Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut - "Just When I Thought I Was Out, Coppola Pulled Me Back In!"

Before feeling the need to write about Zack Snyder’s Justice League and that director’s need for various cuts of his films, I was going to write about the “Final Cut” of one of favorite films of all time: Apocalypse Now. It turns out writing about Snyder made for a great transition to Francis Ford Coppola, who recently got to re-edit one of his past films, The Godfather: Part III. That new edit made people revisit a famously reviled film and many came away with a more positive reaction (myself included), which is fairly similar to what is currently going on with Snyder’s version of Justice League. Since I’ve already written about Coppola’s new edit of Part III, I figured I’d write about his latest edit of Apocalypse Now, which came out a year and a half ago. The difference with Apocalypse Now is that the film has been considered great since its original release, yet Coppola has revisited the film twice. I want to get into why Coppola can’t leave the film alone (and if that’s a bad thing), why I love the film in general, and which version is my favorite.

The Final Cut - “Why the Fuck Would He Do That?”

Apocalypse Now is arguably more famous for the drama behind the scenes than what ended up onscreen. I’m not about to attempt to get into everything that happened (especially when there are numerous special features you can dive into, including the excellent documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse [which is included with most versions of the film]), suffice it to say that Coppola ended up as figuratively and literally upriver as Colonel Kurtz. So if the filming of Apocalypse Now was such a trial for the filmmaker, then why keep coming back to it?

I would like to make the case that making the film was truly like a war for Coppola, and he simply can’t shake the experience. That might be true, but I don’t like how that trivializes actual war. More likely, Coppola has felt the need to re-edit this film because he famously feuds with studios and felt like he had more freedom as time passed to do what he truly wanted to do. With Apocalypse Now, he originally released the Redux version, which basically just included a ton of stuff that ended up being cut from the theatrical release. Apparently, Coppola didn’t consider this a director’s cut so much as a kitchen sink version of the film.

When the time came for a 40th anniversary screening of the film, Coppola was asked which version he wanted them to screen. This is when it occurred to him that neither the Redux or the theatrical cut were his preferred version of the film. And now we have the “Final Cut.” 

I believe Coppola when he claims the Redux wasn’t a director’s cut, but I do think the theatrical cut was the movie he wanted to release at the time. My theory is that Coppola’s taste has changed over the years, and this means his preferred cut for his movies has changed. It’s no different than a viewer revisiting a movie from the past and having a different reaction to it; the difference is that the viewer doesn’t have the power to change the movie. 

Coppola certainly butted heads with studios over the years, but he actually had a lot of freedom when it came to Apocalypse Now. Why else would he be allowed to extend production so far beyond the original plan? Not to mention, he put up a lot of his own money to get the film made. Because of this, I think the theatrical was what he wanted to release at the time. And forty years later, he wanted to change things up. But should he even do this?

Director’s cuts tend to be the better versions of most movies. They are often an attempt by the studio to correct their mistake in hampering the original vision of the director. This is why you get the celebrated versions of Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, etc. Typically, a director knows what the best version of the film is. But what if a director does this to a movie people already like and that is already successful? Most famously, George Lucas has revisited the original trilogy of Star Wars to the point that fans have been campaigning for years for the theatrical cuts of those films to get a proper release. They feel his tinkering has fundamentally changed the films they fell in love with. 

I had a similar reaction to Redux. I found the included scenes to ruin the pace and/tone of the theatrical cut. The difference here, though, is that every time a new cut of Apocalypse Now is released on the latest technology, it also includes the theatrical cut. That’s where Lucas, and now Disney, messes up. Change the films all you want, but give fans access to what they loved originally. I don’t care if Coppola and Lucas change their movies once a year, as long as I have access to the version I prefer.

Part of me thinks that directors should generally leave their movies alone, unless the movie was taken away from them, and a director’s cut is the only way to achieve their vision. I like the idea that once a piece of art is out there, it belongs to the world. But the movie fan in me wants to see new versions of films, as long as each version of the film is preserved. I’m down for Coppola’s next “final cut” of Apocalypse Now, if he wants to change it again. I have my copy of the theatrical cut no matter what, so I’m good.

The Voice-over...the Voice-over...

It would probably make more sense for me to move on to which version of Apocalypse Now is my favorite, but I feel the need to explain what I loved about the original cut before I can explain what I don’t like about the two newer cuts.

I love Apocalypse Now for all the reasons you would expect. I find that it captures the absurdity of war while also remaining entertaining. All the famous lines are great, and I just dig movies where characters have to go on a metaphorical and literal journey into the unknown/jungle (this is probably why I’m also a huge fan of Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God). But what makes Apocalypse Now stand out to me is Martin Sheen’s voice-over. 

In a film with surfing in a war zone and some of the most iconic lines in film history, my favorite moments are of Willard going through Kurtz’s file. When I watched this when I was much younger, it was the first time I encountered a movie with a voice-over that included cussing. “Why the fuck would he do that?” is still one of my favorite lines from the film. It made me realize that good voice-over can add a realism and darkness to a film that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise. How else could Coppola convey Willard’s surprise at Kurtz’s actions in that scene in an effective way.

I get defensive about the voice-over in Apocalypse Now because narration in films in general is frowned upon. Its use breaks the classic rule: show, don’t tell (which is why I titled this section as a play on “The horror…” line). I get that, but the narration in this film is telling. Yes, it’s exposition, but it’s setting up Kurtz’s character while also revealing Willard’s through his reactions and attempts to understand Kurtz. A line early in the film explains why the voice-over is necessary: “There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story really is a confession, then so is mine.” The voice-over is Willard’s confession, and we’re the absolving priest for listening to it.

Obviously Coppola felt strongly about the narration, as well, since he gives a credit just for the narration to Michael Herr (who also received the same credit for Coppola’s The Rainmaker), who’s an authority on Vietnam since he was a war correspondent who went on to write Dispatches and the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket. Coppola realized how important the voice-over would be, both for the story and for the authenticity of the film.

In that regard, I find it perfect. The voice-over provides plenty of character development while also placing you in the mind of a soldier. For me, it draws me into the film completely. Once Willard’s narration begins, I’m in for the whole film. Or the whole theatrical cut, I should say.

Favorite Cut - “You’re Looking at the [Redux]. Sometimes He Goes Too Far.”

In general, when I love a movie and a version with more footage comes out, I get interested. If I loved two plus hours of this, then surely I’ll love another hour of it. But that just isn’t the case for me with this film. 

Coppola kind of admits this by even creating the “Final Cut.” This cut is his way of saying Redux was just too much. But it’s not just that it’s too much, it’s that the majority of the added material seems to be from a different movie. I want to break down three major additions to Redux: stealing Kilgore’s surfboard, meeting up with the Playboy bunnies, and the...ugh...French plantation sequence.

Due to the voice-over, Willard comes across as a very serious killer. He’s not completely joyless or emotionless, but he’s there for a job (which would explain his killing of the injured woman on the boat and the crew of the PT boat not exactly loving him). This is a bit different from John Milius’s script, which presented itself more as a version of The Odyssey AND Heart of Darkness. Updating The Odyssey into a more modern setting, no matter how dark, still leads to goofiness (just look at how it works in the Depression in O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and that clashed with the Heart of Darkness storyline. So when Milius’s Odyssey stuff is left in, it makes the film feel like two separate stories with two different main characters. 

With The Odyssey adaptation in mind, that makes Kilgore the Cyclops, who is defeated by the wittiness of Odysseus. In this case, it means Willard has to steal Kilgore’s surfboard to defeat him. That kind of bold movie might work for Odysseus, but for Willard it’s uncharacteristic. What had he done so far to suggest he would do such a thing?

Yes, he clearly had a disdain for Kilgore, who he sees as fighting a different kind of war. Stealing the surfboard in itself isn’t necessarily against his character; his reaction is, however. Willard jumps onto the boat with the board, laughing. Later, he jokes around with the guys on the boat as a chopper flies by playing a recorded message from Kilgore pleading for his lost eye...I mean, surfboard. It creates a bonding moment with the guys on the boat that disappears in other scenes.

After besting the Cyclops, Willard and his crew must deal with the Playboy bunnies, sirens who keep them from their mission. Once again, this is simply not in keeping with other scenes. It feels shoe-horned in to fit this Odyssey theme.

Finally, and worstly, we get the French plantation scene. In an already long movie, the film grinds to a complete halt as we deal with the Lotus Eaters of Milius’s script. The French serve as an unnecessary history lesson for the film and as a warning to Willard, and America, to respect the Vietnamese resolve. Once again, this takes away from the stronger Heart of Darkness aspect of the film. As a loose adaptation of Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is a film about war in general and the madness and abuse of power that comes with it. Including the French makes this movie just about the Vietnam War, which turns it into more of a historical document than a statement about war itself. 

Most importantly, the French plantation sequence is just way too long, and it makes the film lose focus. I get that that is part of the point, but when there’s already a great theatrical cut of this film, why fuck it up with a French dinner scene? 

When the “Final Cut” was announced, I assumed this would be the first thing to go. Nope. Instead, Coppola mainly just got rid of the extra Playboy bunny stuff. Because of this, I do prefer this cut to Redux, but neither of them are even close to the theatrical cut.

What I wished Coppola had done instead was make a cut of the film that omitted as much of the Heart of Darkness stuff as possible and inserted all The Odyssey stuff. There might be a way to make two completely different versions of this film with a completely different main character. I would find that infinitely more fascinating than just adding shit in that doesn’t jive with the rest of the movie. I like The Odyssey stuff in itself and thematically, but I hate how it clashes with the film I know and love.

I’m glad to have these two alternate cuts of Apocalypse Now, but I feel that most of the stuff added could’ve just been presented as deleted scenes. Perhaps others really dig all the extra stuff, but for me, whenever I watch Apocalypse Now in the future, it will always be the theatrical cut.

Why Do I Own This?

Apocalypse Now is one of my favorite movies of all time. Until recently, I would tell people that it was my singular favorite film ever (now, if I’m forced to pick just one, I go with The Thing). So I’ve bought this movie multiple times. I had the original cut on DVD, then I got the “Complete Dossier” version, then I got the “Full Disclosure” version, and now I have the “Final Cut.” Let’s hope it truly is final because buying a movie this many times is pretty fucking stupid.

Random Thoughts/Favorite Quotes*

*Just assume I dig all the famous quotes, too. I just don’t feel the need to type out all the lines everybody loves. 

On IMDb trivia, it claims that Martin Sheen’s brother, Joe Estevez, provided the voice-over while Sheen recovered from his heart attack. But this is the only place I have found this info, so I doubt this was the case. But if it is true, well done, Joe Estevez!

I'm a huge Doors fan, so any film that starts with "The End" is a winner in my book.

"If his story is a confession, then so is mine."

G. D. Spradlin is perfect casting for a general that's giving nefarious orders while sounding folksy as fuck.

"...this [...] army of his that worship the man like a god. And follow every order, however ridiculous." Sounds familiar…

I love the absurdity of the general and CIA dude having this discussion with Willard during a meal.

Jerry the CIA dude is perfectly normal looking, which makes him kind of terrifying.

Originally, the soundtrack was going to be nothing but Doors songs. I would totally dig that, but I can't imagine this movie without its score now. It's so perfectly eerie. 

Aside from some diegetic music, the music of the film is fitting for a horror film, which it is.

"Airborne? He was 38 years old. Why the fuck would he do that?"

Kilgore's salute and general disdain towards Willard always amuses me.

Kilgore's interaction with the dying VC soldier perfectly encapsulates his character. Honorable enough to give water to a dying enemy, but enough of a dick to get distracted while doing so and pour the water just out of reach of the soldier's mouth.

I always forget that R. Lee Ermey is in this (Kilgore's helicopter pilot).

"What do you know about surfing? You're from goddamn New Jersey!"

I've watched this movie dozens of times, but I can never tell what the Playboy promoter guy throws on the ground before he takes off on the chopper.

Willard is seen as so brutal for killing the injured woman on the boat, but I don't think it's any worse than the initial shooting.

The pure chaos of the situation at the bridge that keeps being destroyed and rebuilt is terrifying. I'm sure all war is chaotic, but that seems particularly insane.

Ugh...the French plantation section.

So we’re two hours in and we still haven’t seen Kurtz onscreen, so let’s stop to eat dinner and smoke opium with the fuckin’ Frenchies?

The annoying sounds Harry and Lloyd make in Dumb & Dumber don't have shit on the noise Lance makes when they're going through the fog.

Chief kind of gets on my nerves (I think he cuts Clean too much slack and always seems to be harsh on Chef), but I respect his decision to try to choke out Willard as he dies.

"The heads. You're looking at the heads. Sometimes he goes too far."

Kurtz talking about the Ohio River always interests me because I live in a town on the Ohio River. I’ve never come across an abandoned gardenia plantation, but I have been on the river many times and come across stretches where there is nothing on either side and felt an odd peace being in a place with no signs of civilization. I hope I’m not becoming like Kurtz…

“We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Zack Snyder: The Ridley Scott of Comic Book Movies

If you’re even slightly dorky, then you know the Snyder Cut of Justice League (officially titled Zack Snyder’s Justice League, but I’m going to keep referring to it as the Snyder Cut) is finally here. Of course I had to check it out, and it inspired me to write a bit about Snyder’s career regarding director’s cuts and my thoughts on the film and DC in general.

This is not a serious comparison between Ridley Scott and Zack Snyder aside from their famous, and better, director’s cuts. They both make epic films, but their styles are certainly different. They definitely both prefer to be left alone by the studio. Ridley Scott, however, has a more precise idea of what he wants out of a story when he gets to release a director’s cut (see Kingdom of Heaven and how his cut of that film completely redeemed and repaired the weak plot of the theatrical cut). Whereas Snyder has a kitchen sink approach (see Watchmen and one of his cuts of that film that includes an entire animated short film interspersed within an already three hour long movie). I only compare Snyder to Scott because of their unfortunate relationship with theatrical cuts of their films. Before I get into all the director’s cuts, I want to acknowledge the film that brought all this to mind in the first place.

Reaction to Zack Snyder’s Justice League

(SPOILERS ahead, especially near the end.)

First off, I did not realize that so much of the theatrical cut was Whedon’s doing (at the behest of the studio, I’m sure). I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut stuff aside from being aware of its existence. Even when the film was announced, I still didn’t look up much about it. I just thought, “Cool. I’ll check that out.” It was only when I found out it was four hours long that I realized this was going to be a much different movie.

That got me excited for a couple reasons. First, I tend to prefer Snyder’s extended, director’s, ultimate, etc. cuts. So I figured I would like this version more. Second, I realized that Joss Whedon changed a lot more than I first thought, and, in fact, they probably should have taken Snyder’s name off the 2017 release. So this isn’t exactly a director’s cut for Snyder; it’s the first time we’re seeing his version of Justice League at all.

Of course, this means that if you were not digging what Snyder had been doing with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman (Ultimate Edition, of course), then you’re not likely going to enjoy this, either. I’m down with what Snyder was doing with DC, but I know he’s a polarizing director. I’ve read some negative stuff about the movie, and I get it, but his style for the DCEU works for me, plain and simple. That said, if you were confused by the plot of the theatrical cut and wondered what Steppenwolf’s motivation was or what the fuck Mother Boxes were, then you’ll get more answers here. But, again, this is still a Zack Snyder movie.

With all that out of the way, I kind of fucking loved this movie. I’m a sucker for a director getting free rein to do whatever he/she wants, and the Snyder Cut is the ultimate example of this. Warner Brothers said, “Fuck it, man, just do whatever; here’s some more money to even add extra shit.” Because of this, Snyder is able to spend so much more time with the characters that were short-changed in the theatrical cut.

Cyborg is the best example of this. I remember first watching Justice League and feeling like Cyborg was just there because he had to be. Here, he’s arguably the main character, and I completely understand why he’s integral to the League and the film in general this time around. 

The extra runtime allows for so many things to be improved and/or cleared up. Steppenwolf (who both looks and sounds more imposing now) is a much better villain this time around and his whole plan with the Mother Boxes makes much more sense. I didn’t know what the fuck a Mother Box was when I first watched Justice League, and I still didn’t at the end other than they were powerful. Here, they’re explained more clearly. And it helps that Steppenwolf (a villain I had never heard of before the 2017 film [I’m a dork, but my knowledge of the DC universe ends with the main heroes and villains]) has an arc in this film beyond just being evil because the story needs him to be evil. He’s trying to redeem himself with Darkseid, a much more imposing big bad. 

Speaking of Darkseid, he’s in this movie whereas he’s not even mentioned in the original film. My main issue with the theatrical cut was that Steppenwolf was just there almost randomly, and he must be stopped. I can actually accept that, but I prefer this more fleshed out version. Most of it is still hardcore dorky nonsense dialogue about Boxes and parademons and anti-life equations, etc. But I’ll take that over nothing any day.

Justice League was always going to be a story that needed more than two hours to adequately explain things and establish the new characters. Even in the original cut, I liked all the characters and the actors portraying them. I liked the action. I was just left underwhelmed. I wanted so much more, and that’s what the Snyder Cut is. This is a cohesive and complete version of Justice League. It is not perfect, though.

The typical Zack Snyder complaints apply here. There’s too much slow motion (Lois getting coffee in slow motion is rightfully catching a lot of shit with many reactions online), the music is a bit much at times (using the same music every single time Wonder Woman shows up, the Icelandic song, etc.). But there are also some unique issues I have with the film because of its unorthodox path to the screen. Mainly, all the Aquaman continuity issues are distracting. Since Aquaman is out now, it is weird to see how some things are handled here: the characters can only talk in bubbles underwater, Vulko looks very different, and Mera has a British accent. If I had seen these things first (to be fair, the bubble talk was in the 2017 film, and they just dropped it for Aquaman), then when I watched Aquaman, I would have been taken out of it. Instead, I’ve already seen Aquaman, so now I’m wondering why things are different in Justice League. Again, a unique issue, but an issue nonetheless. 

The biggest issue is the running time. Four hours is too long, but I love Snyder getting to add damn near whatever he wanted to this. This film is a perfect example of why it’s good and bad that studios don’t typically give a director complete control. Sure, we’re getting an overlong version of the director’s vision (that dorks like me will love), but it’s also a four hour long film filled with references that a general audience won’t notice or care about, especially since many won’t even start watching a four hour movie in the first place. If you take out some of the slow motion and music sequences, then this film could easily be trimmed down to three and a half hours. That’s still long as fuck, but a half hour less is a big deal when you’re trimming down a four hour movie.

Overall, the Snyder Cut left me torn. On the one hand, I now love a movie that I was previously completely indifferent towards. This is the brutal, epic film I wanted. But it bums me out that this is most likely the end of Snyder’s DC work. This cut was already incredibly unlikely to ever be released, so all the set up for future films that will never happen is a bit infuriating, especially since my favorite aspect of Snyder’s DC films is the Knightmare future, which was apparently supposed to really happen for an entire movie. If that film could somehow be made, I could see it becoming my favorite comic book movie of all time. Instead, I just get that extra tease that Snyder added to the end of this film. I love it, but I kind of wish I had never seen it, so I wouldn’t know what I was missing. But if the dorks of the internet can pressure a studio to make the Snyder Cut happen, maybe it can happen again, and we can get Snyder’s full trilogy. 

At the very least, I have Snyder’s complete vision for the first Justice League film to revisit, and that’s pretty amazing. I’ll gladly spend four hours with this film any time I get bummed out about what might have been with the DC movies.

Snyder Makes Big Screen Movies that Require Small Screen Director’s Cuts

I tend to really enjoy Zack Snyder’s movies and I usually watch them in the theater, even though I know a different, better version of the film will one day be released. Snyder makes more director’s cuts than Ridley Scott, which sucks because his films are much more enjoyable on the biggest screen possible. So I wanted to look through Snyder’s director’s cut history leading up to his most high profile director’s cut.

In an interview, Snyder acknowledges (mistakenly) that the only two films he’s made that don’t have director’s cuts are Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and Man of Steel (he also mentions a cut of Sucker Punch that exists but has never been released, which I would love to know more about). He didn’t mention 300, and I can’t find any evidence of a director’s cut for that film, so I’m chalking that up to him forgetting about it. So that means Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League all needed director’s cuts. And looking back at all of them, the director's cut are all either essential or at least slight improvements upon their theatrical counterparts.

  • Dawn of the Dead isn’t all that different. There are more character beats for Michael Kelly and more gore (to keep the R rating). More Michael Kelly and more gore are both great, so I dig the director’s cut, but this is the rare example that I don’t mind which cut I watch.
  • The theatrical cut of Watchmen would’ve been the director’s cut, but Snyder claims he had to keep the runtime down because IMAX reels can only hold so much film. I’m sure the studio was happy with a shorter runtime, too. Watchmen is important for Snyder because it’s a good example of how devoted he is to the source material. He basically shot everything that was in the comic (aside from some changes made, the biggest being the change to the ending). The director’s cut simply includes all the stuff that had to go. It’s a better movie, but it’s not night and day different from the theatrical cut. Then there’s the ultimate cut, which also includes the animated Tale of the Black Freighter. That cut was basically made for completionists, and Snyder has said that the director’s cut is his preferred version. I’ve watched the Ultimate Cut a few times, but I’m with Snyder, the director’s cut is the best. The animated stuff just takes me out of the movie in the ultimate cut. 
  • Sucker Punch has an extended cut, but the director’s cut has yet to be released, due to some rights stuff. Until then, the extended cut will have to do, and it is certainly closer to his intended vision than the theatrical cut is, if for no other reason than it’s rated R compared to the PG-13 rating of the theatrical cut. More importantly, the final scene with the High Roller solidifies the overall theme of the film regarding empowerment and freedom, even if it’s only within your mind.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the film that most benefits from its ultimate cut.  I only think of that film as the ultimate cut, and from what I’ve come across from folks on the internet, they view the ultimate cut  as a much better movie, for many of the same reasons that a lot of fans like the Snyder Cut. At three hours, Snyder is able to flesh out the story and some motivations a bit more. The buildup to both Batman hating Superman and Superman hating Batman is much more clear and satisfying this time around rather than just having them fight because the title says so. And it’s rated R, which is something I actually really dig with these movies.I still have issues with it: Lex’s plan is still confusing as fuck, and the Martha reveal is silly, but overall I dug the movie, mainly because I liked Ben Affleck’s brutal Batman, and I fucking loved the Knightmare sequence. Seriously, that sequence might be my favorite Batman scene ever. And I like seeing Batman fight Superman. Simple as that. 

So Snyder was already on the Ridley Scott path when he stated Justice League. If Snyder had been able to finish the film originally, I think we would have gotten a typical Snyder situation. There would’ve been a serviceable PG-13 version of the film that got close to three hour territory. Then there would be some “cut” released on home video that was rated R and closer to four hours (some stuff wouldn’t make it because Snyder wouldn’t be given the total freedom he got in this situation). The end result would be disappointment at the box office and with critics while dudes like me would tell people to give the director’s cut a chance. Now, everyone is focusing on the director’s cut in a way that word of mouth could never achieve. In a weird way, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened for people appreciating Snyder’s vision. But it appears to be too late, as future versions of these characters are either changing or ignoring what happened in the Snyder Cut of Justice League. (And the Snyder Cut is not considered canon, though why Warner Brothers is even pretending canon matters at this point is beyond me.)

If we get the director’s cut eventually, then I should be happy, but with the Snyder Cut, two issues bum me out. First, there’s the aforementioned abandonment of Snyder’s future Justice League films. Second, and most importantly, big films like Justice League benefit from a viewing on the big screen. I hate that I have to watch the inferior film in theaters and wait to watch the better version at home on TV. And this has nothing to do with the pandemic. Even without the pandemic, this would have been a home video release. It would be awesome if they released this in IMAX (especially because the aspect ratio is meant for it) in the future, but that would be a long shot.

Zack Snyder makes movies meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible, and studio interference and reluctance has made the small screen the home of his best work.

Oh, well, there’s always the black and white cut to look forward to...


I’ve aged out of taking part in pop culture rivalries. I don’t see a point in hating Marvel and loving DC or having to pick between Star Wars and Star Trek. I’m just a normal dork who likes most dorky shit out there. So this isn’t about me picking one cinematic universe over the other; it’s about the differences between the two and why I like what Snyder was doing with the DCEU.

After watching literally every DC and Marvel movie over the past twenty years, I think the biggest difference between the two is that Marvel developed a plan. There were very few missteps and changes within the MCU during this process. Sure, some films were more popular than others, but nothing derailed their overall plan. 

Because of the Nolan Dark Knight films, Warner Brothers seemed content with keeping their DC properties relatively separate. It was like they were waiting to see just how profitable the MCU could be before they inevitably followed suit. 

By enlisting Zack Snyder to build their cinematic universe, Warner Brothers was sending a message that their films would be darker and more adult than the more family-friendly Marvel films. But when the critics destroyed BvS, they got nervous (despite that film making nearly a billion dollars worldwide). For some reason, it didn’t occur to them that the polarizing Snyder was going to take their characters down a path that many critics and fans didn’t like. It would still be profitable, but it would never be as popular as Marvel. 

This is why I love Snyder’s films and a lot of the DC stuff lately (I was a big fan of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, and Birds of Prey was interesting) despite some missteps (I thought Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman 1984 were pretty weak). These movies are geared more towards adults, and they are not as light-hearted as most of the Marvel stuff. 

I get if people think Snyder’s movies go too far with the characters and are too convoluted, but at least they’re different. They are already way too many similarities among the characters between the two properties; it’s nice to have clearly different movies. If that means Marvel’s movies are consistent and DC’s vary wildly from film to film, then so be it. 

The main reason I love the DC films is the more mature nature, especially in Snyder’s films. The guy made two R-rated versions of movies with Superman and Batman in them! That’s insane, and I love it. I can see why others would find an R-rated Superman movie to be unnecessary and even against his character. But I love seeing dark and violent shit in these movies if for no other reason than Marvel movies tend to feel too safe at times when it comes to the violence because they know kids are watching. Once again, Warner Brothers should have known this was going to be polarizing. At first, they seemed to be onboard with what Snyder was doing, but the negative reviews of BvS scared them, and when tragedy gave them a chance to change the direction of the universe, they took it and literally brought in a Marvel guy, Joss Whedon, to make Justice League more like a Marvel movie. And it failed miserably.

By trying to change the tone of the series right in the middle of setting it up, they lost their fanbase. Almost all of the plans for future movies fell apart, and subsequent movies seemed to be allowed to pick and choose what they wanted to keep as canon from Snyder’s films. That’s not to say all the movies after Justice League are bad. I loved Aquaman, but that film felt oddly apart from Justice League. If Warner Brothers wanted to copy Marvel, then they should have paid attention to Marvel’s commitment to an overall plan, not to the humorous tone of their films.

I like that Snyder tried to bring some darkness to the world of the big comic book movies. Let Marvel have the bright, fun movies. When I want the dark, brooding shit, I’ll put in a DC movie. That’s what Warner Brothers failed to realize. Snyder was never going to be able to give them something as beloved as the MCU. He was going to make something divisive because it would be different. Snyder’s films aren’t perfect, but if Warner Brothers would have stuck with him* and let him plan out the DCEU as he saw fit, then maybe they would have gained in popularity. Instead, now it seems like every DC movie is set in a completely different universe, and people are most excited about a new cut of a 2017 movie.

*I realize that Snyder walked away from Justice League because of a family tragedy, so Warner Brothers can’t be completely blamed here. That said, they could have simply delayed the film until Snyder could return. Or they could have hired a journeyman director to simply complete what Snyder had already begun. Instead, they hired Whedon and handed him a list of shit they wanted that included making the film funnier (AKA more like a Marvel movie) and shorter. I get why they went that route, but it sucks that Snyder’s DCEU had to be destroyed for them to learn from their mistake. 

The apparent success of the Snyder Cut (the comic book-centric websites and YouTube channels are all in for it, and it crashed some HBO servers on the first day of release) only makes things even more uncertain for the DCEU. Officially, the Snyder Cut is NOT considered canon. We’re just supposed to watch it (and all the setups it contains for future movies) and be happy for its existence. That’s a bit ridiculous. I’m glad we have the Snyder Cut, but now when I watch whatever they try to do with the Justice League, I’m just going to (most likely unfavorably) compare it to Snyder’s original plans. And I won’t be alone. 

In attempting to satisfy a loud, but potentially small, portion of the fanbase, they’ve only created more division. Now it won’t be DC vs. MCU fans. It will be Snyder fans vs. Warner Brothers fans. I go to the DCEU to get a break from Marvel and watch something different. This mess they’ve created now is not what I had in mind.

Why  Do I Own This?

I don’t. I can’t. There is no physical release of this film at the moment. Depending on the special features, I might buy it if it ever gets released. Until then, I plan on subscribing to HBO Max for the foreseeable future, so I’ll have this film available to see whenever I want for a while.

Random Thoughts

I’m not doing the thing where I make notes throughout the entire movie for this one because that would just be too exhausting. This is mainly because of how I normally do it: I watch the movie and as thoughts occur to me, I pause the movie to type them up. This is fucking four hours long. I’m not watching it again and pausing it every few minutes to take notes. I love this movie, but I’m not that dorky. So these will just be more general random things I wanted to mention that didn’t fit in the main article. 

To be fair, if Joss Whedon had been given four hours, I think he would have made a pretty great movie, too. It would’ve been very different tonally, and I would still most likely prefer Snyder’s version since he had made the previous movies, but I think he would have made something interesting if given the time. There was no way to turn what was meant to be at least a three hour film into a two film without making it feel incoherent and rushed.

And credit to Snyder for making a very watchable four hour movie. As I said before, it would be easy to cut down the runtime to make the movie more palatable for general audiences, but for a Snyder fan like me, the four hours never felt like a slog.

I dig the Knightmare sequence and even like Leto as the Joker here (I wasn’t a fan of him in Sucide Squad, but I also didn’t hate him in that). So I’m cool with that added bit, but the Martian Manhunter stuff and Deathstroke’s scene with Lex made less sense to me. With Deathstroke, that scene is there solely to set up the solo Batfleck movie which is the least likely thing to happen at this point, so why keep it? I guess it’s just there for the sake of introducing him before we see him again in the Knightmare sequence, but it still feels unnecessary. Speaking of unnecessary, Martian Manhunter feels very tacked on, and I flat out dislike the scene in which he impersonates Martha. So this super powerful alien knows shit’s going down, and his only contribution is to nudge Lois into leaving her apartment more often? It just led to more questions about Manhunter being Swanwick the whole time, like “What the fuck is this dude waiting for?”

Apparently, Snyder wanted to introduce Green Lantern, but Warner Brothers told him he couldn’t, so he changed it to Manhunter. Introducing Green Lantern wouldn’t have made much sense to me, either, unless Swanwick just recently acquired the ring. I don’t know. I just think a lot of stuff at the end was Snyder just dumping whatever he could in there because it was likely the last time he was going to be able to use any of these characters.  

Completely forgot J. K. Simmons was Gordon.

Jeremy Irons is an awesome Alfred. His extra moments were nice.

Cool to see more of the ancient Green Lantern in this version, but he went out like kind of a bitch.

I wish they had explained why Darkseid didn’t remember where Earth was. I know Wonder Woman says Earth was just one planet “anonymous among a trillion worlds,” but he’s been there before. Just one parademon couldn’t have made a note or something?

The flashback scene with a young Darkseid (or Uxas at this point) is so fucking good here. This is an R-rated superhero Lord of the Rings

Man, the Amazons that pulled a hammer shift at the Mother Box temple on the day Steppenwolf showed up are unlucky. Thousands of years of nothing, then he fucking shows up? I imagine one of them was covering for someone kind of like Dante in Clerks, and they yell “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” as the temple collapses.

Man, the janitor that pulled the night shift at the DOD lab the night the parademon showed up is unlucky. I imagine he was covering for his bud, and he yelled “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” as the parademon flew off with him.

Man, the Atlanteans that pulled a Mother Box shift the day Steppenwolf showed up...okay, I’ll stop.

According to Snyder, the future movies would involve Darkseid winning, and eventually the day would be saved by having the Flash go back in time (hence the “I’m too soon!” moment in BvS). There’s still a Flash solo movie coming, and it features Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as Batman. I’m starting to think he’s going to travel back in time in that film and instead of saving the world, his actions are going to reset the DCEU, and that would somehow explain how these movies exist along with all the new, different versions we’re now getting.