Though there were quite a few real people campaigning for #TheSnyderCut’s release before Warner Bros.’ 2021 announcement, new reporting from Rolling Stone suggests that a sizable amount of the movie’s social media hype was being driven by bots and inauthentic accounts.
When Warner Bros. announced last year that it planned to release an extended cut of its 2017 Justice League film, the move was seen by many as both a vindication of and capitulation to director Zack Snyder and his extremely online fandom. For years, Snyder loyalists insisted that the movement developed organically as people saw the cut Joss Whedon, who replaced Snyder as director, delivered — and found it lacking. But, according to Rolling Stone, which obtained copies of the multiple cybersecurity reports commissioned by Warner Bros., at least 13 percent of the conversations about the Snyder Cut on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram involved “fake authors.”
“One identified community was made up of real and fake authors that spread negative content about WarnerMedia for not restoring the ‘SnyderVerse,’” the 2021 report found. “Additionally, three main leaders were identified within the authors scanned on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — one leader on each platform. These leaders received the highest amount of engagement and have many followers, which gives them the ability to influence public opinion.”
It isn’t at all surprising that bots and networks of accounts pretending to be real people were part of the throbbing mass that treated its efforts to bring the Snyder Cut to fruition like a job. What does give one pause, however, is Rolling Stone’s implication that Snyder knowingly weaponized his fandom to make it seem like a Snyder Cut existed when one did not — and remove producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg’s names from the film’s credits when it was ultimately produced.
The situation with Zack Snyder’s Justice League was made that much more complicated by the fact that a significant amount of new footage had to be shot and money had to be spent for it to be completed, despite the movie initially being touted as a mere director’s cut. Instead, Warner Bros.’ Zack Snyder’s Justice League ended up spending an additional $60 million dollars on postproduction and editing costs, all while the DCEU had long since moved past the story that pit the Justice League against Darkseid.
It’s difficult to imagine that Warner Bros. looks back fondly on its decision to spend millions of dollars to reshoot a four-year-old movie that people didn’t really like in the first place. But it’s easy to see how Rolling Stone’s report might give other studios reason to rethink their approaches to tapping into rabid fandoms, especially at a time when all it seemingly takes to get movies back in theaters is for so-so memes about them to take off in a big way.