Snyder Cut’s Watchmen Easter Egg Confirmed By VFX Supervisor
The VFX supervisor for Zack Synder’s Justice League, Bryan Hirota, confirms a connection between the deaths of Silas Stone and Watchmen’s John Osterman. Snyder has made a name for himself bringing comic books/graphic novels to life; the visual style and aesthetic of films like 300 and Watchmen feeling like moving panels. The director’s work adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “un-filmable,” Watchmen, cemented his association with superhero cinema before the launching of the DC Extended Universe.
Snyder’s 4-hour cut of Justice League represents a culmination of a story that began in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The Snyder Cut has been praised for its narrative, signature visuals, and character development in comparison to “Josstice League.” For example, most of Victor Stone, a.k.a., Cyborg’s (Ray Fischer) scenes were removed/reshot in Justice League’s theatrical version. Cyborg is arguably the heart of Snyder’s version thanks to an improved origin story; a key moment in his arc being the death of Silas Stone (Joe Morton)—who sacrifices himself by superheating a Mother Box so that his son can track Steppenwolf and save the day. The moment evokes images of John Osterman’s (Billy Crudup) transformation into Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen.
In our interview with Scanline’s Hirota, the VFX supervisor discussed the challenges of bringing the Snyder Cut to HBO Max. He commented on how Silas’ death being reminiscent of Jon’s was more than a coincidence, saying that Snyder and John Desjardin (the visual effects supervisor on Watchmen) wanted that sacrifice to vaguely resemble the birth of Manhattan:
Zack and DJ thought that it could be something like the birth of Dr. Manhattan, so that definitely was a touchstone as an idea. That was definitely one of the things we were thinking about as we were developing it. I think one thing that was a little different is Silas has a close-up where his skin is bubbling like inside of a microwave and little bits of his hair are catching on fire and stuff. I think Silas’ death is a little more gross than in Watchman, but there are shades of that in this.
While Silas ends up in STAR Labs’ transparent cage by choice, John becomes trapped in an Intrinsic Field Generator after accidentally leaving a watch inside; his colleague watching helplessly as John’s physical being is disintegrated by blueish light. Instead of a colleague, Victor himself reaches out to his father (much like he did his mother) as the latter disintegrates. Both moments feature the same style of bright blue/white lighting and are a catalyst for their respective, thought-to-be-dead heroes. While John’s demise births the seemingly-omnipotent Manhattan, Silas’ sacrifice (and belief in his son) helps Victor embrace his identity and powers as Cyborg—a full-fledged hero and member of the Justice League.
In many ways, Watchmen provided an early blueprint for the DCEU; from its mature tone to real-world parallels. That said, Snyder has called Manhattan his favorite comic book character. On top of Silas’ death being a callback to one of Snyder’s most popular films, Cyborg, like Manhattan, is his film’s most popular character. Zack Snyder’s Justice League was originally supposed to set up a Cyborg standalone movie but Justice League‘s lackluster reception in 2017 derailed the Snyder-Verse. If Warner Bros. and DC Films do not accept the Snyder Cut as canon, future Cyborg outings would see Silas still alive. Hopefully, Snyder is allowed to continue fine-tuning his comic book craft.