The Justice League “Snyder Cut”, arguably the most mythical movie production of recent times, is real. Even more than that, we finally know when and where actual human beings will be able to watch this cinematic pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. The long-rumoured director’s cut of the failed 2017 DC Comics blockbuster will be releasing on the HBO Max streaming service in 2021!
Director Zack Snyder broke the news himself during a live Q&A session following a public screening of Man of Steel, with HBO Max also confirming the release date thereafter. And promptly the internet exploded (and Darryn started regretting the vow he made on this very site – more about that later). In a press statement, the filmmaker expressed his gratitude to the people who made this happen.
I want to thank HBO Max and Warner Brothers for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to be realized. Also a special thank you to all of those involved in the SnyderCut movement for making this a reality.
For anybody who hasn’t been following this long saga, it began with Batman v Superman, which Snyder shot back to back with Justice League. When the former film released to a divisive response and criticisms about its dark tone, Warner Bros began tasking Snyder with making changes to Justice League while in production. Avengers filmmaker Joss Whedon was brought on to help lighten up the script and tweak the story to get closer the billion-dollar formula Marvel had going. Halfway through production on Justice League in 2016 though, Snyder had to step away from the film due to a family tragedy and WB handed the reins over fully to Whedon to complete the film.
Under the direction of WB brass, Whedon would slice out huge chunks of the film, a lot of which had to do with Snyder’s overarching long-term plans to bring the villainous Darkseid to the DC Comics cinematic universe and having Superman go through a dark arc before embracing his more heroic ideals. Whedon would also hastily reshoot a bunch of new scenes (prompting the infamous Superman CGI lip incident) to add in lighter character beats and jokes.
The result though was a surprisingly short, tonal mess of a film that had some bright spots but fell way short of fan and critical expectations overall. It also didn’t live up to WB’s goals as the $300 million production earned just $657.9 million worldwide, eventually losing the studio around $60 million once advertising costs were factored in. Most tellingly though, Justice League’s failure forced WB to shake-up upper management and scrap nearly all their DC Comics cinematic universe plans to instead focus more on loosely connected efforts like Shazam! or even completely standalone films like Joker.
From the moment Justice League belly-flopped into cinemas though, fans began the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign on social media, calling for WB to release Snyder’s original vision for the film. The problem was, at that stage, a Snyder Cut of the film was essentially nothing more than a barebones workprint not fit for public release. Over the last three years though, as the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign swelled to include Time Square ads, public demonstrations around the world, and incredible fund-raising campaigns for fans in need (unfortunately countered by some aggressively toxic fan hordes as well), Snyder has been teasing behind-the-scenes looks at what he had planned and seemingly tinkering away at the film in his own time.
Then at the end of last week, reports started emerging that Snyder had screened a cut of the film at his private residence for execs at the WarnerMedia owned HBO Max, WB, and DC Comics back in January. And apparently they liked what they saw! Enough that they’re reportedly putting up an additional $20 million to $30 million for Snyder to complete the production, according to THR‘s sources. Speaking to the publication, Snyder revealed that he has never seen Whedon’s cut of Justice League, but that this cut would be totally different.
It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie. You probably saw one-fourth of what I did.
Creating this “new thing” will entail re-editing, re-scoring, completing VFX, and getting the cast back together to record additional dialogue (but not footage though?). Snyder’s early cut is apparently sitting on four hours in length at the moment, and it’s unclear if he will edit that down to a more traditional theatrical length, or have the entire shebang split up into six “chapters”. Plans for this episodic cliffhanger type of approach is what Snyder reportedly shared with the execs at his private screening and which apparently left them “feeling pumped”. Personally, I have no preference except to not trim it in any way unless absolutely necessary. Every single extended edition Director’s Cut that Snyder has ever released – and this includes Batman v Superman – has always been exponentially better than what we got in cinema originally.
And speaking further to THR, Snyder revealed that his cut of Justice League is definitely not one that would have released now in cinema. In fact, the filmmaker himself – just like many of us – thought it would never be released publicly.
When we left the movie, I just took the drive of the cut on it. I honestly never thought it would be anything… I always thought it was a thing that in 20 years, maybe somebody would do a documentary and I could lend them the footage, little snippets of a cut no one has ever seen.
With the new platform and streaming services, you can have something like this. You can’t release something like this theatrically, but you could with a streaming service. It’s an opportunity that wasn’t there two years ago, to be honest.
And it’s an opportunity I am legitimately pretty excited for. While I definitely don’t agree with every character or narrative decision Snyder made while he was the primary architect of the DC Comics cinematic universe, the long-term plans he had to expand the scope of the universe sounded pretty damn epic. Either way, even if his version of Justice League turns out to be a plodding, overly grim bout of superpowered nihilism, I would still rather have a single, fully realized artistic vision of a story than the sloppy filmmaking-by-committee mish-mash effort we got back in 2017.
HBO Max is set to launch in the US next week on 27 May (boasting one hell of a movie lineup), with further international rollouts planned from 2021 onwards.
Last Updated: May 21, 2020