Zack Snyder’s Justice League

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 23, 2021

Filed under: Movies 144 comments

I never thought I’d say these words, but I’ve watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League. I expected four hours of overblown bombast. I got that, but I also got a really interesting look at storytelling. More importantly, I got to see the Mass Effect problem from the other side.

In case you missed it: Director Zack Snyder made Man of Steel, followed up by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was not a fan of either movie. During my write-up of Bats v. Supe, I said:

[…] it’s kind of darkly hilarious that Zack Snyder was chosen to adapt modern-day Superman for the big screen. I can’t imagine anyone more ill-suited for the material. You can see the fumbling Hollywood thinking at work behind the decision. “This Snyder guy is really good at making movies about the funnybooks. He directed [Watchmen] a few years ago, so let’s give him this one!” It’s like saying, “This guy who made Snowpiercer did a great job, so let’s give him The Polar Express. I mean, both movies have trains in the snow! He’s a natural fit!”

Anyone capable of successfully adapting Watchmen shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Superman. The two works are opposed on a philosophical level. Superman is profoundly idealistic, and Watchmen has cynicism oozing out of its pores. Watchmen isn’t just a deconstruction of the idealized superhero myth, it’s a controlled demolition. It takes the entire premise of super-beings and says, “Actually, having nearly-indestructible godlings running around would be horrible for the world, because they would still be people and People Are Awful.”

We don’t actually know what the studio heads were thinking at Warner Brothers, but the most popular narrative was the the studios wanted to make their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But Snyder’s self-serious tone wasn’t resonating with audiences the way that Marvel movies do. Snyder took these stories about fighting crime in blue spandex and shot them as if he was adapting the Iliad. His movies have this overpowering Wagnerian vibe. You’re deafened by the angelic chorus as Snyder beats you into submission with one blunt symbol after another.

As the story goes, the studio heads didn’t know anything about art, but they did know that they were coming up short in the global dick-measuring contest against Marvel. So when Snyder suffered a family tragedy during the production of Justice League and he needed to step away from the project, the studio was only too happy to replace him with nerd culture darling of the moment Joss Whedon. Whedon is famous for his lighthearted tone and having lots of witty banter between the various leads. Under Whedon’s pen, all characters eventually turn into jokesters, dorks, or audience-insert critics. The characters become incredibly self-aware and the film starts to take on the “rollercoaster” vibe that Marvel movies are (in)famous for.

Stylistically, Whedon is basically the anti-Snyder.

Supposedly Whedon was just coming in to finish this 90% completed movie, but the belief is that the studio saw this as their chance to change course and be more like Marvel. So Whedon hacked the movie down from four hours to two and shot some of his own scenes to fill in the resulting gaps. The result is about what you’d expect: A movie with lots of disjointed ideas and weird tonal shifts. The movie didn’t do well. It made money, but it didn’t make “Avengers” money, so the studio heads weren’t thrilled either.

The executives didn’t get what they wanted. Snyder fans didn’t get the movie they wanted. Whedon fans got a little of what they wanted, but those moments were stuffed in the margins of a messy cobbled-together movie that was trying to be something else. Basically, the movie was an awkward compromise that left everyone unhappy.

Snyder fans felt like the movie could have been a success – perhaps artistic if not commercial success, anyway – if we could see Snyder’s original vision. And thus began the demands for the “Snyder Cut”.

Dan Olson has a great video that summarizes the situation:

Link (YouTube)

Basically: Yes, there was a bunch of footage that could be called the “Snyder Cut”. But that footage was basically raw. No special FX. No score. No color grading. It hadn’t yet been edited into a proper movie. Turning the “Snyder Cut” into a proper movie was going to cost tens of millions of dollars, which nobody wanted to pay since the movie had already bombed at the box office.

But after years of fan petitions, self-funded campaigns on the part of Snyder himself, and various backroom corporate skullduggery, we at last have a proper Snyder Cut of Justice League. It’s being used to get people to sign up for HBO Max. So this is less about preserving Snyder’s original creative vision and more about finding some stunt that will drive subscriptions in the already-crowded streaming marketplace. Coming up with a few tens of millions of dollars for that is a much easier proposition.

So how is it?

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m much more a fan of Joss Whedon than Zack Snyder. I realize that the colorful, lighthearted, joke-heavy superhero thing has been done to death by now and large parts of the market are fully satisfied, bordering on oversaturation and burnout. But in terms of personal taste, that’s my jam. I know it’s junk food, but it’s my favorite junk food.

So when Whedon took over Snyder’s movie, turned up the color vibrancy, added some out-of-nowhere quips, and shortened it to a two hour experience, I figured this was a net win for me. Yes, the resulting movie was a bit of a mess, but it was a mess I liked rather than another overlong Snyder movie.

But now I’ve seen the Snyder Cut, and I have to admit: This is a much better movie.

It’s hard to compare an excellent version of something you don’t like with a shoddy version of something you do. If I typically love pizza and despise spaghetti, then how do I choose between terrible pizza vs. excellent spaghetti? I don’t know. But in this case I have to favor the well-made version of a thing I don’t like. The movie is amazingly long and overstuffed with plot elements. But those plot elements now have time to breathe and develop, and they form a cohesive whole.

Back in Mass Effect, the series was transformed from something I loved into something I loathed. It began as a thinky / talky space-mystery about an explorer looking for answers and became a loud obnoxious action movie about a badass space marine who used a magical space-weapon to “defeat” the space-demon. At the time I wondered what it would be like if things went the other way and the games transformed from a thing I hated into a thing I liked. And I think that Justice League proves that it doesn’t matter. When you change authors, you change the tone of the world. And that will ultimately break the world / story, regardless if you liked it better at the beginning or the end.

In short: Don’t try to pivot to a more appealing audience in the middle of a story. It won’t work. You’ll ruin the story you started with, and that newer, bigger, more attractive audience isn’t going to want your ruined story, even if it was ruined in a style they find appealing.


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144 thoughts on “Zack Snyder’s Justice League

  1. Smosh says:

    The one thing I find unforgivable is the color grading. It just looks absolutely awful, especially after going through encoding. If you have a character whose most known trait is that their hair is red, and you can’t actually tell that it is a vibrant red, then your color grading is off.

    The fact that they do this to Justice League is ridiculous. Have they never looked at the source material?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      For us weirdos who aren’t familiar with the source material, which character is this? All the people in the looking-down-a-cliff-at-you shot Shamus provided either have no hair, or brown hair. :)

      1. CloverMan-88 says:

        I think OP is talking about one of the supporting characters? One of the Flashes is a redhead, but deffinately not one we see in this movie

      2. Grimwear says:

        Having recently watched the RedLetterMedia youtube video on the Snyder cut I think it’s a reference to Amber Heard’s character “Fish Woman” (can’t remember her actual character name) where they showed a scene of her underwater and you cannot tell what colour her hair is.

        1. Inwoods says:

          And, like, you can’t see red underwater. Blood is the commonest example of this:

          Basically, water is “blue” because it soaks up red light. The deeper you go, the less natural red light there is.

          1. Grimwear says:

            That may indeed be true and interesting but I think it wasn’t done for realism but rather just how bad the colour is in Snyder’s movie. I’ll be honest I barely remember Aquaman but I believe they had her hair as red underwater? Don’t quote me on that.

            1. Syal says:

              Bright red out of the water, not noticeably different underwater.

  2. Philadelphus says:

    Is it actually four hours long? Because, wow. That’s a long movie if so.

    Also, a typo: “and more about find some stunt”

    1. Vinsomer says:

      Yes, it is.

      In fairness to the movie, a lot of what was added was the necessary character work for Batman, Cyborg and Flash that the original movie lacked. It’s not just that the Whedon movie was tonally strange, but that it did a terrible job of doing the story things movies need to do.

      But a lot of the added stuff is self-indulgent action scenes.

      1. Steve C says:

        In fairness to the audience, a lot (and I mean a lot) is pure filler. It is in desperate need of an editor. Like Aquaman goes into the water. Which is fine. Then there’s a few minutes of creepy blond chicks singing. That’s weird. Or later a bunch of slow reacts by unnamed cops and bank(?) terrorists. A scene at the end of which Wonder Woman executes a guy by blowing up a floor and spraying the cops with shrapnel. Why? She could have done anything else. That’s all 30mins in and the plot hasn’t even started yet.

        The movie is strange. Forget about the character work and action scenes. For argument’s sake assume that’s all perfect. The pacing is off for everything else. Stuff that doesn’t matter is given crazy amounts of screen time and stress. Like the important stuff between Aquaman and Batman meeting is completely overshadowed by the strangeness of the blond chicks singing.

        It is the most surreal big budget movie I’ve ever seen. The first 30mins could easily cut by half and what to go would be easy and obvious.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I think it’s important to remember that the original JL movie was the first time we saw DCEU Aquaman. So the movie is treating him much the same as Flash and Cyborg. And, going by this movie alone, I think it did a good job of leaning into the almost-cryptid vibe around these rumoured metahumans, which is one of the genuinely interesting ideas Snyder had, and one that you can’t say was cribbed from or incidentally done better by Marvel. It doesn’t work as well after having an Aquaman movie, and it’s kind of hard to turn off the continuity you already know, but it’s one of those things where I give Snyder points for trying even if it didn’t work out perfectly.

          I don’t really know what your point with Wonder Woman is. She’s never been a no-kill character. She doesn’t kill if she can avoid it, but remember that she literally fought in WW1. I actually agree that the first 30 minutes are the worst, because it’s all over the place and filled with some of the most self-indulgent Snyderisms that Snyder ever Snydered. I watched the movie in 2 sittings: I didn’t watch 2 hours or so and get tired and finish it later. I watched the first 20 minutes and was so put off that I put it down, only to come back later and enjoy the film once it got over those hurdles. It reminds me of the disjointed opening of Rogue One, a movie which I hated.

          The pacing is definitely strange. It’s not like other blockbuster action movies at all, because they’re based around the standard 3 act structure, in a 80 to 220 minute runtime. Just by being significantly longer it’s unconventional. The movie has 3 first acts. It’s strange, but strange isn’t necessarily bad, and when you consider the amount of work the movie had to do, I think it needed both a longer runtime and an unconventional structure. 4 hours and 3 act 1s? Maybe not. But a tight, well-paced movie was never on the cards. The entire point of the Snyder cut was that it wouldn’t cut all the small things that snyder wanted to include, and I don’t think anyone would argue that Whedon’s movie was better even though it made very ruthless cuts. At the very least, I think the small cuttable scenes added something. Enough to justify their inclusion? YMMV, but the point of the Snyder cut was that scenes wouldn’t have to be justified that way, and that is a decision non-blockbuster movies don’t have to make nearly as much.

          And if we’re really going to judge DC movies by that metric, then Wonder Woman 84’s opening was far more superfluous. Not only did it have nothing to do with the plot but it barely reflected the themes and conflict of the later movie at all.

          1. Steve C says:

            She could have not killed him, sure, but that’s not what I meant. My point with Wonder Woman is that she could have done literally anything else and it would have been a better choice than what she did. Kill or not kill. She could have pulled his spine out of his chest. She could have taken him the police with or without his head attached. Anything would have been better than deliberately blowing up the building and likely killing people outside.

            Consider what she did: She stopped a bomb going off so that she could set off her own bomb after everything was resolved. We the audience even have to presume that the hostages were unharmed by WW’s explosion. But we never see that. We can only assume that from meta knowledge of her character completely outside the movie. Realistically the hostages are all dead. Imagine exactly the same scene but with Homelander from The Boyz. What was shown on screen was a character that saved people so she could personally kill everyone and use the terrorists to take the blame.

            It was a weird end to that scene. Anything else (even a hard cut to a different scene w/o explosion) and it would have not been weird.

            And if we’re really going to judge DC movies by that metric, then Wonder Woman 84’s opening was far more superfluous. Not only did it have nothing to do with the plot but it barely reflected the themes and conflict of the later movie at all.

            I think you are misunderstanding my point. As I said, “Forget about the character work and action scenes. For argument’s sake assume that’s all perfect.”

            My point wasn’t that it was superfluous, it was that the superfluous parts did not have anything to do with action or character or plot. Extras who don’t even have a line giving looks and reverse reaction shots doesn’t add anything at all. But cop#4 is super important enough to get multiple camera angles and zoom ins and center stage.

            These sections being superfluous to the movie is beside the point. They were superfluous to the scenes they were in. These lingering shots on extras are everywhere in the movie. Removing them would not get a tight, well-paced movie. But you could still cut an hour out of the runtime and not lose a single thing. Nothing would change except the collective millions of hours the audience wouldn’t have to waste watching extras doing nothing of significance.

            1. Vinsomer says:

              Well, my point really was that the crux of the scene is Wonder woman saving the people, especially the little girl. It’s fun to nitpick, but nitpicking is what it is. At best, you can argue that the cinematic language didn’t reflect the concept of the scene, but even then, I’m not sure I agree.

              She threw the bomb pretty high up. High up enough that its explosion was out of range of buildings. I don’t know where you got shrapnel from: it wasn’t a ‘dirty’ bomb, so the bomb casing would probably have fragmented into small pieces that, aerodynamically, would lose their velocity pretty quickly. I think if the explosion didn’t harm WW, it wouldn’t harm anyone in buildings or at street level.

              And the silver lining with Snyder’s penchant for style over substance is that most viewers aren’t even thinking about that scene 2, 3 hours in, maybe not even after the next half hour of movie.

              If anything was bad about that scene, it’s that the terrorist said the bomb will level several ‘city blocks’. It’s not New York: London doesn’t have blocks. A few squares here and there, sure. But no blocks. Just like I was irrationally annoyed at Aquaman taking the whiskey out of the pub. That’s illegal.

              1. Steve C says:

                I’m not referring to the literal bomb. I’m referring to the 2nd to last scene where 1)the last terrorist gives up, 2)WW bangs her bracers together causing an energy wave explosion and 3)it cuts to outside (the last scene) where it shows half the building being blown out and 4)chunks of building falling onto the police outside who dive for cover. Scene ends.

                1. Steve C says:

                  Oops. I made a mistake. There was another scene after that. Where it shows the hostages as being fine. The wall of the room is gone. Still weird as hell. She could have just punched him or punched through him. Blowing out the building didn’t make any sense.

    2. The+Puzzler says:

      It is. I’ve read that if Snyder had been left in charge of the original cinematic version, he would probably have edited it down to 2:50 or so, but this version is for watching at home, and it can be watched as though it was a four episode TV show, so the usual rules did not apply.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        There are breaks in the movie but it’s not episodic at all.

        1. The+Puzzler says:

          But if you don’t have the patience for a four hour movie, you can watch a couple of chapters at a time. Prologue + Chapter 1, then Chapters 2 & 3, then Chapters 4 & 5, then Chapter 6 and Epilogue.

          (Personally, I don’t really have the patience for that either. My attention span is pretty shot these days.)

    3. MerryWeathers says:

      I think it would ironically benefit with another cut, trim the runtime down to three or two hours long.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Yeah, I can’t stand movies that are longer than about 2 hours anymore, and I prefer 1 – 1.5 nowadays. I borrowed my brothers copies of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, extended cut back in the day, and NOPEd right out of there. :)

    4. Henson says:

      ‘Wagnerian’ is a good descriptor from Shamus, since many of his operas were four hours long as well. Or six.

      1. Lino says:

        For The Ring of the Nibelungs he even had a special opera house constructed where people could sleep for the night, because it was SO LONG that it took two days.

      2. Adam says:

        “Wagnerian” is also somewhat dangerous – Wagner’s music was popular with the Hitler ( so it’s use as a descriptor is liable to misinterpretation.

        1. Henson says:

          If anyone thinks ‘Wagnerian’ must automatically refer to the man’s antisemitism, and not to any of his other many distinctive features, then the fault is with that person’s ignorance.

          It’s a perfectly fine word to use.

          1. CloverMan-88 says:

            It’s like saying that something is Hitler-like when talking about medicore landscape paintings. This is simply not how language works.

            1. krellen says:

              The concept that “Wagnerian” means “antisemetic” is completely new to me. Language also does not work the way you think it does.

        2. kincajou says:

          my, my!
          it didn’t take long for godwin’s law to kick in this time, did it?


          1. Taellosse says:

            If there isn’t already one, there should be a sub-law of Godwin’s that points out the average time until invocation of Hitler is proportionately reduced depending on how far removed from any of ol’ Adolf’s personal interests the original topic is.

            I propose calling it “the Bacon Corollary,” in honor of “6 degrees to Kevin Bacon.”

        3. The Rocketeer says:

          God help Wagner fans who like to drink beer and wear khaki shorts.

          *ostentatious jerking-off motion*

          1. Syal says:

            I mean, God help anyone who likes to wear khaki shorts. That’s a taste there’s no accounting for.

  3. Xeorm says:

    That’s a pretty good take on it. I have heard good things about this movie. Still not interested, but it’s fun to see how these things ended up working out.

    Looks like another score for the creative people against the execs. Why do they get paid the big bucks again?

    1. krellen says:

      Because they are the ones that decide how much people are paid.

  4. Thomas says:

    I haven’t seen it yet – although this makes me more curious to see it. I thought it was going to be a train wreck and it sounds like it wasn’t.

    One of the things ArsTechnica’s reviewer pointed out is that it looks like a lot of the footage for Cyborg’s storyline had been shot before Whedon joined the project and then got removed, and a lot of the Batman / Wonder Woman storyline looks like it was added after and then cut out by Snyder. I had always assumed that practically no character stuff was removed from the original, and that Whedon was papering over the cracks of a storyline that had never had character beats to begin with.

    Perhaps I underestimated Snyder – 300 might not have had much characterisation, but most of his other work does, and he does develop themes, however unsubtly.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      Wasn’t that one of the reasons Ray Fisher had beef with WB execs and Whedon? Because he felt like his character was butchered?

      I have to say, I’m glad they cut the Diana/Bruce romance stuff. The original movie didn’t need it, it didn’t add anything to either character, and didn’t feel natural for either one given who they are and where they are as people.

      1. Thomas says:

        I didn’t know about the Ray Fisher stuff until after I read the Arstechnica review.

        The review mentioned the Fisher business and I ended up reading up on it, as well as some of the other recent Whedon drama, and unfortunately I think my inner Whedon fanboy is now dead. It sucks because very few people successfully manage to write in the style he writes.

  5. Vinsomer says:

    It pains me to admit it, too, but I actually liked it. In fact, I’d say it’s Snyder’s best movie by a wide margin. I actually liked it, not just ‘liked it for a movie from a director I hate’ but liked it liked it, and that’s hard to admit because I hate most of his oeuvre not only on a cinematic level, but thematically, too, and I can’t ever forgive him for butchering Watchmen. But if I was a dyed-in-the-wool Snyder fan, I’d feel pretty vindicated right about now.

    I definitely think the real life tragedy he sadly suffered did end up influencing the movie. One of the biggest themes of the movie was the tragedy of parents losing their children, or children losing their parents. Which further proves that the Snyder Cut wasn’t something that really existed in any real, tangible form when the hashtag went viral (if the $70 million extra spent on effects and reshoots didn’t already).

    I have to say I like the idea of directors getting the freedom to make movies how they want, (mostly) freed from studio interference or the rigidity of cinema runtimes, and if that’s because of the existence of streaming services (nobody, absolutely nobody wants to sit in a cinema for 4 straight hours) then I welcome the transition of movies from the antiquated cinema model towards the modern, convenient streaming model.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I personally still think 300 is his best film, he really should just stick to making stylized pure action movies than tackling the big stuff like Watchmen or properties that would clash tonally with his style like Superman because that’s what he’s pretty good at.

      1. Geebs says:

        Did you ever re-watch 300, though? All of the BEEEOwwwwww…….wrrPppppppPPPP makes it pretty painful on a second viewing. Honestly I think Watchmen stands up much better; at least the acting’s good.

      2. Vinsomer says:

        I think 300 is his worst film. It’s ugly, racist, and worst of all, boring. That’s just it: 300 isn’t just a pure action movie. It has themes and ideas and they are really terrible. It’s not like the Raid or something which really is pure action.

        I don’t hate the idea of Man of Steel. I actually really a version of Superman who has to grapple with his place in the world and think that’s a fitting conflict for an origin story. I love the idea that Superman grew up as an outsider, and in spite of all the things about humanity that suck, Superman still chooses to save us even when he is reunited with Kryptonians who have answers to every question he has and who he doesn’t have to hide who he really is around. But the movie fumbles this characterisation and has some downright stupid moments, as well as ridiculously heavy-handed imagery that holds it all back.

        1. Dotec says:

          Is it because the Persians are monsters?

          It’s hard for me to drum up much sympathy for this complaint. The opening scenes of the movie exposit a society that dashes their newborn infants on the rocks if they’re born with imperfections; an idea that I am highly certain anybody in the audience would find horrifying in reality. It’s a movie with a plot and world that takes themselves seriously, but I don’t think the audience is expected to. While it’s based on history, both feet are firmly planted what might as well be called “historical fantasy”.

          Disclosure: Did not care much for 300 either because the constant slow-mo bored me, although I thought it at least looked neat at the time.

          1. hst says:

            For anyone who cares, here’s a blog post comparing fictional portrayals of Spartans and the histories we have.

            1. Philadelphus says:

              Was hoping ACOUP would show up in a discussion about Sparta.

            2. RFS-81 says:

              This is more than I ever wanted to know about Sparta, but I find it endlessly fascinating!

          2. Vinsomer says:

            Well, framing matters.

            As far as the movie goes, the Spartans and their cruelty is never framed as bad. At best, it’s framed as necessary to producing a strong society, and at worst the entire reason Sparta is so strong anyway, especially compared to the ‘boy lovers’ of Athens (bonus points for ahistoricity AND homophobia: the Spartans are known for their propensity for forming homosexual relationships). ‘We should kill all our disabled and weak’ isn’t just ableist, it’s outright eugenics.

            If the movie had the Spartans learn to accept difference and things considered ‘weakness’ in order to win, then perhaps. I would still have a problem with the depiction of people in the story. But that isn’t the case at all. If anything, it’s the opposite. If they had just killed Ephialtes as a baby, he would never have been able to betray Sparta.

            So yes, depicting something isn’t always the same as endorsing it. But if you write a story where someone does a thing and doing that thing is good and the reason they succeed, you don’t then get to say ‘well I’m not endorsing it, I’m actually framing it as bad’ because that isn’t true.

            But, beyond that, 300 just isn’t very good.

            1. Moridin says:

              None of that is racist, though(unless you consider it racist towards Spartans to portray them that way). Eugenics is only racist if you consider “being of persian descent” or something similar to be a flaw that must be removed.

              1. Vinsomer says:

                I can’t believe I have to say this, but eugenics is still bad even when it isn’t racist. As far as 300 is concerned, it’s particular brand of eugenics is more ableist than racist, which is just as bad.

                But I don’t see how you can look at how the Persians are portrayed in that movie and say it isn’t racist. Or homophobic. But I won’t go any further because that’s risking breaking the no politics rule.

            2. Gautsu says:

              Literally only your opinion.

        2. CloverMan-88 says:

          It’s more of a problem with the original Frank Miller’s 300 comic books. Snyder was just making a very faithful adaptation.

          1. Taellosse says:

            Wait, something by Frank Miller is problematic?!?! Something by Frank Miller displays a troubling affinity for toxic masculinity and several sorts of bigotry?! Quelle surprise!

            (Sorry, that probably skirts too close to politics. I’ll stop now).

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      One of the biggest themes of the movie was the tragedy of parents losing their children, or children losing their parents.

      That has been a theme in all of his DCEU movies, though. Hell, it’s the entire catalyst behind the infamous “Martha” deal or the much maligned Jonathan Kent’s death. And a lot of this stuff was already obviously there before Whedon’s intervention (as evidenced by lost scenes from the old trailers).

  6. MerryWeathers says:

    I was surprised to learn the Snyder Cut was R-rated when I felt it was more appropriate as a genuine PG-13 movie (because most movies that are rated PG-13 nowadays are actually pretty tame for their rating).

    1. Christopher+Wolf says:

      Multiple F bombs is always R rated.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        I must be so desensitized to swearing because I never noticed them.

        1. Chris says:

          It seems to me that americans seem to hate that stuff more, see youtube demonetizing videos with lots of cursing.

  7. kikito says:

    > Don’t try to pivot to a more appealing audience in the middle of a story

    (Head pops from the bushes)

    Like in Star Wars Episode VIII and IX?

    (Quickly hides again)

    1. CJK says:

      I think that is actually a pretty good example of the no-win scenario that Shamus is outlining. To shift tone and then shift…back?…. shift again, anyway….whatever, IX is a damn mess…. just makes everyone unhappy.

      For this particular fan of Last Jedi, the shift was forgivable because I hoped for the pivot to be the start of a new direction. Sure, the new direction showed up late after we spun our wheels replaying the beats of Episode IV for a whole movie, but it showed up with something resembling a justification for having more movies so let’s give it a run. I didn’t love or hate Awakens, I just thought it was unmotivated and pointless but basically well-constructed.

      From this perspective (again, mine) the shift BACK is both jarring and deeply unwelcome. The borders of the universe close back in, the stories deemed worth telling channeled back to some faintly icky bloodlines garbage.

      But I can see how from the opposite perspective it’s a shit sandwich and that’s not made any BETTER by getting what you wanted 2 times out of 3. Either way the whole is spoilt.

    2. MerryWeathers says:

      I would say it’s more of Ep. IX, TLJ doesn’t clash with TFA whereas TROS goes out of it’s way to retcon or contradict TLJ at every turn.

      Thought imagine if the Snyder Cut did set a precedent in Hollywood where directors can now go back and remake their executively meddled blockbuster movies, imagine if we got a Trevorrow cut.

      1. Vernal_ancient says:

        While I liked last jedi, I disagree about it not clashing with awakens. It doesn’t explicitly retcon much the way rise of Skywalker did, but it takes all the big questions and dangling plot threads from awakens and subverts them. “Who are Rey’s parents?” “Eh, nobody.” “What’s Snoke’s deal?” “Doesn’t matter, he’s dead.” “Sweet, Luke’s gonna train Rey!” “A little, but very reluctantly because he’s a grumpy old man now.” Etc.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          The thing about TFA’s mystery boxes was that they were a completely open book, there was nothing to contradict because J.J. didn’t have an answer in mind, that’s just the nature of his work where he finds the mystery more interesting than the answer and so he leaves it like that which is terrible in a story where you’ll inevitably have to answer those mysteries.

          Rey being a nobody is actually fits in quite well with what was established in TFA and it’s flashbacks (beyond that Obi-Wan voice cameo but her being his granddaughter would raise more questions than answers in the same way Palpatine did) and Snoke’s identity was never presented as a mystery or anything important, I suspect much of the buzz around his character was a result of J.J. Abrams overhyping him in interviews. I actually saw the cynical grumpy Luke twist coming even way before TLJ’s trailer came out, it was the most obvious thing to do with where the TFA set him up.

          1. Rho says:

            That might work as a matter of base logic, but people tend to like big questions to have an actual payoff. TLJ doesn’t just clash with TFA in a storytelling sense, but the tone and message are all off.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Yeah, I think that’s the big issue here, which is that mystery boxes don’t say WHAT answer they’re going to give, but do imply that the answers, in general, are going to be big and important ones. You MIGHT be able to get away with subverting one of them and making it a non-issue — like having Rey be a nobody — but if you do that for most of them then it’s really going to seem anti-climactic.

              Also, I think it reasonable to say that Johnson contradicted Abrams by ANSWERING a number of things inside the mystery boxes. Abrams’ model would have been to either hold those answers to the last movie, or else immediately replace the box with another box. Johnson cut him off by providing uninteresting answers but not providing new mysteries to pursue. So Abrams wanted mysteries while Johnson wanted more of a philosophical shift/discussion and when put together they really badly clash.

              1. Jabrwock says:

                Mystery boxes are fine if handled well. Think of the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. We never do find out what’s in the case, but we understand that the characters are awed by it, desire it, crave it, or at least understand why it’s so important. It really doesn’t matter what’s in it, we GET that the characters themselves attach importance to it.

                But when the mystery box is just there to dangle in front of the audience to keep them invested under the hope it will eventually be revealed… then you’re usually left with disappointment when you find out what’s behind the curtain, because your imagination generally has a better budget.

            2. Dennis says:

              I would have been happy if they did something with just one of the story threads TFA set up. I liked a lot of the ‘subversion’, but TLJ didn’t create a new direction for the plot to go, it just shot the old ones down. It felt a lot like Mass Effect 2 to me; you the first title ended at a good point for the trilogy to continue, and then the second ran that backwards.

              1. Dotec says:

                This comment gets my firm approval.

                Contrary to what TLF fans may argue, I don’t actually see where there was room to pivot to a new direction by the end of the film. Such an opening would have required it to end earlier than it did IMO. I’d instead argue that TLJ teases a new direction before collapsing back into standard Star Wars fare. Kylo Ren reverts to being a villain, Rey firmly rejects his extended offer and goes back to Team Good Guy, and the whole conflict once again re-centers around Plucky Resistance versus Evil Empire.

                There’s also the issue that a film is more than just its script. Tone matters, and I really do think Plinkett’s TLJ review nailed it better than I can. TLJ’s final scenes are just screaming a return to Good vs Evil, triumphalism, and status quo. When compared to ESB’s ending tone, the difference could not be more stark. So it wasn’t enough for Rian Johnson to merely write the subversions – he had to emotionally sell them as well (such is the art of filmmaking). And I found no real commitment to the ideas in his execution.

                I guess you could have salvaged it if ROS was willing to do some mild retconning in the beginning of its runtime. There could have been some plot development that makes Rey have second thoughts about rejecting Kylo’s offer in TLJ. And to be fair to Rian, you can’t blame him for JJ Abrams’ inability to spin something interesting out of the tough problems TLJ posed. But I will push back on the idea that he was given some crazy potential to work with from the preceding film.

                1. Vernal_ancient says:

                  Those are all excellent points, though I still see two directions TROS could have gone without retcons or rejecting everything TLJ did:
                  A) a by-the-numbers plot where the resistance tries something crazy to reignite hope in the galaxy while Ren tries to crush them, they succeed at the last minute and you still get a bunch of ships showing up to save them (and maybe Finn leads a stormtrooper rebellion, that would be pretty cool – although I think the prior two films were too cavalier about stormtrooper lives for it to be really well done. It’d be more “oh hey, we’ve completely underutilized this whole ‘stormtroopers can turn against the First Order despite their brainwashing’ thing we set up with Finn, let’s squeeze something in last minute”). Or
                  B) end the trilogy on a downer note with a little bit of hope: the last members of the resistance are gradually killed off over the course of the film while finding and gathering force-sensitive children and Ren tries to build something new from what’s left of the First Order and the Republic. The Resistance itself eventually collapses in a final stand, but Rey escapes with her new students to rebuild the Jedi order.
                  The first pretty much leaves us in the same place as TROS did, but without potentially infinite Palpatine resurrections hanging over the series and reminding everyone just how dumb things could get, while the second sets up a sequel series where a new Jedi order survives underground and tries to deal with whatever new order Ren built up. Since the sequel trilogy mirrored the OT (most obviously in TFA, but TLJ was essentially structured as “ESB but backwards” and TROS ended with a jedi and a redeemed Sith killing Palpatine while a star fleet and ground force tried to stop a new planet-destroying threat just like ROTJ) you could potentially have the follow up mirror the prequel trilogy in some way, hopefully more subtly and artistically than the sequel trilogy did for the originals

                2. Vinsomer says:

                  But that was the point of the movie. Not to go beyond a conflict of good and evil, but rather to have a conflict of good and evil that went beyond the old conflicts of Jedi vs Sith. I don’t think it’s a betrayal of the premise of the movie for it to end with Rey the good, light-side force user and Kylo the evil, dark-side force user. I think it affirms the film’s central premise: that the characters in the world, the broader Star Wars story itself and, even in a genuinely interesting inversion of the exact kind of monomythic template Star Wars was based on, modern heroic tales need to move beyond the old, tired, played out conflicts that we’ve seen over and over again, but that doesn’t mean those things should be recklessly discarded because they still have value. Especially as cultural myths, even if those myths are ultimately false, because even false myths inspire us. If they didn’t, Star Wars would never have gotten the cultural significance it did.

                  After all, Rey saves the Jedi texts. Kylo says ‘kill the past’ but he’s the villain. He represents a way of moving beyond the confines of the past which is self-destructive. Rejecting everything from the past is just as bad as mindlessly following it because neither person learns from it and improves, which is why Kylo’s mirror in the story isn’t Rey, it’s Luke, and Rey ends up in a place between both of their philosophies. For me, Episode 9 shouldn’t have been about Kylo’s redemption. It should have been about Kylo repeating the mistakes of the Sith because, like all dark side users, he’s a slave to his emotions, and in ruling through fear and oppression, he inspires the resistance that eventually topples him. It should have been space MacBeth.

                  The most salient point about Jedi that the prequel trilogy made was that it was a flawed ideology which inevtiably failed due to its weaknesses. And they were not the first Star Wars stories to do this. They’re not even the only canon ones after the purging of the Legends canon. Perhaps the most confusing thing in all of these endless TLJ debates is the belief that the Jedi are sacrosanct, despite an entire trilogy which tore them down figuratively and literally.

      2. Vinsomer says:

        The Trevorrow script was terrible, so I hope not.

        And there’s no way that would happen. The Snyder cut exists because, while Snyder clearly didn’t get to finish his Justice League movie first time around, he did manage to get the script, a lot of the footage and even some effects work done. The Snyder cut always existed, just not as anything that could be considered near to a finished project.

        But the Trevorrow script didn’t even begin principle photography. At that point, it’d just be making an entirely new movie altogether and good luck getting the cast back, especially John Boyega.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          The Trevorrow script was terrible, so I hope not.

          It was definitely far from solid, Kylo is now the least interesting character and gets the worst sendoff, the Poe-Rey romance is garbage, and writing was way too dry and stoic but it didn’t turn away from what TLJ setup (for the most part) and it really did have some new and good stuff in it like actual worldbuilding, Finn inciting a mass stormtrooper rebellion, Luke haunting Kylo and even interfering in the final duel as a Force Ghost, and the epic final battle actually feeling like a epic final battle.

          It was also just a first draft, replace Trevorrow with a better screenwriter and do what George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan did to the original draft of ESB by Leigh Brackett and you can probably spin something decent out of it .

          I do agree with you about a cut like that ever happening, it was just me wishfully imagining.

          1. Rho says:

            The biggest issue with new-Star Wars is that it seems to all be done in first-draft scripts. Maybe Treverrow’s needed refinements, but Disney deleted it and started over… withanother first-draft script…

            1. MerryWeathers says:

              The biggest issue with the ST was that the directors and writers lacked the time to flesh out their scripts, to meet those release date deadlines set by Disney.
              Pretty sure the reason why TFA was essentially ANH was because Disney fired Micheal Ardnt for not being fast enough in writing the script and replaced him with J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, who took the safer formulaic route which was much faster.

          2. Vinsomer says:

            I will give Duel of the Fates points for actually doing something with Finn, not bringing back Palpatine in a way that is equal parts lazy, stupid, and insulting to the audience’s intelligence, and for not defecating all over the previous movie. But all of that would have taken a 1 star film into 2 star territory. I think it would have taken serious rewrites to be good.

            But it had problems of its own that the episode 9 we got didn’t. Troubling racial coding, bad dialogue, a completely out of nowhere romance (I HATED Reylo but at least there was chemistry there), and, as you said, making Kylo a much less interesting character. So really it would have been a different flavour of bad. If we lived in the universe where we got Trevorrow’s script, Duel of the Fates would still have gotten mixed reviews at best.

            I guess that, wherever you stand on the quality of his movies, Snyder proved something that even Trevorrow hasn’t, and that’s the ability to be a bankable director who gets his shit done on time, which is probably one of the big reasons why the stars aligned and allowed the Snyder Cut to come into existence. In the world of film and TV, being easy to work with is one of the most important qualities, if not the most important quality, even moreso than actually being good.

    3. Vinsomer says:

      I don’t think TLJ was for a different audience. I just think Rian Johnson underestimated exactly what parts of Star Wars a portion of the fanbase was connected to.

      ROTS however, was a terrible idea. Anyone who hated TLJ was bound to hate the movie that followed on from it, and anyone who liked TLJ was bound to hate a movie which seemingly existed primarily to denounce it.

      1. Henson says:

        Side note: ‘ROTS’ is a terrible acronym for Episode IX; not only is it inaccurate (there is no ‘the’), it confuses people with ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

        Instead, use ‘TROS’. Or ‘Ep IX’. Or ‘Sheev’s Reprieve and the Fanservice Smorgasbord’

        1. CJK says:

          SRatFS? That seems about right.

          1. Henson says:

            “You’re listening to SRat FS, the galaxy’s ooOOnly Sith music station!”

            1. BlueHorus says:

              I love it. Does SRat FS play music made with sith-esizers?

  8. Geebs says:

    The theatrical cut of Justice League is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It completely fails to establish the stakes of its own plot, even though they are somehow supposed to be incredibly important. The jokes are awful and undermine the audience’s relationship with what’s actually a pretty charismatic and talented bunch of actors (and also Gal Gadot). The ending is an exhausting whirlwind of noise and punching which is just indescribably formulaic, boring, and predictable.

    Even BvS:DOJ was better, and I’ve seen the pointlessly extended cut of that mess. What I’m saying is, you could be a whole heap better than the theatrical cut of JL and still be a terrible, terrible movie. So I have no idea of what to make of the critical reception of the Snyder Cut.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Excuse me, it’s BvS:DoJ. Gosh, learn to title.

  9. Mephane says:

    It’s being used to get people to sign up for HBO Max.

    Well, the good news is that there is no HBO Max here in Germany, which means the movie will arrive on one of the other streaming services, of which there thankfully is a smaller number here. The bad news is that there is often a delay involved in that (not due to translation work, no, I guess companies like HBO just don’t care that much about this market). The really bad news is that there is yet the risk that it ends up on Sky (basically the Epic Games Store of video streaming), or one of the smaller local ones run by traditional TV companies, all of which are utter garbage.

    I guess I might watch it in a year or so when it comes out on bluray.

    1. Mephane says:

      This comment didn’t age well. Apparently the movie is released here, and of course it is on effing Sky. Very well then, I will wait for the bluray.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Oof. Two hours.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      It comes out on Blu Ray in May of this year, tho.

  10. Christopher+Wolf says:

    I am amused that the screen grab at the top of the story looks like the image I feel Snyder most emulated of Whedon, the collected hero in action shot, just like in Age of Ultron.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      You can tell it’s Snyder because the only colours in the shot are black and brown.

      1. Jack of Spades says:

        And yet, there’s rumors at least of a black and white version. Which would be different by having white, I guess.

  11. Ashen says:

    I was likewise surprised about how much I didn’t hate this version of the movie. I mean it’s still not a particularly great movie, it’s bloated and has a really weak villain but at least it’s coherent and watchable. Except for the last 10 minutes anyway.

    I think the whole thing would work way better as a miniseries (sort of like Das Boot, although the theatrical version of that was fine). It’s already cut into parts and it would just be more digestable.

  12. Daimbert says:

    This has been advertised a ton on the channels I watch and so for the streaming service I actually have (because it hooks into my TV through my cable box which for me is about the only way I will do streaming) and I was tempted to watch it. Then again, it’s not going to be easy to find four hours to watch it that I wouldn’t rather spend doing or watching something else.

  13. Lino says:

    Can you see the fight scenes in this version of the movie? Because that’s the main reason why I never watched Justice League. Batman v Superman was the final straw that turned me off DC movies (the only DC movie I like is Suicide Squad).

    1. kincajou says:

      Suicide squad over aquaman or shazam? You sir have bold and unconventional opinions!

      whilst we disagree….I tip my hat to you.

      1. Lino says:

        Haven’t watched Aquaman, and not very interested in Shazam. But, don’t worry – I have even bolder tastes – e.g. I really, REALLY hated The Dark Knight….

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          Shazam was surprisingly solid, dare I say I liked it more than Endgame?

          1. Daimbert says:

            I literally just watched it, and the big thing I noticed about it is that it isn’t as goofy as I was led to believe, and carries a lot more serious points than I expected. My biggest problem with it is that it seems like it’s too long, but on reflection that’s because while it has a lot of things in it that it does set up properly, it seems to try to pay them off at the wrong times, stopping the action to do so and so seeming to be a bit overstuffed. But it was more entertaining than I expected.

            It’s also, I think, the first of the new DC movies that I’ve actually watched.

        2. Kincajou says:

          … You’ll have to forgive me for this but it seems that

          “Some men just want to watch the world burn” :p

          If you’re willing to tell me what makes you hate the dark Knight, I’d love to know. It’s such a different opinion from where I come from (that being: citizen kane it ain’t but it’s possibly one of the more solid superhero movies made in recent times) that I’m intrigued to hear it…

          1. Lino says:

            Normally, I’d write a couple of paragraphs, but due to real life stuff, I’ll keep it brief (BTW, if you have a death wish – take a shot every time I say an unpopular opinion :D ):
            – I found the whole movie extremely boring
            – Batman’s voice was dumb
            – Heath Ledger’s Joker was the worst and least convincing villain I’ve seen in my life (which is a shame, because I loved him in the knights movie; I thought he was a good actor, but this part just wasn’t for him)
            – The strive for realism created a dissonance that made everything feel comical and make no sense
            – Everything felt needlessly contrived and nonsensical
            – The lighting guy had a deep hatred for the human race – the movie was dark AF
            – Too melodramatic, with ambitions of passing off as deep.
            – Some political stuff that left a bad taste in my mouth

            Sorry for not going into details. I’d have to re-watch it to go into specifics, and I absolutely don’t plan on ever doing so.

            Also, sorry if I sound kind of grumpy. I’m going through some stuff right now.

            1. Lars says:

              more points:
              – this lonely, insane clown lifted tons and tons and tons of instable chemicals into high security locations without anyone noticing.
              – Scarecrow was just a little drug dealer. Compared to Arkham Asylum that was so meh.
              – Gotham City turned in the Nolan trilogy from 1905 Metropolis to Chicago to NY, but never looked like Gotham.
              – The Tumbler is a boring tank without batman style.

              The thing I liked about Dark Night was that Jokers motives weren’t money or might. He just wanted Bats to turn evil. And Two Face was a much better cast than TLJ.

              1. Syal says:

                I really liked Scarecrow just being some low-level weirdo in the sequel. His organization got wrecked in the first movie and he was already a lackey, seems appropriate he’d just keep making do with the stuff he could salvage.

            2. kincajou says:

              Hey no worries about sounding grumpy (you don’t) and for being concise, after all you’re only doing me a favour!

              Those are all interesting points, some i think i fully agree with some less so, some i can see but i feel were less important for me than they were for you. :)

              Thank you for sharing, it was an good insight.

              If you’re up for one last question… if you had to show somemone one “superhero” film as your favourite (or least bad, for all i know you may not pe a superhero film person :P ), which one would it be? (feel free to read this as: “would you mind sharing with me a superhero film that you like? i’ll add it to my watchlist! “)

              1. Lino says:

                I doubt my answers will surprise you much. Apart from a few peculiarities, I’m pretty omnivorous.

                E.g., I generally really like the Marvel movies. I’ve watched and love all Phase One films (including Hulk). The only ones I haven’t watched are Captain Marvel, and Ant Man and the Wasp.

                The ones I liked the most were Dr. Strange, Ragnarok, and the second Guardians movie. Though, to be fair I feel kind of burned out after Endgame (which I also loved). Haven’t watched any Marvel movies since, and I think I’ll keep it that way.

                On the darker side of superhero movies, the only one I really liked was The Boys. At the time, I also remember liking Watchmen. On that note, even though it’s not exactly dark, I recently rewatched The League or Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I had a really good time with it.

                1. kincajou says:

                  Damn! Unfortunately i’ve alread had my fill on marvel movies too! :P i won’t be going back for a while i don’t think, maybe for dr strange 2? I don’t know i’ll have to see… to be fair at this stage i might watch any old tripe provided they let me in a cinema! I miss those evenings out so much…

                  For the “darker” ones i’ve seen al those already, sort of.
                  the boys i dropped halfway through season 1, i wasn’t getting along with its style. Watchmen and the League i enjoyed but i only ever saw the both of them when they were in cinemas so you can imagine that my tastes may have been a wee bit different back then, they were fun and got me reading the source material (sort of, the league’s comic never attracted me but boy was it ever an excuse to hit the classics… that film is the reason i ever read the invisible man!) but i don’t think i’m that keen to go back. (especially on the league)

                  Thank you for your insights, it’s been a pleasure

                  1. Lino says:

                    No problem! Thank you for indulging me :)

                2. Chad+Miller says:

                  Having also gotten superhero fatigue after Endgame, I don’t think you’re missing much by not watching the later stuff. Captain Marvel was like 2/3 of a good movie, and I can’t even remember what happened in Ant-Man and the Wasp despite seeing it like a month ago. The only post-Endgame Marvel thing I’ve really liked is WandaVision, though I am interested to see what they do with the Falcon/Winter Soldier show.

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    There’s a lot to blame for the problems with the theatrical cut of Justice League. Yes, a few of those are just clearly part of the original, then the studio decided to make changes to accomodate their complete and utter lack of awareness and then there’s Whedon. Because people say “Oh, you shouldn’t blame Whedon. He only had a few months to do some cuts. Anyone would have done just as bad in his place!” and that is BS. I can absolutely blame Whedon for refusing to compromise in order to make a more coherent film and instead insisting on being as Whedon as possible, knowing for a fact that the higher the tone clash the worse the movie would be for it.

    Like, Snyder’s JL has moments of humor, but they’re all properly suited to the established characters and situations and prove you can add moments of levity while keeping the characters intact. Meanwhile, Whedon’s JL outright changes the characters’ personalities and ruins the pacing just to be able to tell a few jokes. And they’re not even good jokes, which might somewhat excuse it. They’re all groan-inducing, eye-rolling juvenile crap that’s so bad you’d swear Disney put him up to it just to hurt WB’s chances.

    But no, this is sadly what happens when you let Whedon unsupervised. I was a massive fan of Firefly at the start, but the last couple of episodes started showing some serious problems. The last one in particular was really hard to get through and it was all because it was pure, undiluted Whedon. I know people are sad the show ended early, but the way it was going, I’m glad it ended before it got worse.

    Also, I don’t know if you’ve rewatched the first Avengers film lately. I remember it being one of my favorite MCU films, but I saw it again a couple of weeks ago and I found it a slog to get through, which made me realize a lot of the positivity I had towards it came from hype rather than actual quality. Leaving aside the extremely basic nature of the plot and the really-not-that-funny humor once you’re watching this with a cool mind, a lot of the dialogue is outright nonsensical and it feels like many lines were written for the trailer and then the rest of the scene written backwards from it.

    And don’t even get me started on Ultron. He pissed me off from the very start.

    1. Joshua says:

      I definitely think Avengers was good for its time. Before that point, I don’t think anyone had really successfully juggled that many big-name characters in a film like this before (usually things flopped like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), so it was ground-breaking at the time. Other films have since come along and done it better.

      Just like going watching Batman (1989) was jaw-dropping for its time, but I’m not sure it would be considered terribly great now if you were to see a film like it come out in the current era.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        I keep hearing that and I don’t buy it. The Avengers wasn’t some groundbreaking stuff at all. Ensemble movies have existed for as long as there’s been cinema, and typically they don’t have it as easy as The Avengers did, where it had the benefit of having established their characters in previous films, so they didn’t have to waste screentime doing it here. Yet movies like The Lord of the Rings managed to juggle and even larger cast of important larger-than-life characters in the very same film they were introduced, and they did it over a decade before.

        There’s no excuse for the shoddy dialogue except that they didn’t want to waste the effort into something they weren’t sure was going to be commercially viable. But they weren’t sure because studio executives are always entirely clueless about what people like about blockbusters, not because it has never been done before.

    2. Thomas says:

      I’m definitely agreed that Age of Ultron was a step too far on the Whedon scale. At some point every character begins to feel the same, and when even the villain is undercutting himself, a line needed to be drawn.

      And the last Firefly episode was Objects in Space right? I always found that one very hard to love. It definitely pushes the boat too far. I also found the stuff the bounty hunter said to Kaylee in that episode seemed tonally way out of whack for Firefly, especially as it was it seemed we were meant to be enjoying watching the bounty hunter’s presence, even if not sympathising with him. At that point I had no patience for listening to the guy jabber on and on.

      I probably have similar feelings towards that episode as John has having to sit through Kreia dialogue in KOTOR2!

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Yeah, Objects in Space was pretty much tonal whiplash, compared to the rest of the series. The movie continued this to an extent, so maybe it was the way the show was meant to progress? Or maybe Whedon was in a really dark mood after the show got cancelled? /shrug

    3. top6 says:

      What I really don’t get is: why did Whedon do this?

      This was not the Joss Whedon of today, who has few options and might need to take a job like this. This Joss Whedon had just come off directing two of the most successful movies ever made. Ultron was a disappointment for some, I guess, but it was hardly a disaster artistically and it remains the 11th highest grossing movie of all time. He literally could have done any movie he wanted to do with almost any budget.

      Meanwhile, Zac Snyder had directed two full DC movies and was done shooting JL. Say what you will about M o S or B v. S, but they represent a very unique take on superhero movies. It’s not my cup of tea, but Snyder has his own, distinct voice, and a lot of people like it. Then, near the end of finishing the third movie, in which we can now see he was applying his same unique voice, he had to leave due to the most tragic circumstances imaginable.

      What kind of a—hole comes in and just changes the whole movie to something completely different? Why would a director do this to a fellow director, especially a fellow director who was enduring such a horrible and painful loss? I could understand a director with less job security bowing to the whims of the studio executives, who horribly saw this as an “opportunity” to change the movie to something they thought would be more successful. But, again, Joss Whedon COULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING at this time.

      It is simply unfathomable to me that given the chance to make any movie he wanted, he chose to try to change a 4-hour Zak Snyder movie into a 2-hour MCU/Whedon-esque romp. (And to Shamus’s point, he failed even at that.) But given the recent allegations we can answer my earlier question, because we now know exactly what kind of an a–hole does this. But I still don’t understand why.

      1. Retsam says:

        I don’t really see this as an asshole move on Whedon’s part. The movie was not getting released as a four hour movie, it was always going to need to be cut down to size.

        The “Snyder cut” is undoubtedly better, but then it’s kind of an apples to oranges comparison to compare a 4-hour streaming-only, “hardcore fans only need apply” sort of affair with a traditional 2-3 hour movie. It’s quite possible that a “theatrical Snyder cut” would have been narratively just as much of a mess as the actual theatrical cut, and it’s even possible that a “Joss Whedon trying to make a theatrical cut in Snyder’s style” would have been worse, too.

        Sure, Shamus’s lesson of “don’t dramatically shift gears mid-production” is true, but if Whedon had tried to make a “more faithful” version, the lesson very much could have been “one director trying to imitate another directors style when editing their movie doesn’t work”. Maybe the theatrical cut really is the best that could realistically have been done with the unfortunate circumstances of Snyder leaving the project when he did.

        I’m just not sure what you’re expecting Whedon to do? Refuse to work on it, due to some nebulous concerns over the sanctity of the original directors work, and get them to hire another director who still isn’t Zack Synder who might do an even worse job than Whedon?

        1. Benjamin S says:

          I would expect Joss Whedon to not take the job. He didn’t need it and could have made any movie he wanted. Why choose to change someone else’s movie? It is honestly just disrespectful to me.

          If for some strange reason he had to make it, I just feel like the right thing to do would be to try to follow through on Snyder’s vision as best as possible (with the necessary cuts for time and reshoots).

          1. Retsam says:

            Right, so “nebulous concerns over the sanctity of the original directors work” it is, then? Like, yes, the original comment claimed it was disrespectful, I just don’t understand why.

            Directors leaving projects and other directors picking up their work seems like a completely normal thing that happens in the industry. And, yes, this often means that the resulting film has a very different tone than the original.

            But, except for this one case, I’ve never seen anyone suggest that the director who came in was “being disrespectful”, or an expectation that they’d “preserve the original vision”.

            For example, sure I wish we could have gotten the Edgar Wright-directed version of Ant-Man, and yes, it would have been different and potentially better than the actual Ant-Man that we got… (BRB, gonna go try to get #ReleaseTheWrightCut trending on Twitter) But I’ve never seen anyone suggest that Payton Reed “disrespected” Edgar Wright by coming in and taking over the project when he left.

            Do you apply this same level of outrage to any director who comes and finishes another directors work? If yes, okay, I guess we just have fundamental different views on the sanctity of “the art”. If no, then it’s likely that’s not the real issue here, and instead it’s a combination of disagreement over the nature of the changes that were made, and disdain for Whedon in general, either long-held or in light of recent events.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Well, in the last few years Whedon has been the sufferer of some backlash due to the stuff in his personal life that you allude to. It wasn’t as public back then, but maybe he saw the writing on the wall and figured he should take any job coming his way before things got worse for him. Granted, this is pure speculation from my part, and the simpler alternative is that he simply took the chance to work with characters he’s loved his whole life, even if it was just a patchwork, without even considering what this would mean for the art,

        1. top6 says:

          That makes sense. Maybe he also thought if he pulled it off he could now make any DC movie he wanted. (But he could have done that anyway.)

          It’s also possible (probable?) that they just offered him more money than he could get anywhere else, and if he saw the writing on the wall (as you say) he probably thought he needed a big payday.

  15. RamblePak64 says:

    I just watched the RedLetterMedia video on this yesterday, so it’s interesting to see it referenced twice now within my realm of subscriptions and bookmarks.

    I’ve always been more forgiving of Snyder than others, but not enough to have faith in a “Snyder Cut”. I know people absolutely hate Sucker Punch, but what Sucker Punch taught me about Snyder is that he wants to deal in interesting, big ideas in creative ways, but holy cow does he need a real writer. I don’t think anyone noticed with 300 and Watchmen because they were drawing pretty heavily from the comic dialogue, but once you hit Sucker Punch it becomes clear that he doesn’t know how to do dialogue or characters. Nonetheless, as much of a mess as it is, it’s at least an honest effort to do and be something.

    Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman, however, paired him with the wrong screen writer or writers. David S. Goyer worked well with Christopher Nolan because Nolan himself is a more disciplined creative mind to put his ideas together. Additionally, I’m still suspicious if Batman vs. Superman was always Batman vs. Superman, but I’ve read enough interviews with Zack to understand that he doesn’t have much love for the greater DC and Marvel history. So, while replacing Bruce Wayne with Lex Luthor in the whole “Gods vs Man” shtick would have made for a better movie (and it’s not like Lex hasn’t built a super suit himself), Zack was… well, he was very Zack, seeing Jesse Eisenberg and thinking “Hey, wouldn’t it be crazy if we just completely did Lex Luthor differently?”

    I’ve not seen Justice League itself. I’ve only seen some portions of it, and what I have seen has been near unwatchable. I must confess, however, that the Snyder Cut has revealed a lot to audiences about how different a cut of the film can become. There’s so many other cuts I would love to see, such as the earlier cut of Rogue One with an allegedly “unlikeable” Jyn Erso, or the original cut of The Fantastic Four. It’s just a shame that we’re probably not going to see those.

    I do not have HBO Max, so no clue if I’ll ever be able to see this. Don’t know if I care enough to. Still, it’s fascinating, nonetheless.

    1. Geebs says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen that Rogue One trailer before, but I’m not convinced that two hours of bratty Jynn Erso would have been tolerable. “This is a Rebellion isn’t it? I rebel”? I’d have fired the person who wrote that on the spot.

  16. ContribuTor says:

    (Sorry if this is a dupe – I’m trying to post and repeatedly being told “duplicate comment detected” even though it’s never posted).

    In short: Don’t try to pivot to a more appealing audience in the middle of a story. It won’t work.

    If you mean “It won’t work ARTISTICALLY,” I’m 100% with you.

    There’s actually a really interesting thread in Neil Stephenson’s REAMDE about a video game that changes creative leads mid-stream. One is a Tolkein-esque lore nerd, the other is a “create a badass fantasy epic!” prolific pulp writer. They get in a major tiff when the pulp writer starts adding random apostrophe’s into names because it looks cool, and the Tolkein nerd demands to know what letters where there before they got replaced by the apostrophe. Kind of a microcosm for different writers bringing different perspectives…

    However, if you mean “it won’t work COMMERCIALLY,” then I think you’ve cited a wonderful counterexample in Mass Effect. (I’d also cite Fallout here). A game with interesting ideas that’s beloved by a small group of adherents becomes a tonal mishmash of retread power fantasy elements that kill what was interesting about it, and it becomes a massively successful franchise.

    I don’t LIKE the fact that stomping on genuinely original IP to force it into a more popular package that it doesn’t fit in tends to be commercially successful. But it seems to be the case a lot of the time. I think the Snyder cut is the exception, not the rule, sadly.

    1. Vinsomer says:

      A game with interesting ideas that’s beloved by a small group of adherents becomes a tonal mishmash of retread power fantasy elements that kill what was interesting about it, and it becomes a massively successful franchise.

      I know this is obviously a popular opinion here, but I think this is a genuinely unfair way to characterize the Mass Effect fanbase, as well as pretty unfair to the later games.

  17. Joshua says:

    Like Ramblepak64 right above me, I also came to this article after watching the Red Letter Media review of the film. One thing they said stuck out to me (I haven’t seen either version btw): Snyder seems to have no interest in normal people in his film, and they brought up the fact that Whedon inserted a (apparently really bad) plot point about a Russian family being in the area just to have some normal people involved. Instead, and I’ve heard this from other sources, Snyder tends to have a fascination with the Übermensch, which is I think why I have tended to dislike his films (the three I’ve seen, anyway).

    300 is all about the Spartans being the ultimate badasses, but the opening of the film and subsequent events left me disliking them so much that it really became an Evil vs. Evil story. Shamus has posted about how Snyder was better for Watchmen, but I think I disagree. Watchmen was tainted for me because Snyder seemed to hold too much fascination with the superheroes and portrays them at times as rather ultimate badass (again) such as Rorschach’s beatdown of the inmates in prison or Nightowl and Silk Spectre getting their groove back by brutally beating a bunch of thugs to death. This kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I’ve heard (someone who’s read the comic can let me know if I’m wrong) that the intent of the original writer was that they were not supposed to be sympathetic, that you really were supposed to come away with distrusting all of the “heroes” and realize how bad they would be for the world. Shamus himself says that’s the message, but I don’t think the framing of the film fully supports that 100% because Snyder wasn’t fully on board (sometimes he is, sometimes not).

    The only movie of his that I’ve seen and liked was the remake of The Dawn of the Dead, which didn’t seem to have these same tendencies, or at least not as strongly. Granted, it’s been nearly 20 years, so maybe I’m misremembering.

    1. Retsam says:

      Yeah, I think this “Synder doesn’t care about average people” bit is why Man of Steel is generally considered such a bad Superman movie. Superman may be the quintessential and literal Übermensch, but his whole thing is that he cares about the average person, so to have it directed by someone who doesn’t was an incredible tonal mismatch, regardless of details like the brightness of the costume or not.

    2. kincajou says:

      Having read the watchmen comic… i’ll probably voice what’s a relatively unpopular opinion. The snyder adaptation does some things vastly better than the comic book (namely, imo the “twist” is more coherent)

      I think you are right about Snyder’s appreciation of the “hero” as a greek statue, it’s certainly what he does with watchmen to a lot of the characters and makes them “badass”. Worth noting as well, in support of our analysis that he does eliminate a lot of the more human stories in the comic book to focus on his hero-gods (wether this due to the transition between different media or a specific choice from snyder… i’ll leave as an exercise for the reader).

      About the charachetrs in watchmen, as someone who hasn’t read around the book i can only say what i perceived and… i don’t think they were supposed to be unlikable. They are all deeply messed up people in their own ways (in the same ways that the greek god were highly messed up humans), i don’t necessarily consider them likeable but i don’t perceive them as totally unlikeable either…. if anything that’s something that i feel Snyder did relatively well, spending time on showing quite how broken everyone involved really is.

      but in the end that’s only my take

      1. RamblePak64 says:

        I’ll agree that the film made some adjustments from the comic that worked better. The twist is one, and it made more sense to saw the guy’s arms off than to slit his throat and… uh, just… let him continue being in the way. It was gruesome, but given the original comic context it made more sense.

        The violent beat down where bones burst through flesh? That was totally indulgent and unnecessary and far more than the comic offered. So for me it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

        As for the characters, it’s… tough. When I say “I like the Comedian”, I don’t like him as a person. In fact, he’s a terrible person. But that’s also the point, and leans into his own point. It’s why it’s all a joke: dress up in tights and suddenly you’re celebrated for what is essentially assault. You can be a villain masquerading as a hero. I don’t like him so much as what he represents in the greater work of the narrative and its themes.

        But then you have characters like Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II, whom I think were meant to be sympathetic despite being flawed people. I think it’s fine to like them.

        What caught the author off guard was how big a fan favorite Rorschach had become. Despite his moments of hypocrisy and extremism, a lot of readers absolutely loved him as a character. There was a failure to acknowledge the fact that Rorschach’s world view was juvenile, his mental maturity stunted to a degree. Alan Moore perhaps gave the guy too many memorable lines that just sounded great to read.

        In hindsight, it’s interesting to me that the book is filled with heavily flawed characters, and yet, unlike a lot of modern Western television that is drowning in massively flawed and selfish protagonists, I like nearly every character in Watchmen in some way. Perhaps it’s because, even when I disagree with their sense of morality or philosophy, I can recognize the truth in their perspective and world view. Most flawed and rotten characters in modern television come off as comparatively myopic and stubborn. When you realize that something was too evil a concept for even the Comedian to handle, when things were getting so out of hand that he could only weep and exclaim “It’s all a joke…”, you gain a little bit of sympathy for him. The joke was taken too far.

        Man, I’m gonna crave a re-read or rewatch now.

        1. The+Puzzler says:

          One thing that makes the characters more likeable in the source material is that they feel like underdogs. If they do something brutally violent to a criminal, it’s understandable, because they’re outnumbered by guys who are bigger and stronger than they are.

          The Snyder version gives them (unexplained) superhuman strength. This changes the mood. The heroes look like sadists, using groin attacks or broken glass or boiling fat just for fun. The bad guys (none of whom have superhuman strength) look dumb for even trying.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          …unlike a lot of modern Western television that is drowning in massively flawed and selfish protagonists, I like nearly every character in Watchmen in some way. Perhaps it’s because, even when I disagree with their sense of morality or philosophy, I can recognize the truth in their perspective and world view. Most flawed and rotten characters in modern television come off as comparatively myopic and stubborn.

          Alternatively, a lot of heros and protagonists are myopic and stubborn…or worse! – and yet they’re still presented as the good guys. ‘Flaws’, according to a lot of media, are for losers. The good guys are just unquestionably right.

          To me part of the greatness of Watchmen (the book) was watching people struggle with the complexity of the world and their limits. It’s the superhero meeting where they meet up to admit that their vigilante action isn’t actually making a a great impact on crime. It’s Rorsharch ‘investigating’ by going to bars and randomly breaking people’s fingers, not even questioning how or why that might be a bad way to get information*. Nite Owl just…giving up and retiring.

          *I can share Moore’s surprise at Rorsharch’s popularity. The character’s very name is a reference to a psychological test in which the client sees what they want…or what they psychologist is leading them to.
          It’s perfectly clear in the book that this guy is deeply unhappy, horribly flawed and something of a disaster for those around him.
          But hey, that’s people for you.

        3. eldomtom2 says:

          What caught the author off guard was how big a fan favorite Rorschach had become. Despite his moments of hypocrisy and extremism, a lot of readers absolutely loved him as a character. There was a failure to acknowledge the fact that Rorschach’s world view was juvenile, his mental maturity stunted to a degree. Alan Moore perhaps gave the guy too many memorable lines that just sounded great to read.

          I think a key part of Rorschach’s popularity is that he’s the only one who doesn’t go along with the mass murder of millions for the sake of the “greater good”.

          1. Syal says:

            I was going to say the opposite; Rorschach is popular because he’s the main antagonist before the villain’s reveal. He’s the only member of the group with a central philosophy, and he’s the driving force behind most of the story; the characters go along with him while also trying to rebut him. And then the villain is revealed and he gets to join the good guys for the showdown. He’s popular for the same reason Loki was.

          2. Chris says:

            I think Rorschach was popular because he was one guy with absolute morality in a world where most people have given up on that. I think part of the appeal of superheroes is that they refuse to compromise, or refuse to let people die and try to save everyone. Or batman who refuses to kill people, even those that most people would kill. He was a black and white character in a world of grey.

  18. SpammyV says:

    While I haven’t watched any new release movie in five years so any complaint about how it looks doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t have been swayed anyway, the fact that this movie is doubling down on Man of Steel’s overly brown and gray detail-for-detail’s-sake look further kills any interest I have.

  19. Grimwear says:

    I haven’t watched the Snyder cut. I’m not sure I will. I haven’t really liked any of the DCEU films. I watched the extended version of BvS, which people said was the “better” version but found it long and arduous. I’m not sure I can handle 4 hours of something else. Maybe if I’m really bored. I did just finish watching The Expanse so have nothing else at the moment.

    I will say that for some reason reading this made me really want there to be more National Treasure movies. I miss historical treasure hunts.

  20. Alberek says:

    I wouldn’t say that Snyder make a good ADAPTATION of Watchmen… it misses the mark on the importance of many characters and how they are shown in the movie.
    You can’t just use the “it’s a satire card” and expect you work to be interpreted as such.

  21. Khazidhea says:

    I’m pretty much on the same page as you Shamus, good movie, I’m glad it’s out there for those who are fans and I enjoyed my watchthrough, but can’t see myself watching it again.

    It takes the entire premise of super-beings and says, “Actually, having nearly-indestructible godlings running around would be horrible for the world, because they would still be people and People Are Awful.”

    No shade on Cyborg – he’s really good in this version – but there’s a line in the Snyder cut that had me thinking down these lines. When the dad was explaining his powers, essentially he has limitless power over electronics: money, nukes, you name it.

    I was thinking that’d be bad enough to give this level of power to anyone (well it’s the Superman problem really). But even if you had someone who is perfect in all ways but one, if they had one slight view outside the norm, not a full understanding of an issue, or any prejudice against a people group then they could really cause havoc/make life unlivable with very few ways to resist or prevent it. And that’s best case scenario, here it’s given to a young man going through a tough time, with no strong connections to anyone, dealing with severe changes to his body. Luckily this is a comic book movie and his innate goodness wins out, otherwise even the best of people can be destructive when they hit rock bottom.

  22. Leviathan902 says:

    Like most others here, I was 100% anti-Snyder-Verse and thought MoS and BvS were train wrecks in literal slow-motion that had no understanding of the characters they were trying to portray and failed to land on the themes they WERE trying to portray. I also did not much like Whedon’s JL as not only was the movie terribly ugly in the reshoots they did, but all the characters sounded the same and the Flash was made out to be a bumbling dork. Then there was, of course, the massive tonal whiplash throughout.

    So this was a case where I didn’t like anything anyone did and just wanted the whole chapter closed and moved on from. I certainly didn’t want to revisit it with a Snydercut and I certainly didn’t want WB to feed the trolls. From a DC fan standpoint, a Snyder Cut is a no-win scenario for me. If they release it, and it’s good or even just better than the Whedon version (which it almost had to be better), then the Trolls just go on demanding a reinstatement of the Snyder-verse like ZS’s JL somehow redeems the shitty previous 2 movies (it does not). If it’s worse than Whedon’s, then we just get a terrible retread of a terrible movie.

    Lo and behold, it’s better than anticipated, now the trolls are going on demanding a return of the Snyder-verse, acting like ZS JL redeems the entire enterprise. I got into a…let’s call it a discussion…just yesterday about it, and a group of Snyder-verse fans were honestly, with a straight face, making the argument that the Snyder-verse was not a failure, the movies were actually very successful and people love them, and my nose started bleeding as I tried to picture which world in the multi-verse they were from.

    As for the film itself, it’s…fine. In parts. It’s WAAAY too long, and indulges some of Snyder’s worst tendencies (pointless slo-mo), the pacing is awful, and I still wish actual Superman was actually in this movie. BUT THAT BEING SAID, Chapters 3-5 are actually quite good, because they focus on the characters themselves. We actually get to know the Flash and Cyborg in this version. We get to see the League interact with each other, and it’s great when they do! They’re all distinct characters with distinct voices and they’re fun to watch together. The tone is surprisingly lighter than expected without clashing with the rest of the film. And the Flash isn’t a bumbling, cowardly fool in this version. He actually gets several impactful hero moments instead of just 1 where pushes a truck with a couple people in it.

    So yeah, it’s got some good character work and good connective tissue that makes the plot work better. It’s enjoyable as an event mini-series, which is how watched it over 3 nights, but it’s certainly not an objectively good movie and it certainly doesn’t redeem the DCEU as a whole by it’s existence as being not terrible.

    1. Retsam says:

      Lo and behold, it’s better than anticipated, now the trolls are going on demanding a return of the Snyder-verse, acting like ZS JL redeems the entire enterprise. I got into a…let’s call it a discussion…just yesterday about it, and a group of Snyder-verse fans were honestly, with a straight face, making the argument that the Snyder-verse was not a failure, the movies were actually very successful and people love them, and my nose started bleeding as I tried to picture which world in the multi-verse they were from.

      I do think there was an audience that loved most of these movies. Honestly, I kind of feel like the difference between MCU and the Snyder-verse is that the MCU films were good enough to appeal to people who really didn’t care for comic books, and the Snyder-verse films, except Wonder Woman, largely only managed to hold the interest of the more “hardcore” elements of the fandom.

      That’s not to say that all the hardcore DC fans loved them, either, of course. In fact, I’m sure the most passionate critics of the films are some of the “hardcore” comic fans… but I also feel like, in general, people who generally read comic books may have different standards/expectations for comic book stories. I’m not really a comic book fan, so I could be wrong, but I kind of think it’s pretty well accepted that most comic book plots don’t really hold up well if you try to judge them by traditional “rules of storytelling”, but that’s not really what the appeal of comic books is, so the fans don’t really care.

      Like, to reference the Half-in-the-Bag review, they talked about how the “Superman comes back evil” plot is the most unnecessary point in the whole film and really isn’t good from a “traditional rules of storytelling” perspective… but it’s also Mike Stoklasa’s favorite bit of the movie, IIRC. It’s a very “comic book” sort of plot point, and it’s appealing to some fans for that reason.

      Again, I’m not going to assert that all fans are going to agree that these movies work even on those levels. But I can certainly see that some fans do think that. And, yes, they’re going to see the Snyder cut as somewhat of a vindication of that position. (“They’re going to be insufferable” as the review puts it) But I definitely wouldn’t call them “trolls” because they liked movies that you don’t.

      1. Jamey says:

        ^^^ Right here is one Snyder-verse fan. Couple of my friends as well, but it’s definitely mixed. While I _absolutely_ believe there is a lot of room for improvement, I legitimately like MoS, BvS, and JL. Joss-JL being the weakest of the three but I still enjoyed it. Snyder-JL is (now) my favorite.

        The biggest problem with the DCEU has nothing to do with Snyder or Joss though: It’s the bean-counters. They wanted to capitalize on the success of the MCU and then _completely ignored how they did it_. The MCU started with characters maybe a little less familiar than the big names, and made them focal points of the story, and they spent _years_ building towards it.

        If they’d been smart, they could have started with a Cyborg movie (he’s in many ways the focal point of JL). Then a Wonder Woman movie, and a Flash movie in addition to Man of Steel. _Then_ Batman v Superman comes in, and _then_ JL, which at this point wouldn’t need to be 4 hours long, since the 4 hour runtime was to support all the missing movies in the franchise because WB execs were impatient.

        1. Tom says:

          They really should have a whole chapter in accounting and management textbooks for situations like this, dedicated into drilling into people’s heads that creative works, and all components thereof, by their very nature, are NOT FUNGIBLE. You can’t just shovel them into a big ol’ heap and then sell ’em by weight like grain or coal. If you suddenly lose the lead creative voice on your project, for example, you really can’t just say to your PA “go buy a new one” like a spare tyre.

      2. Leviathan902 says:

        I apologize for not making this clear originally, but when I’m referring to “Trolls” I’m not talking about people who like the movies I don’t. I’m referring to the more toxic elements of the #SnyderCut fandom (not the entire thing) that insisted on harassing and bulling anyone who was not in the pro-snyder camp, or was part of a DC movie that wasn’t part of the Snyder-verse. That’s all.

    2. Steve C says:

      Leviathan902 says: A whole bunch of stuff I 100% agree with.

      1. Leviathan902 says:

        Yeah Buddy!

  23. Prismatic says:

    In short: Don’t try to pivot to a more appealing audience in the middle of a story. It won’t work. You’ll ruin the story you started with, and that newer, bigger, more attractive audience isn’t going to want your ruined story, even if it was ruined in a style they find appealing.

    But isn’t this exactly what happened with Borderlands 1, saving the franchise? They were about to make a bland gritty grey-brown shooter like everything else on the market at the time, only to give it a unique tone and art style in the eleventh hour. The resulting game was uneven but promising and ended up significantly improved by its sequels.

    Another time this worked out great was Saints’ Row. The first one was a shameless GTA clone with no identity of its own, the second one amped the silliness up a thousand-fold and proved to be a far better and more memorable game.

    You’re probably right in most cases, though. I’d add to your statement that pivoting to a different audience won’t work UNLESS you’re trying to establish your own identity instead of parroting the identity of something else. Then the work lives or dies on its own merits.

    The earlier Snyder DC films weren’t good, but they were distinctive- it was trying to be more like Marvel that ruined both Justice League and Suicide Squad.

    1. Erik says:

      I think movies and games are not comparable on this.

      Movies (at least, movies that are any good) are basically all story, with a skin of special effects. Games, and especially open-world games like BL and SR, are *maybe* 1-2% story – 95+% of the player’s time is spent in gameplay, so almost all the dev time goes to that and asset building. Bad story? Gets some grief from fans, but rarely stops a franchise. Bad gameplay? May as well shutter the studio – this will never earn back a profit.

      You can reskin a story for a game MUCH more easily than changing story in a movie.

      1. Tom says:

        I disagree. You can only easily reskin a story for a game where the story and gameplay were largely divorced from each other in the first place; in my experience, such games tend to be bland and mediocre at best, precisely because you can just feel the story-gameplay disconnect whilst playing them. In the better kind of game (admittedly always somewhat rare, and seemingly becoming ever more so), games where you don’t so much set out to make a game to be played as a whole coherent world to escape into for a while (just like writing a good movie!), story and gameplay are intimately intertwined and drive each other.

        Donkey Kong is an example of a game that was relatively easy to reskin – I gather it was originally conceived as a licensed Popeye game, where he rescues Olive Oyl from Bluto. As long as they could come up with a bad buy who was physically huge and lumbered destructively around the screen compared to the other two more scrawny characters, they could reskin it easily, no problem. Yes, it may be a famous classic game now, an industry milestone up there with Pac Man, but go back and play it and it gets bland remarkably fast compared to Pac Man, because even in games as simple as those, the story/characterisation (such as it is) is much more intertwined with the gameplay in PacMan than in Donkey Kong – each of the four ghosts in Pac Man has a name and a distinct “personality” represented by its behaviour pattern, and getting to “know” the different ghosts and how they interact with their world is how you get good at evading them and playing the game well.

        A game like Psychonauts, on the other hand, would be utterly impossible to reskin. Every single character’s personality and motivations, and the overarching story surrounding them all, is built specifically on their various unique abilities in terms of gameplay, and the gameplay and level mechanics are conversely derived intimately from the character’s thoughts and pasts, and the events of the overarching story.

        Sandbox games have always tended to bore me rigid in short order, but I never get tired of replaying games like Psychonauts.

  24. Warclam says:

    Yeah, tonal shifting partway through is pretty crappy. Really makes you wonder why it’s done in so many series. Especially youth fiction, with the bone-headed excuse that its “growing up with the fans.”

  25. James says:

    My main takeaway after seeing the Snyder cut:
    1. Whedon’s additions weren’t good (the new scenes he added on)
    2. Whedon’s subtractions weren’t good (Cyborg specifically becomes an incoherent character in his version).
    3. The underlying movie (things shot by Snyder) is still very lackluster.
    4. The non-fight scene ‘additions’ Snyder has made to the movie (indie rock music video feature Aquaman; creepy superspeed non-consensual hair caressing; overtly sad rainstorm Lois coffee run; etc) seem to just add to the mood as opposed to the story.

    The modus operandi seems to be visual experience.

    Character development is in service of fights, as opposed to fights in service of character development. Since he went with the former path, the character developments don’t hold up under scrutiny (Eg. Batman fights Superman because chance of evil; yet evil Joker not killed by Batman because [blank reason]?).

    Just like how in BvS Superman doesn’t really try to deescalate the fight with Batman, the Justice League in this movie purposefully don’t talk to a disoriented Superman just so they can have a fight scene (I had hoped it was bad just because of Whedon, but no it is essentially the same scene in Snyder’s version. The Justice League still just mutter under their breath or talk to each other, instead of talking to Superman, before the fighting begins).

    The movie still doesn’t know what to do with the Flash and Superman, who’s powers are kind of ‘broken’ in this serious world that Snyder has created. It is interesting the different ways that both movie versions try to sideline the Flash so that his superspeed doesn’t just render all fights over before they begin.

    All in all, it continues with Snyder movies having cool things to see on the screen but not much else beyond that.

    1. Tom says:

      Well, “fight Superman but don’t kill Joker” is explained easily enough: Bruce Wayne is insane, making Batman Lawful Stupid.

      Batman’s motivations and methods are literally infantile, irrationally derived from untreated childhood trauma, and also entirely lacking in self-awareness in certain incarnations (particularly noticeable in the Nolan films). They lead him to fight crime completely ineffectually, one-criminal-at-a-time, whilst completely ignoring the prevailing socio-economic conditions that make people mad, bitter, angry and desperate through stress, fear, poverty and deprivation – conditions he himself perpetuates, as a capitalist business magnate in his day job – guaranteeing an endless supply of replacement criminals for all the ones he beats up in alleyways, whilst dogmatically self-imposing an arbitrary rule of “don’t kill anyone.” (not necessarily a bad rule; what’s bad is that, at least in all the adaptations I’ve seen, he never really seems to make the slightest effort to examine all the implications of such a rule or his reasons for having it).

      Batman is insane; maybe even as insane as the Joker, he just has different symptoms.

  26. The Snyder Cut was good enough that I was willing to sit through all 4 hours of it with Adam and didn’t feel that it dragged on too much. (It was long, but it didn’t DRAG any worse than the Avengers infinity war movies did). I have yet to get up the gumption to sit through the original movie.

  27. Tom says:

    My immediate take-away from Shamus’ argument here is that all they had to do to avert this disaster was give Snyder “Superman: Red Son” to direct instead, and it would have played to all his strengths. It’s extremely similar in tone and underlying philosophical thesis to Watchmen.

    My second realisation upon reading the details is that the movie industry has apparently learned LITERALLY NOTHING from its mistakes about adapting popular science-fiction franchises since at least 1984, because this whole mess just feels exactly like what happened to David Lynch’s Dune, all over again, right down to the four hours of raw footage that contains the elements of a much better film that nobody wants to pay to edit up because the hacked-up mess they released already bombed.

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