Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Without reliable authoritative information and accurate narratives, we are inclined to construct our own.  These false narratives are often misleading or needlessly inflame.  Presenting a few case studies for your consideration.


Warner Brothers nearly cut the “No Man’s Land” scene from Wonder Woman

In a Fandango interview, May 2017, Director Patty Jenkins is quoted regarding the No Man’s Land scene:

“It’s my favorite scene in the movie and it’s the most important scene in the movie.  It’s also the scene that made the least sense to other people going in … When I started to really hunker in on the significance of No Man’s Land, there were a couple people who were deeply confused, wondering, like, ‘well, what is she going to do?  How many bullets can she fight?’ and I kept saying, ‘It’s not about that.  This is a different scene than that.  This is a scene about her becoming Wonder Woman.'”

Clear and direct right?  This is the director herself, quoted on the record.  However countless outlets ran this story after injecting an additional false narrative.  A few are listed purely to corroborate the point with evidence.  No other commentary is being made about these publications or the authors.  In each case, they add a narrative of Jenkins against short-sighted studio executives unable to understand a creative vision:

  • Slashfilm  – “when she laid out the scene to people at the studio before filming” / “in order to convince the higher-ups that it was necessary”
  • Business Insider  – “Jenkins said to convince others at Warner Bros. this would work”
  • CBR  – “the sequence was harder to sell to studio execs than one might imagine”
  • io9  – “someone at Warner Bros. thought at one point it wasn’t worth being part of Wonder Woman’s runtime” / “the scene did not go down well at all with her colleagues at Warner Bros.”
  • Vox – “But it’s also easy to see why a studio might suggest cutting the sequence.” / “What’s interesting about this isn’t that Jenkins had to talk some of her bosses into signing off on the No Man’s Land sequence.”
  • The Mary Sue  – “For some reason, none of this registered with the higher-ups at Warner Bros, who apparently saw this entire sequence as a waste of time”

However, Jenkins had said nothing about the studio, executives, higher-ups, or Warner Brothers.  A director quote is an impeccable source, but still vulnerable to the imposition of false narratives.  At a June 11th DGA event in Los Angeles, Jenkins sat down with Richard Donner for a brief Q&A where she corrected the narrative.

Warner Brothers had not opposed the scene:

“It’s funny, I feel badly about this cause it’s been reported that Warner Bros. was against it, which it was not Warner Bros., it was my own people in England. It was our own crew at points, who were like, ‘Why are you doing this scene? She’s not even fighting anything,’ So Warner Bros. was not unsupportive of the No Man’s Land scene. It was much more in-process that everybody was like, ‘What’s this scene for? There’s no one to fight. We’ve already seen her block a bullet in the alley and then she’s going to go in and save this church tower, why do you need this other scene?'” (transcription via CinemaBlend)

The video of the event is currently down, but audio is available here in the DGA’s podcast, episode 77 at 18m22s.

In other words, Patty was not battling with studio executives but her own creative team.  The fight was not about the soul of the film versus corporate interests, but between like-minded, supportive, creative individuals attempting to collaborate towards the best film.

The objections to the No Man’s Land scene were based in story-beats, presenting novel challenges, and characterization (not logistical, as I claimed in error in my own Wonder Woman episode).

The concern was that Diana had already faced gunfire on the beach, the alley way, and would do so again against the village sniper; How many of their marquee moments did they want to spend on Diana and bullets yet again?  Moreover the enemy is abstract and impersonal: Wonder Woman against machine guns.  Finally, given that they would immediately start the Veld action sequence, was this scene necessary?

These are good questions and good notes, creatively, character, and story driven.  Thankfully, Jenkins had her own creative instincts to insist upon the scene.  But look how different the narrative!  Instead of a David and Goliath struggle between art and suits, this is a collaborative push-and-pull to polish a picture.  Resistance is not the enemy but the assurance that something deserves to be in the film.

Considerably fewer outlets published this correction of the narrative.

Imagine if you only knew and believed the injected false narrative. What kinds of unnecessary anger and judgment you’d bear against the studio who were, in fact, innocent of your accusation?

Fortunately, Jenkins quickly clarified and does so again in our second case. read more

Don’t Be As Gullible As Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith Can Be Quite Lovable

It is for that reason he was the co-host for the Dawn of the Justice League, network television event advertising DC’s coming slate and included on every BvS disc.  He hosted the Yahoo! Movies release of Man of Steel.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve referenced him on my show either for his Jon Peters story or Suicide Squad or more!  He is a comic book store owner, host of Fat Man on Batman, and his transparent Everyman quality gives him substantial geek cred.

As an Everyman he’s as susceptible to falsehoods and clickbait as everyone.

On November 29th, Kevin Smith published the following Fat Man on Batman episode (skip to 1h56m):

Upset at the alterations to Justice League, Kevin pulls up a website and shares 22 alleged alterations to Zack’s original vision.

The only problem?  They’re not real.  Not exactly.

Kevin is not affirming any of this to be true.  He doesn’t know.  He just bookmarked a wordpress post that merely parrots (with minor alterations, editorial, and without attribution) a /r/DCEULeaks post published November 18, which was promptly discredited and deleted.  Unfortunately, not before obtaining traction online being republished on other clickbait outlets like Nerdist, etc. (com’on guys, do better!)

History Lesson

The redditor’s post history is telling.  It’s filled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and the same kind of vague attempts at teasing and disclosures which get used in cold readings for fraud psychics and spiritualists who prey on the hopes and pain of others… only a lot less deftly and readily apparent.  Nonetheless, the timing is telling, let’s break it down:

  • October 19, 2017 – ViewerAnon’s 54-point plot breakdown.
  • November 13, 2017 – US Fan Screenings of Justice League.
  • November 17, 2017 – US Justice League release date.
  • November 17, 2017 – Ultracal31’s 2,138-word leak (“changed, deleted and Snyder vs Whedon”).
  • November 17, 2017 – Ultracal31’s leak is corroborated by ViewerAnon.
  • November 18, 2017 – Original 21-point “Differences” and immediately debunked.
  • November 18, 2017 – Ultracal31 debunks “Differences”.
  • November 19, 2017 – TheAscendedAncient leaks footage debunking “Differences”.
  • November 19, 2017 – The wordpress site that Kevin reads posts “Differences”.
  • November 22, 2017 – The Nerdist publishes a video based on “Differences”.
  • November 24, 2017 – LDN_Film is moderator verified and does an AMA debunking “Differences”.
  • November 24, 2017 – The wordpress site edits “Differences” to remove debunked parts and add LDN_Film points.
  • November 29, 2017 – Kevin reads wordpress version of “Differences” on Fat Man on Batman.

What am I getting at?  “Differences” is illegitimate.  It comes after theatrical release and is based entirely on information already known or fabricated guesses.  It sources ViewerAnon’s breakdown, Ultracal31’s two-thousand-word leak, the litany of pre-release press and promo materials, and general (largely wrong) assumptions about Zack Snyder’s inclinations, intentions, proclivities, and style (with a sprinkling of studio or fan mandated “fixes”).  Except to the extent it draws from accurate sources, none of the original material is real, true, or truthful.  It is a guess.

Outside of its elaboration on information we already knew before November 18, it provides no insight, nothing verified, nothing corroborated, and is- frankly- a lie.

Confirmation

This shouldn’t have to be said, but just because a celebrity reads a website aloud doesn’t “confirm”, verify, substantiate, or corroborate the content.  Kevin didn’t fact check.  He has no source.  He doesn’t know.  He just took a wordpress post to be true and gave it 60,000+ more eyes than the 80,000 views Nerdist gave it one week earlier.

Alleged Audience Confirmation

What about the audience member allegedly breaking NDA to affirm what Kevin was reading off?  To us, she is faceless, nameless, and impossible to verify or authenticate in any meaningful way.  If you have an ounce of skepticism you have cause to doubt some random person alleging inside knowledge.  Nonetheless, even taking her at face value, what did she really say?

  • 2h5m31s – “I promised them I wouldn’t talk today, but um, yeah.  Most of that stuff was in there.”
  • 2h5m37s – “That’s the version that you saw?” / “I saw that and I saw the other version too.”
  • 2h5m45s – “In terms of seeing them both, what did you think?” / “Um, I like the first one better.”
  • 2h6m21s – “You saw Darkseid?” / “Yes, there was a Darkseid in there.  Kind of like the finished, but not really.”
  • 2h6m28s – “Not fully finished?” / “No, dressed in a suit kinda.”
  • 2h6m35s – “Steppenwolf is killed by Darkseid on Apokolips.” / “That, I did not see.”
  • 2h7m15s – “Did Cyborg die in your version?” / “No.”

Reasonable Skepticism

I have to say, I don’t find this audience member credible.  It’s an old cross-examination standby but we use it because it works: “Ma’am, were you being truthful and honest when you signed your NDA?  Were you being truthful and honest when you promised you wouldn’t talk last week?  So now that you’re talking we see that your word, integrity, and honesty mean nothing.  So all you need is attention to break a contract, to break your word, to break a promise… so how much attention do you need to bend the truth if not outright lie?”  She lacks the integrity to keep a contract and is willing to break it for attention… who is to say she’s not willing to lie for attention too?

The real sticking point is the Darkseid stuff where she says, “a Darkseid”, “kind of like the finished”, and “dressed in a suit.”  There aren’t multiple Darkseids so it would never be “a Darkseid”, there isn’t a finished or final Darkseid in the theatrical cut so how could she compare her alleged version to the non-existent “kind of like the finished” version?  And I’m not going to elaborate on how Darkseid would be represented in unfinished VFX but it would be… unusual… to describe it as “dressed in a suit” whilst knowing it was “a” Darkseid.  She was rather unconvincing.

Remember, this is November 29th.  “Differences” has been disseminated since November 18th and what if the audience member was one of the 80,000 people who watched it on Nerdist or other outlets already, believed it to be legitimate, and simply parroted it here pretending to be an authentic insider?  In theory, nothing she says proves she is someone who saw a screening (that even the author of “Differences” claims was WB Executive exclusive contradicting her!) versus an attention-desperate person who read a rumor they believed and claimed as their own inside knowledge.  It is impossible to tell if she is repeating an earlier rumor or her own actual experience from what little she shared.  Nothing new, original, specific, or testable.

Even If True She Debunks “Differences”

All that said, pretend she’s absolutely 100% honest to the best of her ability.  She’s confirmed nothing from “Differences”, not a single specific point or element or enumerated thing is corroborated by her answers.  Only vague, broad, sweeping incomplete generalizations!  “Most of that stuff was in there” not “Everything you said is exactly how it was.”  That makes it impossible to verify any individual list item because we don’t know if it is included in “most of that stuff” or not, rending the list worthless.

If she’s being truthful and if “Differences” is based off of legitimate leaks prior to November 18th, I should hope that some of the stuff was in there!  We should expect it!  That doesn’t legitimize or confirm Differences, only the reliable sources it drew upon, it doesn’t make the list itself reliable.

Instead, when confronted with specific, enumerated, explicitly listed items from “Differences”, she denies seeing them!  If she’s reliable and truthful, she says Steppenwolf isn’t killed on Apokolips and Cyborg didn’t die, in direct contradiction to “Differences”.  How desperate do you have to be to start pushing “Differences” as Zack’s vision given it is completely uncorroborated and the sole source of authority explicitly debunks the only two explicitly unique points related to it?  Why would you push “Differences” when it has been contradicted and debunked by verified insiders, our own eyes, the author’s lack of credibility, etc. when we have a wealth of legitimate information to draw from?

What’s the Harm?

Well, even if it isn’t true what’s the harm in promoting it, sharing it, and insisting upon it?  So what if an unsubstantiated rumor gets passed around?  Why can’t we have our fantasy or ignite outrage and action over a fantasy?

Integrity and Values

If you’re asking these questions, we part ways on a fundamental level in terms of values.  Yes, in some sense fantasy is harmless.  However, irresponsible dissemination of misinformation, the failure to fact-check, the valuing of sensation over integrity, honesty, and truth… getting in the habit of this over leisure leaks into how you live your real life.   One of the reason we love comics, mythology, and stories is because they provide the narratives we use to frame and order our lives.  But if we don’t value truth, journalistic integrity, honesty, critical thinking, and empathy, we will fail to recognize falsehoods and get swept up in illegitimate narratives all too easily.

What If It’s False?

But setting aside your own integrity and character, let’s do a balancing test or Pascal’s Wager.  Let’s imagine that I’m right and “Differences” does not accurately reflect Zack Snyder’s version of the film.  If you respond to, fight for, promote, insist upon, and get outraged over “Differences” and it isn’t Zack’s film then what are you fighting for, getting upset over, and what message are you sending?

The people who know- I mean really, actually, truly know what Zack’s film would have been compared to “Differences”- now know you don’t actually care about Zack’s film which is something else entirely.  They have no reason to admit, disclose, or release something that doesn’t match what the ill-informed are clamoring for.  It ends up being an insult to the people who worked on the earlier vision because people keep saying “Man, we should have got Differences!” while the filmmakers hang their heads and think, “But our film wasn’t that Differences nonsense!”  It’s an open declaration there’s no market for the actual and authentic thing.  People would rather have the fantasy they’ve conjured.

What If It’s True?

Conversely, let’s say I’m wrong.  What is so different about Differences that you can’t simply promote all the authenticated, established, verified, corroborated, proven, known, and seen differences between the advertising, promotional, leaked, mentioned in print / press / interviews / junkets, social media hints, etc. omissions and changes that we know and can prove that it’s indispensable?

Is it Cyborg’s death debunked by Kevin’s audience member?  Is it Darkseid debunked by LDN_Film?  Is it Perry debunked by Laurence Fishburne?  Is it because the author of Differences lacks the imagination to make the first scene of the film anything but the first scene in the trailers?  Are we really losing anything discarding the discredited Differences and instead relying upon all the other authenticated information even if Differences magically turns out to be true?  No.  Seeking to rely on more credible facts because you value truth, honesty, and integrity is never a mistake.

Think critically.

read more

The DCCU is not being rushed

Some suggest thatdclogoblue the DC Cinematic Universe is being rushed.

We cover two interpretations of this concern: first, that not enough time has been spent on the actual production; and second, that not enough time will be given on the screen.

What about production time?

If anything, it has been a long time coming and is something that Warner Brothers has been attempting and developing to varying degrees for years.  In fact, the first mainstream comic book shared cinematic universe existed between Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Helen Slater’s Supergirl with the common casting of Marc McClure as Jimmy Olsen.  Of course, this iteration of the shared universe is the one that people really care about.

We can go back and forth on the arguments for why but sometimes it’s illustrative to just look at the metrics.  Rushing means doing something too quickly for the time allowed.  Here, we can objectively evaluate the time allowed.

Let’s contrast Marvel Phase One, leading up to The Avengers, with DC’s slate leading up to Justice League.

mcu dcu

Visually, they don’t look all that different.  Note that graphs aren’t to scale relative to one another.  The DCCU timeline encompasses 53 months over the MCU’s 48 month timeline.  Aside from first visual impressions, let’s get into the numbers.  For the sake of simplicity we’re rounding dates to the first of the month…. read more

Has Snyder Moved On? Is The WB Imposing Batman On Us?

ZD7ZcVyI’ve received a lot of thoughtful responses to Zack Loves Superman. Many positive which I appreciate, but also some with additional concerns, which I’d like to address.

They raise plenty of good points that nothing in the video is relevant if Snyder is unreliable- either not completely honest about his feelings, playing politics, or if his feelings have changed- or if, irrespective of his feelings, Warner Brothers is mandating an emphasis on Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In either of those cases, I would tend to agree, but I’d also hope that neither situation is the case. We’re operating on very limited information. We have yet to see a single frame of confirmed footage or one iota of official plot. In the absence of facts our reactions are being guided by our emotions and pre-conceived notions and prejudices more than anything else.

Thus in the absence of such facts, I’m electing to be hopeful. I’m deciding to be optimistic. That choice makes anticipation for this film a wonderful, rather than a hand-wringing, experience.

Statistically speaking, of course, it’s still the safest way to travel.

Facts, inferences, evidence, and data can help quell anxiety, but even they can’t convince someone committed to worry or a position of dread. Of course, their fears could ultimately be entirely justified… but what a way to spend the next year of your life! (Or half-decade if including the other slated DCCU films!) I can only offer you some meager arguments… for those who want to believe, have faith, and have hope. I can’t prove the future will be good. I can’t make you hope. However, I can try to share mine. read more

Official Batmobile Image – “Who Pumps The Tires?”

The Batmobile is just awesome to look at, but it also may imply more about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than may be apparent at first glance….
read more

A Realistic Approach to Hope and Morality

I disagree with the Comic Alliance editorial’s position that Man of Steel is devoid of hope and morality, rather, it is a realistic view of hope and morality.

Originally Posted by Comic Alliance

This is not a movie about truth, or justice, or heroism, or sacrifice, or hope. Hope gets a mention. We’re told the symbol on Superman’s chest represents “hope,” but I can’t think of any moment in the movie that shows us that ideal. The characters standing in the wreckage at the end of the movie seem to represent grim endurance rather than hope. We do see a glimpse at the end of the movie of young Clark Kent playing outside with a cape around his neck. That seems hopeful. But as it’s a moment from his past, before everything went to hell, it also suggests that hope is naive.
ASSM_HC2

If he reads the film as presenting hope as naive, I think he’s confusing the message of the film versus his 4-color image of hope which is naive. Hope takes endurance, not just idle and effortless wish fulfillment.

If you step outside the film for a bit, Henry Cavill was a kid who’s nickname was “Fat Cavill“, nevertheless he determined to be a Hollywood Actor at around 16. Not just an actor, doing theater and what not, he wanted to be in big pictures and big roles, across the pond in America. He had hope. Back then a big star, Russell Crowe, supported his hope, but told him no lies… he instilled into young Cavill the Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” read more