Justice League on HBO Max: Jared Leto's Joker, Deathstroke scenes, and everything else we know
Zack Snyder's version of Justice League just gained a couple of wild cards. Here's everything we know.
Jennifer BissetFormer Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
ExpertiseFilm and TVCredentials
Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
While Leto's Joker didn't appear in 2017's Justice League, which Snyder was forced to leave before completion, Manganiello appears in the end-credits scene, when his sword-wielding assassin joins Lex Luthor to create their own Justice League.
So we could see new Joker and Deathstroke footage in Snyder's four-episode director's cut heading to
next year. Snyder has referenced the Joker in one of his movies before: 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which came out before Joker's introduction in Suicide Squad. It includes a scene showing Robin's desecrated costume spray-painted with a taunt at Batman, implying Joker had killed Batman's sidekick.
Joker's inclusion in Zack Snyder's Justice League provides another way of connecting the movies in the DC universe. It might give the project an extra sheen, after some have criticized it for not containing enough new elements.
Here's everything else we know about Zack Snyder's Justice League.
In August, virtual convention DC FanDome brought the best look yet at Zack Snyder's version of Justice League. Here's the trailer:
During the panel discussion, Snyder finally confirmed the movie will be split into four hour-long parts or episodes, then later released as one long movie.
Ahead of DC FanDome, Snyder dropped a mini tease of what's now officially known as Zack Snyder's Justice League, landing on HBO Max sometime next year.
In the seconds of footage, we see a shirtless Superman (Henry Cavill) taking in the ruins of his statue, with the words, "If you seek his monument, look around you," painted on the platform; footage from a previously deleted scene with Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) playing football before he turns into Cyborg; a shot of a policeman about to be crushed by a burning tank; and the members of the Justice League's... feet.
While it didn't give much away, folks on
pointed out the particular Zack Snyder look and feel to the updated footage.
"The magnificent lightning is back," one user tweeted.
What's The Snyder Cut?
In a nutshell, The Snyder Cut is a version of 2017's Justice League cut together by director Zack Snyder. His take on the superhero ensemble blockbuster never made it to theaters, after he was forced to step down in the final stages of the project.
After principal photography finished sometime at the end of 2016, Warner Bros. executives reportedly saw a rough cut of Snyder's footage and, dissatisfied, wanted changes. But in 2017, Snyder stepped down during the editing process to deal the death of his daughter.
Joss Whedon stepped in to handle editorial and reshoots, but didn't receive a director's credit, suggesting the finished product contained most of Snyder's original footage.
However, several plotlines were abandoned and the runtime hacked down from three and a half hours to 120 minutes. Snyder estimated the movie we saw in theaters contained "one fourth" of his contribution.
While we'll probably never know the hard facts of what happened behind-the-scenes on the movie, which was torn to shreds by critics and disappointed at the box office, at least we'll finally get to see how big the disparity between the two versions really is.
"First ever sneak peek at JL. Get ready for more at DC FanDome," Snyder tweeted June 17, with the sneak peak.
What's going to be different?
It'll look better
Comparing early trailers of Justice League with the final theatrical cut (via Slash Film), fans noticed a garish orange sky had been added to the final climatic battle. A fan asked Snyder on social media if the color grading would change for The Snyder Cut. Snyder replied simply, "Yes," which could mean his version captures his signature cold and steely hues.
A 'radical rethinking' and $30 million-plus
Snyder's original crew has been gathered to cut the footage, with a different score, finished visual effects and additional dialogue from actors to fill in the gaps. All of this could cost up to $30 million, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
However, head of HBO Max and WarnerMedia Bob Greenblatt suggested the movie will cost much more than that to complete. In an interview on the Recode Media podcast in May, he explained The Snyder Cut "does not exist", because Snyder is still building the "wildly expensive" movie, a "radical rethinking" of the 2017 version.
In January, Snyder dropped a still from his original footage featuring Ryan Choi, aka Atom. The genius size-shifter, as well as Martian Manhunter, The Green Lantern and Darkseid, have all been dangled by Snyder as what you would get in his non-slimmed-down version.
Snyder has since dropped an actual image (albeit blurry) of Darkseid, a tyrant who rules the hell-planet Apokolips. "He's coming... to HBO Max," Snyder tweeted.
It's long been rumored Ray Porter had completed voice work for the character, until the villain was abandoned, along with a few other characters, in Joss Whedon's theatrical cut. We'll have to wait a year to see how his inclusion, alongside Ciaran Hinds' villain Steppenwolf, will affect the overall structure of the movie.
Porter confirmed his involvement with the movie on Twitter: "I played Darkseid in Zack Snyder's 'Justice League'. There. It's out now."
"Just working today pulled this out of the editorial sorry he's Low resolution but I've seen him in all his hi-Rez glory and he's a thing to behold quick question... how many f@*ks do you think he gives???" Snyder wrote in the caption.
Let's do a little comparison.
What do you reckon looks better? Snyder's version of Steppenwolf might be a little taller and the shimmery fish-spine spikes give a less grimy, more cutthroat feel.
The clip shows Superman (Henry Cavill) paying Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) a visit in Bruce Wayne's compound. It's short, but it gives you a pretty good look at Superman's darker kit.
To ensure Wonder Woman,
, Superman, The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and the rest have ample character-building screen time, a mini-series, or six "chapters" could be in the cards, according to the Reporter. (The other rumored option is a four-hour director's cut, but let's not encourage that.)
After DC FanDome, we can confirm Snyder's cut will appear on HBO Max in four hour-long parts, but will also be available to watch as a complete movie once all four parts had been released. Snyder also said DC was working on a distribution plan for regions where HBO Max isn't available.
A different end-credits scene
In the end-credits of the theatrical cut, sword-wielding assassin Deathstroke joins Lex Luthor to create their own Justice League. Deathstroke actor Joe Manganiello suggested we would see a different scene, linked to Deathstroke's involvement in
's now-canned Batman film.
A new round of shooting
Given the different scenes and characters, it all sounded like there'll be reshoots with the cast (post-lockdown). However, that possibility seemed to have been confidently squashed out.
"There's not going to be any reshoots of any kind with any actors," film reporter Umberto Gonzalez said on a podcast for The Wrap in May. Gonzalez is the founder of Heroic Hollywood and was one of the first to hear rumors about The Snyder Cut's release.
"It's just additional dialogue. Here's something that hasn't been reported yet: [Snyder] did want to shoot and he wanted to do additional photography, but HBO Max said no, that's not happening. We'll give you money for post-production, for special effects, for scoring and even ADR, but no reshoots of any kind on this movie."
In October, however, The Hollywood Reporter reported a new round of shooting and the completion of unfinished scenes is currently underway, with Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard and Jared Leto among those working.
Why is it such a big deal?
Members of the cast, from Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Henry Cavill (
) to Jason Momoa (Aquaman), have all rallied behind The Snyder Cut, alongside a long-running fan campaign on social media urging Warner Bros. to release it. After trending on and off for a year, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut recently surged on Twitter in the lead up to the two-year anniversary of Justice League's release.
Now, in response to this massive outpour of support, WarnerMedia Entertainment (which owns HBO Max) chairman Robert Greenblatt released the statement:
"Since I got here 14 months ago, the chant to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut has been a daily drumbeat in our offices and inboxes. Well, the fans have asked and we are thrilled to finally deliver. At the end of the day, it really is all about them and we are beyond excited to be able to release Zack's ultimate vision for this film in 2021. This could never have happened if it weren't for the hard work and combined efforts of the teams at HBO Max and Warner Bros. Pictures."
Snyder also dropped the big news to fans watching his Man of Steel quarantine watch party.
"I want to thank HBO Max and Warner Brothers for this brave gesture of supporting artists and allowing their true visions to be realized. Also a special thank you to all of those involved in the SnyderCut movement for making this a reality."
When and where will it come out?
The Zack Snyder cut of Justice League will be released on HBO Max sometime in 2021. The streaming service, which hosts loads of exclusive content from WarnerMedia and DC Comics, launched May 27. Here's how to sign up.
Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill respond
A bunch of the cast jumped on
to congratulate Snyder following the news.
"I'm very excited Zack's getting the chance to finally see his vision realized," Affleck said on the Kevin Smith Podcast.
Henry Cavill wrote, "Big congratulations to you, Mr Snyder!"
Superman also shared a few more of his feelings on the movie in an interview with Variety, published late June.
"I'm just really happy that Zack got to realize his vision," Cavill said. "I think it's important for a filmmaker and a storyteller to have their intended vision released and shown to the world and I'm looking forward to seeing it myself. It's been quite the ordeal."
Jason Momoa, aka prideofgypsies, wrote on Instagram in May: "WE WANT finally it's happening. your welcome. justice served. all my aloha to everyone who made this happen. all the fans. we love you. ALOHA J."
And Ray Fisher, aka Cyborg, wrote: "For those who fought. For those who believed. Thank you."
Finally, HBO Max released new posters of the gang.
Originally published May 20. Updates, May 24: Adds Ben Affleck's response; May 26: Adds head of HBO Max's comments, Ray Porter tweet; May 27: Adds Darkseid image; June 8: Adds color grading and no reshoots details; June 18: Adds Darkseid teaser; June 24: Adds Henry Cavill comments; July 26: Adds Superman's black suit; Aug. 9: Adds Steppenwolf new design; Aug. 20: Adds mini teaser. Aug. 23: Adds new trailer from DC FanDome.
New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More