HBO Max Will #ReleasetheSnyderCut of the Poorly Reviewed 'Justice League'

Fans have been demanding Zack Snyder's version of the maligned DC superhero blockbuster for years.

justice league
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Don't you just want more Justice League? Didn't you watch Justice League and think to yourself, "Man, I wish I could watch this movie again, but slightly different, and longer"? We have incredible news for you -- incredible, meaning that none of us actually saw this coming in a million years: the "Snyder Cut" of Justice League, which is the theorized alternate version of the 2017 movie that had been completed by its former director Zack Snyder (we'll get to that) before the movie was handed off to another to finish up, will be released on HBO Max in 2021. 

Now, for those who may be wondering, "What the hell is the 'Snyder Cut'?", let me explain. Zack Snyder, who directed the most recent live-action run of DC superhero movies collectively known as the "DC Extended Universe" (though no one officially calls them that) starting with Man of Steel (and not including Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman or James Wan's Aquaman), left the long-awaited team-up film Justice Leaguemidway through production after his daughter Autumn died tragically by suicide in March 2017. Snyder initially took some time away from the film to privately mourn and then came back to the project before leaving again in May, explaining that what he most needed during that time was to be with his family. To keep the movie on schedule for its November release, the studio hired Joss Whedon (who proved his skill at ensemble superhero movies with The Avengers) to finish it up. 

After Whedon joined, the movie went through massive rounds of reshoots -- $25 million worth of reshoots -- to punch up the humor and to cut the runtime down to a studio-mandated 120 minutes. Now, reshoots are not some strange, worrisome thing -- I guarantee you every superhero movie from the past 10 years has done it, usually for stuff like fight scenes or to perfect certain shots they didn't get right the first time. But reshoots like that don't run up a $25 million tab, which got fans wondering how much Whedon was actually changing. 

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Zack Snyder has a lot of fans. They are very loud, they are very loyal, and when Justice League finally came out, they parsed through every minute of that film trying to figure out how much of Snyder's material had made it in. The various trailers for the movie didn't help at all: Many of them contained shots and lines that never made it into the final cut of the movie (also not an abnormal thing to happen, but, again, it doesn't usually happen to the extent it did here). Fans started to speculate about an alternate "Snyder Cut" that had been buried by the movie studio in favor of Whedon's safer version. The stars also seemed to be stirring the pot -- Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, and Ray Fisher (who plays Cyborg) all tweeted about the Snyder Cut on the same day last fall on the movie's second anniversary, and Jason Momoa has given shifty comments in various interviews about having "seen" the cut. They all seemed to be rallying behind Snyder, which makes sense, given the heartbreaking circumstances of his exit, but it also gave fuel to the fire for fans who were casting Joss Whedon as the "villain" who had stolen and bastardized Snyder's work for his own. 

And let's be honest: Justice League is bad. For me, personally, it is unwatchable, i.e. I have not been able to sit through it even once without having to turn it off. It has its defenders, but many fans also know it's bad -- which, for some, means Snyder's "version" of the movie must be out there, and it must be better. They've bought a billboard in Times Square, chartered a plane to fly over San Diego Comic Con bearing their message, and even released an original rap song that kind of slaps. #ReleaseTheSnyderCut trends on Twitter every once in a while, so often that by now it's become its own little joke.

Except, it's real after all! Kind of. On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 20, at the close of a quarantine watch party of Man of Steel, Snyder confirmed that his cut of Justice League would actually happen, and it would premiere on new streaming service HBO Max. Snyder is getting back together with his original post-production crew, and possibly some of the actors, to take his footage of the movie (about "one fourth" of which was used for Whedon's theatrical cut, he says) and recut it into a format that would fit the streaming service. Whether that's one extra-long movie or a 6-episode miniseries type thing is unclear at this point, but he's doing it. 

This is obviously huge news: good news for the fans who have been clamoring for it all these years, and worrying for some who are concerned that this may further the notion that belligerent, bullying "fans" of pieces of pop culture will get what they want as long as they're loud and mean enough (consider, if you will, Sonic the Hedgehog and his teeth). And it's not "real," per se -- it's not like Warner Bros. had the Snyder cut buried in a big warehouse like the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark all this time. There was an original cut of the movie that Snyder showed Warner Bros. in early 2017, but it was about 20 minutes too long and needed to be pared down. It was after that, when he was still in the assembly stage, that Snyder exited the project. This new version will probably have most of that original cut in there, but, as Snyder said, it would be "an entirely new thing." Let's just hope he keeps in Aquaman screaming "MY MAN!" 

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.