How Warner Bros. Forced Justice League to Be Funnier

By Richard Nebens Posted:
Superman, Cyborg, Flash

Justice League director Zack Snyder shared how Warner Bros. forced the DCEU team-up movie to be funnier.

The story behind Snyder's work with DC's premier team of heroes is the stuff of infamy at this point, particularly considering the widely mixed reaction to its release from critics, fans, and even the studio itself.

Snyder's entire franchise faced its fair share of criticism, and even though the director has admitted he wouldn't change anything, those comments still became part of this controversial superhero story.

This is even true after Snyder described the struggles he went through with production for Zack Sndyer's Justice League, much of which came from his disagreements with Warner Bros. over what was in the extensive movie.

Warner Bros.' Requests for Justice League Humor

Joining directors Joe and Anthony Russo on their Pizza Film School podcast, director Zack Snyder discussed his work with Warner Bros. on Justice League, specifically how the studio wanted the movie to be funnier.

The Russos looked back to their time with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, describing their own process for working through the story over a long period of time before asking Snyder where he starts his own process.

Snyder highlighted his work on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice alongside co-writer Chris Terrio, with that sequel being a direct set-up to everything that would happen in Justice League:

"'Justice League' was Chris Terrio and I, after 'Batman versus Superman,' we had we had talked about what 'Justice League' would be… It’s called 'Dawn of Justice,' right? So… And the studio was very– they wanted Justice League. [That] was where we were going. And so…"

He touched on "all this weirdness in Batman v Superman" that he would eventually put into his work on Justice League, being particularly adamant about the film's darker tone and figuring out where things would go with Darkseid in the mix: 

"And there’s all this weirdness in 'Batman v Superman' anyway that eventually would make its way into 'Justice League' that I was really adamant about, post-apocalyptic, or any of that stuff, I was really like, ‘I really want to do this. When Darkseid destroys Earth, we’re gonna have ten years of no Earth, so we should figure out what Batman’s doing in the 'Road Warrior' Earth. Like what is Batman in 'Road Warrior?'’ So that was kind of like a big thing to me. That was the thing I really wanted to get to."

When the first script for Batman v Superman went in for review, Warner Bros. told Snyder that the movie wasn't "funny enough," leading him and his team to lighten the tone from there:

"I’ll be honest that when the script… what happened with 'Justice League' is we had a very… the original script was much darker and weirder. And then when 'Batman v Superman' came out and the studio was like, ‘It’s not funny enough. People want funnier movies. They want funny stuff in it,’ we did go back, and… lightened the movie, overall."

That trend somewhat continued with Justice League, although Snyder "preserved some of the more intense stuff" that he shot during production in the hopes that Warner Bros. would keep the tone of his movie intact:

"And I would say that 'Justice League,' my cut of 'Justice League,' is a sort of in-between. I always preserved some of the more intense stuff that I shot anyway. I thought they would, in retrospect, they would maybe want, making sure I, of course, had what was on the page. But we had this other script. I think in the original script, Lois and Batman got together briefly. And there was this whole other thing that everyone was like, ’Oh my God, you can’t do that.'"

Admitting that he and Terrio were "not awesome joke writers," Snyder highlighted Ezra Miller's work as the Flash, with that character being "a little irreverent and not quite understanding" while also being in awe of the bigger Justice League heroes:

Snyder: "So, we had done the changes for the studio and… I mean, like I’ll be frank, Chris and I are not the funniest guys in the world. We’re not awesome joke writers."

Anthony Russo: "I don’t know, I’m laughing a lot here. I’m laughing a lot listening to you. I’ll say that."

Snyder: "I’m just 100% honest about that. And we had Ezra [Miller]. And Ezra’s pretty funny. That was kind of [their] role to be the Flash, and kind of be young, and…"

Joe Russo: "And be the comic relief, who comes in…"

Snyder: "Yeah, a little irreverent and not quite understanding, and kind of in awe of Batman and Superman."

How Will Justice League Story Change Moving Forward?

Zack Snyder’s comments don’t come as too much of a surprise considering what’s been seen in the superhero movie landscape over the past few years. As franchises like the MCU continue to succeed with the use of comedy and humor, Snyder had to make his own adjustments as Warner Bros. tried to keep up with the trends they saw.

And while Snyder likely won’t be back in the DC Universe (at least in the foreseeable future), it seems clear that Warner Bros. will look to continue this trend as DC evolves into a new set of adventures.

DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn already confirmed that he’ll be using a different tone for his work on Superman: Legacy, keeping the story a little lighter as Clark Kent’s origin is retold.

And while the humor or lack thereof is only part of what will be taken into account for future DC movies, hearing Snyder’s comments on that concept will certainly be something fans keep in mind as Gunn’s own legacy moves ahead.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League, along with Snyder’s other DC movies, are available to stream on HBO Max.

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.