Zack Snyder keeps revealing details about a particular Justice League scene, and based on everything else we know about the movie, it looks like it was meant to be a Cyborg origin story reminiscent of Doctor Manhattan's origin in Watchmen. The scene in question, marked "sc. 132" on his storyboards, has seen more leaks than almost anything else, with Snyder himself revealing a number of storyboards, in addition to a deleted scene that was leaked shortly after Justice League hit theaters.
For over a year, fans have been clamoring for a "Snyder Cut" of Justice League after it was revealed that Joss Whedon's reshoots of the movie weren't merely completing Snyder's vision as promised by producers, but they were actually overhauling the entire story and tone, resulting in a far different movie than fans expected.
While the movie wasn't 100% done, it was deep in post-production when Snyder was replaced, so a lot of things were already pretty far along, and it's been hard for Warner Bros. to keep it all under wraps. Piece by piece, story details and other plans for the original version have continued to trickle out. Thanks to a new storyboard from Snyder, we can connect a few more dots on "the Mother Box scene" and what was probably Cyborg's origin story and one of the most important scenes in the whole movie
- This Page: How Reshoots Changed Snyder's Technical Approach
- Page 2: How Reshoots Removed Cyborg's Origin Story
Changes to the Technique
A recent post from Snyder reveals major differences with the construction of the scene of the League in the Wayne Aerospace hangar (or, as the theatrical cut would have you believe, the Batcave). While the theatrical version was mostly static wide shots, the version Snyder constructed had far more complicated cinematography, and some technical wizardry to accomplish it.
The director's Vero post says he wanted a "constant moving camera," so he "came up with 8 camera beam splitter rig" for use in this scene. The accompanying storyboard is far more complex from art we've seen by the director in the past as well. Normally his storyboards are images with some arrows to indicate camera motion, but these boards include color-coded blocking instructions for both actors and camera, with technical diagrams of the camera setup, combined use of 35mm and 75mm through a "beam splitter."
If this isn't already interesting, the use of a beam splitter is what makes it even more fascinating. A beam splitter is a device that uses mirrors so that two cameras are arranged with one shooting straight forward, and the other shooting vertically at a 45-degree angle to the first camera. The mirror is used to line up the two shots from slightly different angles. In the designs posted by Snyder, the camera pointing forward was to be the 35mm camera and the 75mm would have been the vertical one.
The weird part is how atypical this is from the rest of Justice League. Beam splitting rigs are usually used to shoot in 3D, but no other scenes in Justice League were shot in this way that we know of. The fact that he's using both 35mm and 75mm cameras in the beam splitter means that he's likely actually shooting identical shots, but at different depths of field, allowing him to keep the camera in motion (per his description) while still being able to zoom and make other manipulations seamlessly in post-production.
Since this scene was totally removed, in favor of one comprised of mostly static camera shots, we don't know exactly what the finished product would look like, but a portion of a leaked deleted scene of Cyborg could give a bit of a hint, showing the camera simultaneously panning and zooming, and it's definitely more visually interesting.
How Removing Cyborg's Origin Changed the Story
This new storyboard, as Snyder describes it, is "just a cool technical part of the job," but the details about the scene and technique Snyder describes here do allow us to determine how other moments would have all fit into this scene, and how the story was changed from Snyder's story to the story we got in the theatrical version of the movie.
The most revealing part about the story for this scene comes from the leaked deleted scene featuring Cyborg showing the history of the Mother Box to the rest of the League in the Wayne Aerospace hangar. In the scene, the camera pans around and zooms in on a hologram of pre-Cyborg Vic stone walking through a Nazi city as seen in marketing materials. Likely the box was experimented on by Nazis before another series of events leading to its acquisition by S.T.A.R. Labs. The scene also shows Cyborg showing them more holograms and the camera zooms into his red eye.
Another reveal from behind the scenes reveal shows an alternate look at Cyborg's origin at S.T.A.R. Labs, with a similarly panning camera, a far cry from the lab camera version seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And it makes perfect sense to include Cyborg's origin as a conclusion to Cyborg's reveal of the Mother Box history in this scene. When the pieces are all put together, it would be a Cyborg narration over a montage of Mother Box history leading to his own origins with swirling cameras in a scene that sounds eerily like Snyder's Doctor Manhattan's creation from Watchmen.
Snyder said Cyborg was supposed to be the heart of his movie, so it makes sense that he'd go to such lengths to get this particular scene right, bringing out the big guns technically, and giving Cyborg a major storyboard. This makes it obvious why he'd want to continues to release storyboards and other hints about it. After all, ff Cyborg is the heart of Justice League, then this particular scene could also be the heart of the movie.
The Scene Wasn't Changed or Replaced, it Was Removed
Since there's a very similar scene in the theatrical cut of Justice League, it's easy to assume it was merely altered or reshot entirely to fit with Whedon's designs, but despite the same cast and same setting, nothing about these two versions line up. Zack Snyder describes it as "the mother box scene" and we know from all his storyboards and the leaked deleted scene that it was about the Mother Box and Cyborg, but the theatrical version it's about bringing Superman back from the dead.
Sure, they briefly talk about the Mother Box, but not nearly to the same extent. The Mother Box and Cyborg's history doesn't get explored. Instead, Batman comes up with his idea to resurrect Superman, then gets in a fight with Wonder Woman, accusing her of not being a good hero, and invoking the name of Steve Trevor, earning him a hard shove from the Amazonian.
The implication of this scene being truncated in this way and incorporating the story elements that it did could also reveal some additional missing story. Particularly a missing S.T.A.R. Labs scene. We know from trailers and promo images that the League went to S.T.A.R. Labs before Superman was resurrected, and that could have been a more logical place for them to hatch a plot to resurrect Superman.
Of all the changes to the movie, it's especially sad to see a scene like this with both special technical treatments in its crafting and significant impact to the story. Since part of the scene was leaked with what seemed like mostly completed VFX, its curious as to whether or not fans will ever be able to see it, regardless of the state of the rest of the Snyder Cut.