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The Snyder Cut: What was Zack Snyder's original vision for ‘Justice League’?

Sam Ashurst
Contributor
(L-R) Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, director Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill attend the Warner Bros. Pictures presentation during CinemaCon 2017. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage)

In April 2016, just weeks after the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder began work on his version of Justice League, assembling DC’s mightiest heroes for a Seven Samurai-inspired adventure.

After principal photography wrapped in October that same year, and at some point during the long post-production on the VFX-heavy film, Snyder reportedly delivered a long assembly cut that Warner Bros. execs were said to be unhappy with.

In May 2017, Snyder left the project following the tragic death of his daughter Autumn to focus on his personal life, and Warner Brothers hired Joss Whedon to complete the film, asking the Avengers director to reshoot a significant percentage of Snyder’s film.

Following the release of Whedon’s Justice League, DC fans were unsatisfied, and have clamoured for Snyder’s original cut ever since, launching a petition in early 2018. A year later, they haven’t given up, with social media accounts dedicated to the cause still campaigning for its release.

Jason Momoa sits atop the Batmobile in 'Justice League' (Warner Bros.)

In fact, a GoFundMe campaign has raised $20,000 (over £15,000) in a recent crowdfunding effort - which they plan on spending on a campaign at San Diego Comic-Con urging Warner Bros. to “Release the Snyder cut”.

Despite denials that a cut even exists, yesterday’s Twitter drama seemed to further confirm what we already knew: A Snyder cut did exist, and could still exist... somewhere.

We probably should have listened when Zack himself confirmed its existence.

Just in case you can’t make out the audio, here’s what Snyder says. “All I can say is… sure there’s a cut… it’s done. I have a cut. I have a bunch of them. So, it’s not like… that’s up to them [Warner Bros.].”

It’s a rare admission from the director, who’s mostly stayed silent on the issue, aside from a few intriguing Vero posts.

So, what exactly are fans asking for? We’ve waded through enough theories to fill a Bat-computer’s hard drive, to find actual, confirmed information about the cut.

Here’s our intel about what the Snyder cut would actually feature, should it ever find its way to your local supermarket shelf.

It would have been shot on film

Ben Affleck reflects as Bruce Wayne on Zack Snyder's set (credit: Warner Brothers)

Justice League’s original director of photography Fabian Wagner gave a revealing interview to Collider at the end of 2017, giving the most detail yet about what we missed out on in Snyder’s cut (while still complying with whatever NDAs are clearly still in place).

Asked if he’d shot the film digitally, Wagner said: “So I was doing the main unit, and we shot the whole film on 35 millimeter. All of that stuff was shot on [film]. And then the reshoots that obviously Zack didn’t direct and I couldn’t be involved in, unfortunately, as I was on a different project, and they decided to shoot that on the [Arri Alexa] 65. We shot all of our stuff on the 35.”

That makes sense as, like Nolan, Snyder prefers to shoot on film. It would certainly make the film more visually consistent, which was definitely an issue in Whedon’s cut.

The cinematographer’s favourite shot would be in the movie

Batman appears in cut footage from the Justice League trailer (credit: Warner Brothers)

“Probably my favourite shot,” Wagner said, which unfortunately didn’t end up in the final movie was in one of the trailers. It was of Batman up on the gargoyle. But yeah, you know, there was a lot of great sets. We had some really great sets, which were designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, who did a fantastic job with the very detailed, beautiful sets.”

“But I would probably say that was one of my favourite shots was the Batman on the gargoyle shot. That was a great set, as well, with the backlight and it was just a lot of fun to shoot.”

It was most of the coolest moments in those original trailers, which are full of footage that didn’t make the movie. We’ll get to more of that in a moment.

It would have featured the Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern (credit: Warner Brothers)

Bizarrely, Justice League originally featured Green Lantern. In a broadcast for his YouTube channel, DC man Kevin Smith (not only does Smith direct episodes of The Flash and Supergirl, he does corporate events for DC/WB) read out a load of scenes that were deleted from the Snyder cut.

Now, this strays into fan theory territory, but the scenes are actually confirmed by a woman in the audience for Smith’s show, who had previously said she’d been at the original Snyder cut screening. She confirms the footage descriptions are accurate.

And, in those descriptions? The Green Lantern.

Read more: The Justice League cameos you missed in Shazam!

According to Smith (via an article he’d read online), the Lantern would have appeared in the epic action sequence featuring the Amazons taking on Steppenwolf. We would have had dialogue from Green Lantern (and Antiope, Hippolyta, Zeus and Ares). The released version has no dialogue, only action.

Snyder’s cut would have set up a post-credit sequence, where Bruce is woken up by a green light shining into his lake house, before he’s visited by Tomar Re and Kilowog (two Green Lanterns).

It’s logical that the studio would want to remove such a major character introduction from a compromised movie, and it might actually be the key thing that’s stopping the Snyder cut from being released from the WB vaults. If we ever see it, it’ll probably be after they’ve introduced their version of the Lantern.

The Lantern isn’t the only cut character. Kiersey Clemons' Iris West was cut from the film, as was Willem Dafoe’s Nuidis Vulko.

It would have had more Cyborg stuff

Ray Fisher as Cyborg in Zack Snyder's cut (credit: Warner Brothers)

Cyborg’s entire arc appears to have been completely retooled in Whedon’s version. The early trailers gave us a glimpse at Cyborg’s life before he was a man-machine, with footage from a football game that was cut from the final film.

Apparently, this would have led to an argument that caused the accident that led to Victor’s Cyborg operation. In that accident, Victor causes the death of his mother during an argument about his father. This would have given the film significantly more dramatic weight.

Cyborg has a larger contribution to Superman’s resurrection in the Snyder cut, as well as a more heroic contribution to the finale. There, Cyborg is actually killed by Steppenwolf - torn in half by the villain. The film would have ended with a resolution to bring Cyborg back (which, to be fair, is probably a bit too close to Justice League’s ‘bring back Superman’ plot).

It would have had a Last Jedi moment

The Last Jedi has a scene in common with Zack Snyder's cut (credit: Disney)

Justice League and The Last Jedi were released within a month of each other, and if the Snyder cut had been released, we would have watched two remarkably similar scenes.

According to Kevin Smith’s YouTube video, there was a moment when Bruce goes on a kamikaze mission, driving the Batmobile to certain death, only to be saved at the last moment by Aquaman and Wonder Woman, who convince him it’s better to life to fight another day.

That sounds remarkably similar to the Last Jedi sequence where Rose saves Finn by crashing her speeder into his, to save him from his own kamikaze mission.

It would have been influenced by Seven Samurai

Six of the Seven Samurai gather (credit: Toho)

Watching Whedon’s cut of the movie, you wouldn’t have any sense of an Akira Kurosawa influence. But the director who George Lucas homaged in Star Wars was going to be a key reference point for Snyder.

As he told Yahoo Movies UK above, “Bruce is having to go out and Seven Samurai the Justice League, which is fun, but slightly monumental. And at the same time, they’re starting to grapple with this coming threat.”

It would have had a Junkie XL score - and it probably would have been epic

Dutch DJ and producer Tom Holkenborg alias Junkie XL poses for a portrait in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 16th October 2012. (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)

“As my mentor Hans Zimmer told me: you haven’t made it in Hollywood as a composer until you get replaced on a project. So I guess I finally graduated this week,” Junkie XL said via Twitter when the news came that Danny Elfman would be providing the Justice League score for Joss Whedon.

“It pains me to leave the project, but a big thanks to Zack for asking me to be part of his vision, and I wish Danny, Joss and Warner Bros. all the best with Justice League.”

The composer was asked if his score would have incorporated elements of his - superb - Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice work, to which he said: “Let me just give you a simple answer: of course. I can’t dive too deep into it because at a certain point, Joss [Whedon] took over from Zack [Snyder] and he wanted a slightly different approach so obviously he went in a different direction.”

Here’s hoping Warner Brothers go in a different direction, and release the Snyder cut that fans want so badly.