Justice League: What's Changing?
There have been plenty of Justice League rumors regarding behind the scenes changes, and many of them make similar assumptions or build upon older rumors, so it's important to understand each one and the details surrounding it. In chronological order:
The First Rumor: Remaking Justice League Twice?
The very first set of rumors came from Splash Report in May. Their source claimed Justice League had already undergone numerous reshoots at that point and that the movie would essentially have been “remade…twice” by the time it hit theaters in November. A quick glance at the schedules of the actors involved as well as the absurdity of equating the effort of reshoots to remaking Justice League twice should rule the whole thing out. Even the most extreme of reshoots only remake a percentage of the movie. The Wrap was also quick to put the rumors to bed (with much more reliable sourcing):
“There has been no additional photography to date on ‘Justice League,’ we have planned and will shoot additional pickups early summer. Additional photography has always been planned like most pictures in general but certainly for a tentpole of ‘Justice League’s’ size and scope.”
Even so, the "remade twice" narrative would live on (and keen eyes will see it is even frequently cited in more recent rumors), leading Geoff Johns to eventually weigh in on Twitter, mocking the extremity of changes many people were concerned about.
The Second Rumor: Reshoots Are Changing the Focus to Wonder Woman
After the arrival of Wonder Woman, the first DCEU movie without a polarized reaction, hopes were high that the new era of DC movies had started and Justice League could continue that success, leading to new rumors that reshoots were actually changing the movie to focus more on Wonder Woman to capitalize on her strong reception. Jon Berg weighed in on this one to clarify that Wonder Woman's role in Justice League was always going to be a major focus, and Wonder Woman's success affirmed that decision but didn't directly result in any creative changes - and posters and marketing that frequently show her at the forefront are definitely evidence of that. So, while it's very true that Wonder Woman is a major focus of the movie, this was always the case and not a reactionary decision.
The Third Rumor: Scheduling Conflicts and Mustache Complications
This rumor came courtesy of Variety and claimed the cost of reshoots had inflated to $25-30 million and several months of work, attributing the issues to the complicated schedules of the stars. Since Ezra Miller is working on the Fantastic Beasts sequel, Henry Cavill is working on Mission Impossible 6, and Jason Momoa is in Austrailia working on Aquaman, it's hard to get them all in front of the camera at the same time.
Since the scenes Zack Snyder reportedly wanted Joss Whedon to write were mostly connective tissue (AKA dialogue) including the whole Justice League, it's understandable that the cost of the studio, equipment, and production crew reserved in a holding pattern to shoot a day or two at a time could easily stretch a few weeks of work and a few million dollars into a few months and millions of dollars more - not to mention the complication of Henry Cavill's mustache, which needs to be digitally edited out. While all angles of this report seem to check out, it doesn't really say much about the nature of the reshoots - but it does debunk (yet again) the idea that they are massive and sweeping. If they can't get the whole cast together, they definitely can't reshoot significant chunks of the movie.
The Fourth Rumor: The Reshoots Were to Lighten the Movie, Particularly Cyborg
During an interview with IGN, Silas Stone actor Joe Morton shed some light on his experience working with Joss Whedon during reshoots, saying nothing that he worked on actually changed the tone. He does say the tone of Cyborg's character was altered (in some way) during reshoots, which makes a lot of sense, as Zack Snyder had previously emphasized Cyborg's role as the heart of Justice League - which means Cyborg needs to work for Justice League to work. Ironically, this claim is one that actually reinforces Snyders' original vision for the movie.
Morton goes on to say "I think what I heard was that there was a need from the studio to lighten up the film in a way, that the film felt too dark." It only makes sense that Morton would hear those rumors because we've all heard those rumors. As a minor character in the film, Morton isn't necessarily in a place that would make him privy to such details, but it makes sense that the rumors that are circling outside the production could also circulate inside the production. Cyborg himself also weighed in on the reshoots to say they are “They’re brief if anything. Zack picked a great director to help clean up for us.”
The Fifth Rumor: Warner Bros. Hired Joss Whedon to Make Justice League Lighter and Replace the Ending
Once again, tone is at the center of this rumor. According to /Film, Joss Whedon was hired to both lighten the movie and replace Zack Snyder's original cliffhanger ending. Whats interesting about this one isn't that it sounds like a rehash of (very) old news. Going back to the early production of Justice League (as detailed earlier in this piece), Justice League is not a "part 1" film, it wasn't supposed to include a cliffhanger when it entered production, and the movie's tone was already an adjustment from Batman v Superman - twice over. It's not unreasonable to assume the movie is getting a more definitive ending, but if the original intent was to make it more optimistic, and Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, and the Snyders agreed to accelerate that path to optimism, just how light would it be if Joss Whedon made it even lighter? Logistical impossibility of changing the whole movie to that extent (as specified by Variety's report) aside, he came in to replace Snyder for the reshoots, which Snyder still remains creative control, meaning if he was actually intended to override whatever (already lightened) movie Snyder was making, then Warner Bros. would be in a clear violation of the DGA - and Toby Emmerich went out of his way to specify continued involvement from the Snyders. An odd choice for a man supposedly trying to minimize their influence.
Besides, a quick look at the newest trailer, which was released after some reshoots (and supposed tonal adjustment decisions) had already taken place, show a tone very in-line with the previous trailers, without any sign of major adjustments. Comparatively, Suicide Squad's massive post-BvS adjustments became more and more evident through each bit of marketing as it leaned into the pop music and neon aesthetic, eschewing the more gritty tone of the Comic-Con first look footage. If there are any changes of that nature going on with Justice League, Warner Bros. is definitely hiding it in marketing, which begs the question: why would WB think it's necessary to massively change the tone to be more appealing, yet not references that tonal change in marketing, whose entire job is to make the movie more appealing? If a similar tonal conversion were happening, the first place it would be evident would be in the marketing.
The Sixth Rumor: Justice League Was "Unwatchable" Before Reshoots
This one is the newest one to make the rounds, piggy backing on the above statements of Joe Morton, with Batman-on-Film adding that extensive reshoots were ordered due to the film being "unwatchable." That specific term is interesting, considering these reshoots were ordered by Snyder earlier this year after screening an early cut of the film, when another Batman-on-Film source claimed he saw an early cut that was impressive. One simple explanation for this difference in opinion revolves around the word "unwatchable," which is difficult to evaluate without context. In the comments of that same piece, the writer specifies that the Zack Snyder cut was from October 2016, right after the end of principal photography. What that means is that ther were no complete visual effects, sound effects, ADR, music, or typically scheduled reshoots. Anyone familiar with moviemaking may be able to evaluate such an early cut of the film, an easy way to describe it to general audiences would be "unwatchable."
Besides, THR already reported on that screening when Zack Snyder left the project, specifying that Zack wasn't satisfied and brough Joss Whedon in to write additional scenes for the movie, which is what's being shot now. This rumor is also another one that hinges on that "significant changes" phrase, which, again, is a logistical impossibility with the complicated schedules of the actors and time remaining until release. All together, there's really no new news here, only an old rumor slapped on top of a new rumor, which is also based on an old rumor, which doesn't really hold any water anyway, because we're still talking about reshoots that were requested by Zack Snyder in order to complete his own vision for the film.
Looking at "all of these rumors" as a whole, it's easy to see how many people could have a negative outlook toward the potential quality of Justice League, after all, numerous reports are claiming myriad issues with the film and suggesting sweeping massive changes. But taking a step back and looking at how many of these reports are really based on the same initial rumors, the only claims in the bunch that are actually verifiable all point to the same version for the film that Zack Snyder spoke of during last year's Justice League set visit, and the tone and story beats in the trailers have remained the same since Comic-Con last year.
So what is worth worrying about? Well, the fact that the reshoots - whatever their true extent is - are made so complicated by scheduling issues and mustache removal on top of the fact that they're being overseen by a different director can obviously be tricky waters. The fact that Snyder is still involved behind the scenes eases some of those concerns, but as Ben Affleck said, Justice League will be an "interesting product of two directors," meaning whoever is ultimately calling the shots behind the scenes definitely has their hands full. So are changes happening? Of course. Is it all doom and gloom? There are definitely complications the production will need to overcome, but as Rogue One showed us last year, changes to story and director don't inherently produce bad pictures. Affleck went on to say he really loves the stuff they've done with Joss and the DCEU is finally "hitting their stride. They’re getting it right. It’s starting to feel like it’s really working.”
As far as the question of why there's so much negative press surrounding this movie, it's hard to determine, but Wonder Woman faced a proportional level of negativity (obviously it was a smaller film) and turned out more than fine. It likely won't stop anytime soon, and there are a few months to go until November, but for any continuing suggestions or rumors, you can thankfully look back to everything we learned during the set visit and compare to the trailers, and determine for yourself what version of this movie is being made.
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Cyborg (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020