Ever since November 17, when Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment released the theatrical cut of Justice League, big questions have been asked and huge debates have been had about what was edited out of the film. For anyone who watched the film’s trailers, it was plain to see that a ton of material got the axe before this thing made its way into theaters.
Ever since, we’ve been hit with loads of examples of these cuts. Some in the way of leaks from crew members; Some from WB/DC itself, in the form of deleted bonus scenes for the home release; And- most tellingly- from ousted Justice League director Zack Snyder.
Whenever Snyder releases a photo on his Vero account, fans start to dissect it and ask questions about Why? it was cut from the film.
After his latest dump of Justice League images, I think it’s important to understand why a lot of this was cut. First, here’s what he’s recently released, then join me after to discuss why they didn’t make it into the film:
These are very nice shots. Outside of the out-of-character portrait of Kiersey Clemons posing between takes, they’re all very moody, atmospheric, and bely depth. Who wouldn’t want those elements in their film, right?
How could the “hacks” at Warner Bros. be so dim, amiright?!
But here’s the thing…
What if I told you there were very understandable reasons for these cuts? I’m not saying you’ll agree with all of them (or that I even do), but I’m here to help you at least get why these things happened.
I’ll start with the one I’m least on board with, personally:
Lois and Ma
The picture of Lois (Amy Adams) and Ma Kent (Diane Lane)- and yes I’ll always refer to that character as Ma- is from an earlier cut of Justice League. In that version of the film, the first and second act were far darker as Snyder wanted to show a world in disarray after Superman’s death. Aside from demonstrating how the criminal underworld runs amok with Superman gone, Snyder also wanted us to feel the world suffering; Reeling from the loss of its greatest champion.
There was no better way to humanize that feeling of loss than by showing Kal’s great loves, Lois and Ma, mourning him.
That image is from a sequence aimed at showing these two powerful women coming to grips with his death.
All of this sadness and darkness was likely meant to provide a contrast for when Superman inevitably returns from the dead. It would give his death some depth and it would make his return something to celebrate.
But somewhere along the way, it was decided that Snyder hadn’t quite stuck the landing.
As some of his harsher critics would note, Snyder is great at coming up with deep, heady ideas, but not necessarily the best at executing them in a satisfying way. In this case, Warner Bros. didn’t care for the way Superman’s arc played out. They didn’t think he pulled it off.
Judging on several reports that Superman’s original return was less than triumphant, and that the character would occupy a gray area for a while- possibly almost being lured into joining Steppenwolf and Darkseid- it just made for another bummer Superman- and that’s not something WB wanted to give audiences after Batman v Superman.
So they simplified the “world in disarray” angle, they allowed Adams’ acting to convey her sadness in subtler instances, and they made Superman’s return far more overtly heroic- only having him exist in that gray area for a couple of minutes before going to the light and becoming the recognizable savior of old by the time he enters the fray to stop Steppenwolf.
In short, their lack of satisfaction in Snyder’s execution of Superman’s return arc explains why the Lois/Ma scene was cut. It was too heavy, and devoid of the kind of joy they want Superman to represent.
Personally, I was really touched by Justice League‘s final trailer, which played up Lois’ sense of loss, and I would’ve loved more time to explore what Superman’s death meant to Lois and Ma. I also would’ve liked seeing a more palpable sense of danger with Superman gone, leading to villains wreaking havoc and Wonder Woman and Batman being overwhelmed and needing to create a team of heroes to turn the tide.
Barry and Arthur
In the case of both Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), those pictures refer to their solo subplots which were meant to set up their future standalone adventures. The problem is, spending all that time setting up future movies was hurting this one.
One of the complaints people had about Batman v Superman, and many other world-building blockbusters, is that they feel bloated. Often times, with all of this shared universe stuff, the movie you’re watching can feel more like a commercial for other movies. Marvel has been guilty of it (I’m looking at you Iron Man 2), Sony went there too (*cough* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *cough*), and DC was accused of doing that with BvS.
In response to those concerns, WB/DC asked incoming director Joss Whedon to streamline the narrative by chopping down how much time is spent setting up sequels.
Momoa acknowledged as much when discussing how his arc, which included an appearance by Willem Dafore’s Vulko (a character we’ll now get a proper introduction to in Aquaman), in a chat with GameSpot last November:
“Vulko’s his connection to Atlantis. I think what Zack [Snyder] and I did, we were kind of trying to establish that he was taken down there as a boy, and he was an outcast, he was a half-breed, and he was built up as a young boy, because he was fed all these ideas by Vulko — that he was the rightful king. And he gets down there, and he’s a half breed, he’s impure, and I’m just made to feel like I’m this disease.”
But that all had to get cut because…
“There just wasn’t enough time in this movie.”
The same goes for Barry’s arc. His stuff got chopped down, save for a couple of effective scenes involving his father (Billy Crudup), as part of the studio’s effort to keep the focus on this story instead of setting up other ones.
It was important to the studio that Justice League felt like its own complete film, with a beginning, middle, and end- rather than a bloated setup for the rest of the universe.
You’ve got to feel for Snyder here since, as Vanessa said on last week’s The Revengers Podcast, he seems like a kid in a candy store when it comes to these DCU films. Given this beautiful opportunity to tell stories about these iconic characters he obviously loves, it’s clear to see he wanted to load both BvS and Justice League with as much material and as many references as he possibly could. Sometimes you can go too far with that stuff, to the point where it distracts from the narrative instead of enhancing it.
Unfortunately, his candy store mentality was at-odds with the studio’s hopes for a more lean and mean crowd-pleaser.
The Clemons situation is the simplest of all, which is why I saved it for last.
Easy: She was cast by Rick Famuyiwa, and her material was going to set up his The Flash movie. But when he walked away from the project in late 2016, it became pointless and questionable to use anything that set up a movie that was now going back to the drawing board with a new script and a new director search.
So these pictures are nice, and it’s fun to play What If?, but- hopefully- you walk away from this with a more balanced understanding of why these things didn’t make it into the final cut. Feel free to sound off on this in the Comments below, as I’ll be happy to chat further with you on this topic.