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Fan Service: Who has the power?

Thursday 18th of March will see the release of one of the most anticipated and publicised cinematic events in recent memory. A film that for the longest time seemed like an impossible ‘what if’ to be forever imagined along with Tim Burton’s Superman or Neil Blomkamp’s Alien 5, a fascinating mystery that would always leave audiences wondering what they had missed out on. However, through a series of unique circumstances, 2021 will be the year that the world will finally see Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

DCEU Justice League Snyder Cut Fan Service

Four years after the project was drastically altered due to production issues and personal tragedy the directors supposed original vision will be fully realised. And although there are many factors, including a global pandemic and a very willing cast and director, one has given this project the platform it needed to succeed, the fans.

Fan service is a term that is becomingly increasingly relevant within the entertainment industry. Disney properties in particular such as the MCU and Star Wars (Creepy deep fake Luke Skywalker aside) have used this to great effect, with an abundance of Easter eggs and deep lore characters to have every excited devotee excitedly elbowing a friend to point out ‘that cameo’. At its most cynical it can be seen of cheap means of keeping its audience happy, I prefer to see it as a creative team rewarding its most loyal fans, but has this idea blown up to the extent that too much power is being given to those watching?

Disney Star Wars Luke Skywalker Cameo Deep Fake

The idea of a director’s cut is far from a new one, an exhaustive list including Blade Runner, Lord of the Rings and The Shining have all seen the director return to their project to bring their ‘final vision’ to light. Zack Snyder himself is very familiar with the concept having new cuts of both Watchmen and Batman V Superman released. In fact, what makes the Snyder cut so significant is less about the movie and far more about what its release represents. After Snyder stepped down from Justice League due to a family tragedy, amid rumours of conflicting ideas due with the studio, Joss Whedon stepped in to oversee reshoots and remould his predecessors work into a more traditional superhero movie, the kind that Marvel had perfected around 5 years earlier.

Unfortunately, upon its release Justice League failed to impress critics or more importantly its fans. Shortly after this, rumours (that were quickly substantiated by Snyder himself) that an alternate cut of Justice League existed, The Snyder Cut. After a phenomenal wave of online support, including emphatic endorsements from the cast and director, the new version was green lit and is now just days away. This may seem like a relatively feel-good story, the power of social media enabling someone to finish their opus after returning from great personal loss. I would not dispute this, however Snyder’s version turns out I’m genuinely happy he got the chance to finish it. The problem lies with the precedent that it sets.

DCEU Justice League The Snyder Cut Fan Service

Since the success of the ‘Release the Snyder Cut’ campaign, the idea that fans have a degree of influence over how their heroes are brought to life is one that is flourishing. Already across social media there are calls for releases of the Ayer/Abrams/Trank cut. Marvel have also endured some backlash for Wandavision ‘not living up to the hype’, though the major complaints seem to be centred around the lack of cameos or debuts of other iconic characters from the Marvel Universe that fans had theorised could appear. The new philosophy seems to be that if we do not like the direction of our favourite franchise, we can simply demand it be changed.

This has also recently been seen working its way into casting decisions. Being a Marvel fan, it has been hard to ignore the campaign for John Krasinski and Emily Blunt to play Reed Richards and Sue Storm in the upcoming Fantastic Fourth attempt to this franchise work. While I agree this is inspired casting it does concern me now that any attempt to cast anyone else in these roles will now be met with an instant wave of backlash, not for who they are, but for who they aren’t. Let’s not forget the sometimes baffling or uninspiring castings that have gone on to be iconic, Heath Ledger and Chris Evans immediately spring to mind. This basically forces directors and studios to use the most popular choice, but not necessarily the best one for the story they are trying to tell. That’s not to say that fans are always wrong, I mean let’s face it, Ian Somerhalder was born to play Christian Grey.

Marvel Fantastic Four Fan Service

Basically, Fan Service is like so many other facets of film making, just like lens flare and digital de-aging, it’s a wonderful thing, in moderation. Fan service has contributed to some truly iconic moments in modern cinema and is always a great way to give back to the fans. It also doesn’t hurt for the studios to know, if they don’t treat these beloved characters and franchises with respect, they’re gonna know about it.

What's your thoughts on Fan Service? Do you feel there's a thin line line between Fan Service & Cancel Culture? Are you looking forward to The Snyder Cut & other Fan Service attempts? 

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