The Justice League movie that landed in theaters is significantly different than the initial plan that director Zack Snyder had devised for the group of superheroes.
Justice League was originally announced as Justice League Part I and Justice League Part II, but due to Warner Bros. deciding that they wanted to follow the ‘Marvel movie formula’, it was reduced to a single movie.
Zack Snyder filmed almost all of the scenes he wished to, and has plans to finish what he started in order to complete his vision and release what fans have dubbed ‘The Snyder Cut‘ and Zack has officially named ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League‘.
The following is a list of several, but not all, major differences between The Snyder Cut and the Theatrical Cut by either being removed entirely or by editing Snyder’s already filmed scenes:
Barry Allen saves Iris West
This scene starts off with no sound in the unfinished state we currently have access to, and the sound intermittently drops in with music and sound effects, but the description of the scene tells us that upon hearing a loud noise outside of the store he is in, Barry Allen turns around so fast that the floor beneath his feet folds and ripples. He swiftly moves towards a glass door with his right index finger extended. His out-stretched finger pierces the glass in a similar manner to a knife piercing thin plastic. As Barry is travelling at super-speed, the glass shatters slowly, allowing him to move out into the street.
Barry hurriedly dashes out into the road, with everything appearing frozen in place from his perspective at a massively increased velocity whilst his blue lightning arcs and zips; striking things in his immediate vicinity. As he heads into the road, we see a large truck and a red car. The car is in the air about to flip.
Barry skids to a stop, his feet creating a compression wave which drags the asphalt in the same direction he skids. As Barry looks up, he sees the driver of the car, Iris West, she has been launched into the air from the car starting to crash.
The camera switches to the inside of the store facing the street through the doorway. The glass of the door still rippling from the force of Barry pushing through it. Barry reaches up and rescues Iris from almost certain death and lays her on the floor as Barry slows down, the car finishes flipping through the air and crashes, then explodes. As the car is destroyed, Barry and Iris gaze into each other’s eyes.
This sequence was entirely removed from the Theatrical Cut which was rumored to been due to the actress herself, Kiersey Clemons, having disputes with Warner Bros. due to the previous The Flash solo film director Rick Fukuyama dropping the project over “creative differences.”
This scene gives some character development to Barry. Using his abilities to save someone, along with showing the beginnings of the relationship we see in the comics with Iris. Not only does it establish some more background for Barry, it is also the key incident that is meant to be the reason Aflred and Bruce are able to find Barry after stuggling for so long.
During the fight with Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Aquaman; a massive Boom Tube opens as Steppenwolf heralds the arrival of Darkseid. During these final moments the team bands together and takes the upper hand. United as a team they overpower him. Aquaman impales him in the back with this trident, Superman lands a massive strike launching him toward the opened boom tube, and Wonder Woman takes the final blow and decapitates him. As his severed head flies through the open Boom Tube, it rolls to Darkseid’s feet. Darkseid is here.
This scene was changed from what Zack had filmed and what he original wrote in his original two part plan. In the original Justice League Part 1 script, Steppenwolf steps into the Boom Tube with the motherboxes and is transported to the base of Darkseid’s throne. Darkseid talks beiefly about being pleased with his general for recovering the motherboxes … but his demeanor suddenly changes. Superman finally arrives and joins the team.
The entire team stare into the Boom Tube and glare at Darkseid on his throne, but once Darkseid sees the Kryptonian, he reacts to Superman’s ressurectrion with anger. He looks at Steppenwolf and tells him that this act of defiance was proof of his plans to betray him, and with a single beam from his eye; Darkseid decapitates Steppenwolf. The head now loose, the body falls to the ground and passes back through the Boom Tube and lands in front of the Justice League as the Boom Tube closes.
Parts of this sequence made it into the Theatrical Cut but overall it was heavily changed.
The Justice League are fighting Steppenwolf, and somewhat losing — Superman arrives and immediately starts to outmatch Steppenwolf, suprising and angering him as he is thrown like a ragdoll and pummelled like a punchbag with by the might of Superman.
After a sequence of fights and the separation of the motherboxes, Steppenwolf talks about how the Earth is his planet by right, and Wonder Woman charges him with her sword, as she does so, Superman uses his freeze breath to encase Steppenwolf’s axe in ice, which Wonder Woman’s attack subsequently destroys. Steppenwolf is confused and scared. Aquaman asks if they are able to recognise a certain smell, as parademons cry out, and Batman replies that the smell is fear.
The parademons swarm Steppenwolf, biting and scratching him. They fly him into the blinding light of a boomtube and as it closes, Steppenwolf’s empty hemlet crashes to the ground rolling slightly before coming to a halt in the middle of the previous battle arena.
The Death of Silas Stone
Steppenwolf attacks the Kryptonian ship crash site, in search of a Mother Box and confronts Silas Stone along with other scientists. In an attempt to stop the Mother Box falling into Steppenwolf’s hands, Silas tries to destroy the Mother Box and is killed by it. Steppenwolf obtains the Mother Box and leaves, with his mission of obtaining the Box complete.
This sequence is heavily altered in the Theatrical Cut.
There is still an attack on the Kryptonian ship crash site. Silas has finished work for the day, and Howard the cleaner, scientists and some military personnell remain. Silas is instead captured at home, after a parademon searches through his and Victor’s belongings for the Mother Box.
The group are kept in the tunnel system between Metropolis and Gotham. The League infiltrate the area and Cyborg is able to save Silas from Steppenwolf by firing a weapon that his body unexpectedly creates from his arm. After some back and forth between Cyborg and Steppenwolf, The Flash speeds in and saves Silas and the others by removing them from the immediate vicinity, and Victor tells them how to leave the tunnel.
The Flash Time Travels
First of all, it should be mentioned that not much from this sequence has been revealed, but what we do know is that during the fight with Steppenwolf, the fight is not leaning in the League’s favour. Unfortunately, this is where things start to go wrong for them; Steppenwolf is able to kill several members of the team.
The Mother Boxes’ energy output begins to become unstable and Cyborg cannot contain it – the Mother Boxes explode and the plan has completely fallen apart and the Earth is primed to fall to the invading forces of Steppenwolf’s parademon army, as instructed by Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips.
The Flash sees this all unfold, and is unable to prevent his fellow heroes from being murdered at the hands of the alien General. Barry quickly formulates a plan, his unique connection to the Speed-Force will allow him to push himself further and run faster than ever before.
Barry runs back in time. He moves through the timestream and emerges again 3 minutes earlier. This gives the Justice League a chace to change things. The Flash is able to turn the tide and allow Wonder Woman to kill Steppenwolf. The Flash turned the tide of the battle back into the League’s favour.
This sequence is entirely cut out of the Theatrical Cut. There is no mention of time travel, as the stakes they are trying to prevent never come to pass in the first place. The only partial reference to this occuring is Superman and Cyborg separating the Mother Boxes, and the explosion that ensues knocking them over and causing them to laugh about how much it hurt them.
The History Lesson
Not a lot is known about the original sequence. When Diana learns of the original invasion from a secret room at the Shrine of the Amazons, with murals on the walls showing the invasion, and the different groups defending Earth.
Explaining to Bruce what happened; Diana details the long-forgotten Apokoliptian onslaught of antiquity. Darkseid, who back then was known as Uxas, led an army to Earth in an attempt to utilise the Anti-Life Equation.
During this sequence, Uxas would have clashed with Ares, portrayed by Nick McKinless and David Thewlis; there was full fight between them. Ultimately, it would have seen Uxas driven from the Earth by the combined forces of the Old Gods, Humans, the Atlanteans, and the Amazons.
This sequence was heavily edited for the Theatrical Cut.
Firstly, Diana is not shown to learn of the invasion in the secret chamber at the Shrine of the Amazons, she seemingly learns this information off-screen, after Hippolyta shoots the flaming arrow at the Shrine of the Amazons signalling to her that an invasion had already commenced.
Darkseid/Uxas was removed entitely and replaced with Steppenwolf. There is a Green Lantern present in this scene that is killed by Steppenwolf, and the ring zips around and flies off to find another user.
Zeus, Ares and Artemis do appear. Zeus shoots lightning at Steppenwolf, Ares leaps at him and lands a blow, his axe plunges into Steppenwolf’s shoulder. Artemis fires an arrow at one of the invading space ships and destroys it. Steppenwolf is driven back onto his ship, held back by parademons, with Zeus’ lightning still moving throughout his body and armour.
Diana explains that Steppenwolf vowed to return when then Earth became shrouded in darkness. Zeus hits the combining Mother Boxes with lightning, separating them, and they are sent to different parts of the planet to be protected. One to Themyscira, another to Atlantis, and the third is secretly buried, so mankind do not get tempted by its power.
Vulko and more Aquaman set up
While Mera was still present in the theatrical cut, Willem Dafoe‘s Vulko was completely removed. The actor had multiple scenes in the film which helped flesh out more of Aquaman’s backstory, explaining his further resentment toward his Atlantean heritage and the resulting alcoholism that was present with his character in the original cut of the film.
The first scene in which Vulko is present directly follows Steppenwolf’s attack and subsequent recovery of the Mother Box of Atlantis, which was under the protection of Mera and her soldiers of Xebel. This scene would also explain his retrieving his mother’s trident and Mera gifting him some Xebel armor to aid in his pursuit of Steppenwolf.
The Inclusion of Martian Manhunter
One of the most infamous moments of the film, and which has gained the most notoriety in the recent months, is the sequence that would reveal General Swanwick played by actor Harry Lennix was actually The Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz, the entire time.
The context of the scene itself was positioned as one of the most powerful in the film, with the reveal coming as unexpected but also even more heartbreaking.
The film itself would open with Lois deep in a depression, taking leave from work, and unable to fully function following the loss of Superman. In the scene we would see “Martha Kent” come and visit with her, explaining that her feelings of loss were not unwarranted and helping her work through the pain and giving her the motivation she would need to help get back up.
The reveal would come as shown in the storyboards above, with Martha Kent leaving the apartment and transforming back into the native form of J’onn J’onzz and then eventually into General Swanwick.
Fans of the DCEU would immediately realize the implications of General Swanwick being The Martian Manhunter, and why he would feel the need to disguise himself as Martha Kent in an attempt to empathize with her and to share with Lois his pain and feelings of loss and offer her a way to pick herself back up out of something he himself went through with the loss of his own family and of his world.
Batman’s Mission For Redemption
One of the biggest criticisms of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the level of violence coming from Batman, specifically the deaths of various goons and thugs that came from his pursuit of his various missions. While Zack Snyder was clear that he never intended on Batman to being a full blown murderer and deliberately killing anyone (something that fans willingly ignore when it comes to previous live-action Batman films *cough cough* Michael Keaton *cough cough*) with him saying that the deaths Batman is responsible for are more akin to manslaughter than murder, he did plan on addressing this directly.
The original plan was to have Batman first be introduced in BvS in his darkest state, with his interactions with Superman pulling him back into the light, and his storyline in Justice League was to be a “redemption arc.” It was made clear very early on during the film’s production that Batman would be trying to “make amends” for his fall into darkness, and reportedly his motivation in this film would lead to him believing that the only way he would redeem himself was to sacrifice himself, which he almost did at one point in the film. The attempted was thwarted though by Wonder Woman and the rest of the team.
The sequence itself was mostly reused in the Theatrical Cut of Justice League, with Batman deciding to take the Flying Fox and attack the parademons himself, crashing the aircraft and later mounting a ground assault against the endless swarm. While he was engaged with this massive army, Wonder Woman would realize what he is doing and called the rest of the team to abandon their plan and come to his aid. She would show him that not all hope was lost and that he doesn’t need to give his life in sacrifice for his redemption, as he was already being redeemed with his actions over the course of the film.
Ryan Choi aka The Atom
It is always a shock when an entire character is removed from a film during post production, but one of the most surprising removals from Zack Snyder’s Justice League was the full removal of Ryan Choi. From what fans have gathered from the various comments and answers director Zack Snyder has provided through Vero, Ryan Choi was to be the “Director of Nanotechnology at Star Labs” and would be featured in multiple scenes in aid to Silas Stone in trying to uncover the secrets of the Mother Box. While Zack Snyder has confirmed that the character himself would not be appearing as his superhero alter ego, The Atom, the groundwork for his journey would be hinted at. If anything, the character’s inclusion would have be another way to show how deep and complex this world Snyder had created was in terms of DC lore.
Zack Snyder once said that Cyborg was the “heart and soul” of Justice League early into the film’s production, but when the film finally came out he felt more of an afterthought. So what was removed from his story? The answer is simply, pretty much the entire thing.
In Zack Snyder’s original cut of Justice League, fans would walk through Cyborg’s entire journey with him. We would see him playing college football as Pre-Cyborg Victor Stone at Gotham City University, the fateful car accident that took his mother’s life and left Victor in pieces, and a much deeper exploration on his feelings of own disconnect from humanity. But backstory and character development aside, most of the film’s plot revolved around Cyborg’s literal connection to the Mother Boxes and Steppenwolf due to the nature of his transformation from Victor Stone into Cyborg.
Some of the key scenes later in the film included his father’s death (as described above in detail), his mourning of both parents at his own grave (image directly above), and a vision of the Knightmare timeline shown to Cyborg when he directly interfaces with the Mother Box and exposed to the Anti-Life Equation.
Some fans would argue that the removal of all of these factors limited the films narrative and made for a much weaker plot and explanation of events throughout the film, leaving many to wonder why all of this was cut at all.
In essence, the film that became Justice League is not the film that Zack Snyder nor any member of the cast and crew intended it to be. The sheer amount of content removed or edited from its original context is staggering, creating problems for the DC film franchise, Warner Bros., and Zack Snyder himself.
The coming months and beyond will see Hollywood returning to a state of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the shut-down of any talks or movement for Zack to complete his vision. We remain vigilant to his cause and to see a true artist complete the work he poured his heart and soul into.