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The Snyder Cut Ending Explained: How Different Is It?

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League.]

One might think there can’t really be any spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League given that a theatrical cut of the film was released in 2017, but one would be wrong. While director Zack Snyder was only able to shoot one new scene for his four-hour opus once HBO Max agreed to distribute The Snyder Cut, there was clearly a lot of footage left out of the theatrical cut, some of which radically changes the direction of the story. That’s true of the Snyder Cut ending as well, as the third act of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is substantially different than how the theatrical cut ended – not only in structure, but in how it sets up future films. Future films that, at this point in time, are almost certainly never going to happen.

So if you’re a bit confused as to what the ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League all means, and who that Judi Dench-lookin’ figure is standing next to Darkseid, and how in the world Flash can turn back time, let’s break it all down.

Turning Back the Clock

Image via Warner Bros.

The ending of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is similar to the ending of 2017’s Justice League in its basic construction only. In both films, Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are traveling to a remote, radioactive location where the villainous Steppenwolf had united all three Mother Boxes and is attempting to form the Unity. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Steppenwolf is forming the Unity to fulfill a promise to his boss Darkseid, who has promised to come to Earth if Steppenwolf is successful, where he will then desolate the planet, take over, and mine the “Anti-Life Equation” hidden on Earth’s surface which will… basically bring about a reign of terror no one’s ever seen before.

The Justice League’s plan is for Cyborg to hack into the Unity and separate the three Mother Boxes, all while Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman distract Steppenwolf and Flash builds up enough speed to supercharge the boxes so that Cyborg can step inside. Superman (Henry Cavill) shows up to help battle Steppenwolf just in time, but while Flash is running at lightning speed around the perimeter, he gets side-swiped by a laser bullet and trips, losing all momentum. Just then, the Unity locks into place, the Boom Tube (that little tunnel from which Darkseid has been peekin’ on Steppenwolf’s success) opens up, and the world starts to become obliterated.

RELATED: ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Review: A Longer Cut Causes New Problems

But Barry pulls a full-on “Not today, Satan” and decides to run as fast as he can, literally reversing time and undoing the devastation happening before our eyes. It’s a pretty graphic sequence, as we see bones and muscle and skin re-appear on the bodies of the characters, visualizing the Flash’s time-traveling powers that are prevalent in the comics, but are making their feature film debut in Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

A Real Thanos Move

Darkseid in Zack Snyder's Justice League
Image via WarnerMedia

With time successfully reversed, Barry is able to build up the charge necessary to plug Cyborg into the Unity, through which he quite literally separates the three boxes with the help of Superman. This foils Steppenwolf’s plan once and for all, and just as the Dwight Schrute to Darkseid’s Michael Scott begins to make his way into the Boom Tube for a hasty escape, Wonder Woman brings her sword down right on his neck, chopping his head clean off. The momentum of Steppenwolf’s escape throws both his body and head through the Boom Tube into Darkseid’s home planet of Apokolips, at which point Darkseid continues to show his absolute disdain for Steppenwolf by crushing his skull with his foot.

It’s here where Snyder was clearly setting up Darkseid’s invasion of Earth, as the scene that follows takes place on this alien planet of Apokolips where Darkseid’s right-hand DeSaad asks his master how he’ll go about retrieving the Anti-Life equation now that Steppenwolf has failed. In a move that harkens back to Thanos’ ineptitude throughout the first two phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Darkseid essentially says “Fine, I’ll do it myself” by telling DeSaad, “Ready the armada. We will use the old ways.”

And just like that, Darkseid makes his way out of his throne room with DC villain Granny Goodness at his side, setting up a Justice League 2 that will never come.

What Was Supposed to Happen Next?

darkseid-terraforming-earth
Image via Warner Bros.

As recently as March 2021 Snyder has said he does not expect to make any future DC movies, but at the time that he was in production on Justice League, he was moving towards a plan that would have been fulfilled in future installments.

Kevin Smith previously outlined what Snyder told him about plans for Justice League 2 and Justice League 3, with the first sequel set on Apokolips with the Justice League taking the fight to Darkseid and bringing the Green Lantern Corps. with them. That movie would have ended with a defeat, and Justice League 3 would have been an all-out war on Earth.

Snyder recently elaborated on his plan, although he seemed to indicate plans for just one epic sequel and didn’t differentiate between two separate movies:

“It’s the fall of Earth, when Superman succumbs to Anti-Life. And then sending Flash back in time to change one element so that doesn’t happen. And then the big battle where we beat him. When [the villain] Darkseid comes to Earth, in the movie that you’ll never see, the armies of Earth all unite again, as they did before. This time there would be aircraft carriers and Special Forces guys, all the armies of the world would come together, as well as [Aquaman’s fellow] Atlanteans rising out of the ocean and the Themyscirans [Wonder Woman’s compatriots] coming off their island. That was our big finale. But it’s a long drum roll and guitar solo to get there.”

Indeed, throughout Zack Snyder’s Justice League Batman is still remembering his visions of a Knightmare Hellscape from Batman v Superman, and specifically recalls Flash warning him that “Lois is the key.” In The Snyder Cut, Cyborg has a vision of Superman holding the bones of a corpse before succumbing to Darkseid’s will, so one imagines that he was holding Lois, and her death is what makes him succumb to the Anti-Life equation.

A further epilogue at the very very end of Zack Snyder’s Justice League returns to the Knightmare hellscape, this time in more vivid form as Batman and has formed a rogue team of rebels (including Cyborg, Mera, Deathstroke, Flash, and even Jared Leto’s Joker) to wade into the apocalyptic wasteland on Earth to undo what has been done.

It’s all very complicated, but this is precisely what the ending of The Snyder Cut is alluding to. This film was supposed to set up Darkseid as the Big Bad. But given that Warner Bros. has no active plans to restore Snyder’s vision for future DC movies, and also that the train has already left the station – production begins on Andy Muschietti’s own The Flash movie in April – this all sounds like a future that will have to live on in our heads instead of in reality.

At least we got a glimpse of what could have been at the conclusion of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Now we know.

KEEP READING: Here’s a List of Upcoming DC Movies: From ‘The Batman’ to ‘Aquaman 2’

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