Battered by pre-release drama and disappointing box-office numbers, Justice League limps onto Blu-ray today in a version that won’t satisfy the vocal horde of Zack Snyder fans insisting that the director’s original vision can and should be revealed to the world. Instead, Warner Bros. is standing by the hybrid theatrical cut, which mingles Snyder sequences with new material overseen by his replacement, Joss Whedon, who receives co-screenwriting credit. The reality is that — for now at least — a Snyder cut of Justice League isn’t a viable proposition, thanks to the movie’s underwhelming reception, as well as suggestions that the director departed the project before he had a rough, let alone final, version.
But that likely won’t stop the die-hard Snyder cut truthers — more than 175,000 of whom have signed a Change.org petition demanding a director’s cut — from believing the truth is somewhere in the Warner Bros. vault. And a pair of brief, deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray, along with on-set photos recently leaked by Snyder himself, may give them some ammunition. Labeled “The Return of Superman,” these excised clips, which have a combined runtime of just under two minutes, appear to have been part of Snyder’s phase of the shoot. How can we tell? Just look at Henry Cavill’s mouth. Many noted that the actor’s upper lip looked strange in the theatrical cut, a side effect of the Whedon-helmed reshoots where the VFX team had to digitally erase a mustache that Cavill had grown for his role in Mission: Impossible — Fallout at superfast speeds. In these scenes, though, his gums are flapping normally, which would imply that Snyder was behind the camera.
There’s more evidence of Snyder’s touch on display in the first of the two clips, a wordless sequence would chronologically occur after Clark Kent’s resurrection. Snyder killed off the Man of Steel in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, when his rumble with the Dark Knight turned into a three-pronged battle pitting Superman, Batman (Ben Affleck), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) against Doomsday. The latter two titans survived and spearheaded an initiative to form the Justice League and revive their fallen colleague in time to fight an invading alien army headed up by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). But Superman doesn’t have the easiest re-awakening; once he’s ambulatory again, he turns his fury on his supposed superfriends in a fight that ends only semi-happily because Lois Lane (Amy Adams) shows up and Clark promptly whisks her off to a Kansas cornfield.
At the top of the deleted “Return of Superman” scene, Clark enters the Fortress of Solitude first glimpsed in Man of Steel, still wearing the same ensemble he had on when surrounded by stalks of corn. Walking though the ship’s deserted passageways, he passes by a piece of military armor from his exploded home world, followed by a black version of the Superman suit made famous in the pages of The Death and Return of Superman story arc from the comic books. Clark then pauses in front of a glowing compartment, and looks quizzically at what’s inside, before the scene cuts away to a door that slowly opens to reveal the Last Son of Krypton clad in a more brightly hued version of his familiar blue-and-red costume. The deliberate pace of this scene — further emphasized by the occasional use of Snyder-patented slow motion previously seen in 300 and Watchmen — reflects the director’s specific aesthetic, which continually strives to bring a graphic grandeur to comic-book cinema and intermittently achieves it.
The second deleted scene, on the other hand, highlights Snyder’s not-exactly-subtle sense of humor. Opening on a glass of scotch that starts vibrating Jurassic Park-style, thanks to Superman’s faster-than-sound flying, the camera pulls back to reveal Alfred (Jeremy Irons) tinkering with a piece of Bat-tech just as a costumed Clark touches down, en route to joining the League’s final battle with Steppenwolf. “I’m assuming you’re Alfred,” he remarks. “Master Kent,” Bruce Wayne’s manservant replies. “They said you’d come. Now let’s hope you’re not too late.” (When this scene was first glimpsed in a trailer that played at last year’s Comic-Con, it didn’t show that Superman was the hero Alfred was talking to, leading some to speculate that Green Lantern would be joining the fight instead.)
With the official release of these two sequences, we have small pieces of the puzzle that could potentially be used to assemble the for now mythical Zack Snyder cut of Justice League. But there’s still lots of material missing, like those scenes of Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) before his cyborg makeover, and a cameo by Kiersey Clemons, who plays the Flash’s eventual love interest, Iris West (and is expected to reprise the role in the upcoming standalone film Flashpoint). While Snyder hasn’t commented publicly on the fan push for his version to see the light of day, his recent social media history includes reportedly liking a tweet about Whedon breaking up with his planned Batgirl film and posting black-and-white, behind-the-scenes set photos on Vero. Getting the studio to invest in a full-scale release, however, might take a hero even stronger than Superman.
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