While Justice League may be dividing some fans and critics at the moment, the one thing most can agree on is that it’s a movie that went through a lot of changes. Filming began mere weeks after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened in theaters under the assumption that people would dig Zack Snyder’s vision for the DCEU in that film. But critical response was savage and some general audience-goers were turned off the by doom-and-gloom approach to the DC superheroes. Snyder finished out filming on what was apparently already a lighter script to begin with (by BvS scribe Chris Terrio), but when principal photography wrapped, everyone knew there would be some additional filming to make some changes.
Indeed that was the case, but not with Snyder. The filmmaker departed Justice League due to a personal tragedy, and Joss Whedon—who had already been tasked with writing the new script pages—oversaw the quite extensive reshoots and post-production. The end result is a mix of what Snyder originally shot, the additional photography, and a blending of the two to result in what Warner Bros. hoped to be a more joyful, heroic film.
But in that lengthy process, the film went through changes. Word surfaced a few weeks before Justice League opened that WB’s CEO made very clear that he wanted the finished movie to have a running time under two hours, which means not only did the film evolve, but it had to be short by studio mandate. In a new interview with EW, Aquaman actor Jason Momoa confirms that quite a bit got cut out of the film, especially as it relates to his character—including a cameo by Willem Dafoe:
“The challenging part is [the Justice League story] is only about a weekend in Author Curry’s life. [Fans] might be like, ‘Why is he that grumpy? Why’s he hiding up there?’ We had it all planned out. A lot of things got cut. But it’s not my movie. It’s a huge movie introducing three new characters, and for myself and The Flash and Cyborg, there was a lot that was there we just couldn’t get in. It could have been two movies. We had some stuff with William Dafoe. The whole Atlantean part, about me being this reluctant king. There was no need for it because you’re going to see it in Aquaman. It’s not an Aquaman movie, it’s a Justice League movie.”
Indeed, one of the main issues with Justice League is that there’s not near enough time with these new characters to relate to them, let alone understand where they’re coming from. The Aquaman scene with Mera (Amber Heard) under water attempts to give some semblance of backstory to the character, but it comes off as awkward and confusing. But again, if Whedon was tasked with bringing this thing in under two hours, it’s definitely possible that scene made more sense in the context of what was originally shot/planned. The same goes for what would have been added character development for Ezra Miller‘s Flash and Ray Fisher‘s Cyborg.
I certainly wasn’t super thrilled with the Aquaman portrayed in Justice League, but I’m eager to see what James Wan does with the character in his standalone movie coming next year—just as Patty Jenkins delivered a much more intriguing Wonder Woman with her solo film after BvS.
As for negative response from critics and some fans, Momoa says he tries not to look at the bad and the negativity, and he’s had a great time enjoying the film himself:
“I’ve seen [Justice League] twice. I loved it the second time even more. I’m actually going to watch it again with my kids and my godchild. I’m going to see it with the perfect crowd of people — a regular crowd instead of at a premiere. So I’m excited. You can’t get into the whole ‘why this, why that.’ I went to [Wizard World Austin fan convention] this weekend and got great praise. Now obviously, that’s a positive place, and I’m not only interested in the positive. But if people love what we did with Aquaman, it’s all [director Zack Snyder] — it’s his brainchild. He came in with, ‘I’m going to make Aquaman a badass and I’m going to change stuff, and change the myths about this guy.’ And I busted my ass.”