It’s taken more than three years and a relentless, deafening #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign, but Zack Snyder’s fabled version of Justice League is finally seeing the light of day.
Aptly titled, well, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the film will unspool on HBO Max starting March 18 and span a staggering four hours, divvied up into six chapters.
It’s a colossal undertaking, and one that’s left hardcore fans ravenous to see Snyder’s original vision for the film he was unable to complete in 2017 in the wake of a family tragedy. (Joss Whedon stepped in to complete the film, which was largely savaged by critics and audiences.)
It was a project that everyone involved was eager to see through, after financier Warner Bros. eventually gave the greenlight and the fresh cut was officially announced last year.
“The biggest priority was to finish what we started,” producer Deborah Snyder tells SYFY WIRE. “We started working with these characters over 11 years ago, and it's been a long journey. But I think as we worked on the movies, the movies themselves were this very Joseph Campbell hero's journey that started with Man of Steel to [Batman v Superman]. And Justice League was supposed to be the culmination of this journey. The heroes, we would get to see them in their full glory by the end of it. So I think finishing that arc and that journey was really important to us.”
Key cast members returned for reshoots, from Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) to Ray Fisher (Cyborg), and although the project’s price tag remains nebulous, it was far from chump change. During an appearance on a podcast last May, then-WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt made no secret that it was well above the $30 million that industry insiders had been pegging.
So did the finished product turn out the way the film’s creative team had envisioned?
“It sure did,” Deborah says, noting that the shift to HBO Max actually gave them the wiggle room they needed. “It's interesting because we knew had we stayed on the [original] movie, obviously we couldn't release a four-hour version of the movie theatrically, that would have been insane. And HBO Max, when they came to us, we saw it as an opportunity to tell the full story.”
"I’m just super happy that the whole thing’s come together and that Zack was able to edit and finish the film that we had always intended,” the movie's cinematographer, Fabian Wagner, tells SYFY WIRE. “I didn’t expect it to happen for a long time. I thought it was amazing and great what the fan movement did.”
Wagner had shot tons of footage that didn’t make it into the 2017 film, and that footage has now been unearthed to beef up the Snyder Cut big time. “Four hours of that stuff is all the things that we shot in 2016,” he reveals. ”That means there’s two hours of stuff that wasn’t in the other movie.” This includes a massive backstory to Cyborg that more fully fleshes out his character arc — something that Wagner is “looking forward to ... because it’s a cool story. He’s a cool character.”
That extra screentime proved to be a world of difference in giving the characters room to really grow throughout the film.
"The thing that excited me most is the character development,” the film’s sound editor, Scott Hecker, explains. “We’ve got six superheroes here and it gets into where these characters came from, their relationships with their parents, their hang-ups, their strengths, and weaknesses. To me, that’s the coolest part of it. It really delves into each of their backgrounds and really lets you get to know them. ... It’s back to Zack’s vision, and I think that’s where it was meant to be."
Despite the film’s success — and let’s be clear here, the Snyder Cut’s very existence is a huge success in itself regardless of how it’s critically received — Deborah remains coy when asked about the possibility of returning for a sequel.
“I think right now we're just trying to enjoy,” she says. (In the past, Zack himself had hinted at future Justice League films.) “We've had our head down trying to get the movie done, and I think for us, we never expected that we'd get to finish this story. We're just happy that we got to this journey, and getting the Justice League together was so important for us that that's what matters to us right now.”
One thing's for sure: There were ideas churning for a second movie at one point. "In my first meeting with Zack — before I even had the job — he was telling me all about the second movie," Wagner says. "He’s got the whole story in his head, he’s got it all planned out. It was incredible to hear all about what was going to come after. ... The one thing that I can say is that whatever Zack will come up with in the future, if it’s related to this universe, it’s gonna be pretty awesome."
It’s rare for filmmakers to get to revisit a stalled vision, and almost unprecedented for that vision to receive a full-blown movie release. None of this is lost on those who worked on bringing back Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
“I think for everybody involved it became very personal,” Deborah says. “They got to finish something. Because they started with one thing and then it changed, and without judgment it just became its own thing. But they finally got to do the thing that they signed on to do in the first place, and I think that was a really cathartic experience for everyone.”
(Additional reporting by Josh Weiss)