After years of fan demands—and then months of rumors and teases—the news is official: the 2017 DC Comics film Justice League is returning as a “director’s cut” in 2021, and the whole campaign will revolve around its original director, Zack Snyder, overhauling and stretching the story and runtime to a whopping four-hour version.
HBO Max, the streaming platform slated to launch next week, confirmed the news by shamelessly employing the oft-used #releasethesnydercut hashtag that DC Comics fans have used for years. The original film hit theaters in November 2017 after its production was halted and overhauled by interim director Joss Whedon, who took over when Snyder left the production due to a family tragedy. Since then, fans have wondered what shape the film might have taken if it were completed by its original director.
A massive Hollywood Reporter article on today’s news confirms that Snyder’s original vision was indeed quite different. His plans for a four-hour behemoth were unsurprisingly squashed by Warner Bros.’s powers that be, and his original rough cut—submitted in January 2017 and close to the 2.5-hour range—was rejected as well. Snyder exited the production shortly after, and Whedon stepped in to direct new filming and put his touch on the production and script.
To clarify our stance on this: we’re still not sure what this so-called legion of fans is smoking (and rarely trust Twitter hashtags as true indicators of fan interest, owing to the platform’s vulnerability to inauthentic actors). As I wrote in November 2017, Whedon’s touch might have been the only saving grace of the otherwise messy film:
I feel bad pointing out certain issues in the film as a comparison [between two directors], buuuut… in some parts of the film, you can clearly see step-in director Joss Whedon applying his non-crappy touch. Conversations between Affleck and Gadot toward the film’s end are among the most touching for either character since the actors started out at DC, and they, like some other good dialogue scenes, have all the hallmarks of a Whedon production, in terms of camera angle, distance, and conversational cadence. Conversely, the film’s all-over-the-map, jumping-between-scenes madness reeks of Snyder’s insipid filmmaking approach.
Curiously, Snyder confirmed to THR that he’s never seen the version that landed in theaters across the globe: “You probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Momentum began growing over the past year, and the combined forces of WarnerMedia—eager to generate content for its upcoming HBO Max platform and to come up with something doable during a massive Hollywood shutdown—moved forward on a plan to execute Snyder’s original vision for the film. HBO Max will allow the combined companies to launch the film in a possible multipart format, though WarnerMedia wasn’t ready to confirm exactly how the “Snyder cut” will debut just yet or any clearer release estimate than “2021.”
For now, Snyder and his crew are only beginning “talks with post-production houses” to figure out how to stitch together the unshot and unfinished content needed to alter and expand the theatrical version. Conversations with the original cast began in April to figure out if and how they may need to participate in re-shoots of various scenes—meaning, yes, we may all see more “Batfleck” after all, even though Robert Pattinson has since become DC Comics’ official new Batman in terms of the film universe.