Crazy True Story Behind the Fight That Saved Zack Snyder’s Justice League, I was tired”. “It was clear to me that my family needed me more than all this shit (…). I didn’t have the energy to fight the studio and fight for the movie. Literally zero energy for that. I am convinced that this was the main reason [para abandonar la película]. Every film is a fight, right? He was used to that, but he didn’t have the energy. He didn’t feel like fighting. I had defeated what was happening in my life and I couldn’t, I didn’t care ”.
So Warner commissioned Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and director of two of the Avengers movies (and one that has made headlines recently due to numerous allegations of abusive and unacceptable behavior on set throughout his career). Whedon decided to redo much of Snyder’s work to suit the studio’s requests and made many decisions that went against the spirit of the initial script, but managed to finish the film on time and release it later that year. The result? A critical and box office failure.
Since then, there has been speculation about the existence of another version of the film, more than four hours long. A montage that Snyder himself had made before leaving the project, but that the studio had never accepted. DC’s fan forums blazed after the Whedon film’s premiere fiasco, and outrage eventually crystallized into an internet movement calling for Warner to bring this Snyder montage to light. His motto /hashtag it was #ReleaseTheSnyderCut (that is, “release Snyder’s version”).
The pressure from the fans continued and, little by little, his actions were gaining support, even among some of the actors who had participated in the production, such as Jason Momoa or Ray Fisher. At the end of 2019, after a change of direction at Warner, the studio finally met with Snyder and the new version began the path of its premiere, which will take place on March 18 on HBO.
In short: the fans achieved their goal. The studio yielded and we will finally be able to see the very extensive new version of The Justice League which, it seems, will be much better than its predecessor.
You might think then that the fans, in this case, have achieved something good. But we must forget that a part of those who claimed Snyder’s version engaged in harassment and cyberbullying behavior against Warner executives and managers who had decision-making power over the film. “You have to listen to the fan,” says screenwriter Paloma Rando, who raises another interesting question. “Normally he has devoted a lot of time to the work of which he is a follower and in some cases he can bring other perspectives that enrich the writer or creator. But listening to it does not necessarily mean paying attention to it. Adjusting to what a fan expects often means giving up on surprising them. In the audiovisual, as in other cultural industries that, as industries, are conservative, success tends to be replicated and that is why formulas, genres and faces are repeated to try to secure a future viewer. The problem with new measurement systems is that recording the viewer’s behavior in greater detail only means predicting in the frame in which one analyzes, but it is impossible to determine whether going outside of that frame can lead to a success or not (this in the case that we only want to take into account the number of viewers) ”.
The danger of the fan as a co-creator
Obviously, the case of Zack Snyder’s Justice LeagueAlthough it is perhaps the most famous that has been produced so far, it is not the only one of its kind. There are quite a few more examples, such as what happened to Sonic the movie whose protagonist, Sega’s blue hedgehog, was redesigned at the discretion of the gamers and after the initial reactions of disgust on the internet to the appearance of the character; or the petition, which is currently gaining a lot of support, for Marvel Studios to produce a spinoff (that is, an independent story with an already known character) with one of the secondary characters of Scarlet Witch and Vision, FBI Agent Jimmy Woo. The fans have even already made clear the argument of the series that they want: “As File X, but from Marvel “.
The fan phenomenon, especially with regard to the most commercial science fiction or fantasy productions, has not stopped growing in recent years. But that should not directly imply that its strength and importance, which has multiplied thanks to social networks and the internet, has to be so great as to influence the script or the aesthetics of films and series. Jim Carrey himself, who participated in the Sonic movie playing the evil Doctor Robotnik, declared at an event of the Association of TV Critics of the United States that he had his doubts about what had happened with the film: “I don’t know very Well how do I feel about the idea of the public being part of the creative process when it is still in full development ”, he declared.
As it almost always happens, The Simpsons they also predicted the danger of this fan power. In the episode Beyond the dome of failure Mel Gibson blindly listens to all of Homer’s suggestions regarding his version of Knight without sword, ending with a movie that is total nonsense. Homer, at the beginning of that chapter, is part of a typical audience, chosen to study their reaction to a certain version of a film, something that has been done in Hollywood for many years, although not everyone in the film industry agrees. I agree to do this type of testing.
Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter of the 90s classic, Basic instinct, he told in his biography Hollywood Animal that the film worked and swept the box office because it was released without paying attention to the results of the test passes, in which the spectators left outraged that the reluctance and the good ones ended fatally. In his next project, the thriller Sliver, the ending was changed to suit the tastes of the public, including the identity of the murderer. The result, if anyone remembers it, was disastrous.
Write scripts at the stroke of click
This control that fans try to have over their favorite series and movies seems to want to imitate the operation of the algorithms (of Spotify or Instagram) that decide for us what we are going to see, but in a different sense. In this case, instead of the platforms delimiting the products that they offer us according to our previous decisions, it is the public itself that tries to define the freedom of the creators to produce the content as they wish.
But not only that: without realizing it, we are all influencing the film productions of the future by choosing what to watch as we cook dinner. Platforms use analytics big data of your own users to discover their tastes and reactions to what they are seeing.
According to Cary Fukunaga, the creator of the series Maniac, to the magazine GQ After the premiere on Netflix, when the platform executives reviewed the scripts, they proposed changes directly based on the analysis they had carried out through big data. According to Fukunaga, Netflix has calculated the number of viewers it will win or lose depending on what happens on the screen, which has implications in the writing phase of the scripts. Pedro Almodóvar also complained about this a few months ago in the interview he gave to ICON on the occasion of the launch of his short film The human voice: “I get along fatal with the algorithm, from the outset because it makes me very angry not to call it algorithm, which is what the body asks of me, and because in my case it never gets its recommendations right. I am not the typical spectator of series, although I see some, but I know from other colleagues that the large platforms control the rhythm of the dramaturgy with the happy algorithm in hand. And although that works for them, it is something that terrifies and horrifies me ”.
The algorithm or paying attention to the fans, therefore, ensures the shot, but leaves no room for surprise or, perhaps, for genius. “Many of the books, movies and series that I have liked the most were not directed at me, an algorithm could never have predicted that I would like them,” says Paloma Rando. “That feeling, like sneaking into someone else’s conversation, has always been gratifying to me. Like zapping and coming up with a movie that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And I think the tension between giving the viewer what they expect and taking them to another place that they would not have imagined can be enriching. I think that more and more there is a tendency to make content tailored to the viewer, which can end up giving rise to a suit that is too narrow. It’s the creators’ job to bust those seams and the industry’s job to be able to take some risk. Historically, it has always been like this ”, he concludes.
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