The Snyder Cut is an alternate edit of the 2017 film Justice League that’s taken on a mythic status as a possible redeemer for the DC Comics team-up, a secret vision of cinematic cohesion that might someday emerge from what was previously viewed as narrative chaos and bombastic disappointment.
But what is The Snyder Cut, exactly? And does it exist? And if it does, will it ever be seen?
Some background: Director Zack Snyder helmed 2013’s Man of Steel and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before setting his sights on the climactic Justice League, an ambitious title bringing together six DC heroes and potentially launching a new string of films à la Marvel’s The Avengers.
Six months before the film’s release, Snyder stepped down from the film after suffering a personal family tragedy. Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon (The Avengers) for extensive rewriting and reshoots that significantly altered the film, along with swapping Junkie XL’s soundtrack for a new one by Danny Elfman.
When Justice League was released, critics were scathing (a 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). The box office was disappointing given the genre’s high standards ($657 million). And Warner Bros. dramatically shifted its future plans (Ben Affleck was replaced as Batman by Robert Pattinson; a Flash movie announced for 2018 was delayed; a Cyborg movie scheduled for 2020 was never greenlit).
Soon began a drumbeat of fans online wanting to see “The Snyder Cut.” Snyder himself released images from deleted scenes (like Aquaman stabbing Steppenwolf, below) that have added fuel to the movement, as did conflicting yet supportive comments made by cast and crew about the Cut’s existence. Ben Affleck (Batman), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman), and Ray Fisher (Cyborg) have all urged releasing the Cut on social media.
The most bullish comment was from Momoa who has outright declared he’s seen The Cut and that it feels like a different movie than what Warner Bros. released, and even sparked speculation about its completeness (“Oh, you, you think Zack couldn’t finish it?” he playfully asked MTV News). Watchmen showrunner Damon Lindlof also seemingly hinted this direction (“I’m not saying I’ve seen it, but if I HAD, I would unequivocally support the powers that be to #releasethesnydercut”).
What seems most probable at this point is the following: There is very likely a Snyder Cut of the film and it’s not a total cinematic unicorn after all. Given the timing of Snyder’s departure, it’s likely the cut is — or was — unfinished (typically a film at that stage would have incomplete CG backgrounds, visual effects, and sound). So quite possibly the only way to “release The Snyder Cut” would be to actually finish making The Snyder Cut, which would require Warner Bros. to spend millions. A second, purely speculative possibility is that Snyder used his own money to complete an unofficial edit after his departure.
Warner Bros. has remained silent on the topic, preferring instead to focus on making and promoting upcoming DC titles, of which there are many (Wonder Woman 1984, Birds of Prey, The Batman, etc.), rather than invest more time, money, and attention on a film considered a disappointment. A recent Variety story on the future of DC quoted one Warner Bros. insider saying that fan efforts to get The Snyder Cut released in theaters or on HBO Max were “a pipe dream … there’s no way it’s ever happening.”
That said, it seems extremely likely something resembling a Snyder Cut will be seen eventually — at minimum, a home video version of Justice League containing a bevy of the director’s previously unseen deleted scenes. That’s because Hollywood history has many instances of studios re-releasing sci-fi and fantasy titles on home video with alternate edits for enthusiasts and collectors — even if the original film was considered a disappointment (such as The Abyss and Alien 3). And seldom has there been so much interest in an alternate edit of a film than there is for Justice League.
In other words, fandom obsession with The Snyder Cut means there is a market for the edit and therefore sooner or later WB will get around to tapping that revenue stream because it would be silly to leave that money on the table forever. So perhaps the real questions are: How long will fans have to wait? Restored versions often come out many years later, long after the wounds of failure have healed — it took a decade for a proper director’s cut of Blade Runner, and that was Blade Runner. Other questions: How involved will Snyder be? And how complete will the new version be?
Of course, there is one more question too, and perhaps it’s the most important: Could a Snyder Cut truly improve Justice League, or will it simply confirm the studio made the right call in the first place and what we witnessed in theaters is actually the better version?
Waiting years to see an edit of a film that’s even more disappointing … why, that would be the unkindest cut of all.