It's been more than a year since Justice League hit theaters, but because of the film's complex production, we're still learning more about what might have been had Zack Snyder been able to execute his original vision. Today we have even more details about what a Justice League film trilogy would have looked like, from a somewhat unlikely source.
Filmmaker and podcaster Kevin Smith had nothing to do with the actual production of Justice League, but he followed it closely and talked about the film frequently after it was released. Smith revealed on the latest episode of his Fatman Beyond podcast that, while visiting the set of Star Wars: Episode IX in the U.K. recently, he was able to hang out with "people who worked on both versions of Justice League" who are still involved in film production at London's Pinewood Studios. According to Smith, these are people who had plenty of access to previsualization materials and other aspects of the Justice League franchise planning stage.
"They saw Jim Lee breakdown boards for all three Justice League movies," Smith said.
It's no secret that Snyder had big plans for his version of the League, but those plans were significantly altered when Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon was brought in, first to do rewrites on the Justice League script and then to take over directing duties in the home stretch when Snyder had to step back from the film due to a family tragedy (at which point the crew dubbed the film "Josstice League"). What we got in the end was a film that mixed Snyder's original plans with some of Whedon's brighter alterations, and while a sequel was teased, a new direction for the DCEU in the year since — as well as Snyder's departure to work on other projects — suggests we will never see those original plans realized.
So, what were they? According to Smith, he was told that the original plan for Justice League was quite similar, with the League battling and defeating Steppenwolf, though at the end Steppenwolf's beaten exit from the film would have featured an appearance from his boss, as a Boom Tube opened up to take him back to his home planet.
"[The League] saw Darkseid, and Darkseid saw them," Smith said. "Boom tube closes, and that’s the end of the f***ing movie. With them all knowing there’s something out there, and we have to go.”
Smith also noted that the much-hyped shot in the Justice League trailer of Alfred expressing gratitude to a mysterious figure was originally supposed to indicate not the re-emergence of Superman, but instead the appearance of Green Lantern. With that in mind, Justice League 2 would have sent the team into space to battle the threat they saw at the end of the first film.
"Justice League 2 was going cosmic as they take the fight to Apokolips ... and the Lantern Corps was involved," Smith said.
Despite the team's proactive efforts to take on Darkseid, though, Justice League 2 would have ended "poorly, like Empire Strikes Back or Infinity War," Smith said. Darkseid would have defeated the League, then gone to Earth and conquered it, reducing it to the kind of landscape Batman envisioned in the "Knightmare" sequence from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. With their planet devastated, the League would then have to muster all their strength for one last showdown.
“That was going to be the entire third movie,” Smith said. “The heroes’ last stand against Darkseid and the forces of Apokolips — holy f**k!”
It's a truly epic vision, but as Fatman Beyond cohost (and SYFY WIRE's Battlestar Galacticast co-host) Marc Bernardin points out, it's also rather bleak in a way that even Infinity War might not be. We already saw a devastated landscape at the end of Justice League, and that was just a very limited part of the world. Imagine the entire planet reduced to a grim Zack Snyder hellscape ruled over by a god whose chief goal is to enslave everyone and wipe out all free will and joy. Still, at both Smith and Bernardin point out, at least then we would have seen a single creative vision play out over three epic films.
At least, that's the version according to what Smith heard from crew members. Snyder might break down his own ideas in full for us someday, but for now he's moving on to other things. So, this is the closest we'll get to a breakdown of what could've been.
What do you think of this scrapped Justice League trilogy? Would it have been worth it?