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For some time, fans of the DC Movie Universe have gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to quality. The stand-alone movies like Aquaman, Shazam! and Wonder Woman are solid but when it comes to the bigger team-up movies, like Suicide Squad for example, DC has fallen short.
While the dominance of Marvel has continued with the success of the Avengers’ movies, particularly the billion-busting Endgame, it has become clear that DC cannot make a good movie which includes more than one hero or anti-hero. While Suicide Squad was an indication of this, this fact was solidified further by the critical and box office failure of Justice League.
However, since Justice League’s release, we are in the middle of the greatest movie marketing campaign of the modern era. It’s underway right now and we don’t even realise it, hinged on hearsay and promise. It is a bit like the controversy surrounding legendary ‘banned’ movies of the past such as A Clockwork Orange or Straw Dogs. With these once unseen films, the anticipation of just getting to witness them almost outweighed their eventual merit.
Who is behind this marketing campaign? Strangely, it’s just one man, although he has a legion of fans to back him up, Zack Snyder. The film of course is the original cut, or rather specifically his cut, of Justice League.
The reason for this original cut is down to the tragic death of Snyder’s daughter Autumn. Her passing in May 2017 meant the director stepped away from the project as it headed into post-production. In Snyder’s place came MCU regular Joss Whedon, who was previously brought on board to rewrite additional scenes for the project. The latter decided on reshoots or rather 25 million dollars-worth of reshoots over two months.
This led to some problems. For example, involved in the reshoots was Henry Cavill’s Superman. However, at the same time, the actor was filming Mission Impossible: Fallout. While usually this would be no big deal as reshoots happen regularly, Cavill was contracted to sport a moustache in Fallout. So, whilst his Justice League reshoots were completed, they were done so with facial hair that had to be removed, something which left Cavill’s Superman in the released film with a weird looking mouth.
When the movie finally was released in November 2017, it received mixed to negative reviews, with many criticising the thin plot, poor villain (Irish man Ciaran Hinds in motion capture) and bad CGI. Eventually in some corners of fandom, fairly or not, the finger was pointed firmly in the direction of Whedon. And so, the legend of an alternative Snyder cut began making the rounds.
Last December, on the second anniversary of Justice League’s release, Snyder took to Vero to post a picture of film canisters with the tagline: “IS IT Real? DOES IT EXIST? OF COURSE IT DOES”. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement went into meltdown, with many DC fans fueled on by the original, early trailers for the film shown at Comic-Con conventions. These teasers indicated a very different movie to what we got, one with a different tone and even color grading.
Also noteworthy about the photo Snyder posted is the fact that his alternate cut has a running time of 214 minutes. Put that against the 120 minutes of the theatrical release, and you have a salivating extra hour of footage. So, in reality what could be different about the Snyder cut?
For a start, most likely the soundtrack is tweaked or rather recut. In June 2017, Junkie XL, aka Tom Holkenborg, was ousted and replaced by the more ambient Danny Elfman. This is even though the former’s big beat electronic score was already completed according to Holkenberg.
Meanwhile, Superman did not appear in any of the original Snyder trailers and going by the obvious moustache fix in the theatrical version, it looks as if all of Cavill’s scenes were reshoots. That suggests there is plenty of unseen Superman footage.
Also, it’s been said that Snyder’s cut spends more time with Hinds’ villain Steppenwolf and Justice League members Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller), all of whom suffered from backstory loss amidst the choppy editing.
Various actors had shot scenes for the film that wound up getting reduced significantly or excised entirely in the theatrical cut. Jesse Eisenberg’s part as Lex Luthor, previously seen in Synder’s predecessor Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, was condensed to a post-credits scene, along with Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke. Meanwhile, famous comic characters Darkseid (Ray Porter), Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), Martian Manhunter (Harry Lennix) and the Atom (Ryan Zheng) all were to play a role in Synder’s original cut but were removed for the theatrical release.
It was not only the main heroes and villains who faced the axe. Allegedly, over 20 minutes of a military subplot was cut out, some of which appeared in the aforementioned early trailers. That said, while we haven’t seen the Synder cut, some Justice League stars like Jason Momoa claim to have and raved about it. This of course has thrown petrol on the fandom flames.
Following the momentum of last year’s Oscar winning Joker, despite being a DC movie not set in the same cinematic universe, interest in the comic book publisher’s series of films has been reactivated. This has coincided with the news of a James Gunn helmed Suicide Squad film in the works, the highly anticipated release of Wonder Woman 1984 and the recent, surprisingly great Birds of Prey. It seems DC is maybe coming back in a big way, and the time is perhaps right for the dawn of the Snyder Cut.
Lately Synder has also hinted at further reshoots for Justice League, although the COVID-19 outbreak has put them on hold. Meanwhile, there’s also the impending launch of the HBO Max streaming service to consider, which is rumoured to have become linked to the director’s cut.
However, everything still lies in the hands of distributors Warner Bros Pictures. You can understand the skepticism of releasing another Justice League movie after losing so much already on the project. That said, the marketing has already been done and there’s a legion of people willing to pay good money to see the Synder cut, regardless of whether it lives up to expectations.