Chris Terrio, the writer of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, is telling all about what went wrong in the making of Zack Snyder’s DC epics.
In a new Vanity Fair piece, Terrio blames the Warner Bros. regime at the time for interference that hurt the quality of both pictures. His opinion of the latter’s 2017 theatrical version is very scathing, and he didn’t hold back. “The 2017 theatrical cut was an act of vandalism,” he said. “Zack may be too much of a gentleman to say that, but I’m not.”
According to Terrio, the studio stripped the story of much of what he put into it. Moreover he noted that his touches, which eventually made it back into The Snyder Cut, were very personal, so it hurt not being able to speak up against the cuts.
“When those personal touches were removed from the film in the 2017 version, I was silent because I couldn’t really say anything, but of course it hurt,” he said. “All that remained was a dinosaur skeleton of what had been a great, lumbering beast”.
Fortunately, he can praise the restoration in Zack Snyder’s Justice League streaming on HBO Max. “It might’ve been a big, unruly beast, and obviously it’s four hours and the movie is maximalist and it’s operatic and, sure, it’s a little crazy, but I think the movie is crazy in the best way,” Terrio stated.
He’d add that he “was frankly shocked when I saw the Snyder Cut and saw how much of the original script was shot” – which he understood was a frequent battle Snyder put up with.
The release of the Snyder Cut is a sharp contrast to how Terrio was treated on the set four years ago. While denying he was banned, Terrio recounts that he was ignored by producers who came to supervise the disastrous reshoots. “I wouldn’t say that I was banned,” Terrio said. “[The studio] attitude was: ‘We’ll take it from here.’”
His ride along with Snyder and the DCEU began with BVS, and getting that made was when the trouble truly started. Terrio told VF that, due to having been a writer on Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning film Argo, he believes he was brought onto BVS to “appease” the actor and sell him on making the movie.
Affleck aside, writing the film came with a separate set of difficulties and questions. Terrio’s biggest dilemma was giving Batman and Superman a logical reason to fight, which wasn’t easy.
For it to make sense to Terrio, the script had to be dark and the Dark Knight’s grudge against the Man of Steel had to germinate from paranoia and post-traumatic stress.
“I came into it thinking the only way that this could work is as a fever dream or as a revenge tragedy,” Terrio said. “I thought, How do we create a story in which Bruce Wayne is traumatized by the war of Krypton coming to Earth, and in which he enters into this kind of madness?”
He added, “He becomes Captain Ahab, and he won’t listen to saner voices, like Alfred, for example, who are telling him to just see reason. He’s a man possessed.”
Continuing, he emphasized how seriously he wanted to take the story, avoiding the tropes and the joke of the scenario at all costs. “I didn’t want to make it a sitcom joke that Batman and Superman are trying to kill each other,” Terrio said.
“If I’m going to work on this movie, it’s going to be dark and operatic, and it’s going to be uncomfortable,” he added. Snyder, he also says, saw eye-to-eye on that with him, though they have different philosophies.
“Zack and I come from very different approaches to filmmaking, but I immediately liked him because he isn’t cynical and he wears his heart on his sleeve,” Terrio said. “I’m cynical enough for any room that I enter into.”
However, there were lines even Terrio would not cross, such as Batman branding Lex Luthor – something the screenwriter still gets blamed for, despite the fact Batman spares Lex at the end.
According to Terrio, the Bat’s branding of criminals throughout the movie was a directive from WB held over throughout the several drafts he revised in an attempt to turn the trigger-happy habit into one Bruce overcomes.
In WB’s draft, Terrio explained, “Batman was not only branding criminals with a bat brand, he also ended the movie by branding Lex Luthor.”
“That ending was a point over which I explicitly went to the mat with the studio again and again,” he continued. “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 ironic then that the word ‘justice’ was later put in the title, though that’s another decision Terrio is no fan of, and another that may have come from the studio.
“I wrote drafts of the Batman/Superman movie, which wasn’t called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice by me,” he said. “I did not name the script.”
The title was passed down in an effort to build a shared universe in the vane of Marvel. While Terrio doesn’t know who came up with it, he suspects it was a marketing stunt, and his reaction was nonetheless negative.
“I heard it and I thought, It just sounds self-important and clueless in a way. Tone-deaf,” he revealed.
The consequences of BVS are still being felt today, but the biggest blow Terrio sustained came from the reception of the film’s portrayal of Lois Lane. Due to one line where Lois, talking to a warlord, says she is a journalist and not a lady, reviewers pilloried Terrio and his skills.
“Well, the character of Lois in the movie was inspired by the journalist Marie Colvin, who was of course killed in Syria,” Terrio explained, adding Lois’s line was based on an almost word-for-word exchange Colvin had with a Chechen who “wouldn’t shake her hand because she was a woman.”
“So that line was my tribute to her,” he said. “But then in the pile-on, a line like that is held as proof positive that I don’t understand either women or journalists or human beings, and that I’m a shitty writer.”
Dealing with all the bad reviews and frustration, Terrio, now free to open up, summed things up this way: he was cleaning up a mess he says he inherited.
He also cleared the air surrounding the accusations of his “dark sensibility,” shooting back in retort, “I wanted to say, “I’ve been saving you from yourselves! I’ve been working with the director to bring a voice of conscience and sanity to the almost perversely dark film you’ve been developing for years, but I’m the problem here?”
What is your reaction to Chris Terrio’s side of the story? Is Warner Bros. the problem? Tell us your opinion in the comments.