A new image from the Justice League Snyder cut reveals a very different version of Steppenwolf. Here’s why the villain’s design is such a departure.
Why is the Snyder cut’s Steppenwolf design such a radical shift for the Justice League villain? While many were expecting Darkseid to be the “Thanos” of the DCEU, 2017’s Justice League handed that role to one of his minions – Steppenwolf. Played by Ciarán Hinds, Steppenwolf invaded Earth long ago and returns in the present day to collect the Mother Boxes and finish the job. Although Steppenwolf remains the lead antagonist in the Snyder cut, he’ll be a representative of Darkseid, who Snyder intended to feature in Justice League‘s flashback history lesson and during the climax of the final battle.
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The Snyder cut restores the original plan for Steppenwolf and Darkseid, but their dynamic isn’t the only alteration. Alongside a reworked black and white trailer, Snyder has shared an up-close image of his new Steppenwolf design. The change of wardrobe has proved predictably divisive online, inciting equal parts praise and derision, but Snyder certainly can’t be accused of playing it safe. The new Steppenwolf is more rugged, angrier and uglier compared to the 2017 version, and comes with spiky metallic armor that would make the Iron Throne blush. While Steppenwolf’s makeover clearly isn’t to everyone’s taste, there’s a reason for these dramatic changes.
Even before Zack Snyder departed during the post-production process of Justice League, the director had been forced to compromise his vision for the film. Steppenwolf was once slated to make his DCEU debut in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, setting up a formal introduction in Justice League. Although the scene was ultimately cut, this early Steppenwolf was far more monstrous and elaborate in nature, with a spike-covered, textured body and less human facial features – a marked departure from the humanoid villain seen in the theatrical Justice League cut. The transition from a horror-inspired, scary Steppenwolf to a less visually unsettling enemy came as part of Warner Bros.’ response to Batman V Superman. Heavily criticized for its dark tone, the DCEU made a conscious effort to “lighten up” in the wake of Batman V Superman. In addition to the PG Steppenwolf redesign, this can be seen in the hiring of Joss Whedon, the removal of frightening parademon scenes, and the altered color palette.
The Justice League Snyder cut is much more than a simple restoration of the director’s semi-finished pre-Whedon footage; the 2021 edit presents an opportunity for Snyder to realize his scrapped DCEU dreams, and this is why fans are now seeing a remarkably different Steppenwolf. The new Snyder cut image is essentially the same model used in Batman V Superman‘s deleted scene. Snyder cut Steppenwolf isn’t quite an exact return to the original look – his suit of armor seems even sharper this time around – but the strong influence is plain to see. Where Snyder was once deterred from using this spiky, demonic Steppenwolf, the Justice League Snyder cut can finally unleash the version audiences were always meant to get.
The return of Steppenwolf’s Batman V Superman design is part of a general shift back towards the darker tone Snyder wanted for the DCEU. Trailers for the 2021 HBO Max miniseries have already revealed that the darker lighting during Superman’s battle against the Justice League will replace the 2017 film’s strange orange dawn glow, and Clark Kent will be donning his famous post-resurrection black suit too. The addition of a more sinister looking Steppenwolf continues that general move away from the family-friendly superhero fare of the theatrical Justice League cut and back towards the gritter, more visceral Justice League Zack Snyder always intended.
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