Friday, August 28, 2020

Transformers '84: Secrets and Lies #2 Review...


Transformers '84: Secrets and Lies #2

Writer: Simon Furman
Artist: Guido Guidi

Synopsis: Counterpunch continues his narration, recounting as the Autobots return the ruined Dynobots to the Ark’s storage bay. Ratchet copies their memory engrams into the computer for safe keeping. Elsewhere, Perceptor shows Ultra Magnus that they were blown off course intentionally but Shockwave’s world engine. In Polyhex, Counterpunch sets Straxus up with a new base, explaining that he will be important in helping establish the new order once Megatron is gone. Straxus launches an attack on the remaining Autobots at his urging, keeping them distracted from doing anything further about Shockwave’s machinations. Shockwave is on the Nemesis overseeing Megatron’s attack on the Ark when the other vessel crashes into the Earth with all aboard. He is confronted by Ramjet, Thrust and Dirge (stragglers left behind to keep any Autobots from escaping the attack) and forced to neutralize them with a weapon of his own devising. He then transforms and flies to the Earth to try and make certain Megatron and the others are permanently deactivated. The Ark’s computer detects his presence and rebuilds the Dynobots into their new dinosaur forms then sends them out to confront him. Shockwave realizes the Earth is abundant in energy and could easily help them re-energize Cybertron itself. The Dinobots arrive and attack him but are easily bested. Grimlock gets some raw Energon from Swoop and uses it to power himself up. He strikes Shockwave and moves in for the kill...

Thoughts: Pretty much the same as last time. This is competently written but I find the subject matter a bit dull. We’re just retreading history here, time and again. There is the new take on the Dinobots versus Shockwave but... meh. Perhaps things will be more exciting as we approach the eventual conclusion of this mini-series?

Again, Guidi’s art is nothing short of fantastic looking. Easily the best reason to pick up this series!

Verdict: Average.

The Second Cut...

 Continuing on from my previous blog, here’s a few selections of movies that have been re-edited and have some interesting changes from their original theatrical versions.

Aliens - James Cameron’s masterpiece has another fifteen or so minutes added back on DVD/Bluray. Addtions include a revelation that Ripley had a daughter, gunbot sentries, a deleted scene with Newt and her family finding the Xenomorphs and other little bits and pieces.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day - The Director’s Cut has the T-1000 getting damaged, allowing John to realize his mother is not really his mother in the end. Additionally, we get more backstory on Dyson, a dream sequence with Kyle and more.

Avatar - Contains a new opening sequence on Earth.

Daredevil - Re-edited with more footage that makes for a better overall movie. Matt and Elektra are soul-mates now instead of one-nighters. Also more legal intrigue.

Superman and Superman 2 - Superman has lots of cut footage, including more on Krypton, a young Lois on the train and so on. Superman 2 has an entirely different cut with more footage of Jor-El as well as a different opening and ending.

Star Wars
(all of them) - All of the Star Wars films have deleted footage. Some major (Luke and his friends on Tatooine. More footage with Anakin and Padme in AOTC, lost footage from ROTJ) as well as minor changes as well.

Star Trek II - The Director’s Cut has a bit more clarity in it overall, with slightly better editing in places. Additionally, there is lost footage from the old TV version where Saavik is half-Romulan.

Batman vs Superman - The Director’s Cut is a much better movie overall. While still not perfect, it helps clarifies details missing in the theatrical version.

X-Men: Days of Future’s Past (Rogue Cut)
- Re-edited to include Rogue back in the movie. It also helps justify the future storyline in the movie. Not necessarily a better movie but interesting in its differences.

Watchmen - There’s the theatrical cut, which was reasonably good but there’s also an extended Director’s Cut with more story and an Ultimate Cut, which has the Tales of the Black Freighter story incorporated into the film as well. 

Blade Runner - A film that has been re-edited at least three times. The Final Cut from a few years back attempted to fix numerous issues in the original story as well as some technical ones as well. Worth a look.

Apocalypse Now - A Director’s Cut of this added lots of footage back into the theatrical cut and did some edits as well. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Final Cut...

    A few weeks back it was announced that the Snyder Cut of the 2017 Justice League movie was going to be finished finally and released exclusively on HBO Max in the United States next year. For some time fans online have been clamoring to see this version of the film, believing Snyder’s original vision for the film was vastly superior to the Joss Whedon version we got in theaters.
    I went and saw the Whedon movie back when it came out in the theater. I also own it on Blu-ray. It’s an okay film. Not terrible but certainly not great either.
    Even seeing it the first time it was obvious it was a mash-up between whatever Snyder wanted to do and what Whedon cobbled together from that and his own rewrites and reshoots.
    Will the Snyder Cut be worth the wait? Maybe. Maybe not. If nothing else, at least we’ll get one man’s vision for the story instead of the mish-mash we ended up with before.
    I’ve read that Snyder had ambitious plans to set up a trilogy with an involved story about Superman’s ultimate redemption and Darkseid’s invasion of Earth. Supposedly, the big-wigs at Warner Bros got cold feet over committing to such a potentially complicated and expensive venture and pulled the plug.
    What’s true? What’s not? It’s hard to know...
    One thing that is certain though is that trying to combine these two men’s very different visions failed. A story solely by Snyder or Whedon could have been very good. As it was, we got a mediocre film out of the deal and Marvel Studios certainly didn’t feel any pressure on their Avengers franchise when put up against DC’s Justice League. Even the weakest Avengers film is still miles ahead.
    Justice League’s relative failure and its new incarnation are interesting in another way though. Even in Whedon’s film we can see the differing tones and ideas at play. One can presently only imagine what else was originally envisioned (and soon enough, we’ll be able to see it for ourselves).
    Of course, this isn’t the first time a movie has been radically edited and/or reshot. It’s been going on for decades and the process is endlessly fascinating–especially to outsiders like ourselves.
    A simple cut here or there–or excising half of the film for new footage–can radically change the story’s intent and outcome. It’s also an interesting way to learn about editing, whether one is a novice or a practiced storyteller.
    No matter the format, editing is the lifeblood of storytelling. When the story runs too long, too short, a character does or doesn’t work, the ending needs fixing, the prose needs updating, etc. Many a countless hour has been spent pouring over the story, trying to get it just right.
    Editing can be the bane of many an aspiring writer. How many epics have been sidelined because the author decided the story just wasn’t “right”? How many tales will never see the light of day because of the author’s inability to get the story finished to their own satisfaction?
    Look at film. Both Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens have extended versions where something like fifteen minutes of footage has been added back to the story. In both cases, the films are considerably better with the extra content. Great films made even better with just a little bit more.
    Then, there’s movies like 2003's Daredevil. The theatrical cut of the film was a disappointment to many. The movie felt shallow and maybe even a bit sexist (Matt and Elektra’s relationship seemed nothing but physical yet contradictorly, he acted as if she was the love of his life).
    As it turns out, there was more footage and the Director’s Cut, which eventually made it out on DVD, was a considerable improvement. In it, Matt is unsatisfied with all his frivolous physical relationships with women and when Elektra happens along he finds an equal in spirit and fortitude. Also, there is a subplot about The Arranger being responsible for murdering a young woman and framing an innocent black man. The longer cut still doesn’t rank among the greatest superhero films I’ve ever seen yet it is a significant upgrade over what we initially got.
    There’s so many examples out there for re-edited movies to chose from. From major changes like Richard Donner’s Superman II and the fourth Exorcist film (Exorcist: The Beginning and Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) to smaller changes on countless films from every genre and era.
    It’s been said copious editing was what saved the original Star Wars film. George Lucas had hours of footage and thanks to the editing team (which included his then-wife Marsha) it was cut down to a brisk and entertaining film that became one of the most popular movies of all time. Without the two editors it might very well have turned out as a horrible failure.
    Editing works best when the Editor has a good command of storytelling techniques and understands how to make the story flow properly. Too much story (be it footage or prose) can be extraneous but too little can also rob the story of texture. Also, some times writers just put odd things in the story and it’s the job of the Editor to decide whether or not that stuff is relevant to the overall point of the story–be it the plot or characterization.
    Also, everyone is different. One creator might think something is just right for a story while another might scoff at the same notion. What if Luke Skywalker had a girlfriend in the original movie? How would that have affected his tale? Would he still have left Tatooine? Maybe. Perhaps it could’ve played into the overall plot. Perhaps it could have hindered it. One really has no way of knowing one way or the other and neither option is right or wrong. We just got the story we did and it works well as it is.
    One person’s edit may seem like genius to them while the next might find it absurd. I personally think Prometheus was over-edited (some crucial information was cut from the final version of the film and I feel it hindered it. Obviously the film’s editors felt otherwise).
    Movie studios can be even worse since a lot of their decisions are made by oft-clueless executives who only think in terms of dollars. How many rely on test audiences to try and gauge the success of a film? How often does that ever work out for the best?
    At the end of the day, editing is a necessary evil in storytelling. It simply cannot function without a judgmental eye. The trick is in trying to know what’s best for the story and following one’s experience and intuition in the spirit of communicating the best tale one can.