After 2017’s “Justice League” became a box-office disappointment that left many fans underwhelmed, DC Studios and director Zack Snyder announced the release of an alternate cut of the film more faithful to Snyder’s original vision. Will it be enough to fix the errors of the 2017 release?
The realm of superhero films has grown into a monster of a genre that rakes in billions of dollars at the box office every year. Both Marvel and DC have spent years crafting the heroic tales that have established the signature characteristics of each studio: Marvel is known for their wholesome, family-friendly casts of superhero characters and DC juxtaposes that with their more unorthodox approach to their heroes and villains.
To solidify their reputation for uniquely directed superhero films, DC Studios chose to embark on one of their most highly-anticipated projects with renowned director Zack Snyder at the helm. 2017’s “Justice League” was originally intended to be a grittier portrayal of the classic Justice League lineup. Known for his work in films such as “300,” “Batman v. Superman” and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” Snyder had many avid DC fans anticipating his take on the world of the “Justice League.”
Unfortunately, during the post-production process of the film, Snyder endured the tragic loss of his daughter, which led to him stepping down from the project. Due to Snyder’s departure, writer Joss Whedon was selected to oversee the direction of the film. In the midst of such an unexpected departure, Snyder’s original, darker vision was lost, which ultimately culminated in the film losing its sense of direction, leaving many fans disappointed.
After its release, the film garnered less-than-stellar box-office reviews and left many wondering how different the outcome of the film would have been under the sole direction of Zack Snyder. In 2018, rumors began to surface of DC Studios hiding an alternate cut of the film more faithful to the original vision. This rumored alternate cut would be infamously dubbed “The Snyder Cut” by fans keen on getting a glimpse into the alternate direction of “Justice League.” Passionate fans spent two long years spreading countless petitions and sending emails asking for the release of the film. Luckily for them, DC has granted their wish in a surprising deal with a popular streaming service that is aiming to do justice for Snyder’s “Justice League.”
In late May, Snyder publicly announced that the full Snyder Cut would premiere as a four-part miniseries on HBO Max in 2021. The series will undergo additional production to bridge gaps in the original story and bring Snyder’s vision to fruition. To stay true to his unflinchingly bold directorial style, Snyder used “Justice League” to delve into themes darker than the usual lighthearted superhero fare. The Snyder Cut is expected to feature a variety of changes such as a new direction for the film’s villain, a fresh take on the Justice League heroes, and set the stage for Snyder’s work to serve as a new branch in the DC Extended Universe.
Revamping the Villain
One of the biggest grievances leveled against the 2017 version is that the film’s villain, Steppenwolf, left audiences underwhelmed, both by his character design and storyline — especially when compared to past DC villains known for their harrowing storylines. The theatrical cut showcases Steppenwolf as a New God of Apokolips that leads supervillain Darkseid’s military forces. Steppenwolf is a villain meant to harness an immeasurable amount of power but his lack of proper development left much to the imagination.
The drastic director change scrapped Snyder’s fear-inducing villains in favor of a more family-friendly project. To correct this, the Snyder Cut is slated to show more complex sides to the antagonists. Steppenwolf has already been redesigned to appear more menacing, and has been given ample revisions to his storyline to bring the character up to par with his sinister new appearance. The most notable change the villains will face is more stress on the anti-life equation plot line that is meant to intensify the film. In this plot line, Steppenwolf and Darkseid wish to use the anti-life equation as a way to decimate humanity and shape the universe into a place they control. This change is poised to strengthen the grim nature of the film and add to the harrowing ambience Snyder originally envisioned.
To add to the peril that will face the Justice League, Snyder has hinted multiple times that DC’s most infamous villain, the Joker, will appear in the Snyder Cut. In an interview with Grace Randolph from “Beyond the Trailer,” Snyder said, “I wanted to, of course, honor what had been created with him because I thought it was really cool, but I also felt like … some water has gone under the proverbial bridge between last we saw Joker and this appearance. He’s a road-weary Joker, I guess that’s a way of saying it.”
Another flaw the Snyder Cut is set to correct is the characterization of the Justice League team. The original theatrical cut underwent extensive editing to accommodate Warner Bros. two-hour runtime restriction, which in turn led to cutting a substantial amount of backstory. Being that the Snyder Cut will be approximately four hours long, it is no surprise that this extension will allow for a more in-depth look into the motivations and histories of the onscreen heroes. It will also allow for the audience to see more of Snyder’s vision of the Justice League when faced with such intense peril.
The biggest victim of the editing room was the newest addition to the DCEU, Cyborg. Cyborg’s character was originally written to be a paramount character that holds the key to helping the team collect the Mother Boxes and protect them from being taken by Steppenwolf and his military. The Flash, another new addition to the DCEU, also fell victim to the editing room, leaving us with only a few bits and pieces of the character’s backstory. To correct this, Snyder confirmed there have been additional scenes filmed for all of the Justice League to ensure that audiences see more personal, developed heroes in a darker setting.
A New Branch of the DCEU
Though not technically canonically tied to other DCEU films, all of Snyder’s DC films have become their own universe using DC licensing — much like the various reboots of other superhero characters helmed by different directors such as the Spider-Man adaptations, the “Dark Knight” trilogy and even the new “Suicide Squad” set to reboot in 2021.
The Snyder Cut fits in the same universe as Snyder’s previous DC works “Batman v. Superman” and “Man of Steel,” and will hopefully serve as part of Snyder’s projected five-movie arc. If the Snyder Cut performs well and gains favorable audience reviews, there is a good chance the five-movie arc plan will be set in motion. Furthermore, the five-movie arc could showcase the possibilities of a darker take on the Justice League over the course of multiple films. Regardless of the outcome, this grittier portrayal of the Justice League is bound to make DC history due to the sheer controversy involved in its release.
Though many are excitedly anticipating the release of the long-awaited project, many are also racking their brains to develop theories for what the Snyder Cut will entail for the heroes and the DC Extended Universe as a whole. DC Studios is no stranger to highly-anticipated releases, and the Snyder Cut is no exception. Though we have been given sporadic hints as to the contents of the Snyder Cut, we won’t know what the final product will look like until it arrives on HBO Max. For now, it has been incredibly entertaining to see fan theories circulating the internet. There is a lot of mystery surrounding what exactly Snyder is planning, and it will be very fun to watch it all unfold once the miniseries premieres in 2021.