As I have previously mentioned, the one bright spot about the existence of the otherwise extremely uninspiring and uninteresting ‘Batman v Superman’ movie (really, I remember having huge misgivings as soon as the project was announced–Zack Snyder, talking about DKR as his inspiration, feels like it could be the dictionary definition of “toxic masculinity”) was that it held the potential for some truly wacky studio hijinks. After all, the movie looked like it was going to tank, at least by the standards of Hollywood blockbusters…
A word about that, for everyone saying, “Hey, it made $850 million, why is it being called a failure?” It’s being called a failure because different standards apply to Hollywood blockbusters. These things are designed, through merchandising, product placement, synergistic endorsement deals and aggressive promotion, to make back their money even if the film is basically just two solid hours of Arnie flipping the bird to the screen and shouting, “SUCKER!” in an Austrian accent every few minutes. (Spoilers for ‘Terminator: Genesys’!) It is very hard for them to actually lose money, because so much of the money is made before the film hits theaters–‘Phantom Menace’ would have been profitable without selling a single ticket–and so much more of the money is made before the reviews come out. These films are not judged on the absolute money they make, but on the money they make relative to each other, because their job is not to make money. Their job is to make the kind of obscene, world-shattering money that lets studio execs throw $50 million at some crazy vanity project sight unseen because they’re making ten times that per extremely reliable Avengers movie and have money to burn. On that scale, BvS has failed. ‘Ant-Man’ did better in its fourth week than ‘BvS’ in its fourth week. You do not want to be the guy who makes a Batman/Superman movie that makes less than ‘Ant-Man’.
OK. So the point is, all I was really hoping for is that WB execs would lose their shit and we would get some entertaining panic. Would they dump Snyder overboard like a hot potato? Would he give great snippy bitchy interviews where he blamed audiences for not getting his vision? (I’m still holding out hope for that. If there’s one thing I can say about Snyder besides the fact that he’s a shitty director, it’s that he’s incredibly thin-skinned and holds grudges with reviewers that he works out every time he does a press junket. He’s still holding court on ‘Sucker Punch’, ferfucksake.)
Instead, we get Seth Grahame-Green quitting the ‘Flash’ movie. Now, I can’t say this would have been a great movie–I loved the hell out of the book of ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’, but he hasn’t been able to translate his skills into movie-making quite yet and it’s distinctly possible that this would have been a big whiff. (Especially since this would have been his directorial debut, and giving someone a huge summer blockbuster as their first movie even though these things have damn near broken guys like Sam Raimi and Joss Whedon seems like its own category of fascinating train wreck.) But in terms of whose vision I’d rather see in the DC Murderverse, it’s an untested Seth Grahame-Green over Snyder any day.
And now James Wan is talking about ditching ‘Aquaman’. And while…look, I cannot stand ‘Saw’, okay? I absolutely think the final twist is the kind of irredeemable bullshit that makes me want to throw things at the screen, an infuriating and unearned “gotcha” that makes no sense and requires six billion coincidences that the killer can’t possibly arrange all to fall in a very particular way for the movie not to literally end on Page Two of the screenplay. (“Hey, I found these keys stuck in the drain! Let’s just go!”) I cannot stand this movie and I will gleefully spoil it for strangers on the grounds that it is better for you to not watch the movie than feel like you wasted two hours on it. (The killer is the guy on the floor. He’s not really dead. Yes, it’s bullshit.)
But that’s all the script. The direction in ‘Saw’ actually makes a movie about two guys stuck in a room all night compelling. It’s impressive work. James Wan has a solid and impressive body of directing behind him. If WB is backing Snyder, whose biggest hit is now over ten years behind him and wasn’t written by him in the first place, over Wan, this is going to be less “fun trainwreck” and more “oh. oh, that poor man. oh god, his wife is crying, and she’s covered in blood, and…is that her blood? is that her husband’s blood? oh god, they had a cargo flat full of adorable baby lambs, and they’re squealing, they won’t stop squealing, there’s just so much pain….”
I’m hoping that doesn’t happen. I’m really hoping that the backstabbing and panic leads to good movies in the end, rather than good movies being shitcanned in order to double down on the Snyder vision of a Bat-boot stamping on a human face forever. Because this, this thing of interesting and creative people fleeing the DC movies like rats leaving the sinking ship? Not actually what I was hoping for.