Come Thursday (Mar 18), there will be two Justice League movies in circulation, both credited to Zack Snyder, but only one is the rightful version.
The first iteration of the DC Comics rumble — where Superman (Henry Cavill), Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and The Flash (Ezra Miller) gang up to save Earth from an alien invasion — opened in cinemas in 2017.
While Snyder received a directorial credit, the movie was largely remade by Joss Whedon, who stepped in after Snyder quit the project following the death of his daughter Autumn.
At the studio’s behest, Whedon was roped in to lighten up and shorten Snyder’s original take, which the suits thought was too dark and long. (Vanity Fair recently ran a superb story on Justice League’s bumpy production history.) As we all know, the Whedon-supervised rendition didn’t go down well with either critics or audiences. (Snyder reportedly hasn't seen Whedon's version.) Its lackluster performance prompted fans to wonder: What if Snyder gets to finish what he started? This led to the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement in 2019.
Now, four years later, a confluence of factors — the demand from fervent fans and the demand for content from a nascent streaming service (HBO Max) — allowed Snyder to revisit the movie, and this time he got to do it his way.
At four hours (and two minutes) long, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is The Irishman of superhero movies — it’s practically a new movie (all footage previously shot by Snyder, plus one new scene involving Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad). It’s more brutal (it isn’t 300 but it still has enough gore to warrant an NC16 rating), has more backstories (Hello, The Flash and Cyborg), and did we forget to mention that it’s four hours (and two-minutes) long? Is this the best comic book movie ever made? That’s up for debate but it’s certainly more satisfying and a vast improvement over the Whedon Cut. Let's just say justice is served.
That said, can the two Justice League movies co-exist in the same pop culture spectrum? Are there any discussions to, er, expunge the Whedon redo from the Warner Brothers vault?, 8days.sg recently asked Snyder and his wife and producing partner Deborah Snyder via Zoom.
“I think that is up to the consumer to decide,” Snyder said. “That’s up to Warner Brothers, not us,” Deborah added.
“I like your way of thinking — expunging it from the record,” Snyder said. “Sounds cool. If there’s some sort of like a virus you can push a button to find all [the 2017 version] and delete it…. but I don’t see that happening. But I like your thinking. It’s cool.”
If anything, the theatrical version — or as Snyder referred to as “the cut that shall not be named” — will serve as a reminder to the bigwigs that they should’ve trusted his instincts.
“I hope that in the end, I will convince you that my idea was right to begin with and [the studio] should’ve let me do it that way from the start,” said Snyder. “That had got me in trouble, I admit but I think in the end, look, we are here — that’s the good news.”
Watch our video interview with Zack Snyder:
Here are five other things you should know about Zack Snyder's Justice League:
1. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a standalone.
Speaking at IGN Fan Fest last month, Snyder said the other DC Extended Universe movies — Wonder Woman and Aquaman and Shazam! — that came out after the 2017 Justice League hasn’t influenced his director’s cut in any way. “This film was finished before those films were probably even shot,” Snyder explained, “and so I stayed the course with my point of view.
“I think you can view my Snyderverse version of the DC superhero canon as its own thing. I love [Wonder Woman director] Patty [Jenkins] and [Aquaman director] James [Wan] and what they’ve done with their movies and are amazing, but at this point I was just like, this is its own thing and it doesn’t really owe anything to anything, so I'm just going to do it exactly as I had always intended.”
That said, the Snyder Cut does end on a massive cliffhanger. If the movie does well, and if there’s a demand for a sequel, will Snyder return to the director's chair? Watch his reply in the video above.
2. It has six chapters.
When first announced in August, Snyder wanted Justice League to be shown as a four-part event series but ultimately decided to stream it as a single piece that can be accessed via an interactive series of six “Chapters”:
Part 1 – “Don't Count On It, Batman”
Part 2 – “Age of Heroes”
Part 3 – “Beloved Mother, Beloved Son”
Part 4 – “Change Machine”
Part 5 – “All The King's Horses”
Part 6 – “Something Darker”
If you look at the time stamp slider on the bottom of the screen, you’ll see distinctions for each Chapter. That way, if you only have time to watch one part, it will be easy to return to where you left off.
Said Deborah: “Working with HBO Max is the best possible situation, because you can really take a deep dive into the characters in a way you couldn’t do in a theatrical version of it.
“There are hardcore fans that are going to sit through the movie and people who will sit through a little at a time. It was important to us to make sure that people have options in how they want to view it.”
3. Snyder did Justice League 2.0 for free.
In the Vanity Fair interview, Snyder said the studio exes wanted to just release raw, incomplete footage of the Snyder Cut. Baaaad idea. “I was like, ‘That’s a no, that’s a hard no,” he said. “And they’re like, ‘But why? You can just put up the rough cut.’
“I go, ‘Here’s why. Three reasons: One, you get the internet off your back, which is probably your main reason for wanting to do this.
“Two, you get to feel vindicated for making things right, I guess, on some level. And then three, you get a shitty version of the movie that you can point at and go, ‘See? It’s not that good anyway. So maybe I was right.’
“I was like, No chance. I would rather just have the Snyder cut be a mythical unicorn for all time.”
In the end, the studio coughed up, by Snyder’s estimates, US$70 million (S$94 mil) for a new score, additional scenes, and over 2,500 VFX shots. Snyder didn’t receive a dime for the new release and opted for creative control instead. He said, “I didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, and it allowed me to keep my negotiating powers with these people pretty strong.”
4. Getting the band back together
While the bulk of Justice League 2.0 was put together with footage shot five years ago, Snyder also did some additional filming for the post-apocalyptic ‘Knightmare’ sequence involving Jared Leto’s Joker, a ‘holy smoke!’ moment briefly glimpsed in the trailer.
“After I realised there would be no more Zack Snyder DC movies, my biggest regret was that there was no Batman/Joker confrontation scene,” Snyder said. “It’s the key relationship for both of them. They both went through a series of films and never ran into each other (Ed: they almost did in Suicide Squad). It didn’t make sense to me. So, I thought maybe I could remedy that.”
The sequence was surreptitiously filmed over three days in the Synders’ backyard. And it was a logistical nightmare, Deborah recalled: “Shooting during the pandemic was really challenging because the studios were just starting to figure it out and the unions were just coming together with what the safety requirements were, so we were kinda waiting for that to happen in order to plan to shoot.”
On top of that, not all the actors were available: Ezra Miller (as The Flash) was filming the Fantastic Beasts threequel in England and Snyder had to direct him over Zoom.
5. Do not adjust your screen.
Even though Zack Snyder’s Justice League is being streamed on HBO Go, Snyder hopes that one day, when the pandemic dust has settled and it’s safe to return to the cinemas, his labour of love will be seen on IMAX screens. And that’s why he’s presenting the movie in the square-ish 4:3 format (black bars on either side of the picture) and not in widescreen. (Visually, it’s a great way to differentiate his version from Whedon’s.) Even though Snyder gets to show his director’s cut, this is not his preferred cut: he’s also made black-and-white ‘Justice is Gray’ edition. Speaking on the YouTube series Minutemen, Snyder said, “That to me is the most fan-centric, most pure, most Justice League experience.” At a Q&A session with IGN Fan Fest, Snyder elaborated that he is a “huge advocate of and a huge admirer of” that monochrome cut, which will arrive on HBO Max (and HBO Go).... eventually.
Zack Snyder's Justice League premieres exclusively on HBO Go on Mar 18. If you aren’t a HBO Go subscriber, you can sign up via meWATCH for a three-month subscription for the price of two at $27.96 (UP $41.94) or a 12-month subscription at $119.98 with a free $10 Grab Food eVoucher. If you need some more persuading, try the 7-day free trial (monthly auto-renewal at $13.98 after trial ends). Promo ends Apr 15.
Photos: TPG News/Click Photos, WarnerMedia