Zack Snyder (R) directs Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot in "Justice League." Photo courtesy of HBO Max
LOS ANGELES, March 17 (UPI) -- Zack Snyder spent much of 2020, and a $70 million budget, completing his original cut of Justice League -- a movie he couldn't finish in 2017 due to a family tragedy. Even when he began to film in 2016, Snyder said, he had been under restrictions that this new edition allowed him to ignore.
The film teams up Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). After the negative response to Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Snyder said Warner Bros. asked him to make a lighter, more comedic Justice League.
"I was able to cut out some of those ridiculous jokes that were forced on me," Snyder told UPI in a Zoom interview.
Snyder knew he would have to film additional footage in 2017 to complete Justice League. He stepped back after his daughter, Autumn, died by suicide at age 20.
When Whedon completed the film, he added some of the trademark humor from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and his Avengers movies. In Whedon's reshoots, The Flash uses his super speed to draw on a bully's face, and Aquaman confesses his inner feelings after sitting on Wonder Woman's lasso of truth.
Those scenes and many others no longer are in the film. Also gone are some jokes Snyder said he felt pressured to film during principal photography. That's not to say Zack Snyder's Justice League is without humor.
"Flash is a character who hides his pain in comedy," Snyder used as an example of one character who still cracks wise in his version.
Snyder's cut also climaxes with Superman wearing a black suit to the final battle, after the Justice League has revived him from the dead. One of Whedon's reshoots involved outfitting Superman back in his traditional blue and red costume.
"Black suit was a massive fight that in the end they just decided against," Snyder said.
At the time Snyder was making Justice League, he hoped he would also get to make Justice League 2 and 3. He envisioned Superman returning to his traditional uniform by the end of the trilogy.
"In my mind, he's not ready to go back to the suit yet," Snyder said.
Snyder's fans spent years tweeting #releasetheSnydercut and raised money for suicide prevention charities. In the new version, Snyder added a billboard for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in a scene in which Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne recruits The Flash to the team.
Cast members helped Snyder film the remaining footage missing from his cut. Snyder said Fisher, Affleck, Jared Leto, Amber Heard, Joe Morton and Harry Lennix returned for additional scenes. Lennix played General Swanwick in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, but reveals himself to be a DC Comics hero too.
"Harry, I shot him twice," Snyder said. "I shot him here at the house against a green screen downstairs, me and Eli, my son. Then we shot him on a motion capture stage for the end."
Miller and Diane Lane filmed scenes remotely in England and Toronto, respectively. Miller was filming the third Fantastic Beasts movie and Lane was filming the series Y: The Last Man. Snyder directed them via Zoom.
Snyder's new footage was still in flux as he completed the cut. An earlier trailer showed Leto, as the Joker, telling Batman, "We live in a society." He no longer says that.
Snyder explained he was hoping to produce a third edition of Justice League, in black and white. The film's final epilogue scene would have included different footage, to raise additional money for charity.
"I wanted a little bit different ending to get more people to give to ASFP and suicide awareness," Snyder said. "For some reason, they didn't like it."
The new Joker scene does explain a scene from Batman v Superman. In the previous film, Bruce Wayne dreams that Superman captures Batman. Leto's scene takes place after the resolution of the Justice League's first battle together, but precedes Wayne's dream sequence.
"In Batman v Superman, he has a Joker card taped to his gun," Snyder said. "We see now where he got it and how he got it, what it means."
However, Snyder no longer hopes to make sequels to Justice League. He just completed those foreshadowing scenes so that fans could see where he was headed.
"Warner Bros. has no plan to make those movies," Snyder said. "We're just fans talking now."
With Justice League 2 and 3 unlikely, Snyder revealed a big spoiler for his hypothetical third movie. A major character would die, leaving Superman to shoulder the heroics alone.
"Batman sacrifices himself pretty early in the story," Snyder said. "It's really Superman that has to rally the world against Darkseid."
Snyder is at peace leaving the story open-ended.
"If this is the last movie I make in the DCU, that's 100% fine," he said.
Zack Snyder's Justice League premieres Thursday on HBO Max.