It isn’t all that common for a movie that flopped both critically and commercially to get a second shot at success, but that’s exactly what’s happening with Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
The end result of a long-running (and some would argue, aggressively toxic) fan campaign, the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League will offer an extended, recut version of Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2017 superhero team-up film that will more closely align with Snyder’s original vision for the project. Snyder exited the film early due to a family tragedy, and many fans have attributed the film’s poor performance to changes made by the studio and fill-in director Joss Whedon.
With Zack Snyder’s Justice League scheduled to debut on streaming service HBO Max in 2021, here’s everything we know about the Snyder Cut so far.
HBO Max released the first footage from Zack Snyder’s Justice League on June 18.
Billed as the “first clip” from the film, the 30-second preview features Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) investigating a drawing on a wall that is revealed to be an image of the DC Comics villain Darkseid. The voice of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) can be heard over the footage, and the scene then shifts to Darkseid himself standing in front of his army.
Where and when will the Snyder Cut be released?
On May 20, Snyder confirmed that the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League was not only in the works, but will make its debut on WarnerMedia’s recently launched streaming video service, HBO Max.
— HBO Max (@hbomax) May 20, 2020
No specific premiere date for the film has been announced so far.
How much will the Snyder Cut cost?
The changes Snyder plans to make for his director’s cut of Justice League are expected to be both extensive and expensive, with WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt suggesting it would cost more than $30 million to bring this new version of the film to the screen.
Justice League was already one of the most expensive movies ever made, with a production budget of more than $300 million and a reported break-even point of $750 million (hence it’s status as a “flop” despite earning $657 million worldwide). As a result, there’s no small amount of pressure on the Snyder Cut to prove it’s worth the studio’s hefty investment.
What it will take
Bringing Snyder’s original vision for Justice League to the screen will reportedly involve rehiring the entire original postproduction crew for the film, among other big moves.
Snyder and the Justice League postproduction team will then proceed to edit and rescore the film, utilizing extensive visual effects and possibly new dialogue to bring it more in line with the tone and narrative arc that the filmmaker intended for it. Although Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, and other featured cast members have been vocal supporters of the Snyder Cut, it’s unknown whether they’ll record new dialogue or shoot any new scenes for the recut film.
How it will be different
According toSnyder, only a quarter of his original work on Justice League ended up in the theatrical cut of the film. The Snyder Cut will reportedly restore his original work and add quite a bit more to the story.
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) May 20, 2020
Adding all of that material is expected to increase the film’s original 120-minute running time significantly, and HBO Max is reportedly planning to release Zack Snyder’s Justice League as either a single four-hour movie or a multipart limited series, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The finished product will likely feel more akin to Snyder’s grim Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice films that preceded Justice League, with the lighter moments Joss Whedon injected into the project excised from the film.
Along those lines, the Snyder Cut is also rumored to end on a bit of a dark note — and possibly a cliffhanger — due to the filmmaker’s original vision for Justice League encompassing a two-part story akin to Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Spoiler alert: While the team would still have defeated Darkseid’s henchman Steppenwolf, the latter’s death would reportedly have prompted Darkseid himself to get involved, raising the stakes for the Justice League sequel.
— DC (@DCComics) May 21, 2020
Various other rumors and unconfirmed reports have indicated that Snyder’s original plan for Justice League also involved Green Lantern, the death of Lois Lane, or a variety of other elements that never made it into the theatrical cut of the film. It remains to be seen which (if any) of these plot points are brought to the Snyder Cut.
Will Darkseid appear?
As mentioned, one of the biggest differences between the theatrical cut of Justice League and the Snyder Cut will involve an appearance by a character that was hinted at throughout the DC Extended Universe films but never fully envisioned on the screen: Darkseid.
He's coming… to HBO Max pic.twitter.com/tthWwAqzWp
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) May 27, 2020
In May, Snyder confirmed that DC Comics’ cosmic conqueror would indeed make an appearance in his version of Justice League. The infamous villain was initially expected to be the primary antagonist in a second Justice League film, but that project was scuttled after the poor performance of the first film.
Although Snyder didn’t reveal exactly how the character will look in Justice League, the image he posted does offer a nightmarish vision of Darkseid’s plans, with the character appearing against a backdrop of massive war machines on the fractured, molten surface of a planet.
How we got here
Originally envisioned as a two-part finale to the saga that Snyder kicked off with 2013’s Superman franchise reboot Man of Steel, the studio’s plans for Justice League were derailed when Zack and Deborah Snyder (his wife and producing partner) exited the film in May 2017 due to the death of their daughter.
Joss Whedon, who wrote and directed 2012’s The Avengers, was brought on to finish the film, and extensive reshoots were scheduled in July 2017 at the cost of an additional $25 million — pushing the movie’s production costs past the $300 million mark.
Justice League hit theaters in November 2017, and despite featuring some of the most iconic superheroes in the world in Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the film was met with disappointing returns at the box office and poor reviews from both professional critics and general audiences. Justice League became the first film in the DC Extended Universe to fail to cross $100 million its opening weekend, and went on to become one of the lowest-grossing films in the DCEU both domestically and worldwide.
Critically, the film underperformed with reviewers nearly as much as it did with audiences, receiving just 40% positive reviews — making it one of the worst-reviewed films in the DCEU (after Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
Although Zack Snyder’s two prior DCEU films (Man of Steel and Batman v Superman) both received negative reviews, fans of the franchise were quick to blame Whedon and Warner Bros. Pictures for Justice League‘s failings. A campaign to release a director’s cut of the film began almost immediately, with supporters using the hashtag “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut”. The campaign gained momentum as supporters engaged in aggressive fan activism to convince the studio to consider releasing a recut version of the movie.
As the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement gained traction, it also generated significant criticism for some of its supporters’ use of aggressive threats and cyberbullying to advance the campaign. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson was among those the campaign targeted with coordinated harassment, forcing her off Twitter, while entertainment journalists who voiced any negative assessment of the film — particularly women — were similarly targeted.
In the following years, Snyder and the Justice League cast and creative team continued to fuel the campaign, dropping hints that a director’s cut of the film exists and encouraging supporters to demand its release. Despite the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign’s questionable tactics, supporters were rewarded in May 2020 when Snyder officially announced that his version of the film would indeed be released.
WarnerMedia and HBO Max then confirmed Snyder’s announcement, indicating that the Snyder Cut of Justice League would on the streaming service in 2021.
Last updated on June 18, 2020: Added the first clip from the project.