It’s hard to tell who is in control at Warner Bros. these days. The mouth is saying one thing while the hands are doing another. The latest evidence of this comes from the opening scene of the studio’s new film, Justice League. If it seemed to you like it stopped short, it wasn’t just you.
The opening scene of Justice League has Batman tangling with a random criminal, with their encounter interrupted by one of antagonist Steppenwolf’s Parademons. The executives apparently weren’t digging Whedon’s direction for the scene and cut it short, according to actor Holt McCallany, who played the hoodlum in that scene.
“My scene with Batman was originally conceived to be a comedic scene,” he said in an interview with Men’s Fitness. “That’s how Joss wrote it, and that’s how we shot it. I thought it came out great, but the studio felt it would be a mistake to open the film with a completely comedic scene, so it was re-edited a little bit. I was disappointed.”
Studio executives at WB have talked about courting directors with unique visions, going so far as to announce DC Comics movies that aren’t part of the rapidly-expanding DCEU. Meanwhile, though, they seemingly can’t stop themselves from fiddling around with each and every DC film they make. In this case, it seems especially misguided.
One only has to look as far as Whedon’s other superhero flicks to see that comedy plays well in superhero movies. Or just walk one screen over at the mulitplex to Thor: Ragnarok. That movie is, by most metrics, a comedy first. It still managed to have some of the best comic-book moments to hit a superhero film in a while. Not every scene can be comedic, sure, but if anyone is equipped to handle a comedic Batman scene, it’s Joss Whedon. The WB execs need to put the blinders on and let directors work on their movies if they want to make good on getting some unique visions that aren’t Zack Snyder in the DCEU
McCallany had fun filming with Affleck as Batman all the same.
“In some of the takes, my character fights back with a litle more but no success. I have my own fight style based on techniques I’ve learned over the years of boxing and working in films, and I got to use that here. In this case, it’s fighting a superhero, so it’s tougher – Batman can do a lot of things other guys can’t do.”
McCallany said that Whedon sent him a bottle of wine and an apology letter upon learning the scene would be changed.
This all leads me to hope once again that there’s a director’s cut or ultimate cut on the way that can restore some of what the executives cut out. There’s a good movie in there, I think, but it seems more and more like a case of too many cooks.