Screen Rant spoke with Bryan Hirota, Visual Effects Supervisor for Scanline, about Zack Snyder’s effects, Easter Eggs and more on Justice League.
Justice League by Zack Snyder released almost four years after the theatrical version, thus rendering the director’s original film. In addition to removing changes to the 2017 coupe, the colloquially named Snyder Cup also included over two hours of never-before-seen footage. But while there was an assembly ready all the time, this version of the film still needed VFX before its release in March 2021.
Scanline has spent months working on the Snyder Cup, who came years after working on the 2017 film. Screen Rant spoke to VFX supervisor Bryan Hirota about the experience working on both films as well as the intricacies of Justice League by Zack Snyder.
Justice League is a pretty interesting situation. Scanline worked on both versions of the film, so what was that experience like and what were the differences between the two?
Bryan Hirota: Well the original theater started with Zack and at one point Zack left the project and Joss came in with a bunch of covers. We finished that, and it seemed like that for the show. Then three or four years later, after wrapping and archiving this show offline, we hear that making Zack’s version is an attempt. I have worked on a number of shows with Zack, and have also been in touch with him casually. We had talked about the possibility of people seeing his version of the movie, but it was always in the context of Richard Donner’s cut of Superman II, where it would be 10 or 20 years later.
I don’t remember anything like that happened I don’t know if there has ever been anything like this, where in the five years after the theatrical release a very different version of the same movie is shown . it’s not even an extra feature pushed on a Blu-ray or something. I think this is all super weird and unique. But to come back to it on that scale was a little crazy, because Scanline needed to take about 1000 shots. I think from the time they said, “Hey, we’re gonna do this thing,” until they wanted it done, it was seven months. It took us a good month to bring the archived show back online, see what was left and what was still working in the pipeline. Because three or four years is a long time in any kind of tech-related field, our internal pipelines for many characters, effects, and lighting have evolved over that time.
It is also a number of complications. Plans that were apparently good in either version of the movie still had to be checked out, as for the theatrical cut we ended at 1:85 and Zack’s version finished at 1:33. There were plans that would have been good, other than the fact that we had no ups and downs for it. In the worst case on some planes, we had to make new things just to fill the top and bottom.
There were also a lot of continuity checks. Because while some aspects of the two films are very similar, they are also different. In the theater grounds, there are neither Humvees nor military, but in Zack’s version there is. In the original photograph, there are Humvees, so they were painted outside the theater. And there were different configurations of the police cars in the two versions to make it easier if there were military there or not.
We had to go through and make sure some of the deep and medium background details matched. We had to make sure we didn’t paint a soldier or a policeman or something, for example, that had to be in one version but was deleted from another. There was a lot of detective work that had to go into a lot of shots just to make sure it worked with the version of the movie we were working on. These are the kinds of things that you normally don’t have to do, because you don’t cross-reference two different versions of the same movie.
Along with restoring original blueprints, you also had to work on two hours of adding blueprints – including a new character like Martian Manhunter and the cosmic scenes with Flash. How much creative freedom did you have in designing all of this and what parameters did Zack give you?
Bryan Hirota: For the Cosmic Rewind, Zack had a few descriptions of what he wanted: Mother Boxes destroy everything and ultimately leave Flash in some sort of vacuum, and like Flash takes off and spins faster than it ever has. summer, Zack wanted the world to be rebuilt around him. He imagined that there were, with each of Flash’s steps, these mini big bangs under him to accompany the story that he reconstructs the universe.
This streak was an idea in Zack’s original version, but it didn’t go very far in its development. There were some pre / post visions of the material that we could use as a rough guide, but other than those initial conversations about it with DJ and Zack’s advice, they gave us plenty of room to dive into these ideas and to explore. We developed it and showed them something they liked a lot, which I was happy with, because ultimately this little piece of the film is my favorite part. I like the bit where Flash rewinds time.
But Zack had a pretty good idea of the shots he wanted, the basic story points, and the content he wanted, but for more specifically how we put it all together, they gave us a pretty good creative license to go out and explore and create. something cool for them.
With everything you added to the film or worked on, which particular scene did you feel to be the most complex or the most fulfilling and rewarding?
Bryan Hirota: I would say three things. The cosmic flashback I like, and I think that’s a nice conclusion to the Flash arc in the story as well. I just think it’s visually neat. I love that we got the chance to do the opening of the movie, where we revisit the death of Superman. Because we had never dealt with Doomsday in BvS, and we took the Doomsday asset out of the Warner Brothers archive to recreate this moment from BvS from different angles, then followed Clark’s screams to wake up the mother boxes. It was all cool; it helped establish what this movie is about and who the main actors are. I felt lucky to be able to contribute to this.
Finally, as he rolled out part of the movie, replacing the old Steppenwolf with the new Steppenwolf design was for the betterment of the movie. Then bringing back footage that involved Steppenwolf that was cut out of the theater, like the beach torture scene with the Atlanteans, I thought I was making it more threatening. He just had a lot more backstory.
I think you also worked on the death of Silas. People have discussed that the way he died is very reminiscent of Jon Osterman’s death in Watchmen. Was it done on purpose or rather by coincidence?
Bryan Hirota: A little. Zack and DJ thought it might be something like the birth of Dr. Manhattan, so it was definitely a touchstone as an idea. It was definitely one of the things we thought about as we developed it. I think one thing that was a little different is that Silas has a close-up where his skin is bubbling like inside a microwave and little bits of his hair catch on fire and everything. I think Silas’ death is a little more disgusting than Watchman’s, but there are nuances to that in there.
Usually when I finish interviews I like to give the interviewee the opportunity to share something that may not have been asked of them before.
Bryan Hirota: I’m just really happy for Zack and Debbie that they got the chance to do this, that it came out and people like it. Because they’re both lovely people, and the circumstances around everything before that were just terrible. Seeing them get the chance to come back and finish it as they wanted, and also get it received by critics and audiences as well as it was, is such a great story.
Who would have thought that would be a thing? I think it’s great, and it makes me happy for them.
Next: Zack Snyder’s Justice League: All Endings, Cliffs & Setup Explained
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