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Justice League: How Zack Snyder’s Cut is So Much Longer Than Whedon’s

The Justice League Snyder Cut will arrive with a very long running time of four hours, and there are a few reasons for why it’s such a long movie.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is going to carry a very long runtime of four hours, twice as long as Joss Whedon’s theatrical cut? Once thought to be buried forever in the aftermath of Justice League’s very troubled reshoots and box office failure, the Snyder Cut ended up beating what many thought were very slim odds of it actually being released, and is scheduled to arrive on HBO Max sometime this coming March. It’s also making history in another way with its colossal four-hour runtime.

The Snyder Cut was already known to be quite lengthy, coming in at a slightly shorter 214 minutes. It’s hardly uncommon for today’s comic book movies to run in excess of two hours, with Avengers: Endgame even bearing a lengthy three-hour runtime. Even in that context, Zack Snyder’s version of the formation of DC’s most famed team of heroes is going to come with a runtime on the level of the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (just one of several similarities they share).

While the Snyder’s Cut’s very long runtime might have taken many by surprise, it’s actually not that shocking when one looks over both Zack Snyder’s own history as a filmmaker, along with the extremely strained process it’s been for his version of the film to actually be released. Putting it side-by-side with the theatrical cut of the movie, it’s even more clear that the Snyder Cut was always going to carry a runtime in the epic arena.

We’ve Seen VERY Little Of Snyder’s Footage In The Whedon Version

Something that can’t be stressed enough when it comes to the Snyder Cut is the fact that it’s not a typical example of what would be called a director’s cut. Despite studio assurances after Snyder’s departure that the Joss Whedon-directed reshoots were minor and that Justice League would remain the movie Snyder had set out to make, the theatrical cut made clear that that was hardly the case. As the years have passed, examinations of the movie by both fans and journalists have revealed more and more just how little of Snyder’s footage was actually retained for it.

Director of photography Fabian Wagner has also confirmed that the Snyder footage used in the theatrical only represents a fraction of what was actually filmed. Even then, color grading, music changes, scene shifts, and other alterations means the Snyder footage that was in the theatrical version is markedly different from how it will be presented in the Snyder Cut. This is also just the beginning of unpacking why the Snyder Cut is so much longer than the theatrical version of Justice League.

Snyder’s Additional Photography Added 4 To 5 Minutes (On Top of Unseen Footage)

In early 2020, speculation that the Snyder Cut could actually be released began to massively ramp up when Snyder revealed a contest to have a fan on set for Zack Snyder’s Justice League’s additional photography. At the time, Snyder facetiously described such filming as “unlikely and purely speculative” on the slate, and even after the Snyder Cut was officially announced, there was reportedly no further filming that had been greenlit. Nevertheless, the additional photography was officially announced in late 2020, but what really made the world take notice was what Snyder intended to add into the film.

Among the cast members confirmed to have returned for the pick-ups was Joe Manganiello as Deathstroke, but the real kicker was the unexpected return of Jared Leto, reprising his role as The Joker from Suicide Squad. The additional scenes will seemingly take place at least partially during the Knightmare future first seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While it will contribute to the Snyder Cut’s lengthy running time, Snyder himself has confirmed that the additional filming will only add approximately four to five minutes to the movie. Though this is a comparatively negligible addition to the hours of other unseen footage, the notion of more Deathstroke and Joker has already made the added footage one of the most anticipated aspects of the Snyder Cut. With the Snyder Cut having previously sat at 214 minutes, the additional filming only adding another four or five could suggest that Snyder may also be pulling from the five-hour assembly cut to get it to an even four hours, though this would probably simply extend scenes that were already present. And there is most assuredly a lot to add to.

Hours Of Footage Was Cut From The Theatrical Version

Going back to a direct comparison between Justice League theatrical cut and the Snyder Cut, literally hours of footage shot by Snyder was completely abandoned by the version that hit theaters. A major contributor to this was the studio-mandated two-hour runtime, which already ensured that huge chunks of Snyder footage was never going to make it into the studio-approved version. Once the reshoots were underway, the new footage filmed by Whedon was inevitably going to downsize the Snyder footage used in the theatrical cut even more.

Whedon also reportedly contributed approximately 80 new script pages, with one script page understood to comprise roughly a minute’s worth of screentime, making around an hour and twenty minutes of the theatrical cut a product of the reshoots. With an entire four-hour epic movie on the way, the Snyder Cut is going to be almost entirely comprised of both never-before-seen footage as well as footage used in the theatrical cut now being showcased in the manner that it was originally meant to be. All of that leads right into the biggest question of all, which is why the Snyder Cut is such a long movie in the first place.

What Makes The Snyder Cut So Much Longer?

The Snyder Cut running four hours isn’t altogether shocking, considering Snyder’s predilection for extended runtimes, particularly in his superhero movies (Snyder has even commented that he at first thought that Warner Bros. two-hour mandate was a joke). Looking at what is known about the Snyder Cut in advance of its release, there are a few areas of the film that likely are significant contributors to the runtime, with the much longer history lesson, this time featuring Darkseid, being one of them. Snyder has also spoken of Cyborg’s central role in his version of the film, so it stands to reason that a considerable amount of the movie will be devoted to Victor Stone’s backstory and his process of gradually understanding his newfound powers. Aquaman and The Flash’s own backstories will probably similarly be major elements of the film, and likewise for Superman’s resurrection and the greater role of the Knightmare, complete with the aforementioned new material with Deathstroke and The Joker.

Furthermore, the League’s climactic battle with Steppenwolf and the Parademon army seems likely to play out like three action scenes in one. Both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman devoted their entire third acts to a series of set pieces that built upon one another, and it would stand to reason that Snyder would carry this over into Justice League. It’s already known that the climax involves an ‘unhinged’ Superman (per storyboard artist Jay Oliva) and Barry Allen’s first chronological act of time-travel, among numerous other big elements. Compared to what was essentially a more standard issue final fight in the theatrical cut, it wouldn’t be surprising if the entire last hour of the Snyder Cut is more or less a series of big action scenes that collectively comprise the League’s final battle with Steppenwolf.

The Snyder Cut is going to be on the longer side of movie runtimes, but it’s not going to be a four-hour film just for its own sake. With the small percentage of Snyder footage in the theatrical cut, Snyder’s original intentions for the movie, and his efforts to add more to what was already there, the Snyder Cut carrying an unusually long running time for a superhero movie is frankly to be expected. The process of making it a reality has been its own epic journey for both Snyder himself and the fans who pushed for it with such determination, so it’s not at all surprising that finally sitting down and watching Zack Snyder’s Justice League in March is itself going to be an epic journey with a runtime to match.