Chris Terrio is shedding light on how Zack Snyder’s Justice League was undermined by its own studio.
In an in-depth interview, the Batman v Superman screenwriter discussed that movie, why he wanted his name removed from Justice League, and why Warner Bros’ demands marred the DCEU.
Batman v Superman complaints
After winning an Oscar for writing Ben Affleck’s Best Picture winner Argo, Terrio was brought in to rewrite Batman v Superman’s script in 2015. Speaking in-depth to Vanity Fair, Terrio is open from the start on how he hated the title.
“I did not name the script. In fact, I found out what the movie was called along with the rest of the world on the internet. I was not consulted on the title of the film, and I was as surprised as anyone. I heard it 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.”
Terrio was also upset about the studio cutting almost half an hour from the film’s theatrical release which he claims marred it. A special “extended cut” with the restored footage was later released for home media and digital.
Terrio also revealed that the film was “overly dark” when he got the script and included a scene at the end where Batman brands Lex Luthor. Terrio complained this not only too dark but also ruined Batman’s character development by letting go of his brutal measures to become a true hero after Superman’s death.
“That ending was a point over which I explicitly went to the mat with the studio again and again. I argued that Batman cannot end the movie continuing this behavior, which amounted to torture, because then the movie was endorsing what he did.”
“It’s one thing if Batman begins the movie as a dark version of himself whom we don’t recognize, but he has to see the error of his ways and remember his better self in the course of the movie. By the end of the movie, he needs to be the Batman we know, and he has to be ready to go and create the Justice League. Otherwise, I said, what was the point?”
The disappointing reception to the film created what Terrio says was a “mood of fear” among Warner Bros executives, which influenced Justice League.
Justice League’s lack of setup
Terrio’s worries continued when he was brought to work with Snyder for Justice League. As he openly relates, Warner Bros showed a distinct lack of planning for the movie, including no Aquaman or Wonder Woman setups.
“[Kevin] Tsujihara, as far as I can tell, and the brass at the very top, decided the order of the films. I was not consulted on the order of the films, even though I was the person writing Justice League. They just determined that it was going to be Batman/Superman, and then Wonder Woman, then Justice League, and then Aquaman. So there was never any thought to how the world was constructed before they issued this edict. They said, ‘Conform to this schedule.'”
“The Wonder Woman script wasn’t even finished when I wrote Justice League. So I had no basis to write Wonder Woman other than Batman [vs.] Superman. Themyscira didn’t even exist. I was never shown anything on the page for it…It was all just from scratch because there had been no [solo] character films.”
Hating the theatrical cut
Terrio did his best to lighten up the characters and built up Ray Fisher’s Cyborg but was dismayed at the rewrites and reshoots instigated by Joss Whedon, to the point he wanted his name removed from the film.
“I didn’t realize how much of the film was going to be changed—or vandalized, in my opinion,” Terrio said. “It became clear as I spoke to various actors that it was a wholesale dismantling of what had been there before. I did not hear from anyone who said it was a pleasant experience.”
Terrio warmly discusses how proud he is of the Snyder Cut showing the vision of the film he and the director were going for.
“That is the thing about this version of Justice League, that none of it was done cynically or as a money grab, or an attempt to sell Happy Meal toys. It really was personal for me and for Zack and for many of the actors.”
The full interview is one of the best explanations of how the DCEU got off to such a rough start.
Justice League the Snyder Cut streaming on HBO Max.