Friday, April 29, 2016

Zack Snyder v Public Record: Dawn of Quotes

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereafter called BvS) is not a good movie. Most of us have either come to terms with this fact, or have begun to forget about the movie entirely. The underperformance of the movie has had several effects, from rumors that Warner Bros. will release the R-rated version of BvS, to the director Seth Grahame-Smith leaving the Flash movie over “creative differences”.

Blame for the movie is being spread around, of course. But the ultimate responsibility, for my money, lays on Zack Snyder. Hundreds of people worked on the movie, but he was the one that made all the creative decisions that made the movie what it was. The thing of it is, it’s not like we didn’t have ample warning.

Let’s look at a Zack Snyder interview with EntertainmentWeekly, from July, 2008. When asked about if he was always a comics fan, he said that he had a subscription to Heavy Metal magazine, but when a friend tried to get him into normal comic books, he said “No one is having sex or killing each other. This isn’t really doing it for me”. When told that grim and gritty could work in the Watchman movie’s favor, Zack said that Batman was cool, and got to go to a Tibetan monastery and be trained by ninjas and also said “Okay? I want to do that. But he doesn’t, like, get raped in prison. That could happen in my movie. If you want to talk about dark, that’s how that would go”.

Is this what Zack Snyder thinks is “grim and gritty”? And the Warner Bros. executives never saw this interview and told themselves that maybe hiring this guy to do their DC Comics movies may not have been the brightest of ideas?

Then there’s the constantly shifting justifications he made for the creative choices he made in Man of Steel, from Superman learning how to not murder by murdering, to lame mythology excuses. If he had just said that it was his creative choice for Superman to be an uncaring monster and that the next movie would deal with the consequences, and stuck by that statement, the Superman fans would not have liked it, but we would have lived with it. Instead, he piled on excuse after excuse until we no longer knew what he was thinking.

Finally, there’s the reasons he gave for killing Jimmy Olsen and Robin in his latest “masterpiece”, BvS. When asked about why he murdered Jimmy Olsen, he said “we don’t have room for Jimmy Olsen in our big pantheon of characters, but we can have fun with him, right?” As for Robin, he said “In my mind, it was that Robin had died 10 years earlier, during some run-in with a young Joker. So there was a fun backstory there to play with”.

Zack Snyder equates the murder of various DC Comics characters with “fun”.

You know what really hurts? It’s the fact that the movie probably had a far better director right there in the cast. Ben Affleck was an Academy Award-winning director (for Argo). He probably knew, better than almost anyone in the production process, what Zack Snyder was doing, and how totally Zack was destroying the movie. Don’t believe me? Look at his face during an interview (which was funnily done to Simon & Garfunkel):

You can almost hear what he was thinking: “I tried to help. I tried mightily to keep this movie from becoming a train wreck. I talked to Snyder. I acted my ass off. I tried to save this movie.” And he failed. That is what's written all over his face.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Not-So-Jolly Rancher: The scene in Batman v Superman that ejected me from the movie

Shamus Young, in his Twenty-Sided blog, talks about the different types of disbelief that forces a person out of the fictional work he or she is reading, watching, etc. For one person, it could be something technical. For another person, it could be some discontinuity in the sequence of events. For still another, it could be simple boredom. But they all have the same result; complete ejection from the fictional work into the real world.

This happened to me while I was watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. One scene occurred that was so out of place, so unbelievable, that it violently ejected me from the movie and planted me squarely in the real world. And this scene is in a movie that has a guy that flies and shoots eye-lasers, a woman with a magic rope, and a murderous thug in a winged rodent cosplay.

It was this scene: around half-an-hour into the movie, Senator Old Guy talks to Alexander Luthor (the young son of a far more interesting supervillain), saying “We can help each other”. Luthor asks for two things while reaching for a bowl of Jolly Ranchers; access to the kryptonian ship and Zod’s body. The senator agrees to this. Luthor pulls out a Jolly Rancher, unwraps one, and offers it to the senator, saying “It’s cherry”. Luthor then SLIDES THE JOLLY RANCHER INTO THE SENATOR’S MOUTH AND THEN LICKS THE FINGERS HE JUST USED TO FEED THE SENATOR. 
What the hell did I just see? What was the sense of that scene? I screamed these questions as I was being thrown out of the movie into the real world. After the movie, I ruminated on that one scene for weeks. I went to TV Tropes to see if I could derive some meaning to that scene. This scene is not even mentioned there. And none of the other tropes which involve feeding (Romantic Spoonfeeding, Food as Bribe, Through His Stomach) were even close to helpful. I scoured the internet, trying to find something that would explain the jolly rancher scene. Nothing. So, the scene had no cinematic meaning, suggested no deeper plot (like maybe mind-controlling jolly ranchers), wasn’t a setup for something later (like “Granny’s Peach Tea”), did not have characters who acted like human beings, and didn’t even make sense within its own universe. 

I have a feeling this scene was where a lot of people mentally checked out of the movie. What’s more, this scene raises a lot of questions:

1) Why did Zack Snyder waste time, money and effort making this scene? What was he trying to say? I subscribe to the notion that everything added to a book, movie, whatever, was deliberately put in. So why was it put in? It added nothing; it explained nothing; if the scene was deleted, the only part of the movie that would be affected would be the running time.  

2) Did no one involved in the making of that scene point out how ridiculous it looked? Remember, there were hundreds of people involved in the production. Want proof? Look at any end credits part of any movie. So how did no one speak up?

3) Did the Warner Bros. executives, when they screened the movie before it was released to audiences, looked at that scene and said to themselves “Holy crap, we made a mistake hiring Zack Snyder to direct all our Justice League movies?” Or did they say to themselves “A young idiot feeds an old dude candy! That’s what the people want!”   

This movie has a lot, and I mean A LOT of problems. This was just one of them. But it was the one that stuck out the most for me.