At the Mumbai edition of Comic Con India last year, Film Companion ran into a cosplayer dressed as Rorschach from Watchmen, holding a placard that said simply: Release the Snyder cut.
.@nerdalchemist has been cosplaying for the past two years. He plans to stand in front of the main stage for two hours straight to get them to listen to his petition. "Don't forget to use the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut while posting this," he tells me. #ComicCon #Mumbai pic.twitter.com/G30qngh90a
— Film Companion (@FilmCompanion) December 7, 2019
An alternative, longer version of the widely panned Justice League (2017), starring Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash and Ray Fisher as Cyborg, the cut has assumed near-mythic proportions over the years. Fans have written letters and launched campaigns, but many were divided over whether it actually existed. “That’s a pipe dream, there’s no way it’s ever happening,” a Hollywood insider told Variety last year. Synder responded by posting cans of his film with the cheeky caption: Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does.
— robliefeld (@robertliefeld) December 4, 2019
Now, after ages of back and forth, in the year of the global pandemic, murder hornets and Mount Krakatoa erupting twice in one month, there’s not only confirmation that it exists, but will release.
— HBO Max (@hbomax) May 20, 2020
Now that it’s official, let’s break down everything we know about this cut:
Why wasn’t it the version that got a theatrical release?
In January 2017, Snyder had a nearly-four-hour-long cut of Justice League, a length not feasible for a theatrical release. After Warner Brothers’ requested a cut in the two-hour range, he delivered a rough, unfinished cut that was two hours, 20 minutes long. In the midst of post-production work, however, his daughter Autumn died by suicide. By May, he had stepped down from the project.
Joss Whedon (Avengers, Firefly) took over as director, writing and shooting an additional 80 pages of screenplay but delivering a much shorter film (exactly two hours long) that was released in November that year. It bombed, costing the studio $60 million. Almost immediately, fans began to clamour for Synder’s original Justice League cut. Rumours swirled that it was darker, had more worldbuilding and better-developed characters. There was evidence to support that last point – a scene in the trailer hinting at Victor Stone’s life as an athlete before his transformation into Cyborg did not make it to the finished film.
A petition on Change.org, created soon after the film’s release, had 179k supporters. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut became a rallying cry across social media. At a fundraiser in March last year, Snyder himself vaguely confirmed that the cut (or several) did exist, adding that it was up to WB to release it. In August, Momoa claimed to have seen it, calling it “ssssiiicccckkkkkk”.
The movement got an unexpected (but ultimately short-lived) boost) on the film’s second anniversary. Seemingly out of nowhere, Gadot and Affleck tweeted the hashtag, leading to speculation over whether fans could expect an announcement soon. There wasn’t one.
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) November 17, 2019
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) November 17, 2019
Snyder continued to tease the fabled cut’s existence, posting stills of Henry Cavill’s Superman that weren’t in the film.
So it really does exist?
Sort of. There’s no finished Snyder cut ready for release. What does exist, on a hard drive in Snyder’s house, is an semi-finished, almost four-hour-long film that he considers to be the ‘optimal version’ of Justice League. Completing it would require additional VFX, scoring, editing, and for the cast to return and record additional dialogue. The cost of this project could be anywhere between $20 million and $30 million.
How similar is it to the version we saw in theatres?
Synder’s called this cut an “entirely new thing”, estimating that the theatrical version was only ‘one-fourth’ of what he intended. He’s also teased more character development, which makes sense – an extended cut would give him the chance to flesh out these characters in a way the limited scope and restrictive runtime of the film couldn’t. Whedon’s rewrites of the film included more jokes, but also trimmed The Flash’s and Cyborg’s storylines. Kiersey Clemons, who played The Flash’s love interest, was cut out of the film entirely.
When and where can I watch it?
Next year on WarnerMedia Entertainment’s new streaming service HBO Max, which launches May 27. It will either feature as a four-hour director’s cut or as 6 TV-style episodes with cliffhangers.