Steppenwolf is one of the characters who benefits most from the #SnyderCut version of Justice League which was released in March 2021. A good superhero movie needs a convincing villain to create stakes, to create threat and to bring real menace to proceedings. Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciaran Hinds, is passable in the original version of Justice League, overseen by Joss Wheedon. Under Zack Snyder’s direction, the character is really cranked up and we’ll be taking a look at the core character changes and how he was turned into a more convincing and imposing bad guy.
Spoilers for both versions of Justice League!
One of the big changes in the #SnyderCut is the improved visuals. The change in the colour gradient has a surprisingly big impact on the tone of the movie, this new improved tonal direction makes the movie gorgeous to behold. One of the biggest beneficiaries is Steppenwolf. In the original, he is kind of dull, wearing a chainmail-like outfit. In the #SnyderCut he is transformed. His armour is shinier, has added spikes on the shoulders and it has a purple tinge. It seemingly has a life of its own, shimmering and moving continuously. He just looks so much cooler in the new version, which is exactly what you want from a supervillain.
Steppenwolf is from the planet Apokolips and commands an army of parademons; shock troopers who are attracted to fear. Thousands of years ago there was an attack on Earth, using three ‘mother boxes’ with the aim of conquering the planet. The attack was thwarted by an alliance of humans, Gods, Amazons and Atlanteans. The failure resulted in Steppenwolf being exiled by his nephew, the even bigger supervillain Darkseid, and the mother boxes were hidden in separate locations on Earth.
After the attack failed the boxes were dormant for thousands of years until they were reawakened following Superman’s death in Batman Vs Superman. This attracts the attention of Steppenwolf. He returns to Earth seeking the boxes, hoping to take the planet at the second time of asking and win back the favour of Darkseid.
In the #SnyderCut, Steppenwolf’s backstory is fleshed out far more. In this version, he was exiled for attempting to betray Darkseid, unable to return to Apokolips until he has conquered 50,000 worlds. When on Earth, Steppenwolf discovers the Anti-Life Equation, a formula for taking control of sentient beings which is sought by Darkseid. Steppenwolf is offered the chance of redemption if he can unite the three mother boxes and conquer Earth, which would allow Darkseid to claim the equation.
Steppenwolf shows himself to be a more violent fighter too, as shown here as he retrieves the mother box guarded by the Amazons, despite being pumped full of arrows.
Steppenwolf’s Death Scene
Every great supervillain, or superhero for that matter, needs a great ending to make a movie satisfying if they are not going to return. Steppenwolf’s final scene and ultimate death is quite different in the two versions.
In Justice League, Steppenwolf is holding his own against Aquaman and Wonder Woman, until Superman arrives to turn the tide. When Superman freezes the villain’s axe, Wonder Woman smashes it to pieces to Steppenwolf’s dismay. He shows fear for the first time and is overwhelmed by his own parademons and teleported away. Being consumed by your own minions is cool in its own right, but seems a bit of an anticlimax for a character who’s been tossing superheroes around convincingly.
Luckily, in the #SnyderCut Steppenwolf has a death scene much more befitting a warrior. Again Superman is the deciding factor. In this version, he smashes Steppenwolf’s axe himself after freezing it. Aquaman uses his trident to impale Steppenwolf from behind, launching him into the air for Superman to deliver an almighty punch towards the portal. With Steppenwolf’s body hurtling through the air Wonder Woman decapitates him. This is fitting given how antagonistic Steppenwolf was to her throughout the movie, regularly snarling at her for being an ‘Amazon’ unworthy of his time. The body arrives through the portal at the feet of the watching Darkseid, who casually stomps on his skull.
A supervillain is a hard thing to get right. Thanos aside, it is perhaps the one weakness of the MCU. You need someone or something that provides a genuine threat to the hero characters and you need to believe that the villain can ‘win’. Steppenwolf delivers. He’s not a useless henchman or a bumbling fool who constantly makes mistakes. He creates havoc in both versions of Justice League and very nearly pulls off his plan. So you need him to be hard to beat, and so he proves to be.
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