Concept art courtesy of Justice League: The Art of the Film
A newly revealed look at some early special effects work on Justice League may confirm our theory about the movie’s main villain, Steppenwolf. After the film debuted to mediocre reviews and a disappointing box office take, fans were left pointing fingers in their attempts to figure out where it all went wrong. Justice League is far from the DCEU’s worst effort to date, but it certainly fell well short of expectations.
Whether you choose to pin the film’s shortcomings on the controversial director change or if you place the blame on Warner Bros. for not delaying its release, it’s hard to deny that Justice League featured some pretty underwhelming special effects. Henry Cavill’s CGI face is an obvious example; the uncanny valley’d Superman was a distraction almost every time he stepped on the screen. But perhaps an even more egregious misstep was made with the design of the villainous Steppenwolf.
Not only did the film’s big bad suffer from a bland, half-baked design, but the visual effects that brought him to life seemed five to ten years out of date. Steppenwolf's onscreen movements were wonky at best, and his mouth rarely moved in tune with Ciaran Hinds' words. Last month, we theorized that the seemingly unfinished special effects were the result of a drastic redesign of the character at some point during production. A recently leaked SFX reel may just confirm that theory.
UPDATE: The animatic video featuring the earlier design of Steppenwolf has been removed.
As you can see in the footage, Steppenwolf looks nothing like he does in the movie, though he closely resembles the concept art that was first revealed in Justice League: The Art of the Film. Judging by its quality, the effects reel almost certainly comes from the earlier stages of the movie's production, but it further cements our belief that Steppenwolf's reptilian design made it well past the concept art stage.
Regardless of which design you prefer, the Justice League deserved a more well-rounded bad guy to square off against in their live-action debut. A sharper design would not have magically granted Steppenwolf any trace of believable motivation, nor would it have given him anything resembling a fleshed out set of character traits. And thus, like so many other undercooked baddies, Steppenwolf will ultimately fall into the pit of forgettable superhero movie villains. Here's hoping his underwhelming appearance hasn't affected the chances of his nephew Darkseid making his DCEU debut at some point.