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“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” Is (Actually) Being Released: My Thoughts, My Hopes, And The Implications

It’s happening.

It’s really happening.

After years of hashtags, billboards, and incessant curiosity, it’s really happening. The fabled “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s “Justice League” is going to be released. Near as I can tell, this is not a joke. It’s not some wild rumor that some renegade trolls concocted. This is real. According to major entertainment news outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, this is going to happen.

Zack Snyder’s original vision for “Justice League” is coming out in 2021 exclusively on HBO Max, the latest entry to the streaming wars, courtesy of Warner Brothers. I doubt those outside devoted fans of comic books and superhero movies understand why this is such a big deal, but as someone within that circle, I can assure you that this is big.

Rather than explain the whole story, I’ll just cite The Hollywood Reporter, which does a commendable job of summing up the issues. If you need more information on the story of this mythical cut of an otherwise forgettable movie, Forbes also did a decent rundown of the timeline.

THR: Zack Snyder’s $20M-Plus ‘Justice League’ Cut Plans Revealed

In the time since its release, something unusual happened: A growing movement of fans, rallied by the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut, had called, agitated, petitioned — even bought a Times Square billboard and chartered a plane to fly a banner over Comic-Con — for Snyder’s version to be released. And on the film’s second anniversary, the hashtag had its biggest day ever — with even the movie’s stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck adding their voices on Twitter.

So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.

The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Zack Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021.

Now, I have my share of opinions about “Justice League” and Zack Snyder. I actually saw the theatrical version of “Justice League” when it came out. While I gave it a respectable review, I don’t deny that the movie has its flaws. I’m not an overall movie buff, but even I could tell that the movie was heavily edited. There was definitely a vision and plenty of potential, but a lot of it got lost on the cutting room floor.

In its current form, Justice League” is one of those movies that gets less compelling with age. You can see it once, have an enjoyable experience, and completely forget that experience within weeks. It’s not a movie that you can re-watch and feel engaged. It’s just too bland and sanitized.

Snyder’s cut of the movie promised to be different. He had a much different vision, but couldn’t realize that vision due to a family tragedy that tore him away from the project. Now, we’ll get to see the essence of that vision.

Personally, I’m curious. I’m not curious enough to shell out money for yet another streaming service, but I’m certainly interested in what Snyder had planned for this movie. A big part of that curiosity stems from Snyder’s history as a filmmaker whose vision tends to get lost on the cutting room floor.

This has happened to him multiple times before and for other superhero movies. There were a lot of heavy criticisms levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and some of those criticisms were valid. However, the longer and more complete Ultimate Edition of the movie directly addressed some of those flaws. I honestly think the movie would’ve done better if that edition had come out.

A far more notable example, in my opinion, involves Snyder’s take on “Watchmen.” That movie is somewhat polarizing among fans, although I personally liked it. However, this movie has multiple extended cuts, including a director’s cut that Snyder himself says is most consistent with his vision for the film.

That’s actually the version I own on blu-ray. I think it’s an underrated gem among superhero movies. It’s more complete, concise, and compelling. It better encapsulates the essence of “Watchmen” and the story it tries to tell.

It’s because of these instances that I believe will help Snyder’s cut of Justice League.” History shows that he can tell a great story, so long as the critical details aren’t cut out in the final edit. Granted, editing is a core aspect of finalizing a movie. It’s necessary to get a movie to within a reasonable time-frame for a movie-watching experience. Not everyone wants to sit in a theater for four hours unless it’s something J. R. R. Tolkein wrote.

Snyder’s desire to tell a larger story seems to get away from him. In that sense, it might be a good thing that this isn’t coming out in theaters. Instead, it’s coming out on a streaming platform that people can consume at their own pace. People already consume hours on end of old shows. Consuming a four-hour movie isn’t quite as daunting. Just look at “The Irishman.”

This is where I feel the larger implications of this announcement may come into play. A non-insignificant reason why Snyder’s movies keep getting chopped up into something that doesn’t do well with critics or fans is because they’re so long. His efforts to tell a bold story just don’t fit within that reasonable two to three hour time-frame for a movie. Movies like “Watchmen” reveal that those stories can be compelling.

Beyond the story, the impact of the Snyder Cut could extend beyond Justice League,” superhero movies, and the movie-making process as a whole. This is where I believe there could be larger implications that will likely impact future movies, including those that don’t involve superheroes.

For decades, there has been this idea that movies have to operate within certain restrictions. For the most part, there’s merit to those restrictions. Movies beyond three-and-a-half hours just aren’t feasible for a general audience or their bladder. A trilogy like “Lord of the Rings” was a rare exception, but could never become the norm.

Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max, this may no longer be the case. Now, there’s a new method for releasing these movies. The current global pandemic, as well as the recent success with direct-to-streaming releases, will further raise the importance of those platforms.

With these new tools and emerging trends, why should movies be confined to the limits imposed by movie theaters? Why can’t there be a four-hour Justice League” movie? Why can’t there be a five-hour Avengers movie? Why does any movie have to be chopped up and edited to such an extent that it loses important aspects of its plot?

The Snyder Cut could make the case that those restrictions need not hinder a bolder vision. There’s still a place for the kinds of popcorn movies we see in theaters, but why not also invest in a place where a movie like Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” can also exist?

The world of movies, media, and story-telling is changing. Regardless of how the Snyder Cut ends up being in the eyes of fans, its impact could be far greater. Hopefully, it leads to bigger, bolder, and better stories. It may not always warrant the cost of another streaming service, but it opens the door to so many possibilities.

Time will tell. Hopefully, we’ll see if the wait was worth it in 2021.

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Filed under DC Comics, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman, Relationships, And Misguided Standards For Female Heroes

I love superhero comics. I love romance. Naturally, I love it when they’re combined into a perfect package of super-romantic sentiment. I’ve singled out a few favorites of mine in the past, as well as a few not-so-favorites that act as cautionary tales. Chances are I’ll find plenty more excuses to write about superhero romance in the future.

That said, I’d like to take a step back from the specifics of superhero romance and assess the forest from the trees, so to speak. Instead, I thought I’d highlight something that I’ve been noticing within the pages of some of my favorite comics. It’s not necessarily an egregious flaw, but it is a distressing trend for lovers of romance like myself.

It has to do with how superheroes are portrayed when they’re in romantic relationships. Almost every popular superhero is caught up in a romantic sub-plot. Superman has his ever-iconic love story with Lois Lane. Cyclops and Jean Grey have decades of romance and drama. Spider-Man gets around so much that he has multiple iconic romances.

Not every superhero is defined by their romantic sub-plot, although some are more effected by it than others. It’s hard to tell the story of Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards without involving her husband and children. However, certain characters are held to different standards when it comes to romance.

That’s to be expected, given the diverse circumstances of each hero. Not every hero is going to be affected by their romantic sub-plot in the same way. That effect also changes through different eras. Even the iconic relationship between Superman and Lois Lane has changed a great deal over the years, although not necessarily for the better.

However, this particular era has really twisted the standards for female superheroes in romantic relationships and not in a good way. I won’t go so far as to call it a double standard like the others I’ve cited, but the differences are stark. It goes like this.

A male superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses, he enters a relationship with his romantic interest, and continues being the same hero he’s always been. The relationship supplements his story.

A female superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses and she enters a relationship with her romantic interest, but the relationship conflicts with her ability to be a superhero. It gets to a point where the act of her being a hero is detrimental to the relationship. She can have one or the other, but not both.

These scenarios are somewhat generic, but they convey a similar message. Male superheroes can be in romantic relationships without it undermining their heroic persona, but female superheroes can’t have those relationships without it becoming an obstacle.

This strange, unbalanced dynamic played out recently in the pages of “Wonder Woman #754.” I’d even go so far as to argue that Wonder Woman suffers the most from this dynamic, despite being one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Given that she’s the ideal that other female superheroes are compared to, I think that’s telling.

The main plot of the issue isn’t important. The side-plot is where this dynamic showed up. There were frequent flashbacks that highlighted Diana’s recent “drama” with her long-time romantic interest, Steve Trevor. I put drama in quotes because it feels less like drama and more like forced excuses.

It’s been an issue for Wonder Woman for decades. Despite being her most iconic love interest, going back to the 1940s, Steve Trevor has never been that official with Diana. Even though they’ve professed their love for one another in many forms and in many timelines, they’re rarely ever shown as being in a functional, mature relationship.

It’s not just with Steve Trevor, either. Even in the classic “Justice League” cartoon in which she was romantically linked to Batman, nothing ever became official. There’s was never a point where Wonder Woman went from being single to being in a real, functioning relationship.

In fact, the only time Wonder Woman was ever in a functional romantic relationship was when she dated Superman during DC’s short-lived New 52 era in the comics. During that time, Wonder Woman and Superman had their own comics and their own stories. Sometimes, those stories became entwined. Sometimes, they didn’t. It never undermined their relationship or vice versa.

I know comic fans have strong opinions about the New 52 as a whole, but I find it telling that this was really the only time Wonder Woman was allowed to be in a relationship while still being Wonder Woman. For her to be someone’s girlfriend and still be the hero she’s always been, her significant other had to be Superman.

Take a moment to think about the scope of that standard. Wonder Woman, the standard-bearer for female superheroes for decades, can be in a functional relationship, but only with someone as capable as Superman. She and Steve Trevor can be in love, but they can’t have a relationship. He’s just an ordinary man. He’d just undermine Wonder Woman’s ability to be the ideal female hero we know and love.

Meanwhile, male heroes like Batman and Spider-Man can become romantically involved with far less capable individuals, many of which don’t have superpowers and can’t fly across the planet to be on time for date night. They’re still allowed to be in those relationships, but Wonder Woman can’t even make the effort with one of her most iconic romances with Steve Trevor.

As a fan of superhero comic, romance, and Wonder Woman, I find this both flawed and frustrating. While the “Wonder Woman” movie did an solid job establishing genuine romance between her and Steve Trevor, they still never got a chance to actually be in a relationship. It’s as though a female hero can’t be in a relationship without losing something. At the same time, a male hero can’t have a complete story without one.

It’s a strange disconnect and I think it’s getting worse. In recent years, superhero comics have made a concerted effort to develop female characters and I applaud that effort. It has led to some major successes. The problem is that, like Wonder Woman, these female characters aren’t really allowed to become anyone’s girlfriend. Being in a relationship is seen as an obstacle to being strong, independent, compelling characters.

Respectfully, I call bullshit.

Being in a relationship isn’t detrimental to any character, male or female, if the relationship is well-written. In addition, female characters don’t have to be completely, 100-percent independent to be great. In fact, making them that emotional single-minded is a good way to make them unlikable and unrelatable because, in the real world, people have relationships. They form bonds, rely on others, and are effected by those close ties.

Now, I don’t deny that writing great female characters is challenging, especially in recent years. It feels like you can’t write female characters without having an agenda anymore, even when it’s not printed on a shirt. Again, I call bullshit. Female characters, like all characters, are deeply affected by the loving bonds they form. They deserve the same development and exploration as their male counterparts.

Why can’t Wonder Woman be in an official relationship with Steve Trevor?

Does being Steve Trevor’s girlfriend make Wonder Woman any less a superhero?

Does any female superhero lose something when they become someone’s girlfriend?

These are relevant questions that are worth asking. If someone as iconic as Wonder Woman can’t be in a relationship with someone without undermining what makes her Wonder Woman, then that’s not a problem with her as a character. That’s a problem with the standards and assumptions we have about superhero romance.

I’m sorry if this rant feels dragged out, but this has been bothering me for a while. I’d be happy to discuss it more. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under DC Comics, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero comics, Wonder Woman

Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: DCeased #1

It’s Wednesday and for comic book fans, it’s basically a holiday that doesn’t require decorations, greeting cards, or annoying commercials. Every week brings something new and with many people still recovering from the impact of “Avengers Endgame,” myself included, the world needs something to help us move forward.

With that in mind, this week’s quick pick offers something that is the dramatic antithesis of a bittersweet ending to an 11-year movie franchise. “DCeased #1” is not the kind of story that will lift your spirits or trigger tears of joy. It’s a different kind of story that seeks a different impact and, much like “Avengers Endgame,” it succeeds.

The story does not build heavily on recent events in the world of DC Comics so if you haven’t kept up, you won’t be too lost. It’s very much a self-contained story that takes a particular concept that’s unique to the DC Universe and twists it in ways it has never been twisted. The results are brutal, terrifying, and a sight to behold, albeit a morbid one.

Writer, Tom Taylor, has a rich history of taking certain concepts within the superhero genre and re-imagining them in new, compelling ways. He did it with his criminally underrated run on “Superior Iron Man” and “DCeased #1” definitely has traces of those themes.

It starts with something familiar. The Justice League has once again defeated Darkseid. In terms of standard operating procedures in the DC Universe, that’s akin to paying your taxes or getting your driver’s license renewed. However, this typical triumph isn’t the end of the story. It’s just the beginning and it gets very dark, very fast.

At first, it has all the makings of another elaborate plot by Darkseid. He’s always had plenty of that. Being a god-like bringer of death and destruction, he always seems to have something going on and never lets defeat by the Justice League hold him back for long.

Then, his plan goes horribly and shockingly wrong. I won’t spoil the details, but what happens to Darkseid, and later everyone on Earth, strikes at the foundation the DC Universe. Like many other superhero comics, there are a special brand of physics in play, many of which would make Einstein’s head explode. However, when those physics are defied or subverted, bad things tend to happen and this might be the worst.

This isn’t the kind of impact that gives an all-powerful, obscenely-evil character like Darkseid an insane power boost. This is something that torments even the most villainous beings as much as its most virtuous heroes. Gods, demigods, aliens, Amazons, billionaire playboys, and even average people on the street are all equally vulnerable.

For once, there’s no evil figure to fight. There’s no devious villain to outwit or overpower. This is a force of nature that hits anyone and everyone. It’s akin to gravity, light, or taxes. Nobody can escape and nobody is immune.

While the concept of “DCeased #1” may seem like apocalyptic disaster porn, its dramatic structure keeps it from getting too gratuitous. Taylor demonstrates a refined understanding of how certain concepts work in the DC Universe and artwork by James Harren and Tervor Hairsine give rich details to some bleak undertones. Taken together, it creates a dark story that has just the right impact.

Whether you follow the comics or only watch big budget superhero movies, it’s easy to get caught up in the standard tropes of superheros. We expect them to fly in, save the day, or even undo the damage if things get too bad. There are any number of stories like that, especially in the DC Universe. That’s why a story like “DCeased #1” can be so refreshing, even when it deals in such dark themes.

This isn’t a case where we can expect the mightiest heroes in DC to save the day, smile for the cameras, and go back to their lives as mild-mannered reporters. This is a devastating cataclysm for which there is no going back. There’s a uniquely surreal impact to watching this world of mighty superheroes succumb. It’s not just different for the sake of being different. It shows us a different aspect of these characters and this world.

We all know what happens when superheroes save the day. Most people have seen that story in some form or another at some point in their lives. “DCeased #1” dares to ask what happens when superheroes can’t save the world. It’s not that they fail. Technically, they’re not even defeated in the mold of Darkseid beating up Superman. Things just go horribly wrong due to forces beyond their control.

In a world full of god-like super-beings from various planets and universes, this level of destruction has quite an impact. Beyond being the antithesis of the classic hero-saves-the-day narrative, “DCeased #1” presents a story that requires these heroes to reveal a different side of themselves. We know how they are when they’re at their most triumphant. Now, we get to see who they are when all hope is truly lost.

It’s a story worth telling and, if your heart and soul can handle it, “DCeased #1” takes the first step in this utter deconstruction of the DC Universe. It’s a dark, grim sight to behold, but one that brings some welcome novelty to superhero comics.

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The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for Justice League #1. Enjoy!

Justice in Its Totality: Justice League #1

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June 12, 2018 · 9:43 pm