Yes, I watched the Snyder Cut.
Disclaimer: the gritty superhero take is beyond tired and done for me. Make of that what you will.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed it (mostly.) I did not care for the original, particularly because Cyborg and Flash felt tacked onto the main plot and because I didn’t need a horny dude’s take on Themiscyra, especially so soon after Wonder Woman. Nay-sayers, take a look at the costuming “differences” and how often we’re treated to an ass-level view of Diana when it’s not at all necessary. Titillation doesn’t bother me, and I’m the first person to support Diana in a leotard, but the changes were obvious enough to irritate me because they were so flagrant and pointless. I don’t know who made those decisions for the first movie, but dialing it back in this second jaunt was welcome.
First up, what works for me. Restoring Cyborg and Flash as equal players in the League made the story work a lot better, because the other four have had their jaunts already. Ray Fisher brings a lot of quiet anguish to Cyborg, and the montage of his power potential was extremely welcome. It’s comic-book-ass comic bookishness, for the love of it, and it suits his character. I’m eager for the Cyborg movie that we’re now not going to get, unfortunately.
Flash-wise, Ezra Miller is delightful – as Wally. That’s down to studio choice, I suppose. There’s no real reason to use Barry in this movie, considering we’re dealing with an older Batman and Year One Superman so the logic of founding JL members doesn’t really hold. Why not just call him Wally when you’re … writing Wally? A minor quibble, but something irritating that carries over from WB’s zealous refusal to blend T.V. and cinematic universes and their inexplicable need to diverge from previous, coherent characterization.
I was not wild about shirtless Darkseid in the trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Fourth World content in that it didn’t rile my protective, furious love for Kirby’s weird and wonderful creation. Knife Dad is never going to do it for me (they flutter, why?!) but DeSaad is good, Darkseid is appropriately monolithic and I definitely yelled at the screen when I saw Granny at the end. There’s some literalism at play that’s worth an eye-roll or two, but I came in expecting to leave irate and instead left feeling – fine, I guess?
There’s loads more minutiae I can rattle through, but to wrap this with what still irritates me: literal and repeated use of music, slo-mo montages, sweater sniffing, lens flare, Mother Box as the baddie, the first 45 minutes, Lois not going to work?!, the overall darkness and doom, and that bewildering series of stingers.
My final pronouncement: overall, it’s better than the original, and I’d like to see more. But. But.
When Is Something “Done” and When Do We Try Again?
Having not been privy to the studio discussions that went into doing the Snyder Cut at all, I’m operating off of what I’ve seen, heard and how I feel about the final product, which is: it should’ve been another movie.
We’ve been creeping in this re-cut, renew, re-do direction for years with extended editions, re-releases, etc., so the uproar and demand to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut didn’t surprise me. Neither did the misdirected furor, speculation and general toxicity of the engagement in that effort. Fans in groups are a thing to behold these days, and being Forever Online sharpens our ire to a ridiculous level.
Neither did the behind-the-scenes behavior from multiple parties, unfortunately. When I say I’m not surprised, I want to be clear: what Fisher and others went through is inexcusable, exploitative and gross, to say the least. As a consumer, I’m unwilling to accept that behavior as par for the course in producing any kind of entertainment, but I’ve been skeptical of a particular maker’s oeuvre for a long time. The confirmation of that skepticism was unsurprising, if still bitter because of the very real human cost to (finally) uncover the rot.
My preference would be that Snyder started over. There’s enough of a gap that we could just reboot the whole damn thing – with the same people! – and try again. Tacking on good bits doesn’t fix the bad parts, and there’s still a lot of Snyder’s “vision” that I don’t like. This new cut is even more frustrating to watch because there are wild tonal inconsistencies, and what could’ve been is so clear – so, why not try again?
Slicing and dicing art doesn’t sit well with me when there’s not a subversive or cut-up intent behind it. You can’t really “fix” something once it’s out in the collective consciousness. Feel free to disagree, and there’s a lot to unpack when we talk about a piece of art or media as “finished,” but when you release an object into the world it is, for all intents and purposes, done.
It’s true in this case that we have two discrete movies to compare, but for how long? How long before corporate media starts doing this to everything, and the initial flawed form disappears?
We saw a sinister little revamp with Cats, and while I’d never drag that behemoth into a serious discussion about art, it’s alarming that the movie’s initial craft failings and embarrassing release state will be difficult to prove out over time. The end result of that nightmare should be to revisit release schedules and production models to ensure this doesn’t happen again, not to paint over the blight in haste. In ten years that studio will be able to wave its hands and proclaim, “What mistakes?” That’s treacherous ground.
I may be beating a drum in the void, but there’s something to be said about preserving flops so we can learn from them in a more meaningful way beyond the initial uproar. The original cut of Justice League is worth watching (not validating, but watching) because of everything that’s wrong with it. It’s a textbook lesson in how not to make a damn movie, both in the end result and in the production. It happened, and rather than tacking a new, shinier version over the last, we should consider its issues, weigh the consequences and adjust course for the future.
“Adjusting course” in this case would’ve worked better in a discrete second try. In others, maybe not. It depends on the content and cultural impact of each artifact. There’s no hard and fast rule I feel comfortable espousing for myself, much less recommending for anyone else.
As a bonus, because the studio responded in this way and shelled out the cash to re-tread this particular thing, we’ve got backlash. So, yeah. We won’t get the Cyborg movie Fisher and the fans deserve. We won’t get a Flash movie so Miller can explore a coherent origin story. Instead, we get a studio that already makes bewildering decisions with its IP putting the brakes on what could’ve been an expansive moment, and blaming the fan fervor for 100% of that decision.
I don’t lay that responsibility at Snyder’s feet, or at the feet of anyone who made this thing either time in good faith. It just sucks that the DC Universe – a generative, expansive and collaborative well – consistently hits walls when it comes to trans-media interpretations. So it goes, but still. Disappointing all around.
Har har. I’ve been talking to lots of folks and feeling particularly strange in my 35-year-old self lately, and there’s no time like the apocalyptic, self-aware present to take a beat. In some ways it’s a very queer thing to not want to romanticize the past, and I certainly am happier where I’m at now. I’m proud of the work I put out, I’m eager and open to learning, I’m glad I don’t seem to be shedding my goofy, trash-ass sense of humor, and I’m richer for the many cool people who’ve spent some time with me in life thus far.
I was going to go off on some lofty meditation here but since I banged on about the goddamn cultural significance of recutting a superhero movie for ages, I’ll leave you with: if you write, you’re a writer, so calm down.
I’ve gotten paid to write all kinds of crap: snappy wine copy, plucky cow manure passages, corporate tweets. I’ve hustled (and whined about it.) I never thought I would get paid for anything, and in my 20s it felt dismal, heavy and inevitable to my imperious sense of self that I would “languish” without ever having a word out in the world. Well, now I do, and a lot of it’s been silly nonsense. So, what’s the point?
I’m used to being edited, even though it doesn’t always feel great and hey, it may never feel great! I take criticism, I’m open to change and I’m not attached to everything I put out as some vital reflection of my inner being. The comic I’m working on now is so much fun because I get to experience the sheer joy of creating something for the sake of it.
I’ve never felt that before now because I’ve spent so much of my life caught up in the trappings of “being a writer.” I’m excited to see if I can get it out there in the world, sure, but the process is joyous. That’s what matters most to me.
So what wisdom I have is this, babes: get over yourselves, focus on the writing in whatever way makes sense for you, and make your stuff the best it can possibly be. The desire for recognition and validation have to be secondary to what you’re putting out in the world. Art first.