The character arc of Superman was a critical component of Zack Snyder’s intended vision for Justice League. With Superman having died in battle with Doomsday at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the resurrection of Kal-El was to serve as a major fulcrum on which the plot of Justice League swung. However, like his fellow heroes, Superman fell victim to the film’s extensive reshoots. Zack Snyder stepped away from Justice League following the tragic loss of his daughter, with Joss Whedon being brought in to conduct the reshoots. Although Warner Bros’ maintained that these were minimal pick-ups, the version of Justice League released into theaters in November 2017 was a stark departure from Snyder’s intended vision.
Fans have spent the nearly two years since the film’s theatrical release lobbying Warner Bros. to release the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. Snyder himself has provided them plenty of ammunition with a steady stream of teases of his cut of the film on social media, and an increasing number of the film’s cast and crew have also called for the release of the “Snyder Cut”. While the theatrical version of Justice League still dealt with Superman’s resurrection, the path taken to get there was a massive detour from what Snyder intended, as was the case for Kal-El’s entire role in the film. Here’s what we know for certain about what Superman’s role in the “Snyder Cut” entailed.
The Justice League reshoots happened to coincide with Henry Cavill’s appearance in last year’s Mission Impossible: Fallout, which saw Cavill grow a mustache for the role of August Walker. The hastiness of the reshoots, coupled with Cavill’s contractual obligation to keep the mustache, ultimately forced Warner Bros. to attempt to give Kal-El a digital shave. However, with the reshoots having been implemented at the eleventh hour, and the film’s release date looming, the removal of Cavill’s mustache simply couldn’t be completed in time. This would prove to be the biggest red flag to signal the full extent of the film’s revamping, and just how little of Superman’s role in the theatrical version of Justice League was shot by Zack Snyder.
As Henry Cavill’s CGI upper lip in the finished product reveals, the vast majority of Superman’s appearance in Justice League is comprised of footage from the reshoots. This can be seen very early on with the cell phone video of Superman in the film’s opening, and would prove to be the case for the remainder of Kal-El’s appearance in the film. Superman footage from the “Snyder Cut” is sprinkled in a handful of moments throughout the film, with possibly the most notable being the shot of Superman dodging a punch from Steppenwolf in slow-motion. Aside from Cavill’s face being perfectly normal here, this is also a clear variation on Snyder’s use of speed-ramping to emphasize the impact of a fist strike in fight sequences. Nearly all the rest of the Superman’s scenes in Justice League are from the reshoots, and they would prove to be a major barometer for just much the rest of the film was also altered from the “Snyder Cut”.
While we know that the vast majority of Superman’s scenes in Justice League come from the reshoots, far less is known about what these scenes were replacing. Even with all of Snyder’s social media teases of his cut of the film, he’s revealed surprisingly little about what Superman’s role in the “Snyder Cut” entailed in comparison to other characters. Nevertheless, a rough picture of the part Superman played in Snyder’s version of the film can be constructed by what is publicly known. As Snyder himself revealed earlier this year, the original Justice League script saw Darkseid killing Lois Lane in the Batcave, with the despondent Superman subsequently siding with the forces of Apokolips after falling victim to the Anti-Life Equation. This would have served as the answer to Superman’s turn to evil in the Knightmare sequence in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it was ultimately dropped prior to the beginning of principal photography on Justice League.
Complaints about the dark tone of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were ultimately what led to the removal of the plot device of Lois Lane’s murder. However, despite her death at Darkseid’s hands being jettisoned, the Knightmare was still to factor heavily into Justice League. This can be seen in the “Heroes” trailer, with Batman recounting “a dream about the end of the world“, and his fear that “something darker” is coming, a clear tease for the impending arrival of Darkseid. It’s still not fully known how the Knightmare would have been incorporated into Justice League, but Superman was doubtlessly intended to be a major component of that element of the film. It’s also possible that Snyder decided to use Justice League to set up the Knightmare reality for a full dive in a later movie. However, as it currently stands, any reference to the Knightmare was deleted from the film, which had a profound impact on Superman’s role in Justice League.
Fans have managed to glimpse a few of Superman’s scenes from the “Snyder Cut” via the trailers and two deleted scenes, and even these few scenes paint a very different picture for Snyder’s vision of the Man of Steel in the film. Superman was almost completely omitted from the film’s marketing campaign since he was supposed to be dead after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, until the release of the “Heroes” trailer released just over a month before the film’s theatrical debut. The trailer sees part of Snyder’s version of Lois and Clark’s reunion on the Kent farm, with Clark saying to Lois “I’ll take that as a yes“, in reference to her wearing the engagement ring Clark had intended for her prior to his death. This exchange is completely absent from the theatrical cut, while the farm scene itself is largely reshot, with Clark now commenting that his resurrection left him feeling “itchy“.
The film’s home media debut would also see two deleted scenes released, both filmed by Snyder. The first shows Clark in the Kryptonian scout ship, with the doors opening to reveal him in his suit once more, a clear parallel to his first in-costume scene in Man of Steel. The second sees Superman meeting with Alfred Pennyworth at Wayne Manor, with a stunned Alfred commenting “He said you’d come. Now, let’s hope you’re not too late“. With the line having been featured in the film’s 2017 San Diego Comic-Con trailer, this would effectively confirm speculation that Superman was indeed the previously unseen character Alfred was conversing with. Furthermore, Zack Snyder would also later release a storyboard on Vero featuring the former scene’s pay-off of Superman flying off, presumably to join the League to defeat Steppenwolf, in a further parallel with the first flight scene in Man of Steel. All of this points to Snyder intending Superman’s role in Justice League to be heavy on symmetry with his debut in Man of Steel. However, with Superman’s role in Justice League being so heavily altered, the only major piece of tonal connective tissue with his previous appearances is Kal-El’s return from the dead.
Among Zack Snyder’s most well-known trademarks is the massive scale he brings to his film’s action sequences, and per storyboard artist Jay Oliva, who’s responsible for much of the iconic action in Man of Steel’s finale, Snyder intended exactly that for Superman in Justice League. Oliva has proven to be something of a whistle-blower on the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, confirming its existence in no uncertain terms and offering tidbits of the content therein. One such tidbit came during an interview with Comic Book Debate last year.
As Oliva explained, Superman’s role in the final battle against Steppenwolf and the Parademon army was much more extensive, with Oliva specifically describing Superman as “unhinged” in Snyder’s version of the film’s climactic battle. While Superman certainly gives Steppenwolf quite a beating in the film’s theatrical cut, it’s clearly truncated from what Snyder intended, and Oliva’s description paints a far more involved fight between Superman and Steppenwolf during the final battle.
While much has come to light about how drastically Justice League deviated from Snyder’s intended vision, and how much each specific character’s role was altered, the Man of Steel himself arguably remains among the biggest question marks of the “Snyder Cut”. With the vast majority of Superman’s scenes being reshot, the full scope of his appearance under Snyder’s direction remains a bit of a mystery. However, what is currently known about Superman’s original role in Justice League indicates a vastly different portrayal of The Last Son of Krypton under Zack Snyder’s direction. The ongoing push for the release of the “Snyder Cut” likely has no end in sight, with the cast and crew of Justice League beginning to join the call in greater numbers. Ultimately, Warner Bros. alone has the authority to authorize the release of the cut, and with Henry Cavill’s future with the DCEU up in the air, the push for the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League is only likely to continue to grow.
NEXT: Justice League: Every Confirmed Change to Zack Snyder’s Version