Justice League, released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 2017, suffered a difficult production. Its script underwent major changes before and during production between 2016 and 2017. In May 2017, Snyder stepped down during post-production following the death of his daughter, and Joss Whedon was hired to finish the film, completing it as an uncredited director. Whedon oversaw reshoots and other changes that incorporated a brighter tone and more humor, and cut the runtime down significantly in accordance with a mandate from Warner Bros. The theatrical version of Justice League received mixed reviews and was a box office disappointment, leading Warner Bros. to reevaluate the DCEU's future, and to focus on developing films around individual characters with less regard for a shared narrative.
As details surfaced about the film's troubled production and its state before Snyder stepped down, many fans expressed interest in an alternate cut more faithful to Snyder's vision. Fans and members of the cast and crew petitioned for the release of this, which they nicknamed the Snyder Cut. Industry insiders considered the release unlikely. However, Warner Bros. decided to move ahead with it in February 2020; in May, Snyder announced that the original cut would be released as Zack Snyder's Justice League via the streaming serviceHBO Max. It cost around $70 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing, with new material filmed in October 2020. The release was originally planned as both a six-episode miniseries and a four-hour film, but the miniseries concept was scrapped by January 2021. The film is dedicated to the memory of Snyder's daughter, Autumn.
Zack Snyder's Justice League was released on HBO Max in the United States on March 18, 2021. Most critics considered it to be superior to the 2017 theatrical version. In The Hollywood Reporter, the critical consensus was described as praising "Snyder's direction style and ability to offer more depth to characters" but criticizing the film's length.
Five thousand years ago, Darkseid and his legion of Parademons attempted to conquer Earth using the Mother Boxes. The attempt was foiled by a unified alliance of Old Gods, Amazons, Atlanteans, Men and a Green Lantern, and the Mother Boxes were unintentionally left behind during their retreat. After the battle, the Boxes were hidden in different locations, guarded by the Amazons, Atlanteans, and Men, respectively. In the present, Superman's death[b] triggers the Boxes' reactivation, attracting Steppenwolf, Darkseid's disgraced lieutenant and uncle, to Earth. Steppenwolf aims to regain Darkseid's favor by gathering the boxes to form "the Unity," which would terraform Earth in the likeness of their world Apokolips.
Steppenwolf retrieves a Mother Box from Themyscira, prompting Queen Hippolyta to warn her daughter Diana Prince. Diana receives the message and learns of the events related to Darkseid and Steppenwolf. She informs Bruce Wayne, and the two seek to form a team of metahumans to protect Earth. Bruce locates Arthur Curry and Barry Allen, while Diana locates Victor Stone. Barry joins immediately, while Arthur and Victor refuse. However, Victor joins after his father Silas and several other S.T.A.R. Labs employees are kidnapped by Parademons seeking the humans' Mother Box. When scouts from the Atlantean outpost guarding their Mother Box go missing, having been kidnapped and interrogated by Steppenwolf for its location, Arthur is asked by his mentor Vulko to assist fellow Atlantean Mera in protecting the outpost when his half-brother Orm refuses to take action. Arthur reluctantly goes to the outpost but ultimately fails to stop Steppenwolf from taking the Box.
The team receives intel from Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, leading them to Steppenwolf's army in an abandoned facility under Gotham Harbor. Although the group rescues the kidnapped employees, the facility is flooded during combat, trapping the team until Arthur arrives and delays the flood so they can escape. Victor retrieves the last Mother Box, which he had hidden, for the group to analyze. Victor reveals the history of the Box and that Silas used the Box to rebuild his body after a car accident. He explains that the Boxes are "change machines" that unfalteringly enforce the will of their master, destroying or restoring to life without bias. The group comes to the realization that they could use the Box to resurrect Superman to help fight Steppenwolf. Meanwhile, the two Mother Boxes in his possession show Steppenwolf a vision of a secret power on Earth, the Anti-Life Equation, which was sought after by Darkseid for countless millennia and initially discovered during his first failed invasion of Earth, only to be lost alongside the Mother Boxes. Steppenwolf then informs DeSaad of the discovery and is then informed by Darkseid to complete his mission as he will arrive on Earth personally afterwards. Barry and Victor exhume Superman's body and place it in the amniotic fluid of the genesis chamber in a Kryptonian ship[c] kept in S.T.A.R. Labs. After Barry activates the Mother Box, an amnesiac Superman is resurrected, immediately attacking the group after Victor's cybernetics target him in self-defense. He defeats the group soundly, but Lois Lane, who had been visiting the Superman memorial, arrives just in time to calm Superman down, preventing him from killing Bruce. Together, Lois and Superman leave for his family home in Smallville, where he regains his memories and reunites with his mother, Martha Kent.
While the group is recovering from their bout, Steppenwolf attacks S.T.A.R. Labs and retrieves the last Mother Box. Before Steppenwolf could claim it, Silas manages to supercharge the Box with laser heat at the cost of his own life, allowing Victor to track it by tracing the heat. Without Superman, the five heroes travel to where Steppenwolf aims to unite the Boxes. They plan to separate the Boxes by hitting them with a kinetic charge generated by Barry and Victor. The team fights their way through the Parademons to reach the Boxes while Barry runs to generate the charge. Superman arrives and overpowers Steppenwolf, but by the time Victor is ready Barry is knocked down by a Parademon, allowing the Boxes time to form the Unity, causing a massive explosion that wipes out the team. Barry enters the Speed Force before the destruction reaches him and runs far beyond the speed of light and into the past before the explosion to give Victor the necessary charge that ultimately allows him, along with Superman, to separate the Boxes. The heroes kill Steppenwolf and toss his decapitated body through a portal to Apokolips. Still, Darkseid reassures his servant DeSaad that despite this setback, he will return to Earth with their fleet to complete his quest now that the location of the Anti-Life Equation has been rediscovered.
After the battle, Bruce, Diana, and Alfred Pennyworth agree to set up a base of operations at the former Wayne Manor. As the team establishes, Diana contemplates about her Amazonian sisters, Barry acquires a job in Central City's police department which impresses his father Henry, Victor is inspired by a message from his father to use his abilities for good, Arthur bids farewell to Mera and Vulko as he goes to see his father,[d] and Superman resumes his life as reporter Clark Kent and as protector of Earth.
Lex Luthor, who escaped Arkham Asylum, is visited by Slade Wilson, to whom Luthor reveals Batman's secret identity. After having a nightmare involving himself, Victor, Barry, Mera, Wilson, the Joker, and an evil Superman in a post-apocalyptic world,[e] Bruce receives a visit from the Martian Manhunter, who previously visited Lois disguised as Martha. He thanks Bruce for assembling the team before saying they will be in contact in preparation for Darkseid's next planned invasion of Earth.
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone / Cyborg: A former college athlete who, after being cybernetically reconstructed after a nearly fatal car accident, is turned into a techno-organic being enhanced by reactive, adaptive biomimetic alien technology. His enhancements include the abilities of flight, variable weaponry and technopathy. Much of Cyborg's character development was removed in the theatrical release, and Snyder described Cyborg as he is depicted in Zack Snyder's Justice League as "the heart of the movie". Similarly, Fisher stated that Cyborg's character arc is emotional and allegorical of "the journey that Black people have taken in [America]". According to Fisher, the only scene of his directed by Snyder which remained in the theatrical cut was that of Cyborg meeting up with Batman and Commissioner Gordon at the Gotham City police rooftop.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor: Superman's arch-nemesis and former head of LexCorp. Lex's original appearance at the end of the film was originally filmed differently from the theatrical version, teasing Affleck's The Batman project rather than a potential Justice League sequel.
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf: A New God military officer from the planet Apokolips who leads an army of Parademons in search of the three Mother Boxes held on Earth. Hinds had previously described Steppenwolf as "old, tired, still trying to get out of his own enslavement to Darkseid". Steppenwolf was redesigned for the new release, bringing his appearance closer to Snyder's original vision prior to studio interference. Previously, Hinds expressed frustration with the theatrical cut which trimmed down Steppenwolf's backstory and character.
Ryan Zheng as Ryan Choi: A scientist working at S.T.A.R. Labs, under the leadership of Silas Stone. By the end of the film, Choi is promoted to Director of Nanotechnology at the company. The character was intended to star in a spin-off, with Snyder having pitched a film to the studio. The filmmaker stated that movie would have featured Choi taking up the mantle of The Atom, and taken place in China with a Chinese cast.
Jared Leto as The Joker: A psychotic criminal and Batman's archenemy, reprising his role from Suicide Squad (2016). The Joker was not planned to appear in the original film, but Snyder decided to use him sometime after his new version was greenlit, as it was always Snyder's intention to bring the Joker into his Justice League films. The character was redesigned for the new release.
Karen Bryson as Elinore Stone: The late mother of Victor Stone.
Ray Porter as Uxas / Darkseid: A tyrannical New God from Apokolips and Steppenwolf's nephew and master. Darkseid did not appear in the theatrical cut, meaning Zack Snyder's Justice League marks the character's first appearance in a live-action film. Porter played Darkseid through the use of motion capture and "went through a few different vocal gymnastics trying to figure out the voice". Porter was unfamiliar with the Darkseid character upon being cast, but Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio helped guide him with their knowledge of the comic book lore.
Harry Lennix as Calvin Swanwick / Martian Manhunter: An alien from the planet of Mars capable of shape-shifting and telepathy, who poses on Earth as a human by creating the alias of Calvin Swanwick decades ago. Rising through the ranks to positions of power, Swanwick serves as Secretary of Defense in the US government. Lennix reprises his role from previous DC Extended Universe films. Snyder has said Swanwick was always Martian Manhunter since Man of Steel and he has been guiding Clark, Lois, and mankind as a whole, pushing them to do good as he wants mankind to take action and try protecting Earth first before getting directly involved himself.
Additionally, Granny Goodness appears via use of computer generated special effects. The character was modeled after the aunt of a Weta artist named Jojo Aguilar. The Green Lanterns featured in the film, including Yalan Gur and Kilowog, also appear through the use of CGI animation special effects. The final scene was originally filmed with John Stewart / Green Lantern portrayed by Wayne T. Carr in Martian Manhunter's place, but Warner Bros. Pictures turned down the idea as they have other plans for the character. Previous variations of the scene that were filmed included combinations of heroes: Kilowog with John Stewart, Kilowog with Tomar-Re, and John Stewart with Martian Manhunter, - the first not being filmed but planned to by Snyder before changing Kilowog to Martian Manhunter, the second being scrapped early in post-production back in 2017, and the third being finished/filmed in August 2020. Another iteration shot was Stewart visiting Alfred but was reshot by Snyder to Superman visiting Alfred instead back in 2016. Snyder compromised with the studio, and repurposed/reshot the scene to only include Martian Manhunter in October 2020. He also had to reshoot Ben Affleck's side of the scene as the previously shot footage was unusable due to green lights flashing on Affleck. An early scrapped idea Snyder had was to include Ryan Reynolds, who previously portrayed Hal Jordan in Green Lantern (2011), as an "additional lantern... to fill out the corps a bit". He never spoke to Reynolds about it.
Following the release of Man of Steel (2013), director Zack Snyder outlined the basis of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which centered around a five-film arc including Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and a Justice League trilogy. Snyder's original vision was to have Batman v Superman be the darkest in the franchise, and have subsequent films become lighter in tone. However, Batman v Superman was poorly received, with criticism for its dark tone, lack of humor, and slow pace. Distributor Warner Bros. Pictures and Snyder re-evaluated upcoming DCEU films, particularly Suicide Squad (2016), which had already wrapped principal photography, and Justice League, which was a month away from filming. Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio rewrote Justice League to be lighter in tone. Cinematographer Fabian Wagner said Snyder wanted to "get away from the stylized, desaturated, super-high contrast looks of other films in the franchise."
Principal photography for Justice League began in April 2016 and wrapped the following December. Months later, multiple cuts of Snyder's Justice League were shown to Warner Bros. executives, in addition to friends and family of Snyder. A final run-time and picture lock were achieved, though the cuts had incomplete visual effects shots and partial audio mixing. Snyder said that he had multiple cuts that were essentially "done", only needing "a few CG tweaks" to complete.Forbes contributor and film screenwriter Mark Hughes reported that Snyder's cut was more than 90% complete, while The Daily Telegraph cited a visual effects expert as estimating that Warner Bros. would need another $30–40 million to finish the film. Warner Bros. executives who saw Snyder's cut felt that Snyder had made significant efforts to lighten the tone following the criticism of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Despite this, Warner Bros. was unhappy with the results and insider reports indicated that it considered the cut "unwatchable".
After disapproving of Snyder's direction, Warner Bros. hired Joss Whedon, who directed the Marvel Cinematic Universe films The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), to rewrite the script and help with extensive reshoots. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara mandated that Justice League's length was not to exceed two hours. Warner Bros. also decided not to push back the release date (which would have allowed the filmmakers more time to properly complete Justice League) so that executives could keep their annual bonuses and partly due to concerns that parent company AT&T might dissolve the studio after an upcoming merger. Snyder was expected to film the scenes that Whedon re-wrote, and they were working together to meet Warner Bros.'s requests when Snyder's daughter, Autumn Snyder, died by suicide in March 2017. Though Snyder was initially open to Whedon rewriting the script, he eventually became more resistant as the studio gave Whedon more directing privileges; but as he and his family were dealing with Autumn's death, Snyder did not challenge it. Snyder continued to work on Justice League for two months to distract himself, before stepping down in May. His wife Deborah Snyder, who was producing Justice League, also left the project.
Whedon assumed full control over the production, although Snyder retained directorial credit. Whedon added nearly 80 pages to the script, and Wagner estimates that Whedon's cut uses only about 10% of the footage that Snyder shot. Composer Tom Holkenborg completed his film score before being replaced by Danny Elfman halfway through post-production. The scenes that Whedon wrote or re-shot for the theatrical release featured a brighter tone and more humor, and reduced the level of violence seen in Snyder's darker direction. To meet the mandated runtime, more than 90 minutes of Snyder's footage was removed, but the result still adhered to the basic outline of the story. While the initial cut was poorly received by test audiences, the early screening of Whedon's cut scored as high as Wonder Woman (2017), so Warner Bros. decided to move forward with it.
Justice League was released theatrically on November 17, 2017. Critics described it as a "Frankenstein" film, obviously the work of two different directors with competing visions. After seeing Whedon's version in late 2017, Deborah Snyder and executive producer Christopher Nolan advised Snyder to "never see that movie", knowing it would "break his heart".Justice League grossed $657.9 million against an estimated $300 million budget. Against an estimated break-even point of as much as $750 million,Deadline Hollywood reported that the film lost Warner Bros. around $60 million. An anonymous Warner Bros. executive stated in February 2021 that even the studio did not like the "stupefying" changes brought to the finished film, criticizing the Black Clad and the Russian family as goofy and pointless additions to the film. The executive affirmed that the finished film felt "awkward" because the studio did not want to admit what a "piece of shit" it had become. Due to the film's poor performance, Warner Bros. decided to move away from Snyder's vision for a shared universe of interconnected films and focus on standalone films and solo franchises instead.
There are many differences between the theatrical Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League. While the basic framework of the story is the same, dozens of additional scenes, backstories, mythos, worldbuilding elements, new characters, and teases for upcoming films are present in Snyder's version.Zack Snyder's Justice League does not include any scenes shot by Whedon for the theatrical cut, and former Warner Bros. executives Jon Berg and Geoff Johns, who oversaw the production of the theatrical release, had their credits removed for Snyder's version.
Snyder has stated that Zack Snyder's Justice League is not set in the same continuity as Whedon's Justice League, which would remain the canonical version of the film. However, Jason Momoa said that James Wan's Aquaman (2018) takes place after Zack Snyder's Justice League rather than Whedon's version. Similarly, Wonder Woman (2017) director Patty Jenkins said that no DC director considers Whedon's Justice League canonical, and that she had worked with Snyder to ensure Wonder Woman maintained continuity with his film.
Immediately after the theatrical release of Justice League, which later gained the nickname "Josstice League", fans created an online petition to release the "Snyder Cut" that gained more than 180,000 signatures. The movement, which used the hashtag #ReleaseTheSnyderCut on social media, began before fans had any knowledge that a Snyder cut of Justice League actually existed. The movement was ignited by the theatrical cut's mixed reviews. Fans knew Snyder had left directorial and editorial duties in Whedon's hands; thus, they assumed Whedon created an inferior film. The circumstances have been compared to those of Superman II (1980), whose initial director was also replaced by one who made substantial changes. (Richard Donner was able to complete his envisioned Superman II cut in 2006.) Some assumed an alternate cut of Justice League was inevitable because some of Snyder's films had been re-released in extended cuts for home media (such as Watchmen (2009) and Batman v Superman), which some critics consider superior to their theatrical versions.
Members of the Justice League cast and crew showing support for the Snyder Cut's release included actors Ben Affleck,Gal Gadot,Jason Momoa,Ciarán Hinds, and Ray Fisher; photographer Clay Enos; storyboard artist Jay Oliva; cinematographer Wagner; and Ben Affleck's stunt double Richard Cetrone. Deborah Snyder said executive producers Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas encouraged the Snyders to make the Snyder Cut: "I think through this process it's been nice, because outside of Chris, Zack hadn't talked to a lot of people." On the two-year anniversary of the theatrical cut, cast and crew voiced support through social media. Other film- and comic book-industry figures not related to Justice League have also supported the release of a "Snyder Cut", including filmmaker Kevin Smith, television producer Steven S. DeKnight, and comic book writers Rob Liefeld,Robert Kirkman, and Jerry Ordway. Other figures were less optimistic. Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice Pro, suggested the size of the movement was too small to make an impact, stating, "another cut of Justice League just doesn't seem to be something many outside the die-hard fan base are clamoring to see." Industry insiders also called the Snyder Cut's release unlikely. Writer Mario F. Robles, based on his industry connections, said Warner Bros. did not trust Snyder's vision and was not willing to spend millions to finish his cut. Throughout the movement, members of the media referred to the Snyder Cut as "fabled" or "mythical".
Members of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement engaged in acts of fan activism to promote it. In June 2018, fans reached out to executives at AT&T following a merger between the company and Warner; in June 2019, they reached out to new Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, who replaced Tsujihara after his resignation, following that up a month later with a mass letter-writing campaign; and in July 2019 they reached out to the parent company of Warner Bros., WarnerMedia, after the announcement of its new streaming service HBO Max. Ahead of the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, a fan launched a crowdfunding campaign with half of the funds to be spent on an advertising campaign (including billboards and a flying banner ad promoting the Snyder Cut), and the other half to be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). For a similar campaign at the 2019 New York Comic Con, the movement purchased ad space on two billboards over Times Square featuring quotes from members of the cast and crew. In December 2019, the movement rented another flying banner ad, this time passing over Warner Bros. Studios and directly asking Sarnoff to release the Snyder Cut. In January 2020, the movement bought four minutes of ad space advocating for the film's release on a digital banner wrapped around the interior of Riverside Stadium during the FA Cup. Their efforts garnered praise from Snyder and from the AFSP.
However, members of the movement have also been described by members of the media as "toxic" for harassing, threatening, and cyberbullying those who express opinions about the Snyder Cut that are contrary to their beliefs. Yohana Desta of Vanity Fair broadly described the act of fans demanding an alternative cut as a "modern pattern of audience demand that is actively making fandoms more toxic", and compared it to the 2017 harassment of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) actress Kelly Marie Tran. In September 2018, former DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson deleted her Twitter account after substantial online harassment by members of the movement. Warner Bros. telephone operators, inundated with regular calls about the "Snyder Cut", were trained to treat these inquiries as prank calls. Members of the movement tracked down Justice League stuntman Richard Cetrone to ask him questions about the Snyder Cut, only to digitally alter his response and spread on social media a fake text message that appeared to support their cause.
Brandon Katz of The New York Observer said that the movement was composed of "both toxic DC fans that hurl vitriolic harassment at any and all opposition, and supportive moviegoers that genuinely enjoy Snyder's style and are just hoping to see the conclusion of his trilogy that began with 2013's Man of Steel. As with any contingent, there are both extremists and level-headed individuals in its ranks." Bob Rehak, Swarthmore College Associate Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies, said that fandoms such as #ReleaseTheSnyderCut revolt when a major change is made to something they love, and that this reaction usually comes from a smaller subsection of the fandom, which "[paints] the whole community with a really broad brush."
Following the release of the Snyder Cut, fans immediately took to social media to express their love and appreciation for the film as compared to the Whedon Cut, in what could be described as a follow-up to the original #ReleasetheSnyderCut campaign. #RestoretheSnyderVerse started trending as fans advocated for Warner Bros. to allow Zack Snyder to fulfill his original vision for the DCEU and direct Justice League 2 and 3, further fueled by the numerous teasers in the Epilogue of the Snyder Cut. #ReleasetheAyerCut started trending as well, with fans demanding the original cut of Suicide Squad by David Ayer.
In March 2019, after months of speculation, Snyder confirmed his original cut did exist, and stated that it was up to Warner Bros. to release it. In November, an insider claimed that Warner Bros. was unlikely to release Snyder's version in any form, calling such hopes a "pipe dream". However, the following month, Snyder posted a photo in his Vero account, showing boxes with tapes labeled "Z.S. J.L Director's cut", with the caption "Is it real? Does it exist? Of course it does." According to Snyder, he initially imagined that his cut would never see a release, but snippets could potentially be included in a documentary.Robert Greenblatt, then-WarnerMedia chairman and head of HBO Max, stated that discussions surrounding the release of Snyder's Justice League began in late 2019, and that they lasted a few months. The studio first approached Snyder to release his cut unfinished as he had left it, but Snyder objected to do so and insisted on either finishing it or not completing it, leading Warner to take some months before figuring out that Snyder wanted to give what the audience desired. According to Snyder, WarnerMedia decided to move forward with the Snyder Cut in February 2020, after chairman Toby Emmerich acknowledged the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement and reached out to Snyder.
The Snyders invited executives from Warner Bros., HBO Max, and DC to their home to view the Snyder Cut. Snyder also presented ideas, which included potentially releasing the cut in episodes. Impressed, the executives decided to let the project proceed. Snyder began to reassemble the film's original post-production team to finish the cut. The effort was almost thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was escalating around the time, but the Snyders pushed to continue with it. Snyder notified the original cast of the undertaking between April and May 2020; according to Snyder, Fisher initially thought he was joking. On May 20, 2020, Snyder announced during a Q&A after an online watch party of Man of Steel that his cut of Justice League would be released as Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max in 2021. Greenblatt said WarnerMedia tried to get the news out "as quickly as possible" before HBO Max launched on May 27.
Snyder, who had not yet seen the theatrical cut, described his cut as "an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie." The Snyders felt that being able to finally finish Justice League would bring them closure, and were excited by the prospect of expanding the film's character development. At that point, it was unclear what format Zack Snyder's Justice League would take for the release, whether as a four-hour-long film or a six-part miniseries. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that it was expected to cost $20–30 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing. However, Greenblatt indicated the release would be "wildly expensive" and cost more than the reported $30 million to complete. On June 23, 2020, Sandra Dewey, president of productions and business operations for WarnerMedia, stated in an interview that they are aiming for an "early to mid-2021" release.
Initial reports indicated that there would be no new material filmed, as Snyder was not given permission by WarnerMedia. However, on September 23, 2020, it was revealed that Snyder was preparing to shoot additional footage in October. Affleck, Cavill, and Fisher reprised their roles for the shoot. With the cost of the additional shoot, the budget was estimated to have increased to around $70 million. The additional shoots began by October 6. Later that month, Amber Heard, Jared Leto, and Joe Manganiello joined the cast to reprise their DCEU roles as Mera, the Joker, and Deathstroke, respectively. Snyder also directed an additional scene with Miller over Zoom while Miller was filming the third Fantastic Beasts film (2022) in London by sending crew drawings and diagrams of how he wanted the scene to look. Snyder's video feed played through a stand on a table enabling him to direct Miller and the crew, who filmed the scene on his behalf. Snyder stated that only four to five minutes of new footage was shot during additional photography. In 2020, the project was close to collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States and the high number of infections; however, in early 2021, Deborah Snyder reported that work was moving forward as "post can be done safely at home". In January 2021, Snyder confirmed that work on the cut had been completed.
The announcement of Zack Snyder's Justice League was celebrated by the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement, with many fans expressing their enthusiasm on social media. Some Snyder fans uploaded videos of them destroying their DVD and Blu-ray copies of the theatrical cut. Many industry figures, such as cast members of Justice League, expressed their gratitude to the fans who supported the release of Snyder's version of the film. However, some journalists expressed concern that WarnerMedia was conceding to fans who had engaged in forms of harassment and trolling during the movement, which they feared would set a negative precedent.Screen Rant wrote that it sent the message that fan pressuring can work to influence film studios, networks, and streaming services. In response to this concern, HBO Max CEO Tony Goncalves reiterated the passion of the fandom and denied such claims, affirming that as a business they listen to demand from consumers.
Tom Holkenborg, also known as Junkie XL, composed the film's score; he had previously worked on the score for the theatrical version of Justice League, before being replaced by Danny Elfman following Snyder's departure and Whedon's arrival. When Holkenborg was rehired to score the film in early 2020, he decided to restart and make a brand new score for the film, which consists of fifty-four tracks and is three hours and 54 minutes long. The length of the score broke the long held 3-hour record of 1959's Ben-Hur by nearly a full hour, becoming the longest musical score in film history. Holkenborg described the score as "fully electronic [at times], and at other times fully orchestral", incorporating elements of rock and trap. The album was released via WaterTower Music on March 18, 2021, the same day as the film's release.
While the cut was originally planned to release as a four-part miniseries in addition to a single film, Snyder said on Vero in January 2021 that the cut would be released as a "one-shot". WarnerMedia later confirmed this in a press release, describing Zack Snyder's Justice League as a "full-length Max Original feature film". The film is dedicated to Autumn Snyder's memory.
Snyder has expressed his interest on screening his film in IMAX theaters in the markets once the COVID-19 pandemic gets under control. For the theatrical release of the film, Snyder added a 10-minute intermission halfway into the movie, accompanied by the score track "The Crew at Warpower". The cut was released in an open matte 1.33:1 aspect ratio alongside IMAX 1.43:1. The cut is also available to stream in 4K, HDR (in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision), and Dolby Atmos on HBO Max.
On March 8, 2021, ten days prior to the scheduled debut of the film, HBO Max accidentally released the film to some viewers when attempting to watch Tom & Jerry. Although the cut's full runtime was locked to Tom & Jerry's 101 minutes, viewers quickly managed to bypass the bug. After more than two hours, it was later fixed.
Alongside the announcement of Zack Snyder's Justice League, HBO released posters depicting the six members of the Justice League. Although these posters had previously been used for the theatrical film's marketing campaign, the HBO ones featured a black-and-white filter and strongly emphasized Snyder's name. Chris Agar of Screen Rant called the filter "a stark contrast from the colorful Justice League posters that were prevalent in the buildup to the theatrical release, which is most definitely an intentional choice to separate the two versions of the movie."
Snyder announced on May 22, 2020 that a trailer was in the works. A brief teaser, featuring Wonder Woman, a voiceover of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and the reveal of Darkseid, was released on June 18. On July 25, 2020, an official clip was released with the reveal of black suit Superman during Justice Con 2020. On August 22, 2020, the first teaser was released during the DC FanDome event. It was well received from audiences and critics alike. In early November, the original teaser was temporarily removed from HBO Max's social platforms due to the expiration of the rights to the song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen which was used in the trailer. On November 17, 2020, the three year anniversary of the theatrical cut's release, an updated version of the teaser with new footage was uploaded in black and white on Zack Snyder's Vero account and in color on HBO Max's social media accounts.
Snyder released three new promotional posters titled "Fallen", "Risen", and "Reborn" on January 29, 2021, with the posters confirming the final release date of March 18, 2021. An official synopsis was also revealed. On February 14, 2021, a two-minute trailer was released. A scene at the end of the trailer in which Leto's Joker says "We live in a society" garnered considerable commentary due to the line's status as an internet meme commonly associated with the Joker. On March 2, 2021, Snyder released another set of series of promotional posters through his social media accounts. Beginning from March 4, 2021, posters of each individual member of the League were uploaded on a daily basis along with new footage centered around the particular hero. This concluded with a teaser featuring the film's villains, Steppenwolf and Darkseid, and a poster for the latter. On March 14, the final trailer was released.
Snyder expressed interest in December 2020 on writing a tie-in prequel comic book centered on Batman and the Joker to accompany the film, set in the post-apocalyptic Knightmare world and revealing how the Joker murdered Robin before the Joker steals a Mother Box under Cyborg's calculations so the Flash can warn Bruce Wayne in the past. Snyder later proposed a comic book miniseries set before Batman v Superman which fleshed out Robin's death in detail and Batman's descent into a far more vicious approach on crime-fighting before meeting with Superman. Despite the discussions, Snyder confirmed in February 2021 that DC turned down his proposal.
On March 11, 2021, it was reported that the film will be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray in Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Italy on May 25, 2021, May 26, 2021, and May 27, 2021, respectively. The film was released May 24, 2021, on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K in the UK. A limited edition SteelBook was announced for the UK by HMV with pre-orders starting March 22, 2021. According to Warner Bros UK, pre-orders for the home media version sold out in the first 20 minutes of releases. In Canada it will be released on July 20, 2021 on Blu-ray and 4K.
Following its opening weekend, view-tracking app Samba TV reported that 1.8 million American households had watched at least the first five minutes of the film between March 19–21 (only counting smart TVs, not devices). The total was behind the three-day total of fellow DCEU film Wonder Woman 1984 (2.2 million) but ahead of the pilot episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (1.7 million), which debuted the same weekend on Disney+. Samba TV also reported that just one-third of households watched the film in its entirety in a single sitting. Later on, Samba TV also reported that within the first 39 days of release, 3.7 million US households watched the film. Over its first full week of release, the film was watched by 2.2 million households in the United States, with 792,000 (36%) finishing it. Over the same timeframe, the HBO Max app was downloaded 64% more and opened 8.9% more than in an average week.Forbes estimated that if all new subscribers watched the film and stayed subscribed to the platform for 12 months, Zack Snyder's Justice League would result in around $266 million in revenue for Warner Bros. At the 2021 WarnerMedia Upfront, Warner Media declared the film was "a hit" Max original.
Zack Snyder's Justice League has been heavily streamed in international markets, breaking several records. In Canada, the film became the most-streamed content of all time in Crave with 1.1 million viewers. It also allegedly led to the service growing in subscribers by 12%. In Australia, Zack Snyder's Justice League set new records to become the biggest premiere in Binge. In the United Kingdom, where it is streaming via Sky Cinema, the film was viewed by 954,000 households, with 458,000 (48%) watching in its entirety. It later took the top spot on the UK's Official Film Charts, supplanting fellow DCEU film Wonder Woman 1984. In China, where it was released on May 3 on Migu Video, Tencent Video, and Bilibili, it became highest viewed streaming film with almost 250 million views in just five days on Migu Video, surpassing the former record set by Avengers: Endgame. In India, where it was released on BookMyShow Stream, about 100,000 homes watched the film in its first weekend.
The performances of (L:R) Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Ezra Miller garnered critical praise, with many highlighting their increased and improved characterizations in the film.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, critics praised "Snyder's directing style and ability to offer more depth to characters" but criticized the film's length.Variety stated that "no matter how the critics feel about Snyder's film, they all seem to agree on one point: it is superior to the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League."The Hollywood Reporter and TheWrap also noted that most critics thought the film was superior to the 2017 version. However, Total Film reported that the critical response to the film was mixed, and critics were "divided on whether it's better or worse than 2017's Justice League." Rob Harvilla of The Ringer states that the film is "A Zack Snyder film that critics enjoyed, or at least grudginglyappreciated" and that both fans and critics respect the Snyder Cut, saying that "He [Zack Snyder] has justified, in an instant, the half-decade of proselytizing toil the Snyderverse unflinchingly endured on his behalf. He has bent the very arc of history. He has shocked the world."
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 71% of 291 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Zack Snyder's Justice League lives up to its title with a sprawling cut that expands to fit the director's vision – and should satisfy the fans who willed it into existence." According to Metacritic, which calculated a weighted average score of 54 out of 100 based on 45 critics, the film received "mixed or average reviews". The scores of the film are higher on both sites than what the 2017 film received (40% and 45, respectively).
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph awarded the film a full five stars, writing that "The unwatchable 2017 comic-book calamity has been refashioned into one of the most spectacular superhero movies ever made." Jenna Anderson from ComicBook.com called the film "a flawed but otherwise rewarding experience," praising its cast and giving a rating of 4.5 out of 5. Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman wrote: "The new movie — and make no mistake, it really is a new movie — is more than a vindication of Snyder's original vision. It's a grand, nimble, and immersive entertainment, a team-of-heroes origin story that, at heart, is classically conventional, yet it's now told with such an intoxicating childlike sincerity and ominous fairy-tale wonder that it takes you back to what comic books, at their best, have always sought to do: make you feel like you're seeing gods at play on Earth."Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film a rating of 3.5 out of 4, saying "I don't see how it's possible to put this version of the project next to the 2017 version and not recognize that it's superior in every way."Bilge Ebiri of Vulture said: "The Snyder Cut has its share of problems — when you get the best of Snyder, you also get the worst — but it's an undeniably passionate and moving work. It earns its self-importance."
Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a positive review, stating that "‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ turns a bad movie into an epic piece of art" and that "It’s Snyder’s attempt to make the greatest superhero movie ever — a sincere attempt at a masterpiece — and though he doesn’t quite succeed, he’s made something epic. And he made it with integrity." Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a more critical review, stating that it "undeniably represents the singular vision of a filmmaker whose maximalist approach may repel as many people as it delights" and that it "certainly delivers a genuine cinema of attraction for those who demanded it in the first place," but criticized the runtime by saying that "The drawn-out nature of this relatively simple heroes-save-the-world plot often just amounts to a gratuitous exercise in style."
Tom Jorgensen of IGN gave the film an 8 out of 10 rating, stating that "Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a surprise vindication for the director and the fans that believed in his vision. With a mature approach to its superhero drama, better-realized antagonists, and improved action, Snyder’s version of Justice League saves the movie from the dustbin of history, something that likely only could’ve happened on a streaming platform like HBO Max. Though not every addition feels totally necessary, and some new visual effects stick out as unpolished, it's hard to overstate how much more enjoyable this version of Justice League is."
^The theatrical Justice League cost around $300 million to produce. Former WarnerMedia chairman and then-head of HBO Max Robert Greenblatt had indicated that the amount required to finish the Snyder Cut would likely cost more than the reported $20–30 million. After the announcement of reshoots to film brand new footage, the estimated cost rose to $70+ million.