The theatrical cut of Justice League disappointed critics and many fans, but now director Zack Snyder has gotten the green light to make his original version of the movie a reality. We already know a few things about what it’ll look like — here’s what fans can expect.
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Zack Snyder and his wife/producing partner Deborah were essentially running the DCEU for Warner Bros. at one point. The studio entrusted the couple with its superhero properties when it decided to go up against Marvel with a shared cinematic universe of its own, handing Snyder the reins for its first offering of this new era, 2013’s Man of Steel. The Superman movie split opinion, though not quite as much as Snyder’s follow-up, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This big crossover event was supposed to set up Justice League, but the mixed reaction to the film caused problems for Snyder’s highly anticipated team-up from the start.
According to Snyder, the studio had him and writer Chris Terrio totally re-tool the original Justice League screenplay when BvS wasn’t the massive hit it hoped for. They came back with an updated script, and this was the one used to make the unfinished film, which Snyder left following a family tragedy. He was replaced by Joss Whedon for the remainder of the production, and Snyder’s original vision for the film would come to be known as the Snyder Cut.
After Justice League‘s theatrical cut failed to meet expectations, what started as a hopeful hashtag developed into a full-on movement, with fans using chartered planes and Times Square billboards to petition Warner Bros. to release Snyder’s version. In 2019, almost two years to the day after the disappointing theatrical release of Justice League, Warner Bros. reached out to Snyder and they came to an agreement. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is now a reality, and here’s what audiences can expect from it. Spoilers ahead.
A much longer run time
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The biggest issue that Warner Bros. reportedly had with Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League was that it was too long. In 2017, The Wall Street Journal claimed that the studio’s CEO, Kevin Tsujihara, had stepped in and demanded that the film be trimmed down to two hours, a full hour shorter than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Snyder managed to turn in a version that ran for two hours and 20 minutes before he departed the project, but that isn’t the cut we’re going to see on HBO Max in 2021.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder’s “optimal version” of Justice League was actually four hours long. He was well aware that Warner Bros. was unlikely to release a four-hour Justice League film in theaters, but now that the project is destined for streaming, Snyder may actually get his wish. In fact, we may even get more than four hours — Snyder told THR that the studio was considering releasing Zack Snyder’s Justice League as a series.
After hosting some Warner Bros. execs at his home to discuss the idea of finally releasing his version of Justice League, Snyder floated the idea of fleshing out what they already had and creating six “chapters” that would end with cliffhangers. The studio has reportedly allocated $20-$30 million to add the finishing touches to the existing material, so a six-part Justice League series is a very real possibility.
Lots more Cyborg
The extensive reshoots conducted by replacement director Joss Whedon drastically changed large sections of Snyder’s film, and one of the biggest victims was Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone, a.k.a Cyborg. Snyder once told USA Today that “Ray’s story is in a lot of the ways the heart of the movie,” but the character was on the periphery for much of the theatrical cut. His origin (he was a college football star until a horrible accident left him on his deathbed) was filmed but completely cut from the final movie, as were a number of big moments involving his family. Speaking to GameSpot, Fisher revealed that he shot some “really special” scenes with Karen Bryson (who played Cyborg’s mom, Elinore Stone) that wound up on the cutting room floor.
We did get to meet Cyborg’s father Silas Stone (Joe Morton), the genius behind his son’s restoration, but what we didn’t see was his dad’s death. In a post shared to his Vero (Snyder’s social media platform of choice), the director revealed a still from his version of the movie that shows a helpless Cyborg reaching out as his father is consumed by an explosion, presumably caused by a Mother Box, a powerful piece of alien tech that gave him his powers. According to Vulture editor Kyle Buchanan, Snyder intended Silas Stone to be the voice of the movie’s closing monologue. “Cyborg finds a video from him at the end,” Buchanan tweeted. “Whedon gave those lines to Amy Adams.”
Kiersey Clemons to make her debut as Iris West
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Kiersey Clemons was clearly excited to be debuting as Iris West (longtime love interest of Barry Allen, a.k.a the Flash) in 2017’s Justice League. The Dope star was meant to cameo in the team-up movie, but she wasn’t invited back for reshoots when Joss Whedon took the reins and in the end her small scene was removed altogether. Chances are this scene will be reinstated for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and we even know what it’s going to look like — a rough version of it leaked online in 2017.
The scene features Ezra Miller’s Flash using his superhuman speed to save West from a car crash that would have almost certainly killed her. West was full CGI in the leaked scene for obvious reasons, but footage of Clemons filming her part of the sequence in front of a green screen later surfaced. Sources told Batman News that Warner Bros. was at one stage mulling over the idea of completing the visual effects on this scene so that it could be included as part of the Blu-ray release, though the studio was apparently considering removing West from the equation and just having the Flash save a random person instead. This could well be how the scene plays out in the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League, though Snyder has always been a vocal supporter of Clemons and Miller’s partnership. In November 2019, he shared a still of the “cute couple” in character.
Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry spends most of his time above the waves in the theatrical cut of Justice League, but don’t expect that to be the case in Zack Snyder’s finished version. According to Momoa, he filmed scenes at an underwater location that never made it into Joss Whedon’s rejigged film. “There’s a place where [Aquaman] goes down to, and it got cut out of the movie,” Momoa told GameSpot. “He knows spots where he can go and he can see these statues, the remnants of [Atlantis].” Willem Dafoe’s Vulko was originally supposed to debut during this section of the film, Momoa revealed. “There just wasn’t enough time.”
Of course, Vulko went on to feature heavily in 2018’s Aquaman, but now fans will likely get the chance to see his original introduction, as Snyder intended it. The director spent a lot of time talking to Momoa about the importance of Dafoe’s character and it seems likely that his scene(s) will be reinstated for Zack Snyder’s Justice League. “Vulko’s his connection to Atlantis,” Momoa said of Aquaman. “I think what Zack and I did, we were kind of trying to establish that he was taken down there as a boy, and he was an outcast.” There’s also evidence that Amber Heard’s Mera had a much larger role in Snyder’s version of the film — a previz that shows Aquaman’s fellow Atlantean in an extended battle with Steppenwolf has been making the rounds online for some time now.
A bigger role for Lex Luthor
Pretty much everyone on the original Justice League cast has given their support to the Snyder Cut campaign at one stage. Jesse Eisenberg said that he wasn’t necessarily part of “the movement” when he spoke to the Toronto Sun in April 2020, but added that if his version was ever released “it would be great.” A few months later, Warner Bros. confirmed that Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally coming, which means we should get to see more of Eisenberg in action as iconic villain Lex Luthor.
Eisenberg’s return as Luthor in Justice League was announced pretty early on. The character was meant to play a larger role in the film (he was actually vital to Snyder’s vision for the DCEU post-Justice League, too), as a piece of leaked concept art seemingly proves. Discovered by Rob McKinnon (via ComicBook), the mock-up scene shows Luthor in a prison cell with what appears to be a notebook nearby. The fact that Batman discusses the importance of Luthor’s “journals” in the theatrical cut of the film could be a hint that the LexCorp CEO was vital to the plot at one stage. Eisenberg has confirmed that he shot more than the end credit scene, his only appearance in the final version. Even that will likely be different — Luthor’s line about the villains needing a “League” of their own was apparently Joss Whedon’s idea, and Deathstroke actor Joe Manganiello has confirmed that Snyder’s version played out differently.
Darkseid’s big reveal
Even those with a mere passing interest in the Snyder Cut have long been aware that Darkseid was supposed to debut in Justice League, but it might still surprise you to learn just how heavily the evil galactic god was going to feature in the film. The only time that Darkseid is mentioned in the theatrical cut of Justice League is when his uncle Steppenwolf (who was promoted to sole villain during Joss Whedon’s wholesale reshoots) yells “For the Unity! For Darkseid!” as he prepares for war. Darkseid (who was played by Ray Porter, the actor confirmed) was also supposed to be seen wading into battle during Justice League, one of many scenes that Whedon tossed.
Snyder has teased what he had in store for Darkseid on numerous occasions, meaning we’ve been able to piece together his intended Justice League arc. The director planned to use the cosmic tyrant during the film’s history lesson segment, in which Amazonians, Atlanteans and humans fight off an invading force from Apokolips. Snyder reportedly planned to kick off the big flashback with Wonder Woman discovering a mural depicting this first invasion, led by Darkseid. Fans have already had a glimpse of what this younger version of Darkseid looks like (Snyder shared a sneak peek on Vero), but what we’re still waiting to see is his battle with Ares. Actor Nick McKinless has confirmed that he shot an entire fight sequence as the Greek God of War, going toe-to-toe with Darkseid.
A far more brutal ending for Steppenwolf
The climactic battle in Justice League ends when Wonder Woman shatters Steppenwolf’s axe with her sword and the villain’s Parademon army smells his fear. The creatures turn on him and they’re all sucked back to Apokolips through a Boom Tube, extra-dimensional portals used to travel across space instantaneously. The idea of the Parademons being able to smell fear was reportedly introduced by Joss Whedon during reshoots, and that’s not the only thing he changed about the final showdown.
The Justice League’s battle against Steppenwolf was supposed to have a far more definitive — and brutal — ending. In a series of images that Snyder shared to (you guessed it) Vero, the director revealed that the villain was going to meet his end at Diana Prince’s hand, but it isn’t his axe that she slices through, it’s his neck. “Not sure how they killed Steppenwolf in the theatrical version of JL,” Snyder captioned his post. “This was never finished all the way, but I use Gods to kill Gods.” The Amazonian beheads Steppenwolf, but expect her to have a major assist when this scene plays out during Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
In 2019, Jason Momoa shared a still image from the original climax, revealing that Aquaman impales Steppenwolf on his trident before his death. According to storyboard artist Jay Oliva, an “unhinged” version of Superman was also going to go to town on Steppenwolf before Wonder Woman delivered the killing blow.
Another Knightmare sequence
One of the most polarizing moments from Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the Knightmare scene, in which Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne has a vision of a ravaged, post-apocalyptic earth. He watches over a burning city with a huge Omega symbol imprinted in the ground below him. DC fans know that the Omega pretty much confirms that this future is Darkseid’s doing, but the scene was a particularity jarring moment that was simply ignored thereafter. Snyder has since confirmed that he intended to expand upon this scene in Justice League, which never happened. A second Knightmare sequence was deemed surplus to requirements by Joss Whedon, but expect to revisit this hellscape in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
“The truth is that the Knightmare sequence in this movie is always something that I intended to explain,” Snyder said (via The Playlist). “We end up in a future Earth where Superman has succumbed to the Anti-Life equation and there’s a few surviving members of the Justice League, and a broken Cyborg was working with Batman to send Flash back to warn Bruce. There was a scene in the trailer — apparently, it didn’t make it into the movie — where Bruce says Flash came to him and warned him that ‘Lois was the key’ and something darker was coming.” That something darker was, of course, Darkseid, who kills Lois Lane in order to turn Superman bad, Snyder confirmed: “Darkseid Boom Tubes into the Batcave to murder Lois.”
Black suit Superman
Fans have been waiting to see Henry Cavill don the black Superman suit on the big screen ever since his version of the Kryptonian kicked the bucket in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The black suit is deeply connected to the death and rebirth of Superman in the comics, one of the iconic character’s most famous story arcs. Cavill began teasing the black Superman suit the year before Justice League hit cinemas, but the outfit did not appear in the final movie. He can be seen walking past the suit during a deleted scene that made it to the Blu-ray release, but in Zack Snyder’s original vision, he was not only going to be wearing the black suit, he was going to be in it for the entirety of the movie.
It appears as though Superman’s resurrection went down very, very differently in the Snyder Cut. In Joss Whedon’s version of the film, the Man of Steel gets angry with the Justice League for a few moments before Lois Lane quickly talks him down, but he won’t be so easily placated in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. All the evidence points towards a much bigger battle between black suit Superman and the Justice League, who are not able to reason with the Kryptonian quite as successfully upon his resurrection. One of the early Justice League trailers included a shot of Cyborg protecting some cops from a burning tank that the rampaging Superman has apparently sent flying their way.
Martian Manhunter’s debut
Harry Lennix made his debut as General Swanwick in Man of Steel and was supposed to reprise the role in Justice League, but his character didn’t make the final cut. Fans guessed back when Man of Steel came out that Swanwick was actually the shapeshifting alien detective J’onn J’onzz (better known as Martian Manhunter) in disguise, and when Justice League went with the tagline “unite the seven” early in production, it seemed clear that there was one member of the team that had not yet been revealed. Zack Snyder has since confirmed that the fans were absolutely right — Swanwick was the Martian hero, and he was going to have more than one disguise.
In October 2019, Snyder shared a storyboard to Vero (via CinemaBlend) that depicts Martha Kent visiting Lois Lane. After their conversation, Superman’s mother briefly turns into Martian Manhunter before changing back to Swanwick. The director confirmed that he was able to shoot the vast majority of this scene (he’s shared snippets of Amy Adams’ Lois Lane chatting with Diane Lane’s Martha Kent), he just needed to get a few more shots with Lennix. The actor seems pretty excited about the news that Snyder’s version of the film will finally be seen — he tweeted out a picture of his character along with the caption, “Re: Justice League and the Snyder Cut…Things don’t Just happen—things happen Just.” Snyder reposted this to Vero, adding the words, “Watching over us all.”
Everyone else who got cut
Darkseid and Martian Manhunter are perhaps the two biggest characters that were cut from Justice League when Joss Whedon assumed control, but they were far from the only ones. Responding to a fan on Vero, Snyder revealed that the dialogue used in an early trailer (“No protectors here, no Lanterns, no Kryptonian”) was actually Steppenwolf speaking to Desaad, Darkseid’s sadistic right-hand-man. Dasaad was removed with Darkseid, leaving the movie two villains down. When it comes to cut characters, however, the hero side took a far worse hit.
In Snyder’s vision for the movie, the history lesson sequence was going to feature a younger version of Robin Wright’s Antiope. Diana Prince’s aunt was killed during the attack on Themyscira in Wonder Woman, but Snyder evidently liked the character and wanted to give fans a brief glimpse into her past, something we’ll hopefully see in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Snyder has also confirmed that he intended to use a different Green Lantern during the invasion flashback (an unidentified Lantern, thought to be Yalan Gur, appeared in the final cut).
We were also supposed to meet Ryan Choi, a.k.a the Atom. Snyder confirmed that the scientist (played by Orion Lee) seen working alongside Silas Stone at S.T.A.R. Labs was going to be revealed as Choi back in 2018, and the director shared an image of the character in action not long before the HBO Snyder Cut deal was announced. “This will be fun,” he captioned the Vero post.