When the news broke earlier today that Jared Leto would return to the DCEU as the Joker in Zack Snyder’s newly expanded version of Justice League, the question immediately arose: was Leto supposed to even be in the original movie in the first place?
The answer, to the best of our knowledge, was “no,” which leads to an even bigger riddle (not to mix our villains): just how different will the new version, now called Zack Snyder’s Justice League, be from the 2017 theatrical movie?
Leto’s encore as the Clown Prince of Crime was revealed by the Hollywood Reporter, which indicated that the Oscar-winning actor had joined the additional photography that is now underway for Snyder’s project, which is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2021 on HBO Max.
Leto’s one and only appearance so far as the Joker was in 2016’s Suicide Squad, where his tattooed and grilled version of the infamous super-villain was both a) shoehorned into an already incoherent plot and b) not well received by longtime DC fans.
In case you’ve missed the drama over the past couple of years, 2017’s Justice League has been fraught with controversy ever since early that year, when Snyder dropped out of the production due to a family tragedy.
Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon was hired by Warner Bros. to “complete” the movie, but ended up doing extensive rewrites and reshoots that significantly altered Snyder’s film, adding more humor, changing the tone, and trimming its length to a studio-mandated 120 minutes.
Since then, calls for the release of a “Snyder Cut” have echoed through the internet, with fans finally getting their dream realized last February when Warner Bros. officially announced that it would move forward with the project. That was finalized in May when Snyder revealed that his Justice League, to run as a four-part, four-hour limited series, would premiere on the newly launched HBO streaming service.
A lot of Snyder’s original footage was reportedly left on the cutting room floor when Whedon took over the theatrical Justice League and reshot close to half the movie, which ended up being a relatively linear story about the coming together of the Justice League to revive Superman (Henry Cavill) and repel an invasion by the alien overlord Steppenwolf.
But even with Snyder restoring his footage and removing everything shot by Whedon, a four-hour cut has meant from the start that some kind of additional production was required, with Warner Bros. reportedly ponying up $30 million for it.
The Snyder version will introduce DC mega-villain Darkseid (Ray Porter) to the live-action DC universe for the first time (along with his master torturer, DeSaad), and will reportedly include all kinds of characters and plot strands left out of the movie we saw in 2017, including the revelation that General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) is secretly Martian Manhunter. Snyder’s cut will also delve more deeply into the back stories of Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller), will feature more of the Green Lantern Corps, and so on.
But even though many of these elements are holdovers from Snyder’s original version of the film, there was never any indication even back in 2017 that the Joker would appear as well. This implies that not only is Snyder expanding upon the ideas he had for the movie years ago, but is adding to what was already there in a significant way — if not making what could amount to a nearly new film entirely.
Here’s another clue that what Snyder is doing is even more ambitious than originally planned: producers Jon Berg and Geoff Johns — who oversaw the original Justice League and recently drew fire from Ray Fisher for their role in Whedon’s allegedly toxic reign behind the camera — will not be credited as producers on the Snyder cut, according to that same Hollywood Reporter item.
Sources told the trade that out of respect for Snyder’s vision, and because neither man is still with the studio and has no involvement with the new version, their names will come off the project. The move is said to have nothing to do with Fisher’s recent comments.
If that is the case — and the brouhaha with Fisher does seem to have gone quiet for now — then the removal of the producers’ names, the inclusion of a well-known character who had nothing to do with the original movie, combined with the laundry list of changes and additions that Snyder is already known to be making, strongly imply that what we will see next year on HBO Max will be something we have not seen before in any form.
Just how much of the theatrical Justice League will be left? How much new footage is Snyder ultimately going to shoot? And which version will be officially part of whatever continuity is left in the DC cinematic universe? Too many questions left to be answered. Zack Snyder’s Justice League has already polarized fans and critics, with pro-Snyder fans believing their idol’s vision needs to be seen and anti-Snyder throngs insisting that there wasn’t much of a vision there to begin with.
One thing is for sure, however: Jared Leto’s Joker, also initially and soundly rejected by fans, looks like he’s going to have the last laugh.