Movies that flop both critically and commercially rarely get a second shot at success, but that’s exactly what’s happening with Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
The result of a long-running (and some would argue, aggressively toxic) fan campaign, the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League offers an extended, recut version of Warner Bros. Pictures’ 2017 superhero team-up film more closely aligned with Snyder’s original vision for the project. After Snyder exited the film early due to a family tragedy, many fans 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 premiere March 18 on streaming service HBO Max, here’s everything we know about the Snyder Cut so far.
On May 20, 2020, Snyder confirmed that the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League was not only in the works but would make its debut on WarnerMedia’s recently launched streaming video service, HBO Max.
— HBO Max (@hbomax) May 20, 2020
In January, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally given an official release date: March 18.
The premiere announcement was accompanied by a trio of new promotional images for the film, each of them featuring a different image inspired by classic DC Comics imagery in the black-and-white tone Snyder and WB have adopted for the project.
— HBO Max (@hbomax) January 29, 2021
After the first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League was released, then removed a few months later, a new trailer for the film (see above) premiered in November. The new trailer featured plenty of fresh footage from the project, and was set to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, much like the prior trailer (but now, apparently, free of licensing issues — see more on that below).
And because everything about Zack Snyder’s Justice League is precious, Snyder subsequently released a black-and-white version of the trailer via Twitter. (It’s more artistic that way.)
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) November 17, 2020
Warner Bros. Pictures gave fans an extended look at Zack Snyder’s Justice League during the online DC FanDome event occurring August 22-23, but Snyder teased the big reveal — it was essentially a preview of a preview — by posting some new footage on Twitter a few days early.
— Zack Snyder (@ZackSnyder) August 20, 2020
The extended preview of Zack Snyder’s Justice League debuted online August 22 as part of the DC FanDome virtual convention, but was later taken down — reportedly due to licensing issues for Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, which was used in the trailer.
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.
The changes Snyder made for his director’s cut of Justice League were initially 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. That figure was later reported to be a much-higher $70 million after the visual effects and new footage were added.
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 was worth the studio’s hefty investment.
According to Snyder, 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 planning to release Zack Snyder’s Justice League as a single, extended-length feature.
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. Snyder has indicated that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will not include any of the material Whedon shot for the theatrical release of 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.
— 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.
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.
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 debut on the streaming service in 2021.
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