Zack Snyder’s Justice League (opens in new tab) is coming. The fabled extended cut of Justice League – which, we should remember, was not a particularly thrilling movie – has been confirmed as real and coming to HBO Max next year (opens in new tab). While that news is exciting to Snyder fans the world over, there’s another reason to be invested in the release: it could shake the very foundations of the DC Extended Universe.
The Marvel rival had been struggling for some time when Justice League reached cinemas in 2017. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad may have scored hundreds of millions at the box office, yet they struggled with critics. And though Wonder Woman tried to save the day, the damage had been done – no-one was particularly excited about seeing Ben Affleck’s Batman teaming up with Henry Cavill’s Superman because the setup had been so tedious.
Yet, the DCEU recovered. Aquaman may have been a slightly ludicrous underwater adventure, but Jason Momoa’s charisma pulled us through. Shazam! surprised everyone by being a downright fun time at the cinema. Birds of Prey may have underperformed at the box-office – not focussing on Harley Quinn in the title may have been an error from the off – but managed to impress critics. Joker was a phenomenal success, yet remains adjacent to the DCEU as a one-shot.
The general public has, it seems, forgiven a few of the DCEU’s early missteps, much like we choose to forget about The Incredible Hulk. We’re ready for another slate of DC movies that jolt new life into the series, and perhaps the Snyder Cut is the perfect place to start.
We know a few things about Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The extended edition will be around four hours long, and could be released as a six-episode mini-series. Warner Bros. is rumoured to be spending $20 million to $30 million to bring the director’s vision to reality. Snyder has also posted images of a black-suited Superman on social media before, and previously confirmed rumours that Harry Lennix's General Swanwick was intended to be Martian Manhunter. How Joss Whedon – who finished the theatrical version of Justice League after taking over from Snyder, who stepped aside for personal reasons – currently feels about the situation is unknown, though the Snyder Cut will no doubt feature fewer quips than Whedon’s cut.
With that in mind, we can surmise that Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be very different to the one we’ve already seen. Snyder also has a knack for releasing superior extended cuts – both Watchmen and Batman v Superman were improved in their re-releases – and, seeing as Warner Bros. executives have seen a form of the Snyder Cut and promised vast sums of money for rejigging the whole thing, the new version of Justice League promises to be bearable, if not actually good.
Should that prove the case, then DC fans will likely take the new version as canon – and re-establishing canon with a solid foundation could be what gets us invested in the DCEU again.
There are also a few other things to consider. If Justice League proves a success for HBO Max, and there’s almost no doubt it will, then the streaming service could also act as the future for the DCEU. Look at Birds of Prey’s middling box-office numbers. The movie has picked up steam thanks to being released early on VOD due to the coronavirus pandemic. Would a six-part Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey series nab a few million subscribers? Absolutely.
With a newly established canon in the DCEU, we may also be excited to see what happens to these characters once again. Sure, we probably won’t see Ben Affleck back as Batman, which could cause a problem, but let’s not pretend that, if Zack Snyder’s Justice League is great, we won’t want more of Cavill’s Superman. He’s perfectly cast, and also winning legions of fans thanks to The Witcher. A Superman series would be a bigger draw than nearly every series on Netflix to date.
Even if they can’t score the big hitters, HBO Max could do worse than bringing back Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke and using Gareth Evans’ already scripted ideas for a series. There’s so much room for exploration.
Of course, this would be Warner Bros. and DC playing catch-up. Marvel already has a host of mini-series coming to Disney Plus, each one promising to be weirder than that last. The likes of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki also have the added bonus of tying directly into tentpole movies that no-one has any ambivalence about – if it’s linked to the MCU, we’ll see it. The DCEU needs to do a lot to become a Marvel killer – and perhaps, against the odds, Zack Snyder’s Justice League will help the DCEU find its footing.