In 2017, Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s continuing Avengers crossovers, flopped. Director Zack Snyder had left the film several months before release, his role taken over by MCU regular Joss Whedon, and significant changes were made in an attempt to lighten the tone of what had so far been a rather bleak series. Immediately, talk erupted of a director’s cut – the so-called Snyder Cut – that would represent Snyder’s true vision, uncompromised by studio executives’ fears and directives. Initially no more than a meme responding to that film’s quality, it was given oxygen by Zack Snyder’s insistence that it did actually exist, and it now reaches us via online streaming in the age of Covid-19. There’s perhaps no other set of circumstances in which it would have been made real – on top of the original budget, the creation of this director’s cut cost some additional $70m – but what an opportunity to compare and contrast two versions of the same film.
At four hours in length, this is a version of Justice League that would never have seen a theatrical release, but the time it affords its characters to develop is welcome, and a huge improvement over the sketchy treatment some of them received in the original film – particularly Cyborg, played by Ray Fisher, who arguably becomes the central character in the Snyder Cut. We discuss and disagree on the decision to change the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 to 1.33:1, which José loves but Mike considers a mistake, and look over a few key scenes and shots to explore the differences between Snyder’s and Whedon’s aesthetics.
And we discuss that new ending, additional scenes which help the Snyder Cut conceive of the overall story as epic, mythological fantasy, and more.
It’s a surprise to us both that we enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Justice League as much as we did, but there you have it. The four hours flew by and if this leads to the studio’s renewed interest in completing Snyder’s planned series, we’re up for it.
The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.
I wish I´d had graphic novels like this one to read when I was a tween. You Brought Me the Ocean is a sensitive and poetic coming out story of kids that are out of place, in a desert yearning for the ocean, and that really gets to the emotional complexities of the denial, hope, fears and imaginings that kids go through coming to terms with their sexuality. This one features more understanding adults than has been my experience. It also is a lot more nuanced rendering than I´m accustomed to.
Jake has been lifelong best friends with Maria. They understand each other perfectly except she thinks they´re a couple and that he´s just being super-respectful and considerate, whereas he loves her but only as his bestest friend. They´re finishing High School and applying to university. She wants to stay just were they live in New Mexico, which she finds beautiful and perfect and he´s got a powerful but not quite understandable yearning to go to Miami and be near the ocean. The ocean calls out to him in a way he dreams of but doesn´t understand. They haven´t discussed any of it but are so sure of their friendship they´re confident they will resolve it and end up at the same university.
There are many things Jake doesn´t know about himself. A kid he´s known since middle-school, Kenny, begins to help him understand at least some of them. Kenny is motherless and taking care of a disabled father. He´s out, is often abused for it at school, burdened by responsibilities at home and in the swim team. Jake finds himself drawn to Kenny in ways that at first he doesn´t understand and that quickly bring to the fore much he´s been suppressing. The issue is made live and urgent when Maria catches them kissing in the pool.
How this gets resolved would on its own make for a gripping graphic novel, particularly when so beautifully drawn by Julie Maroh, probably most famous for Blue is the Warmest Colour. But there´s more: Jake discovers he´s got odd powers over water, that he´s the result of a genetic experiment, and that there´s some kind of connection to Aquaman. I can´t wait for further installments.
One element that is worth commenting on is the racial representation in the novel. Maria is clearly Latin, Kenny is of Chinese descent and Jake is black. Everything is acknowledged but not much is made of it and it took me a while to register it. The book takes it for granted, makes it seem natural and the norm, as it rarely ever is. Another element is that each of the kids is rendered unique, desiring and desirable in a way that also seems rare in the culture we live in, particularly with regard to East-Asian characters.
It´s a beautiful book, nuanced and very touching. I highly recommend it.
DC’s search for a cinematic tone continues to lurch between monochrome gravity and Technicolor frivolity, James Wan’s Aquaman firmly occupying the latter end of the spectrum. Although Mike has long been amused at how feeble is the concept of a superhero whose power is fish telepathy, the film has a good sense of humour about itself (even if some of the specific jokes are a little clunky) and hugely enjoyable freedom in its design, the giant seahorses a particular charm.
We discuss what’s to like and dislike about the film’s visual design and action, its message that violence is the least good solution to any problem, the welcome wisdom and calmness brought by Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lundgren (yes, really), and its adaptation of Arthurian legend and how it fits into a recent spate of films and television programmes fascinated with monarchy, bloodlines, divine rights and so on.
Jose is overall more reserved than Mike but still announces that he enjoyed himself, and the golden rule holds true: the key to happiness is low expectations.
The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.