Zack Snyder's Justice League Cut: Everything We Know So Far
Zack Snyder's DC movie Justice League went into production in April 2016, just a few weeks after his previous film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, hit theaters. While Batman v. Superman was a box office hit, it was critically panned, leading to this classic meme and the reports that DC was going for a lighter tone for the next film.
Justice League hit theaters 19 months later, in November 2017. It was somewhat lighter, but it was also hard to escape the fact it wasn't the movie that Snyder had started making. By that point, Snyder himself wasn't even involved--a family tragedy led him to leave the project after principal photography was completed, with Avengers director Joss Whedon tagged in for reshoots and post-production. The movie was a mishmash of tones, strange editing decisions, awkward performances, and, of course, Henry Cavill's digitally removed mustache. Critics were no kinder to it than they were to Batman v. Superman. And with extensive reshoots leading to a reported $300 million price tag, it failed to make enough of an impact financially, giving DC its first box office flop. And that's when the fan campaign for the release of Snyder's original version began.
Of course, had Justice League been a critical and commercial success, it's unlikely the idea of a "Snyder Cut" would've ever emerged. Plenty of movies are changed and reshot without subsequent fan campaigns to see alternate versions--the Star Wars film Rogue One had similar production problems, but the huge success of that movie meant that no one was demanding to see the "Gareth Edwards cut." But the theatrically released Justice League was simply not the movie DC fans had waited years for--and the thought that somewhere there might be a better version quickly gained traction.
Two and a half years later, Zack Snyder's Justice League was officially announced. To say this was a surprise is an understatement, but it's happening, and will hit WarnerMedia's new streaming platform HBO Max sometime in 2021. In August this year, the movie featured the virtual event DC Fandome, where Snyder and cast revealed more information about this new version of the film, plus the first trailer. So here's everything was know so far about Zack Snyder's Justice League...
Joss takes over
When Snyder first left Justice League, there was initially no reason to think that the finished movie wouldn't be largely what he intended. The initial report in The Hollywood Reporter simply stated that Whedon would shoot "some additional scenes." In addition, Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich stated: "The directing is minimal and it has to adhere to the style and tone and the template that Zack set. We're not introducing any new characters. It's the same characters in some new scenes. He's handing the baton to Joss, but the course has really been set by Zack."
While it had been reported that Snyder had screened a rough cut to Warner executives before he departed the film, it wasn't until after Justice League's release that rumors appeared claiming it was "much darker" than what had hit theaters. Collider's Matt Goldberg suggested that Snyder was actually fired from the film because Warner was unhappy with that initial version, with Whedon brought in to lighten the tone.
The fan campaign to see Snyder's version of Justice League started almost as soon as the movie hit theaters. A change.org petition was launched. Within a week, it had hit over 100,000 signatures, and #ReleaseTheSnyderCut became a familiar Twitter hashtag. By San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019, the campaign had reached such momentum that fans paid for billboard ads and airplane banners.
The cast get involved
In 2018, the filmmakers and cast themselves started to hint at the amount of Snyder-shot footage that hadn't made it into the final film. Cyborg actor Ray Fisher said, "I will say Zack had very specific plans for Cyborg, and for his trajectory. And Zack probably shot enough footage in the first film to make like two movies out of." If you've seen the final film, you'll know what little story time Cyborg actually gets. Ciaran Hinds, who plays Steppenwolf, was even more blunt: "That wasn't the movie I worked so hard on," he said. "We hope the director's cut comes out because it was better than the movie in the theaters."
Finally, Snyder himself started to share material that he had shot but never made it into the movie, including photos and storyboards. In December 2019, he seemingly confirmed that his original cut existed, taking to Vero to write "Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does."
What didn't we see?
So what do we know about the Snyder Cut? There have been a lot of speculation and rumors, and, of course, no one apart from the few who saw that rough cut know for sure. Reportedly, more time is spent on three characters that were new to the DCEU at that point--The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Synder and other actors have confirmed that this cut included a variety of other DC characters who were cut out, including Desaad, Atom/Ryan Choi, Iris West, and Martian Manhuter. In addition, Willem Dafoe filmed scenes as Vulko, but we wouldn't actually see him in that role until Aquaman a year later.
Almost all of Superman's scenes in the theatrical version were shot by Whedon--Henry Cavill's digital lip is proof of this. So expect an entirely different performance in the version that emerges in 2021--and very possibly, wearing his iconic black suit when he returns from the dead. There are also rumored to be big changes to the movie's final battle, and--finally--an appearance from Darkseid, the DC villain who was first teased in Batman v. Superman.
In any case, it's clear that the theatrical version was vastly different to what was originally intended. In December 2019, original cinematographer Fabian Wagner stated that only 10% of the theatrical version included footage he filmed with Snyder during principal photography.
Zack Snyder's Justice League
While the Snyder Cut campaign wasn't going away, it's safe to assume that many fans had resigned themselves to the film never happening. The DC Universe has moved on a lot since 2017--Batman has been recast, Cavill has left, The Flash movie has been endlessly delayed. And no one ever expects to see a Cyborg film. Why would DC bother going back to this much-maligned flop, when subsequent movies such as Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Joker have been huge hits?
But since November last year, the movie's cast themselves have become increasingly involved with the campaign--as if they knew something was happening behind-the-scenes. Stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck started using the infamous hashtag on twitter, and then finally, Snyder himself confirmed that 2021 would see the release of his version of the movie, and that it would premiere on HBO Max.
So what is it?
The biggest question is, of course, what will be released in 2021. Initially, Snyder simply stated that his new Justice League cut would "be an entirely new thing" compared to the rough, unfinished version that he first screened for executives back in early 2017. The Hollywood Reporter stated that Snyder and his wife Deborah would be "reassembling much of their original post production crew to score, cut, add new and finish old visual effects," and that many of the cast planned to return to record new dialogue.
August's virtual event DC FanDome revealed more details about the project. Initial speculation about the movie being split into parts proved correct, when Snyder revealed that it would be presented on HBO Max in four separate chapters, with a total running time of four hours. However, there would also be an option to watch the whole thing as an unbroken four-hour movie. As for international viewers unable to access HBO Max, the director stated that the studio is "working on a distribution plan."
A full trailer was also released during the FanDome Justice League panel. The trailer is basically a montage of mostly new footage set to Leonard Cohen's classic song "Hallelujah." It's immediately clear that the tone is very different to the movie that was released in 2017, with a sombre, serious vibe and lots of moody shots of the superheroes looking, well, moody. There's also shots of Darkseid, lots more Cyborg footage, Superman in his black suit, a first look at Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), a villain that could be Darkseid's follower DeSaad, and lots more. Check out our full trailer breakdown here.