Details are coming out of the plans director Zack Snyder had for his planned Batman/Superman/Justice League movie saga, which ended up going in a different direction after his departure from the project during Justice League. The biggest revelation? Batman was going to die.
This came to light after a Snyder superfan named Ramesh De Silva posted an image of Superman holding a defeated Batman, and Snyder popped up in the comments on weird alternative social network Vero, saying “Of course.”
Snyder’s involvement in Justice League came to an end after he suffered a personal tragedy, although rumours later came out that he had actually secretly been fired due to submitting an “unwatchable”cut of the film to Warner Bros. Joss Whedon was brought in to complete the film, which ended up underperforming both financially and critically. Fan campaigns to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut soon sprang up, although it seems extremely unlikely to ever happen.
The “5 story arc” mentioned in the tweet above refers to Snyder’s original plan, which according to Justice League concept artist Jay Oliva was for the five films to run straight into one another, more like five chapters of a book than five self-contained works. The comics world, which all of this originated from, is very episodic, so you can see that making sense.
Various characters and storylines were to be set up in Justice League Part One (as it was originally called), to then play a bigger part in Justice League Part Two. JL2 would have been heavily inspired by the Final Crisis storyline, a massive, multiverse-side story that took up almost all of DC’s output in 2007 and 2008, and included Batman dying, in a sequence that inspired the artwork above…
In the Grant Morrison-penned saga, Batman had Omega Beams fired through his body by Darkseid, a intergalactic tyrant, ruler of the planet Apokolips, and budding universe-enslaver, as he tried to stop the demonic alien’s apocalyptic mission succeeding. They ultimately killed the Caped Crusader*, although not before he managed to mortally wound Darkseid.
While the specifics of the story would have to be changed for a film adaptation - the full Final Crisis story took literally hundreds of comics to tell, and features an enormous cast of characters, some deeply obscure - a streamlined version with less casual time-travel, fewer gods shaped like old ladies and the omission of some of the sillier details that only work in print could have been really great.
Snyder originally planned to introduce Darkseid in Justice League Part One - that movie’s villain Steppenwolf is Darkseid’s nephew in the comics, and the plan was to have Steppenwolf killed by Darkseid, in a “Wow, this incredibly powerful monster means business” kind of ending.
Director Kevin Smith talked about what he thought the original plan was on an episode of his extremely long podcast Fatman On Batman, stating that instead of Steppenwolf dying at the hands (and teeth) of his Parademons, he was sent back to his home planet of Apokolips, where his uncle, Darkseid, killed him for failing. The film would then end with Darkseid stating his intention to go to Earth and investigate the Kryptonian hero they have in Superman, setting up a bigger, badder baddie for Part Two…
It’s a good ending, promising a more challenging villain in the next film. However, all that remains of Darkseid in the final movie is one mention by Steppenwolf. Other details that have come out about Snyder’s original vision include the introduction of Ryan “Atom” Choi in JL1, the death of Cyborg’s father Silas Stone (Joe Morton), and the introduction of the Anti-Life Equation, which is what Darkseid seeks in order to enslave everything in the universe. These would all have worked to set up JL2, and then a mysterious, unnamed fifth film presumably dealing with the aftermath of Batman’s death.
We’ll never know whether Snyder’s vision would have worked, but with the disappointment of Justice League, you can see why fans have got it into their head that the other version would have been better - it’s a grass-is-always-greener type of scenario. An unseen film can be as good as you want it to be, endlessly better than the actual, deeply flawed one.
* Although, it turned out Batman wasn’t really dead, and was in fact sent back to Paleolithic times. The body Superman found was a clone. Comics, you know? They probably wouldn’t have done this for the film, although the ensuing minseries, The Return Of Bruce Wayne, featured a cave-Batman, cowboy Batman and pirate Batman, and would make the most amazing TV show ever, although will sadly never ever happen.