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Zack Snyder’s Justice League – First Impressions

The DC Cinematic Universe has been a mixed bag since the release of Man of Steel, with one of its most controversial entries being 2017’s Justice League. The film was met with a startling amount of indifference, considering this was the first live action outing of DC’s most popular team of heroes. It received mostly negative reviews and under performed at the box office, making only $657 million, compared to Batman v Superman’s $873 million. With such an underwhelming performance, monetarily and critically, general discussion around the film faded as DC began to pivot towards smaller scale, character focused films like Joker and Shazam!. On June 19th 2020, the HBO Max YouTube channel released a 34 second teaser trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, featuring never before seen footage and voice over. This reveal has left fans of the original film wondering if this project is worth caring about, hopeful it will be something to keep their eyes on.

 

A Complicated History

 

2017’s Justice League underwent a tumultuous development with several rewrites, reshoots and directorial change. This led to a film that strayed far from Zack Snyder’s original vision. The script was re-written multiple times, which is not particularly uncommon, and mostly attributed to Batman v Superman’s negative reception. Snyder and Chris Terrio’s original script contained horror elements, but Batman V Superman received such negative reviews for its dark tone, Snyder and Warner Bros. decided to lighten things up. This is the version of the script that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be based on.

The original version was nearing the end of production when Snyder had to leave due to a family tragedy. Warner Bros. was not willing to delay the film until he was ready to return, hiring Joss Whedon to finish in his place. This induced significant re-writes and expensive re-shoots, including the infamous mustache-gate. Whedon’s take had a significantly lighter tone, adding comedy and a color grade change from Snyder’s signature greys and blacks, to a red and orange hue. This change can be seen in the first official trailer, which used footage from Snyder’s version, compared to its final trailer from Whedon’s completed film.

After release, an internet campaign began with the hashtag #releasethesnydercut. The campaign was initially spearheaded by hopeful, passionate fans and felt like a pipedream. Bigger names began to speak out in support, including Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck and, the hashtags most vocal supporter, Jason Mamoa. They rallied with fans to get the Snyder cut to see the light of day. The campaign came to a head on the 20th May 2020, when Zack Snyder held a Man of Steel watch party. Snyder invited several fans into a zoom call with Henry Cavill, revealing a poster for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, set for 2021.

 

What is the Difference?

 

Snyder has spent the last two years sharing concept art and story details that imply the film he wanted to make would have been very different to the one we saw.

Justice League was widely criticized for its villain, Steppenwolf. He was the epitome of the ‘bland, hulking, grey, CGI villain’ trope that has plagued DCEU films since Batman v Superman’s Doomsday.

Through Zack Snyder’s twitter, it was revealed that Steppenwolf was not intended to be the only villain to make an appearance. Darkseid, one of the DC Universe’s most powerful villains, was supposed to play a part in the film. Not long after this, Ray Porter revealed himself as the actor playing the ruler of Apokolips.

Considering the amount of focus placed on him in the recent teaser, it’s fair to say that there will be more than a simple cameo. Snyder has confirmed the existence of other characters that were completely removed from the theatrical release.

These include Martian Manhunter, the Atom as Ryan Choi, and even the appearance of a more well-known Green Lantern.  Nobody can say how big a role these characters would have played, but their involvement was surely intended to set up future DCEU appearances that are now back on the table.

 

Other details that are rumored to appear in the Snyder cut:  Superman in his black suit design, Lex Luthor in more than just a post-credit scene, and extended introductions for The Flash and Aquaman. Nobody can say how important these scenes will be to the overall story, but viewers will get more insight and context behind the films main characters.

 

What Form Will the Snyder Cut Take?

 

The general assumption has been that this will be an extended movie released on HBO Max. The only concrete information that has been announced is Snyder’s team receiving somewhere in the range of $20 – $30 million to finish up VFX, with no new scenes being filmed. They have been given permission to record new dialogue, which has led to speculation. One suggestion is that the project could take on the form of a TV series, in the same vein as the extended cut of Quinten Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. This would leave room for animated segments to be included for sections that were incomplete.

While they could be spliced into a film, a complete change in style would be less jarring if spread out in episodic fashion.  It is important to note that nobody can say for sure how much the Snyder cut will differ from the theatrical release, but based on everything we’ve heard, this is going to be something more than your average Director’s cut.

Zack Snyder has created masterpieces and dumpster fires. Even though I don’t trust Zack Snyder to make a 10/10 film, I do expect that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be worth seeing as the singular vision of a director, rather than the Frankenstein-esque production that was the theatrical cut.

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