A League of His Own

I’ve watched the Snyder Cut. I’m neither a Snyder superfan nor a Snyder hater, so I went in prepared for it to be either better or worse than the Whedon-Snyder hybrid version, though obviously I was hoping for better. And better indeed it is; I enjoyed it much more. To be sure, each has elements I liked that the other lacks; still, the tone of the Snyder version is much less uneven than that of the hybrid, as one would expect.

Comparisons between the Whedon and Snyder versions are sometimes surprising, though; a lot of humour one might have thought was Whedon turns out to be Snyder (though of course a lot also doesn’t), and one major montagey scene that looked like pure vintage Snyder turned out to be Whedon.

A lot of people are rolling their eyes about the four-hour runtime, but I greatly preferred the measured pace and slow burn that gives the story and characters more time to breathe. In particular, Cyborg, Cyborg’s father, and the Flash get a lot more to do. Also, although Snyder continues to operate better at the “moment” level than at the “scene” level (to quote one perceptive YouTube analyst I can’t seem to find now), that vice is less in evidence when he’s allowed more time.

Plus: in this era where people demand to bingewatch an entire season it’s a bit odd to complain about a movie’s length, especially since it’s online rather than in a theatre so you can pause whenever you like, and in any case Snyder has broken the movie into six chapters so you can treat it as a six-episode miniseries and watch one episode at a time if you’re so inclined.

The “Knightmare” flashforwards in this movie finally make sense of the earlier ones in Batman v. Superman; if you put them all together you get a fairly clear picture of what happens in the future that Barry wants Bruce to avert.

Not everything is better in the Snyder cut. I like Whedon’s Steppenwolf better (Snyder admittedly gives him better motivations and backstory, but the Whedon version gives him more personality and more menace). Wonder Woman’s now-familiar theme music gets used only once; instead there’s a new Wonder Woman leitmotiv that, while I like it, I’ve gotta say is overused. And a couple of her new scenes make no sense (I won’t go into details, because spoilers). The Snyder version also asks us to believe that one of the villains just forgot the location of the thing he desires most in life. Snyder’s ending to the Lois/Martha scene completely undercuts it; one of the new characters is just shoehorned awkwardly in; and I’m not crazy about the aspect ratio (which I gather Snyder chose mainly in the hope of future IMAX showings).

And in both versions, the Apokoliptians all look like rough-hewn CGI video game monsters rather than actual characters. That can only make things difficult for the upcoming New Gods movie, at least if that’s supposed to be in continuity with the earlier movies – though the likewise upcoming Flash movie may hand DC a get-out-of-continuity-free card.

One final note: in the hybrid version, the narration over the flashback scene of hiding the motherboxes seems to be a direct homage to the opening of Fellowship of the Ring; if you were wondering whether that was Snyder’s idea or Whedon’s, lo, it was Whedon’s – the Snyder narration is much less Fellowship-y. Though of course the idea of three major peoples each receiving a perilous magical gifty remains.


The Strastnoy of Ayn Rand

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

Ayn Rand’s Red Pawn, written in the 1930s, takes place on the imaginary Strastnoy (“Passion,” in the Christian theological sense) Island, in “the Arctic waters off the Siberian coast,” where a Christian monastery has been converted into a Soviet prison camp.

In real life there actually was, during the 1920s and 30s, a Christian monastery that had been converted into a Soviet prison camp, on a remote island in Arctic waters – though on the western side of Russia, not the eastern, Siberian side – namely Solovki Prison on Solovetzky Island, which was actually the nucleus of the entire Gulag system. (Appropriately enough, the Gulag Archipelago began on a literal archipelago.)

Solovki Prison is not as forbidding-looking as the one described in Rand’s story (Rand’s version has a bit more the flavour of the Château d’If), but I still suspect it influenced the tale. (During World War II, Solovki became a military base. Today it is a monastery again.) (There was also a Strastnoy monastery in Moscow that was demolished by the Soviets, and might have influenced Rand’s choice of name.)

Would Rand have been aware of Solovki Prison? I think likely yes, since two books had been published on it in the west during the 1920s, by former inmates – S. A. Malsagoff’s An Island Hell: A Soviet Prison in the Far North, and Youri Bezsonov’s Mes vingt-six prisons et mon évasion de Solovki.


Sewer Song

In my latest YouTube video, I share a totally authentic song from the mean streets of Gotham City (and below).

Thanks to Alicia Homer for introducing me to the Wellerman song!

Apologies for the change of key and tempo toward the end. If you’re looking for musical competence, you’ve chosen the wrong YouTube channel.


Maxwell’s House of Books!

Continuing the San Diego bookstores series, I chat with Craig Maxwell of Maxwell’s House of Books (good to the last drop of ink!) in La Mesa, featuring titles in philosophy, history, science, law, literature, poetry, drama, literary criticism, science fiction, mystery, and more.


Learning MacLeod’s World

In my latest YouTube interview, I chat with science fiction author Ken MacLeod about Scottish space opera, libertarianism and Marxism, individualist anarchism, the Austrian calculation debate, Neoreaction, Brexit, Scottish independence, paternalism and anti-vaping laws, James Hutton and deep time, the Scottish Enlightenment, what he owes to David Friedman, what he owes to Margaret Thatcher, and that time Charles Darwin changed history by vomiting.


Eternal Return!

Continuing the San Diego bookstore series (yet also transcending it), I chat with Jeff Mezzocchi, proprietor of the Eternal Return Antiquarian Bookshop, devoted to rare editions of philosophical classics. The conversation centers heavily on Nietzsche, but also ranges over the conflict between Cartesian caution and Spinozistic radicalism, Russian nihilism, Shakespeare in performance, dogmatic vs. skeptical readings of Plato, the perils of translation, teaching philosophy in the age of Zoom, the agonising tension between book collecting and bookselling, and the lakeside rock in Switzerland where Nietzsche and Jeff each experienced life-changing events.

Like my earlier interview with Sean Christopher of LHOOQ Books, this interview should appeal to anyone with an interest in bookstores, philosophy, art, literature, etc., even if they have no specific interest in San Diego or its bookstore scene.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes