The DC Universe? Better get used to hearing that again. Due to overwhelming demand online, HBO Max will release Zack Snyder’s version of 2017’s Justice League in 2021. The hashtag wins. They’re gonna #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. But it won’t be as easy as it seems. Fans have been ravenous for the Snyder cut ever since the film, which Joss Whedon completed as an uncredited director after Snyder left during postproduction following the death of his daughter, hit theaters and bombed. The campaign to see Snyder’s unedited version of the movie only grew in power when Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot tweeted “#ReleaseTheSnyderCut” in November of 2019, prompting fans (and Ben Affleck and Ray Fisher, who play Batman and Cyborg in the film) to reignite their demands. Snyder even chimed in with his own appreciation. The uproar heated up again ahead of the HBO Max launch in May 2020, the date so many believers insisted would bring the cut to life on a streaming platform. But … what? What are they even talking about? Snyder’s original cut of Justice League is a near-mythical legend at this point, so those who aren’t as dedicated to the cause might not even know it’s a thing. So here, for the uninitiated, is a primer on what we know about the now-infamous Snyder cut of Justice League, coming to HBO Max in 2021.
What is the Snyder cut?
When Gadot, Affleck, Henry Cavill, and others signed on to make Justice League, another installment in the DC Universe, their director was Batman v. Superman’s Snyder. Batman v. Superman, you may have heard, did not do very well critically despite opening to over $150 million at the worldwide box office. Still, the DC Universe pushed on. Snyder wrapped principal production on Justice League and, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder confirmed that he made his ideal version of the film, but at four-hours long, he knew Warner Bros. wouldn’t go for it. Instead, he showed them a two-hour rough cut that everyone agreed was not it. But, then, in May 2017 Warner Bros. announced he’d be stepping away from the film because of a family tragedy. In an effort to salvage the movie, Joss Whedon took over as director, completing the version of Justice League we all know and some of us love. How close is it to Snyder’s original vision? Almost immediately, rumors swirled that Snyder’s edit of the film would have been much darker. At a fundraising event last year, where he showed director’s cuts of three of his other films, some fans stoked the fire by recording Snyder admitting that he had his own version of Justice League — and that it was “up to [Warner Bros.]” to release it or not.
Wait, so, Justice League came out, like, three years ago, right?
Lol, yes, and?
Why are people tweeting about it now?
You underestimate how much they wanna see this movie. In 2019, speculators guessed that Gadot and Affleck were aware of the possibility of Snyder’s cut ending up on HBO Max in 2020, hence the tweets. Disney+ already uses behind-the-scenes footage as an incentive for their platform, so fans thought Warner Bros.’ new platform might take a similar approach. In fact, rumors of such an endeavor began swirling again in May 2020, shortly before launch. But fans began campaigning for his version of the film to be released as bonus footage long before that. So when the director shared some slightly unfamiliar images from Justice League on the social-media platform Vero last year, those fans jumped to the conclusion that they were from His Cut. Gadot could’ve seen a fan post about it on her Instagram explore page that week and decided to randomly tweet her support for the director. Affleck tagged along and Snyder appreciated it. Perhaps there was no larger plan in the works, streaming wars be damned, and Big Brother took a night off.
Wait, are we sure the Snyder cut exists? That recording from the director’s-cuts event is pretty muffled, and Snyder noticeably did not screen Justice League there.
Apparently, it does! Or, at least, it will. The Snyder cut either exists (in a four-hour, semi-unfinished version that was described as a “car with no panels”) or will soon exist (in a shorter version, thanks to HBO Max). In 2017, before Warner Bros. hired a replacement director to finish the movie, the distributor screened a rough cut of Justice League for Whedon and screenwriters Andrea Berloff and Allan Heinberg, according to the New York Times. While many fans assumed that was the Snyder Cut, it’s likely not the same four-hour behemoth he’s working with now.
But some Hollywood insiders were doubtful that the cut existed prior to the HBO Max news: “That’s a pipe dream,” one told Variety in November. “There’s no way it’s ever happening.” To which Snyder responded on Vero:
What’s the difference between the Whedon cut and the Snyder cut?
“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,” Zack Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that he still hasn’t seen the version released in theaters. According to the Times, Whedon added almost 80 new script pages when he took over. On top of more jokes, he added scenes for Gadot, Diane Lane (who played Martha Kent), and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) but trimmed the story lines for Ezra Miller (Flash) and Fisher. Kiersey Clemons, who played a love interest for Miller, was cut from the film entirely. Seems like #ReleaseTheSnyderCut should be #JusticeForKierseyClemons, but we digress. Remember the Great Henry Cavill CGI Mustache Mess? That’s all from the Whedon cut. Cavill was already shooting Mission: Impossible — Fallout when Justice League reshoots began, so he couldn’t shave to become the baby-faced Superman we apparently require. The Snyder cut? No weird CGI mouth, presumably.
Oh, and fans believed the Snyder cut was exactly 214 minutes long (yes, that is three and a half hours in civilian-speak) because the poster for his fundraising event featured the number 214, and a YouTuber who was at the event said Snyder specifically pointed out the number, like some sort of real-life Easter egg.
Has anyone actually seen the Snyder cut?
Rumors that Snyder has been screening the film in Hollywood have been floating around unconfirmed. Prior to HBO Max’s announcement, a representative for Snyder told Vulture she was confused by November’s “uptick” in concern over the cut, explaining that Snyder was currently in edits for another film and that she had no new information to share.
Who even wants it?
Aside from Snyder, Gadot, Affleck, and the robbed Clemons? The usual: fans on the internet. When Justice League first came out, a petition to release the Snyder cut garnered nearly 180,000 signatures. Fans also wrote letters to Warner Bros. executives, called them, and generally made a fuss all over the internet.
That’s … a lot.
Snyder fans are absolutely doing the most, yes. There’s a forum dedicated to the Snyder cut on Reddit and multiple fan accounts dedicated to it across platforms, while the recent tweets from Affleck and Gadot earned over 100,000 likes each.
Well, it looks like their hard work paid off. How did the Snyder cut land at HBO Max? And what’s that gonna look like?
Snyder told THR that Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich reached out to him and wife, Deborah, in November 2019, right around the time of Gal Gadot’s tweet. In February, they screened Snyder’s version in black and white for HBO Max, Warner Bros., and DC Comics executives at their home. Snyder also outlined his vision for bringing it to life, floating the idea of six episodic “chapters,” with cliffhangers and all. Plus, the Snyders say releasing it with a four-hour run time or as a limited series will allow for more character development. Snyder plans to bring together the original postproduction team to score, cut, add new and finish old visual effects, and potentially even bring back actors to record dialogue. One source told THR the venture will cost around $20 million, but another says it’s closer to $30 million. There is no schedule for going forward at this time, as talks with postproduction houses are only just beginning. It’ll be nearly four years of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut by the time it comes out in 2021. Let’s see if it was worth it.