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Editorials

The Snyder Cut Saga

November 25, 2019
Justice League - Snyder Cut

On November 17th 2017, Justice League arrived in cinemas everywhere. After several missteps, the DCEU was finally going to rival the MCU. Then people saw it.

Reviews were mixed, with the film currently sitting at a 6.4 on IMDb. After director Zack Snyder stepped down due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon finished the film. Despite reassurances that the film would not be affected, the result was a frankenstein of a film. Tonal shifts, deleted scenes, bad CGI and the infamous moustache removal. The final product did not live up to the hype. But then whispers of another cut began to emerge- The Snyder Cut

So what’s so special about it?

Snyder’s cut of the film included the villain Darkseid, amongst other characters that were cut from the theatrical release (WB, 2017)

Snyder’s original plan for the film was part of a five long film arc. Starting with “Man of Steel”. However he was forced to edit much of part 2 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, most of this was eventually restored in the “Ultimate Cut”. Parts 3, 4 and 5 would have been a Justice League trilogy (with standalone movies for each character appearing in between). His cut of the film would have felt much more like part of that universe, with the “Knightmare” scene becoming a key plot point, and the heroes actively working to stop it.

Regarding the heroes, Ray Fisher’s Cyborg was supposed to be a much bigger role. Jason Momoa’s version of Aquaman was largely created by him and Snyder, and the original film was supposed to introduce a lot of the mythology surrounding him before his own film. Snyder frequently posts images and teases from his version on his Vero and Twitter accounts.

Why is this such a big deal?

The Snyder Cut reportedly featured Cyborg in a much bigger role, exploring his origin and relationship to the Mother Boxes featured in the film (Snyder, Vero, 2019)

The theatrical cut of Justice League disappointed almost everyone. In an effort to please everyone, they pleased no one. While Snyder’s films often get mixed reviews, he does have a dedicated fanbase, as do DC comics and their heroes.

The Release the Snyder Cut movement started shortly after the film was released, and has gained a massive following. Several big names in the business have given their support, including Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot. Even Ben Affleck has joined the chorus, despite no longer being Batman.

The Snyder Cut movement has been all over the internet since it began, especially anything related to DC films and although they have developed a reputation for being entitled and mean, that isn’t always true. For San Diego Comic Con 2019, the movement set up a crowdfunding page and bought billboards around the convention center. The additional funds went to a suicide prevention charity, in honour of Zack Snyder’s daughter and the reason he stepped away from the project.

Is it finished?

The fan movement bought ad space around the area for SDCC 2019, despite WB not actually attending (Twitter, 2019)

This one is a little trickier, as there are a lot of mixed reports. Snyder himself claims that “it’s done“. Reports say that principal photography was completed, with some VFX work still in progress, which is more likely. However several people, like Jason Momoa, have seen it, so it is at least viewable, albeit likely with several effects shots not finished.

The problem is whether the film is in a suitable state. Unfinished edits are nothing new, as test screenings often have unfinished VFX or audio. If the cut were to be released, it could potentially look something like the “alternate universe” cut of Into the Spider-Verse, with unfinished scenes and storyboards with sound slotted in. The problem with this is how much unfinished footage would be added. Of course, it is entirely possible that WB or Snyder could spend the extra time and money to complete it. But is it worth it?

Is the Snyder Cut good?

That can’t really be answered until we see it. Of course, all art is subjective. Snyder’s films, especially Batman V Superman, are rather divisive. The Snyder Cut would likely be similar in tone to that film, as well as picking up plot threads. However, Directors Cut’s are often seen as improvements over the theatrical releases. Snyder himself has several Director’s Cuts, with the aforementioned Ultimate Cut of Batman V Superman adding in 30 minutes of cut material, and his Directors Cut of Watchmen. The Snyder Cut is presumed to be around 214 minutes (about 3 and a half hours) long. So it likely depends on how you feel about his previous film.

Will we ever see it?

Never say never. Director’s Cuts are popular. And although the DCEU has moved away from the original plan, there is still clearly a big demand for this version. All cards seem to be in WB’s hands, and some suspect a release on HBO Max. The 2 year anniversary of Justice League gave the movement a big resurgence, so it seems like they won’t stop until it’s released.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: A History Of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis On The Big Screen

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Editorials

Conflicted Heros Who Do More Harm Than Good

July 9, 2019

Warning – spoilers for Super, Chronicle, The Incredibles and Watchmen.

Brightburn is the story of an alien child who comes to Earth and is adopted by human parents but as he grows he develops incredible powers. Sound familiar? Well, it should as it’s basically the plot for Superman but the difference in new film Brightburn is that while Clark Kent grows up to be the ultimate hero things go a bit sideways with this child. Not surprisingly giving a teenage boy superpowers quickly leads to him abusing those powers and hurting people. Obviously, this is a far more realistic outcome than the saintly Superman and we must, therefore, consider Martha and Jonathan Kent the greatest parents of all time. If we ask ourselves what would we do if we woke up tomorrow with Superman’s powers I think most honest people would come back with an unpleasant answer – so the question must, therefore, be asked, do we actually want superheroes?

Super

Super (thecrimson.com)

Before James Gunn made the upbeat and joyous Guardians of the Galaxy he made Super – a film in which a character in a badly made costume beats people with a wrench and has the catchphrase “Shut up, crime!” This indie gem features a stellar cast from Rainn Wilson to Ellen Page including the amazing Nathan Fillion as a TV Christian superhero called the Holy Avenger who inspires Wilson’s character to become the Crimson Bolt. Not only does it deal with the problems when a vigilante goes after people committing very serious crimes, but also how the line can get a little blurred from serious crime to a misdemeanour to just being rude, and all of these people being hit very hard on the head with a wrench. The behaviour of Wilson’s character is so questionable that at times you find yourself agreeing with Kevin Bacon’s drug dealer villain, who often seems far more reasonable.

Chronicle

Chronicle (rogerebert.com)

Brightburn focuses on a young teen while found-footage superhero film Chronicle is about teenagers a few years older. This time three teenagers fall into a mysterious cavern and develop incredible powers, at first the three teenagers bond over their powers and largely do no harm aside from minor mischief. But it is not long before the loner of the group starts getting carried away with his powers. This teenager, who had few friends and had a history of being bullied before he got his powers, is easily corrupted by his new capabilities and his chance to be a star and maybe get even with a few people. While Chronicle deals with superhuman abilities and over the top fight scenes the fact that only one of three teenagers became a power-crazed killing machine always struck me as the implausible bit. Certainly my memories of other teenagers – and being one myself – would suggest adding superpowers to an already irrational and emotional group would make a bad situation far worse.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles (nme.com)

Do you know what you get when you use superpowers? Collateral damage. Man of Steel showed Metropolis being levelled by Superman and Zod battling it out but a much better film also addresses this issue – The Incredibles. The film is centred on Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl not only two superpowered crimefighters but also a married couple. The pair and all other superheroes are forced into retirement when the government decides that the collateral damage they do simply outweighs the good. Naturally enough, some of them have trouble adjusting to living a normal life and not using their powers. This is especially true of Mr. Incredible who is looking for any opportunity to escape his boring office job and go back to being a hero. A dark issue in the world of superheroes is explored in The Incredibles – why do they become heroes? Is it for justice and to save people or for attention and fame? Does Mr. Incredible just love being a hero? Ultimately I think the film comes down on that yes, he does miss the attention but deep down he wants to help people and finds it impossible to just sit back while people suffer.

Watchmen

Watchmen (nme.com)

When it comes to the downsides of superheroes the ultimate film is Watchmen. Based on what many consider the best graphic novel of all-time Watchmen is essentially the story of what happens to superheroes when they are forced to retire but is also about far more. It examines why someone would choose to risk their life to fight criminals, why some people would cheer them and others be disgusted? Are people with superpowers fundamentally different from “normal” people? Why does putting on a mask make beating people up okay?

If we look at the lineup of Watchmen we have a wide variety of superheroes:

Rorschach – a man who regularly brutally murder criminals and one of the few superheroes who did not retire, only believing in his personal code and not the law.

The Comedian – Superhero with no powers who fought crime for decades but also an attempted rapist and government assassin (it is suggested that it is the Comedian who killed JFK and, in this world, Woodward & Bernstein, the journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal).

Nite-Owl II – restrained and relatively respectable when compared to some of the other Watchmen.

Silk Spectre II – helpful if inappropriately dressed for fighting crime who seemingly only became involved because of pressure from her mother, the original Silk Spectre.

Ozymandias – not only the smartest man in the world but a formidable fighter capable of catching bullets. He might sound like a nice guy but MAJOR SPOILER ALERT Ozymandias kills millions of people in order to save the world.

Dr Manhattan – one-time physicist Jon Osterman became Dr Manhattan, seemingly indestructible and unstoppable and is often said to be a god.

On close inspection, they don’t seem to be a good bunch of people, certainly not heroes. Ozymandias takes the superhero idea of breaking some rules for the greater good to its logical extent while Rorschach is simply appalling. The most interesting case is Dr Manhattan who serves as the film’s Superman, a man so powerful he is no longer human.

So looking through some of the darker superhero films we have a collection of violent, dangerous and sometimes insane individuals who all – at least at some point- thought themselves to be good people. Watchmen takes its title from the expression “What watches the watchmen?”, originally from ancient Roman poetry but applied throughout history to abuses of power by those who are meant to be guardians. Perhaps Lisa Simpson when confronting her own vigilante father put it best “if you’re the police, who will police the police?”

Also Read: Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films in the UK

Editorials

With Great Power Comes An Interesting Film

March 2, 2019

There are many films that show a realistic portrayal of life – people living ordinary lives going to work, raising families, just living and while I would argue that those stories can be incredibly interesting I can’t help but being more immediately drawn to less ordinary portrayals. Boyhood and Logan are both great films but one is about an almost unkillable mutant with a metal skeleton and claws and one about the life of a typical boy. One of those stories is instantly more appealing. But putting superpowers in your film is no guarantee of success and it’s a tricky business balancing a cool superpower with something that doesn’t seem ridiculous.

The very interesting Wolverine (inverse.com)

Most of these characters are going to be based on comic books and I want to say right now – many of these characters are brilliant in comic books but it’s just that not every comic book character will work well in a film.

Green Lantern

One of the biggest comic book superheroes is Green Lantern, seriously, he is a big deal yet the film was a critical and commercial failure. There were many reasons for this but we’re talking about superpowers. In brief, Green Lantern can create physical manifestation of anything he can imagine.

Green Lantern (pinterest.com)

On the surface that’s a remarkable superpower with unlimited potential but really was just a CGI mess – the ability to create anything? It’s just too much, too powerful, for powers to be interesting they have to have limits. One of the brilliant things about Logan was that it showed Wolverine wasn’t always going to come back from anything, his healing powers did have their limits. And it didn’t really explore the fantastical or just plain weird places it could go with such a power. As is demonstrated in scenes of Green Lantern when fights break out is this power really more useful than a gun?

The Superfluous X-Men

Part of the problem is once you’ve got more than a few characters, coming up with interesting powers becomes difficult. There are dozens of mutants in the X-Men films and it has it’s fair share of duds. There is Banshee who can scream in a weird way and also can use this to fly somehow. There’s Angel who has incredibly flimsy-looking insect style wings. There’s Quill who can make short spikes stick out of his body. I could go on.

The very cinematic Magneto (metalarcade.net)

Their powers don’t make a great deal of sense; they’re not useful, they’re not plausible and they certainly aren’t cinematic. I could watch Michael Fassbender using his powers for hours – simple to explain, looks good on film and it’s merits are obvious. That’s a superpower you want in a film. To be a mutant with a bad power feels like the cruellest blow of all – yes mutants are a maligned group in society who live in fear but at least Cyclops can shoot lasers out of his eyes.

Money, money, money

Not all superheroes have superpowers and not only is this not a problem it can make the superhero more interesting. There is a classic get out though – money. A fairly common device is the rich superhero (or indeed supervillain), the two most famous being Batman and Ironman. Apparently, there is nothing that can’t be done with enough money – you want to be stronger, faster, tougher? Buy it and don’t let aerodynamics, ballistics, kinetics or any other killjoy science tell you it doesn’t exist or isn’t possible.

Guess what? This sort of thing is expensive (wdsu.coom)

Obviously, you can achieve a lot with money but surely there are limits and finding a superhero who doesn’t have superpowers or money is hard. Kick-Ass is one of the few examples I can think of and Kick-Ass himself is hardly a successful superhero so it seems if you have no powers you better have some money.

The Man of Too Many Powers

So we come to the apex of ridiculous powers, a character that exceeds virtually all others in their powers making no sense whatsoever and ruining the plot of almost any story they become involved in. I am, of course, talking about Superman.

Superman’s powers are amazing and spectacular and therein lies the problem. Every day Superman fights crime and saves people…well, it’s hardly a challenge for him, is it? Superstrength, flight, x-ray vision, super-speed and there’s more…it must be so boring. When Batman fights a mugger with a gun he might die, with Superman it’s not even really a fight. Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor is a billionaire genius and is the underdog in that fight.

The boring, if impressive, Superman (mic.com)

Graphic novel and film classic Watchmen explored the ridiculousness of Superman further with Dr Manhattan standing in for the Man of Steel. The idea being that someone with so much power would inevitably become distant from the normal people around him and perhaps even stop caring. Dr Manhattan even manages to surpass Superman in powers – he can teleport, make multiple versions of himself, become gigantically big, survive on Mars, see the future and just for fun can literally explode people just by thinking about it. Oh and is essentially indestructible with no convenient kryptonite weakness. The clever twist in Watchmen is that the villain doesn’t attack him physically but psychologically, manipulating him into doing what he wants. Of course, Dr. Manhattan is meant to be ridiculously powerful, Superman just kept acquiring more powers in the comics to try and keep it interesting.

The best Superman film, in my opinion, is Superman II and why is that? It has villains who can stand up to the hero. The vast collection of powers they possess make for excellent fight scenes and that’s Superman’s saving grace – they look amazing. The much maligned Superman Returns has an amazing scene of Superman saving a plane and it is a stunning scene. Just watching Christopher Reeve, Brandon Ruth and Henry Cavill use their powers is worth the cinema ticket.

There are still decades of comic book heroes to go through yet but even so you can’t help but feel the well is running pretty dry on interesting superpowers. Captain Marvel is the next big one to be brought to the silver screen and we’ll have to see how her powers are handled. From the sounds of it she’s going to be another pretty powerful superhero, perhaps the most powerful in Marvel have yet brought to film, so will she be silly or spectacular?