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Why Was Steppenwolf Being Punished In The Snyder Cut?

It has been over a month since "Zack Snyder's Justice League" became available for streaming on HBO Max, meaning there has been plenty of time to compare it to the 2017 cut from director Joss Whedon. The 2021 version varies substantially from its predecessor in nearly every way, ranging from its more polished VFX to its immense runtime, which clocks in at four hours and two minutes. As far as the story itself goes, both films follow a similar narrative, although the latest rendition goes in-depth with the intricacies of its plot, MacGuffins, and especially its massive cast of characters.

Though it was a pleasure to see the likes of Batman (Ben Affleck) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) get some much-needed development, this special treatment was most necessary for the villains. Whedon's "Justice League" introduced Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his quest for the Mother Boxes, but totally abandoned any elaboration on his plan or his connection to Darkseid (Ray Porter) — the "big bad" of the DCEU. Not to mention, his design was overhauled for the worst, leaving Snyder and his team to totally revamp the character for their production. Suffice to say, when it came to correcting his look and backstory, they did an excellent job.

A key element to Steppenwolf's arc in "Zack Snyder's Justice League" is his desire to get back on Darkseid's good-seid, though the specifics of why they're on bad terms isn't explained thoroughly on-screen. For those curious, here's why Steppenwolf is on the receiving end of seemingly endless punishment, courtesy of his superior.

Darkseid didn't take kindly to Steppenwolf's deception

Despite his savage appearance and ruthless combat style, Steppenwolf is presented as mildly sympathetic in "Zack Snyder's Justice League." Combining the three Mother Boxes to form the Unity and thus take over Earth wasn't a power-grab for him, but instead for the benefit of Darkseid alone. As noted during Steppenwolf's conversations with Darkseid's right-hand man, Desaad (Peter Guinness), his mission is to somehow secure 50,000 more worlds to make up for his past mistakes. How bad did Steppenwolf mess up you ask? Apparently, he had a hand in an attempted revolt to unseat Darkseid as the ruler of the planet Apokalips.

This idea is supported by comments made by Zack Snyder during the virtual Justice Con event from April of 2021. "I feel like there was a coup sometime — a small coup attempt. I don't know how involved Steppenwolf was. I don't think he was like deeply involved or the kingpin, but certainly, there might have been a negotiation that he was involved with," the "Army of the Dead" director revealed, adding "He slaughtered those, he responded correctly eventually, but in that small hesitation. I don't think Darkseid was down with the notion that there would even be a hesitation."

Little did Steppenwolf realize, not only would he fail to see Darkseid overthrown, but he'd also pay dearly for trying, even long after he saw the error of his ways. Though he uncovers the location of the coveted Anti-Life Equation for his boss, being beheaded by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) before completing the Unity certainly ended his string of poor decisions in gruesome fashion.