Fans who have been clamoring to see Zack Snyder’s director’s cut of the disappointing 2017 film, Justice League, will finally get their wish, as HBO Max released a two-minute trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League during the virtual DC Fandome event. The trailer actually leaked online before the panel, but was quickly pulled until the official release.
(Some spoilers for the 2017 Justice League below.)
The original Justice League was the third film in a trilogy that included Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). It brought together Ben Affleck’s Batman and Henry Cavill’s Superman with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). They are on a mission to save the world from arch-villain Steppenwolf, a New God in search of three “Mother Boxes” that will enable him to terraform the Earth into something more hospitable to him and his army of Parademons.
Snyder completed all the principal photography and was well into post-production. But he stepped down as director in May 2017, following the tragic suicide of his daughter, and the studio turned to Joss Whedon (The Avengers) to complete the film. Whedon rewrote the script, adding some 80 pages, and did extensive reshoots, bringing more humor and a brighter tone into the mix. (A common criticism of Batman v. Superman was that it was slow, lacked humor, and was too dark in tone.) He also cut more than 90 minutes of Snyder’s original’s footage to accommodate the studio’s requested 120-minute run time, although Whedon’s version retained the basic story outline.
The result was what some critics called a “Frankenstein” film, struggling to incorporate very different visions of two directors. Reviews were mixed, and while Justice League wound up grossing $657 million, the purported break-even point was around $750 million. Its poor box office return may have influenced Warner Bros.’ subsequent decision to shift way from the Marvel model of a series of interconnected films in a shared universe, in favor of standalone films and franchises.
The rumored production woes had some fans clamoring for an alternate “Snyder cut” soon after the theatrical release, leading to a social media campaign that occasionally got ugly. In May, Snyder confirmed that his cut would air on HBO Max during a virtual watch party for Man of Steel, insisting it would feel like an entirely different movie, with new visual effects sequences, additional character development, and some added dialogue.
During the DC Fandome online panel, Snyder confirmed that his cut will be aired on the streaming platform in four one-hour installments. In addition to being darker in tone, Snyder said that the character of Steppenwolf has been redesigned, and that Steppenwolf’s uncle, Darkseid (Ray Porter), will be the main villain. (Darkseid did not appear at all in the original theatrical release.)
Miller and Fisher also appeared on the panel, and Snyder said we will see more of their respective characters. The Flash will have “more of an emotional arc,” and Cyborg will be “the heart of the movie,” per Snyder. “He holds the team together in a lot of ways and I’m excited for fans to see how it’s realized.”
That should be especially good news for Fisher, who has recently aired his frustrations with the behavior of Whedon on the Justice League set after Snyder’s departure. Although Fisher had been a good soldier while promoting the theatrical release during the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, he retracted those statements in early July. “Joss Whedon’s on-set treatment of the cast and crew of Justice League was gross, abusive, unprofessional and completely unacceptable,” the actor tweeted, adding that producers Geoff Johns and Jon Berg “enabled” Whedon.
WarnerMedia has since announced an investigation, and Fisher called the decision a “MASSIVE step forward,” tweeting, “I believe this investigation will show that Geoff Johns, Joss Whedon, Jon Berg (and others) grossly abused their power during the uncertainty of AT&T’s merger with Time Warner.”
Zack Snyder’s Justice League will debut on HBO Max in early to mid 2021. It definitely feels like a different beast from the theatrical release. It remains to be seen just how much of an improvement Snyder’s version will be.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max