Zack Snyder’s New Steppenwolf Design Fixes Justice League’s Biggest Issue

Emilee Geist


Despite the many memes spawned by his revelation, Steppenwolf’s divisive redesign actually fixes the biggest problem with 2017’s Justice League

Despite the many memes spawned by his revelation, Steppenwolf’s divisive redesign actually fixes the biggest problem with Justice League. The much-anticipated redesign of Justice League’s villain Steppenwolf was revealed last week, and, while the surreal sight might have led to plenty of jokes from fans and detractors online, the unwieldy villain’s design is a testament to director Zack Snyder’s uncompromising vision for the superhero blockbuster.

Much of 2017’s Justice League was revised when Avengers director Joss Whedon came on board to replace Watchmen’s Zack Snyder late in the film’s production, with the heavily rewritten result leading to a now-famous campaign from fans demanding that the studio release the so-called “Snyder Cut.” Most of Snyder’s darker content, such as the Knightmare future sequence, was removed to make the movie more accessible and family-friendly. This move also prompted a redesign for Justice League‘s primary villain, Steppenwolf.

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Related: Justice League: Is The Snyder Cut In Black & White?

The Whedon-sponsored Steppenwolf was way too “family-friendly,” a conventional villain in the mold of the MCU’s Thanos who had little in the way of distinguishing features and failed to stand out in a crowded marketplace of movie supervillains. Sanitized until he was less memorably monstrous than even the family-friendly Shazam monsters, the Steppenwolf of Whedon’s Justice League was a forgettable villain for a flawed movie and indicative of the edit’s indecisive tone and refusal to push the envelope. Thus, the decision to change Steppenwolf back into a much more otherworldly monster reminiscent of Alien’s famous Xenomorph acts as a triumphant rejection of Warner Bros’ attempts to over-sanitize (and blunt) Snyder’s vision. It was this neutering that made the theatrical cut of Justice League so poor, and so it’s exciting for fans to finally see the real, uncensored Steppenwolf realized onscreen.

Ciaran Hinds as Steppenwolf in Justice League

The design’s unveiling prompted a maelstrom of mirth from commenters online, with the new Steppenwolf being compared to everything from a villain from the forgotten flop Gods of Egypt to a disposable razor. However, as hilarious as these memes were, the bizarre appearance of Justice League’s new Steppenwolf illustrates exactly the issue with Whedon’s sanitized cut of the blockbuster. Snyder’s movies are famously unafraid of causing unintentional hilarity, with everything from Watchmen’s ill-advised sex scene to Batman V Superman’s infamous “Martha” moment being more sincere and self-serious than the quippy, self-aware MCU’s output. This self-serious darkness is the engine that drives Snyder’s grim vision for Justice League, and it’s perfectly epitomized in the online reaction to Steppenwolf’s redesign.

Fans of more self-referential superhero fare may have laughed at the surreal sight of the villain, but Snyder’s vision for the DC universe requires audience members to take this sort of dark imagery in their stride. Whedon’s edit of Justice League toning down the design to avoid unintentional laughter resulted in a forgettable, disappointing villain for the movie and an inconsistent tone comparable to David Ayers’ Suicide Squad. In comparison, Snyder’s bolder cut makes it clear that the director is unafraid of prompting incredulous audience reactions. Whether viewers see the new Steppenwolf as scarier or just sillier, there’s no denying that the character is a perfect embodiment of Snyder’s willingness to face ridicule and present his vision sincerely, in contrast with Whedon’s self-aware version of the Justice League’s titular superhero team-up.

More: Justice League: Why Snyder’s New Steppenwolf Design Looks So Different

Key Release Dates

  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)Release date: Dec 25, 2020
  • The Suicide Squad (2021)Release date: Aug 06, 2021
  • DC Super Pets (2022)Release date: May 20, 2022
  • The Flash (2022)Release date: Nov 04, 2022
  • Aquaman 2 (2022)Release date: Dec 16, 2022
  • Shazam 2 (2023)Release date: Jun 02, 2023
  • The Batman (2022)Release date: Mar 04, 2022

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