Archive for May 3rd, 2021

May 03 2021

Hour 1 of Justice League’s Snyder Cut, Scene By Scene

Published by under Writing Articles

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1:30 – 6:55: Cyborg sees his Mother Box acting up. Then Mera sees her Mother box acting up. Then Amazon guards see their Mother Box acting up. Also there’s a Lex Luthor flashback where the computer shows him that Mother Boxes are plot relevant in case you missed that. PS: In the first 8 minutes of the movie, the only line of dialogue is an Amazon saying “Alert the Queen!”

6:55 – 9:30: A super-long Batman hike which doesn’t fit in at all with anything that’s happened up to this point (Mother Boxes acting up). Iceland is rugged but this camerawork is more grey/dreary than beautiful. Contrast to a Western where the epic vistas support the plot and characterization. For example, when a sheriff does a slow march out of town to apprehend an outlaw, the terrible beauty and desolation of the West are perfectly in sync with how savage the task ahead is. We don’t know anything that’s going on with Batman, so hopefully you REALLY like watching 2.5 minutes of desolate hiking through the crags of Iceland because that’s all you’re getting from this scene. We’re still on one line of dialogue so far.

9:30 – 14:30: Batman offers Aquaman/Curry a spot on the Justice League. Aquaman refuses. Ladies burst into song at 13:20 in the strangest use of diegetic music I’ve ever seen in my life.

Aquaman requests $5000 to pass along a message to the man from the sea “if he exists.” This ruse is a waste of time because Batman already knows he’s Aquaman. Proposed rewrite of this part of the scene:
Aquaman (Icelandic): $10,000 and I’ll find him if he exists.
Batman (English): $20, it’s a short search. (Batman briefly stares at a clean-shaven extra). There might be a mirror here. (Batman is obliquely saying that Curry is Aquaman, but Aquaman misses this).
Aquaman (Icelandic): You’re a billionaire and you can’t spare $10,000?
Batman (English): You’re a king and you need $10,000? (Pause). To find yourself (disbelief). I’ve seen a lot of business proposals, but Arthur you might have just topped shark repellent. (Hands him $10,000, which Aquaman quickly passes on to a local).
Aquaman (English): Finding someone that wants to be king, that can be a king is not easy. Keep the shark repellent, you’ll need it.
Batman: There is no shark repellent.
Aquaman: There is no Atlantis. Not for me, anyway.

An Icelandic local gets offended that Bruce offers Curry money to talk outside, and even the local’s confused about what he’s doing in this scene. “How dare this dog speak to us like children? Ooh, magical man from the sea! We are poor. Not stupid.” When your supernatural savior is handling a conversation with a stranger that seems to know his secret, antagonizing the stranger is a real dumb move, and it’s hard to imagine that he thinks this is helping Aquaman.

Instead of wasting a minute on a detour that goes nowhere (Aquaman claiming not to be Aquaman), I’d suggest focusing instead on Aquaman shooting down Batman’s request. For example, he’s jaded about being a ruler — the political situation in Atlantis looks awful for a new ruler with very little experience or political ability. I wouldn’t have him claim he’s in Iceland to get away from people – it obviously isn’t true, he’s close enough to the locals that they serenade him and sniff his sweater and oh God I hope that’s weird even in Iceland. I think it’d make more sense if he wants to choose his own problems, ones that he can actually fix. All of this points him away both from Atlantis and Bruce’s warning of impending danger.

Batman clumsily drags Superman into the conversation. CURRY: “Strong man is strongest alone. You ever heard that?” BATMAN: “You ever hear of Superman? He died fighting next to me.” If anything, I’d have Aquaman bring up Superman’s death first, as evidence that Batman’s plan is doomed. If you can’t make it work with Superman, it won’t work whether or not Aquaman joins.

14:30 – 15:30: Martha moves out of her foreclosed house. This is bizarrely slow, and won’t ever go anywhere. The only person fighting to keep this scene in the movie was U-Haul.

15:30 – 16:30: Bruce Wayne lands helicopter and discusses his recruiting failure with Alfred. Alfred’s main role in this movie is to narrate at people and be narrated to. When he’s not doing that, he’s being the even sadder guy in a room which is already well-steeped in morosity and lethargy.

16:30 – 18:15: Lois Lane gets coffee and exchanges pleasantries with a cop at Clark’s memorial. There’s a ridiculously over-the-top dirge. I think the point here is establishing that she’s still grieving over Clark’s death, but it’s hard to tell, since most scenes so far have been this bleak.

18:15 – 26:00: London. The world’s most incompetent terrorists shoot their way into a museum to buy time for a 4-block-radius bomb they could easily have detonated outside. Then they forget that bombs can be detonated instantly, so they set a minute-long fuse, which is enough time for 20+ cops, 5 police vans, 2 snipers and a superhero to show up. If you’re getting your hopes up for non-superheroes to do anything useful, don’t worry, we’ll next see the cops when debris from the last terrorist’s corpse rains down on them like a particularly bad construction accident. There’ll be a hat too. Welcome to London.

21:20: The bomb counter starts. 22:10: clock shows 30 seconds left, but it really should only have 10. Everything in this movie moves slower than normal, even bomb fuses.

Wonder Woman has an awful lasso of truth moment with an extraordinarily boring terrorist. Among other things, this guy expects to be dead within 60 seconds, and he’s under a lasso of truth, so he might have some unexpected emotional cues, e.g. maybe he’s got some regret about how it went down or he’s grimly confident that blowing up this bomb won’t accomplish anything he’s looking for, but it’s more about making a statement, or maybe he fears that bringing back the Stone Age might not work out all that well for his parents. He doesn’t need to be a likable character, but it is on-brand for Wonder Woman to bring out humanness in characters that normally don’t get it. It is NOT on-brand for Wonder Woman to dismiss the world’s most boring terrorist with “Boring!” If your scene is so lame that this feels like an appropriate response, get back to rewrite.

You're 5 feet from a door! But 0 feet from useless

23:10: Wonder Woman leaves with the bomb. At this point there is 1 terrorist with no bomb and a pistol. 23:30: The terrorist points pistol at the crowd. The hostages do… absolutely nothing but scream. 15 seconds later (!), the terrorist reconsiders and picks up a rifle from a dead comrade. The hostages do absolutely nothing. The terrorist points rifle at the crowd and now the crowd starts ineffectually putting their hands out. 23:55: Wonder Woman bursts in as the world’s slowest terrorist opens fire. I saw 15-20 adult hostages, mostly men. Not only are they so helpless that they don’t attempt to flee at any point or grab one of the rifles lying around or charge the shooter or do literally anything besides wait to die, they don’t even take the front row to body-block for the 20+ kid hostages. Shockingly, there are adult hostages *behind* the kids, which I think is a lesson for kids not to get caught with hostages this useless.

Wonder Woman savages the last terrorist and the cops watch inertly as his hat slowly drifts to the ground, which is a perfect visual for this scene. If you added clownish special effects the pointlessly long hat drop would BE this scene.

“Can I be like you someday?” If you sit down for your death, probably not. You know she wouldn’t have.

These kids have seen some REAL stuff. There’s been 30+ shots fired at them, multiple people have been murdered, they’ve seen a bomb count down to 10 seconds, the bomb eventually explodes, and later the windows explode with enough force to wreck a cop car. This cutesy “Can I be like you someday?” line seconds later is a terrible mismatch for the tone of the scene.

26:00 – 27:30: The Amazon Queen investigates the Mother Box. “Any changes today?” “No, my Queen.” What? Wasn’t the entire point of the opening scene that the box started acting strangely? Everybody in the room saw it change. 27:30 – 28:00: People around the island react to skybeam coming out of the Mother Box’s vault.

28:00 – 37:00: Action scene. If you’ve seen any movie with the heroes trying to protect plot coupons from invaders, at least the first 2 will be easy wins for the invaders. It didn’t have to be this slow, though. E.g. there’s a 2 minute sequence between the Queen taking the box and leaving the building.

37:00 – 37:45: Amazon denouement. They’re going to light the warning fire, a plot line riddled in logic holes to get Diana in position to see a visual history of something her mother might already have mentioned to her, seeing as her mother was part of an army that saved the planet against an enemy they know will return. It’s hard to imagine this is some sort of arcane secret hidden in a shrine if they keep 50+ Amazon guards around the clock guarding their Mother Box.

37:45 – 38:45: Steppenwolf setting up a Russian base. He deploys search teams to smell out the other two boxes. He’s trying to prove his worth to Darkseid. This is surprisingly non-bad for an alien invader. The less we see of Darkseid, the better this setup works. PS: His plan is way better than lighting a warning fire.

38:45-40:15: Batman discussing possible Flash sighting with Alfred. Alfred’s not sure the goal of putting together the team is doable. He’s not convinced of the threat, or of their results so far. Batman needs to set him straight that this doom-and-gloom counsel is not helpful. And not necessary, we already have Snyder.

40:15–42:15 Dr. Stone leaves work super-late. Janitor finds a pile of rubble. Note: despite holding Superman’s ship, this place isn’t as well guarded as the museum with the magic cops. Alarm systems later heard aren’t on here. The janitor stumbles in on a parademon without knocking and, spoilers, it’s EXACTLY what it looked like, a serial killing in progress.

42:15–44:30: Amazons light signal fire in the off-hand chance that it gets carried by the news and that Diana happens to see a news update from a no-casualty fire 1000+ miles on Crete.

44:30–45:45: Diana happens to see a news update from a no-casualty fire 1000+ miles on Crete. Well, glad that worked out!

45:45–47:15: “What’s your rank, Doctor?” If you try to pull rank but you can’t guess who outranks you (e.g. the oldest person that everybody’s deferring to in conversation), you probably won’t be working many super-cases. PS: It seems very unlikely that there’d be an obviously nonhuman murder at the facility holding Superman’s ship without the investigators having even the slightest clue about why the facility is important. It also seems impossible that you could grab 8 people at a secure facility without getting caught on camera but at least this sets up a cool and senselessly dramatic sketch ID.

47:15-48:15: Dr. Stone goes home, and tells Cyborg that the Box isn’t safe at home, that people were abducted by a monster. Cyborg: “You know a lot about monsters, don’t you? Especially how to make ‘em.” What the Bojangles. This editing is just the worst. We don’t at this point have any of the beats established to either make this dialogue impactful or even for it to make sense. Later on, we’ll get a fairly good set of scenes laying out Cyborg’s conflict with his father, and it all would have made a lot more sense if we saw that before the first parademon attack involving Dr. Stone’s lab. Of the first 45 minutes, there are at least 20 that could be cut or moved back to make room for this.

48:15–51:00: Wonder Woman at Shrine of Amazons. She sees a history of the Darkseid invasion and the backstory with the Mother Boxes. Don’t worry, if you miss it here, she’ll also have a scene narrating the history to Batman.

51:00–52:45 Aquaman saves a boater from drowning. He grabs a whiskey, which is pretty much the only scene in the movie where they passed on product placement. “It’s on him” is probably the first very good line so far.

52:45 – 53:45: Curry downs a whiskey and marches out to a 20% badass song and his second shirt-removal scene. At least it doesn’t get sniffed this time, I hope.

53:45-57:00: Curry’s tutor Vulko finds him at the gravesite of an ancient king. Vulko gives a pretty plausible reason that disappearing sentries are a problem for Curry — the existing authorities, under Aquaman’s half-brother, are trying to blame it on the surface. That’s actually a pretty cool setup. Across the board, I really liked what we saw of Atlantis in this movie. It’s delightfully dysfunctional and feels *exactly* like how a superpowered aristocracy would struggle with people coming to power that have a terrible personality mismatch for actually ruling. Aquaman is a PERFECT reflection on this disaster. Thamyscara mainly shows up to burn like 15+ minutes on two excruciatingly long action scenes with 50+ extras getting mowed down, which is the role that fictional places like Atlantis/Thamyscara/Wakanda usually provide for team movies.

57:00 – 59:30: Steppenwolf gives a status report. Destroy their will, unite them under Darkseid, repeal the capital gains tax. DeSaad narrates that Steppenwolf betrayed Darkseid in some prideful mistake. Implied character development: he’s not particularly hubristic in the movie. His attack plans are rather modest, and he flees almost immediately after acquiring each box rather than try to stick around and accomplish secondary objectives or eliminate downed enemies. When he sees the relief army of Amazons coming, he leaves.

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