Last year’s Justice League – or at least the version that we got – has drawn criticism for a variety of elements, from its underdeveloped villain to its underwhelming visuals, but one specific source of derision that almost certainly wouldn’t feature in the fabled Snyder Cut is the Russian family caught in the chaos of the film’s climax.
This unspeaking group of civilians who live on the site of the final battle with Steppenwolf certainly have a shoehorned-in feel to them, coming across as little more than a lazy attempt to up the stakes by giving the league a few innocent bystanders to save. It would therefore come as no surprise to learn that director Zack Snyder had no intention of including these characters in the movie before he left the project due to a family tragedy.
This is what DCEU storyboard artist Jay Oliva has suggested with a recent Tweet he posted on a thread debating the impact of Joss Whedon’s rewrites and reshoots. The director of various DC animations, including the acclaimed two-parter Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, shared his knowledge while making reference to Man of Steel’s controversial city-based smackdown.
“Russian family was never in the original script. In fact they made it an abandoned town because of the backlash from MoS. So a Russian family doesn’t make sense when it was supposed to be abandoned from the start.”
This statement seems in line with a brief comment made by Snyder himself a couple of months ago which suggests he had nothing to do with the Russian family subplot. Moreover, Whedon has gone on record saying that he insisted on similar scenes of civilian peril when he wrote The Avengers. When asked if Snyder may have inserted the family into his plan at a later stage, Oliva seemed resolved that this wasn’t the case.
“Zack meticulously storyboards out every shot in all of his films. It’s all planned out. If he intended for a family to be in there he would have integrated them a lot deeper into the overall character arcs and plot. To me, it felt like it was an exec note after the fact.”
Indeed, based on the slightly awkward footage that ended up in the eventual release of Justice League, Oliva’s claims certainly seem credible, suggesting that Whedon and Warner’s interference in this project may have been more extensive than what we were initially led to believe. In any case, we’ll see how James Wan fares in realizing his vision of Aquaman when the DCEU’s next film hits theaters on December 21st.