Thursday, April 15, 2021

Talking about the Snyder Cut with Guest Author, Victor Catano
  I am a superhero junkie. Says so right in my Twitter bio. And while, I think the MCU is consistently putting out more reliable movie material, you'll never take away my love of DC classics like Superman and Batman. I grew up on Wonder Woman. Wanted to BE her when I was little (I had the Underoos to prove it.) 

 I am, however, among the many who have been repeatedly disappointed by the new round of Super Man movies. I love Henry Cavill's portrayal of the Man of Steel, but I'm not to crazy about the scripts he's been given. Despite that, I've still hung in there, watching Batman V Superman, and waiting impatiently for The Justice League so I could meet Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash.

And I'm going to confess something. I barely remembered any of the 2017 movie by the time the Snyder Cut was released on HBO Max. Which probably explains why I was willing to subject myself to it again. Ha! I (almost) always want to see superhero movies. And if the movie wasn't great, I love the idea that they get a chance at redemption. Isn't that often what being a superhero is all about?

So, that sort of explains why I decided to give the Snyder Cut a try--to find out if the Justice League movie got some kind of redemption in its re-edit. I've invited my buddy, author, and semi-regular ATB guest contributor, Victor Catano, to discuss his thoughts on the Snyder Cut with me, now that we've both watched it. So, tell me Victor, why did you subject yourself to that FOUR HOUR super hero marathon? 

Victor: It’s a good question! I was not a fan of the theatrical Justice League. At all. Snyder had to leave the project due to a family tragedy, and the studio brought in Joss Whedon to finish it. The resulting mess was a real Frankenstein creation that whipsawed from jokey to dour and was almost incomprehensible. So I was curious to see if the film could be salvaged.

I grew up with Superman and Batman and want to see them in good movies. However, that would mean the unified tone would be more like Batman v Superman, and I also did not like BvS. But, early reviews (from real critics!) were encouraging! So I decided to give it a try, with this caveat: I would only watch 10 minutes a day. That way, the slow motion bombast wouldn’t numb me.

Karissa: LOL! Slow motion bombast is so true I almost want to cry. For much of the time, I felt like I was stuck in a very long White Snake music video (So much hair blowing dramatically to retro musical numbers!). So, yeah, I didn’t much like Man of Steel or Superman V Batman for a lot of reasons. I think most of the biggest complaints were that, coming off the heels of Christian Bale’s gritty prestige Batman, people were ready for something else from DC. Especially when it comes to Superman. Nobody wants a grimdark Superman! Unless he’s briefly high on red kryptonite. But what these new series of movies gave us was a Superman we didn’t really recognize. 

I had hoped the new Justice League was going to remedy my Superman complaints, but I was a bit disappointed, especially when he came out in that black suit in the Snyder Cut. How about you?

Victor: I really like Henry Cavill as Superman. I really did not like how the Snyder films portrayed him. Especially Pa “fuck them kids” Kent!

There’s a reason Kal-El becomes the embodiment of Truth, Justice and the American Way. It’s because the Kents raise him full of love and respect and ideals. Without that, he’s a General Zod clone who views earthlings as “lesser.” So it drove me crazy that Pa keeps telling him to let people die so he can stay a secret. (Including Pa senselessly sacrificing himself in a tornado!! Why???).

But there are moments in the Snyder Cut that actually lean into Superman’s humanity. His reunion with Lois is touching and sweet! The best Superman stories lean into his human aspects.

But they don’t last. Snyder is more into laser eyed Superman laying waste to everything

Karissa: The best part of all of the Snyder Superman movies was the casting. There was a lot of believable chemistry between Clark and his immediate inner circle. Maybe that was Cavill's particular charm, but it was, for me, about the only thing that redeemed the movies. And I agree with you that it doesn't last. It all gets buried under the SUPER DESTRUCTIVE Superman.

Victor: Yes, Snyder films are always impeccably cast, going back to Watchmen. That movie looked like they pulled the cast right out of the comics. And Gadot is a perfect Wonder Woman.

Not really a fan of Ezra Miller as Flash, though. He was even more annoying here than in the theatrical cut. Turns out all those quips I blamed on Joss Whedon were all in Snyder’s version.

Karissa: Ha. I don't mind Ezra. I'm kind of looking forward to his Flash movie, to be honest. I was glad for the comic relief he brought that was so desperately missing from other Snyder-verse movies.

But more than the Flash, I was really glad we got to see more of Cyborg's story. There's been a lot of controversy lately over Ray Fisher's treatment during filming. That could be a blog post in and of itself. So aside from that, I'm glad that his character got to have his day, so to speak.

Victor: The thing is, we got maybe 10 more minutes of Cyborg, and most of that is Victor playing slow motion football and a baffling “enter the matrix” sequence where a CGI bull fights a CGI bear to symbolize “economy.”

Karissa: Okay, maybe you're right. Because, to be honest, I remember so little of the 2017 Justice League that I can't give a fair comparison to the 2021 Cyborg versus the 2017 version. And I was also watching this version with Cyborg specifically in mind because of all the talk about him on social media.

Victor: So I really don’t get the whole “Cyborg is now the heart of the movie” talk. They just developed a supporting character a little better, and they still really didn’t define his powers all that well, beyond “cyber.” At the end, he magically repaired a tape recorder he crushed. Sorry, but “talking to machines” doesn’t mean you can do that.

Which is kind of a problem I have with a lot of Zach Snyder’s work. He can create a stunning image. There are shots here that look like the best splash pages ever in comics - Batman, perched on a rooftop, backlit by lightning. The whole team leaping forth to fight the villain. Going back to Watchmen, the opening sequence telling the condensed history of superheroes is amazing, bravura filmmaking.

But the everything around these great images is nonsense! Like he started with the image he wanted and then worked backwards from that.

Karissa: Not to get off topic, but this reminds me a little of Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Madripoor episode. So much comic book eye candy. So little substance. But I digress…Perhaps one of my biggest complaints about the Snyder Cut (other than it felt like a very self-indulgent editor ego trip) was the pacing. Anything four hours long is going to be a challenge when it’s not written episodically. I think Snyder’s affixation on cinematic imagery ended up being like a series of very pretty speed bumps. And then, like you said, those images had to be justified with a story line, and so many of those stories just weren’t well thought out.

Victor: Take Batman v Superman (please!) The main event fight between Batman and Superman is great! It’s inspired by the Dark Knight Returns comic. It’s everything you want! It’s got the iconic moment where Superman punches Batman AND BATMAN CATCHES HIS FIST and Superman is visibly shaken.

But everything leading up to the fight is the laziest screenwriting imaginable! Luthor will kill Martha Kent unless Superman kills Batman. “Ok.” And the way the fight ends has just become a notorious joke. (WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?!?!?)

It’s the same here. I want to see the team working in tandem, stopping the interplanetary invaders! I do not want to see Steppenwolf zoom calling Darkseid’s assistant to further a master plan that makes no sense. Oh, Darkseid has been looking for these mother boxes for thousands of years? And they were on the one planet that defeated him? You’d think he’d remember a thing like that!

 Karissa: Okay now that we're talking about Darkseid and Steppenwolf, I have to go off on one of my personal issues. I've talked repeatedly to anyone listening about how much I prefer practical effects and "real" people as villains instead of relying too heavily on CGI. Even though the motivation behind their animosity was less than convincing, I at least appreciated the chemistry between Batman and Superman as antagonists because of their realness. One of the places where Snyder's movies (and many other Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Paranormal) stop working for me is when the villain becomes too unreal. I had a hard time with Steppenwolf and Darkseid for this reason.

 I could not be bothered to care about them at all or find them believable as characters. I didn't like it when he created Doomsday in Batman v Superman. I didn't like it when he turned Ares into a CGI beast in Wonder Woman (don't tell me that Ares was not 100% a Snyder element). I don't like natural disaster movies, and I usually don't like Kaiju movies like Godzilla and King Kong for the same reasons. Big dumb destructive forces as villains rarely works for me (because a villain with nothing meaningful to lose ((other than world/universe domination)) is just so generic and boring), and I feel like Snyder relies on that too much to his detriment.

I know you like Godzilla and King Kong, Victor. What are your thoughts in general, of Snyder’s villains?

Victor: Yes, I hated the CGI character designs as well. Darkseid, Desaad, and Steppenwolf all looked Terrible. They looked like some one mushed up some plasticine. They didn’t look finished. Also didn’t like the character designs of a lot of the heroes. Flash looked like a bunch of red Tupperware lids taped together. Cyborg looked like a cut scene from Tron. Martian Manhunter looked dreadful as well.

Karissa: They all looked so similar! Ha ha, "red Tupperware lids" Ha ha ha you're not wrong.

Victor: Right, Darkseid & Manhunter looked exactly the same, but different costumes!

Now, as you note, I have nothing against CGI in general! But, like anything else, it’s a tool. It is one tool in a filmmaker’s arsenal. Look at Grogu, aka Baby Yoda, everyone’s favorite special effect. It’s a practical puppet enhanced with CGI as needed! It feels like something real being interacted with, not something weightless that’s bouncing around. 

Karissa: So, I feel like the CGI was gratuitous, the cinematography was gratuitous, the FOUR HOUR run-time was gratuitous. Snyder was having his own personal editorial orgy with this movie. What director wouldn’t be thrilled to have this kind of opportunity and privilege (whether he deserved it or not ((I’m leaning hard towards *not*))?  How, and more importantly WHY, does a movie like this even happen?

Victor: What, you didn’t appreciate the super slo mo sesame seed drop and flying hot dogs?

Karissa: I did NOT. I hated those slo mo hot dogs. So gross.

Victor: Also, my phone keeps autocorrecting super slo mo to “super slo no,” which I feel is Siri making an editorial comment.

So, putting aside Snyder's inability to create a sustained, coherent narrative, I wanted to talk about fans and fan service as well.

The Snyder Cut would not exist were it not for the vocal online presence of Snyder's hard-core fan base. You know, the ones who would spam #ReleaseTheSnyderCut into any conversation and generally act like a bunch of obnoxious assholes. They were encouraged by Snyder because of course he wanted to get his full vision out there, even though the most die-hard fans were abusive jerks.

Karissa: Why does this sound familiar? *cough cough* starwarsfans *cough cough*

Victor: This happened to coincide with WB launching HBO Max and needing new content to lure in subscribers. So, seeing a way to mollify a vocal fanbase and get some buzz, they relented and gave Snyder $70 million to do reshoots and finish effects. Considering the realities of pandemic life, this was a cost effective way to get a brand new movie and not have to do lots of location shooting.

Now... I am no stranger to fan campaigns. I remember being so appalled as a snotty 14 year old that comedic actor Michael Keaton would star as Batman in a film from the director of Pee Wee's Big Adventure that I furiously signed petitions at several comic book stores. (This is pre-internet, kids.)

Karissa: *gasps* Did you really???

Victor: Yes, but I was 14! I was tremendously concerned that people take comics SERIOUSLY. However, I grew out of that and I don’t think a lot of the Snyder Fans ever did.

Fans helped save Star Trek, Veronica Mars, and other shows. But, hear me out, sometimes fans are dumb and mean. 

Like me! That first Tim Burton Batman, that every fan was sure was going to be a campy follow up to the Adam West series, that turned out pretty good! Nicholson's iconic turn as the Joker, with Oscar winning production design and Burton's surreal sensibility, made for a great movie. I freely admit that I was wrong!

And fans amplified by the echo chambers of Twitter and Reddit seem to have just gotten more and more toxic in recent years. Starting around the time of The Last Jedi, it seems that there's just been a constant march of nastiness. Hounding Kelly Marie Tran off of Twitter, doing "fan" edits of TLJ that took out all the women, people lobbing threats at Brie Larson because she wanted more women and POC to review movies, it's just been a constant river of sewage.

And now, while trying to get more content for their streaming service, HBO Max has rewarded the worst behaviors. Did this satisfy the mob? Nope! One day after they hailed the Snyder Cut as better than Citizen Kane, they were back at it on Twitter, with the new hashtag #RestoreTheSnyderVerse, trying to get the rest of Snyder's series of dour movies made.

Now, if you like the grimdark, dour heroes, great! I am happy for you. It is decidedly not my jam. My favorite DCEU movie is the first Wonder Woman, because that movie understands what heroism is. Also, it has colors. (Karissa: AMEN!)

But! You do not have the right to be abusive to people who disagree with you.

Karissa: Absolutely right! You, Mary Fan, and I have disagreed in the past over the latest Star Wars movies, but thank we've managed to remain civil. Strangely, it's not that hard to come at it with a feeling of empathy and respect for your fellow human being. For me, it's ridiculous that we live in a world of real life and death issues and people want to put so much energy and hate into something that is supposed to be fun and entertaining. As authors we also are so grateful that not everyone likes or dislikes the same things. Our careers depend on it! So, I'll walk away from the Snyder Cut feeling mostly dissatisfied and kind of eye-rolly and lip-curly about all the shortcomings of this director and this franchise, and the fact that another mediocre white dude got way more credit and opportunity than he deserved, but at the end of the's just a movie. There will be lots more. And lots more that are lots better.

So, as fun as this chat has been, I think it has gone on long enough. Wrap it up for us, Victor. Out of five stars, what would you give the Snyder Cut?

Victor: Well, I’d give the Theatrical Cut one star. This gets 1.5.  It’s better, because it’s clearly the product of one creator and not the result of a note session by committee. But it’s still not very good. It is still my least favorite DCEU movie. At least BvS had some cool scenes that are fun to revisit - like Wonder Woman leaping in to save Batman. There is nothing in Justice League I want to revisit.

Karissa: I give it a DNF (Did not Finish) because I made it to about the 3.5 hour mark and just. couldn't. take. it. anymore.

But, I would kill for more Cavill as Superman. I just hope whoever takes him on next does him justice and gives him the script he deserves. In the meantime...Season 2 of  The Witcher is on its way! Yay!

Thanks for chatting with me today, Victor. I'm sure you'll be back soon to critique another movie or show with us, and we look forward to having you.

Check out Victor's Gabriel and Orson urban fantasy series, featuring Gabriel, his witch girlfriend, Sheila, and their magical Bulldog familiar, Orson:



1 comment:

Victor Catano said...

Thanks for having me! I will add, if you want a Superman story where Superman actually does some heroic things and is also inspirational and considers Superman's role as an immigrant, I absolutely encourage you to pick up a copy of Superman Smashes the Klan. It's the best Superman book I've read in a while.

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