“This movie has no business existing,” director Zack Snyder admits, before adding, “especially in the form it exists.”
He’s right. We’ve had director’s cut versions of movies before, most notably Ridley Scott’s tinkering with Blade Runner or Sir Peter Jackson’s extended Lord of the Rings films, but we’ve never had anything like Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
It’s bigger, more ambitious and, at a bat-whisker over four hours long, more butt-numbing than any director has previously attempted. The Snyder Cut, as it was unofficially dubbed by its legion of worldwide fans is, in reality, a completely different film than 2017’s Justice League.
That film was to be the epic and triumphant conclusion to Snyder’s vision for the first phase of the DC Comics cinematic universe. However, he and his producer and wife Deborah left production halfway through after their 20-year-old daughter, Autumn, died by suicide after struggling with depression. The studio brought in director Joss Whedon, flush with success after helming Marvel’s equivalent Avengers movies, to complete the film.
Whedon, however, completely reshaped and reshot much of the movie, significantly altering its tone from Snyder’s gritty and grim realism to go in a more light and breezy direction.
Hardcore fans were not pleased, immediately launching petitions, which quickly became a movement with the rallying cry of, “release the Snyder cut”.
“We watched it bubble up slowly,” Deborah Snyder says of the fan support that started online, then moved on to bus stops outside big comic conventions before eventually encompassing flyovers at the movie studio and the flashing Jumbotron in Times Square.
“But the thing that touched us on a personal level was that not only did the fans want this cut, but they were raising so much awareness and money for mental health and suicide prevention. They were also doing something good and saving lives,” she says. “We were paying attention to that, just as much as making a movie.”
For his part, Snyder says it was weird returning to the movie he walked away from five years ago under such tragic circumstances. It’s fitting that they dedicated their cut of the film to Autumn.
“I knew the movie pretty well, I had it on my computer and watched it every now and then,” he says, confirming fans long-held speculation that the cut did actually exist.
But it was only when he played it to the visual effects team that he understood the scope of the task ahead.
“I said, ‘Okay what do we need to do?’ It was like, ‘Okay shot one, yep. Shot two? Yep. Shot three…’ We realised it was going to be a bigger deal than we imagined as far as restoring the movie.”
“There are over 2656 visual effects shots,” Deborah Snyder adds.
“It was a huge undertaking. Like double a normal movie,” says Snyder, before laughing, “because it is double a normal movie!”
Then, he says, “The fans have been so dedicated it inspired me, frankly, to be aggressive with the vision and the length and everything.”
The vision is bound to please fans of Snyder’s darker take on comic book favourites Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash. The movie is radically different from what was released years ago. It introduces a whole new villain, clearly planned to become a devastating threat in future films, expands greatly on the characters backstories and adds an epilogue with a deliciously villainous cameo that hints at what could have been had Snyder retained stewardship of the franchise he and Deborah shepherded for 11 years.
But it’s the length that will have everyone talking, at least initially.
“It’s four hours and this is what I would suggest,” says Snyder. “There are six chapters and an epilogue and they’re about 30 minutes each. If you’re watching at home and chapter four, All the King’s Horses, comes up, you should pause it, go to the bathroom, get your food, because you’re basically a little over halfway. Then you can surf it to the end.
“It really depends on staying power,” then he grins, and says, “If you’re hardcore just go all the way! Why stop?”
Who: Director Zack Snyder and producer Deborah Snyder
What: Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
When: Tonight at 8.30pm on Sky Movies Premiere, Sky Go and streaming on Neon.
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