The original ending to Justice League might not have pleased every fan, but the changes that WB made to remove it has made it worse. The reports of changes to Zack Snyder’s version have varied from rumors to confirmed insights, with the most reports claiming that Snyder’s cut of Justice League was not just “darker.” It was not longer, either. It was a leap into that DCU fans were craving, including Darkseid and DCEU’s new Green Lanterns.
Ambitions like that do not guarantee that a movie will succeed, and Snyder has flirted with overreaching more than most directors will. But with Justice League‘s box office disappointment focused on the studio rushing to get Justice League out, it is apparent that WB and the replacement director, Joss Whedon did not succeed at the task before them. But they have been doomed once it had been decided to cut out the part of the story that DCEU’s Superman story was building to.
The outline for Snyder’s version was restated by Kevin Smith, who had praised the original Darkseid ending for capitalizing on what is teased in the movie. And for the DC fans left confused by many Steppenwolf-centric scenes and subplots which made it into Justice League, it would have been an ending that left them satisfied.
THE ORIGINAL DARKSEID ENDING
Let us start with the use of “mother” by Steppenwolf when addressing the 3 cubes he seeks. These are and have always been referred to as ‘Mother Boxes.’ Heroes and villains have addressed their miraculous boxes as “Mother.” But for whatever reason, it does not seems as creepy with meaning as Steppenwolf makes it.
By now, the following DC leaks might have heard that Snyder planned to claim that the 3 Mother Boxes contained Steppenwolf’s mother, Heggra. It was the communion of the 3 that united Heggra’s power and granted Steppenwolf the power to conquer a planet. From a DC Comics perspective, this is re-writing of the existing mythology. In the comics, Heggra was Steppenwolf’s sister and the mother of Darkseid. She was the person Darkseid had to kill with his father before taking the throne of Apokolips.
Given the blurred lines between military conquest and royal family squabbles, the ‘story of Steppenwolf’ in Justice League makes sense. Having failed to conquer Earth, Steppenwolf was forced to retreat and leave them behind. His mission as stated in the movie is to recover the 3 boxes and conquer Earth. Which leads to the original ending, when Superman returns from the dead to defeat Steppenwolf.
At the point Steppenwolf is forced to retreat and return to Apokolips: Darkseid, displeased, kills the general and pledges to meet the “Kryptonian” himself.
CUTTING DARKSEID’S SCENE CAUSED MORE PROBLEMS THAN IT SOLVED
As fans can guess, removing that final tease of Darkseid whether to cut time, WB’s apprehensions about setting a sequel in Marvel manner or doing so on Zack Snyder’s terms, means more than cutting the scene. Without the twist that Steppenwolf’s story was more than evil, hints, and references would not amount to anything satisfying. The solution for Whedon and WB was to make Steppenwolf want to kill Earth.
Steppenwolf is an alien who destroys worlds, back for revenge against the Earthlings who had embarrassed him. Turned Mother Boxes into 3 cubes that, when joined, form ‘The Unity.’ Unfortunately, this leaves Bruce’s ‘Knightmare’ vision of a future where Superman is evil, and Darkseid’sParademons fill the skies.
It was Bruce accepting this vision as a warning that began his mission to unite Earth’s heroes.
Batman was looking out into space to the actually pulling the strings which is what the studio did not want.
THE SOLUTION: INSTEAD OF DARK, GO DUMB
Since the cosmic forces stories could not be used for motivation, the focus was placed on the three Mother Boxes. So, the villain has them, and the heroes have to find it and keep them apart. It cannot be overstated how creatively bankrupt this section of Justice League was. Specifically, when a Parademon self-destructs, leaving behind the image of three cubes.
None of the logic at play is addressed, meaning the Parademon may have erupted into smoke spelling out the word “Steppenwolf, ” and it will be as plausible. And as added insurance to keep audiences from wondering about Aquaman’s story with Atlantis, the filmmakers had drawn the audience a picture in his remote fishing village. A picture of three cubes: land, island, and ocean, with a bearded and tattooed man swimming towards it.
This empty plot device comes back in the final scene when the other change made undercuts the tension of the climactic battle.
Since Steppenwolf cannot be killed by Darkseid without including this scene, and he cannot be killed by the heroes, either, a fix was inserted. It is not Whedon’s most elegant work, having Batman state that the Parademons “sense fear” like wild animals. Since the logic behind the reduction of Steppenwolf’s soldiers to primitive and animalistic is fuzzy, it is not brought up again, until it functions as the final scene.
Steppenwolf is afraid of Superman when he freezes his ax and breaks it, and the Parademons care about nothing else but Steppenwolf’s fear. The soldiers ignore Steppenwolf’s commands and swarm him. And to make sure the scene does not slip into the horror one will expect from ravenous alien insects eating a giant man alive, a Boom Tube deploys to spirit them away.
The result is an enemy who falls in line with the most infamous of Marvel’s villains, built upon a subplot that is designed to be straightforward and not interesting, leading up to a conclusion that makes Superman’s resurrection very boring.
In the end, the story ends as if the filmmakers wanted it to. No greater meaning to any of the events the audience has seen.
We might not know what the original plan for Justice League‘s ending was, and how Darkseid’s appearance would have helped. But what we know is that removing traces of it led to the most criticized and underwhelming of Justice League‘s runtime.