Toxic FandomThe Dark Herald
Godzilla Vs Kong was released internationally this weekend and has done better than anything else has since the plague hit town at $120 million+. Strongly indicating that the international movie culture is headed for a strong comeback. A lot of that was China, naturally.
The US release is on March 31 and is going to launch simultaneously in theaters and HBOmax.
However, it’s already being review bombed on IMDB. This is a little weird because it’s being review bombed by the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut Fans. Or at least, that’s who is claiming to be doing the review bombing.
Ever since the craptactular Ghostbusters (2016) broke even at the box-office when it should have been a Pluto Nash level bomb, studio marketers have been attacking their own substandard movies by means of “misogynist” bots. And as a strategy, it worked for a surprisingly long time. Even getting such howlers as Terminator Dark Fate into the limited loss side of the sheet. However, when Charlie’s Angels came out, this strategy produced nothing. It flat out bombed. It looked like attacking your own film by misogynist bots had become a smoke signal that even activist SJWs couldn’t miss. It had become too reliable an indicator of a bad movie.
So, why is Warner Media doing it this time? And why are they giving the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut Fans the blame instead of the usual “misogynist Alt-right?”
This film has not been advertised as being about a woman who is oppressed by men, being all fierce and brave. It has been advertised as giant monsters beating the hell out of each other.
There has been quite the shadow campaign going on against toxic fans in the past few weeks. It really took off after Forbes magazine published what had every sign of being a commissioned hit piece by Disney stockholders. Initially, it was just pushback from the Kathleen Kennedy faction at Lucasfilm, but this campaign appears to have been expanded and now includes the executives at Warner Media.
This counterattack has primarily been in commissioning hit pieces of their own in Hollywood Reporter and Variety. You will note that Forbes magazine does not appear to have been particularly interested in middle management’s negative opinions about the fanbase, although YouTube is. The algorithm appears to be suppressing the channels of people that were pro-Mandalorian and pro-Release the Snyder Cut. This has been combined with a more intensive than usual attack on Toxic Fandom in the shill media.
So why is there this campaign against Toxic Fandom?
Part of this is the hostile (if natural) reaction of the Woke to demands that they actually fulfill their primary function as a company and provide goods and services that people want. Their customers being at best a necessary evil. They would far prefer to just get billions from the government and not have to listen to anyone, (hey, it’s been a good business plan this year).
Although, with Warner Media things are just a little more complicated than that.
Every now and then some Mega-Huge-Corp decides for terrible reasons that they want to get into the movie business. In the 60s it was Gulf and Western buying up Paramount. In the 80s it was Sony buying up Columbia. There are other examples. The background stories to these buyouts aren’t too different from AT&T’s. In this specific case, a company that wasn’t in the entertainment business at all, got great big dollar signs in their eyes when they saw the kind of money that Time Warner and Netflix were claiming they were making. While being blissfully unaware of the kind of black magic that was going on inside these companies accounting rooms.
These movie companies are never happy about the buyouts, and Time Warner was no different. Because, like every corporate buyout there are a lot of personnel that are declared redundancies and are laid off (which certainly happened at Warner). When it was clear that this deal was absolutely happening and that Time Warner would soon be bought up by AT&T, everyone in the company went on a debt spree. Why not? They knew they weren’t the ones that were going to have to pay it off.
Consequently, on top of all the paper they had to sell in order to make the acquisition, Ma Bell found out that she had acquired billions in debt along with Bugs Bunny and Superman.
AT&T was quietly pissed at their new company, Time Warner, now Warner Media felt the same way about their new corporate overlords. And this was all before Covid-19 shutdown the theaters.
When Ma Bell showed up her first order was: I want a big streaming service, the same as Netflix.
And Warner’s reply was: All over it boss. That’s the way the whole industry is going. We’re already combining HBO with Cinemax and we’ve got George R.R. Martin working on a couple of prequel Game of Thrones series for the service. We also have some smaller specialty services for the more dedicated fans of superheroes and anime.
Ma Bell nodded happily at her industrious new children. Then she found out they had gotten a hold of her credit card number before they even became her children. Then she found out that George R. R. Martin had had writer’s block for years (not sure how she wasn’t aware of that). Finally, in March, Ma Bell was informed that her new interest-spewing, debt-laden family members were not going to make any money for the foreseeable future.
At that point Warner Media found itself under much more intense micro-management.
Warner’s biggest problem was also it’s most obvious. Marvel Studios was a moneymaking machine for Disney, why weren’t the Super Friends making similar bank for Warner? AT&T wanted to know. The answer that Warner didn’t really want to supply to their new bosses was, of course, horrendous mismanagement of the brand, bordering on malfeasance depending on how you looked at it. After a string of superhero failures in the nineties, Warner had suddenly hit it out of the park with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
As I have said elsewhere, Kevin Feige doesn’t have a single director’s credit to his name. His primary contribution to Marvel is in providing editorial oversight resulting in a reliable cinematic experience for the audiences that meets Marvel’s own brand standards.
DC doesn’t have anyone like that. The truth is they got really lucky with Nolan but the management decided that it wasn’t luck but skill, SKILL on their parts. Since dark and gritty worked so well with Batman they decided it would work just as well with Superman even though that has never once been part of an aspirational hero’s* makeup. Dark and Angry Superman isn’t Superman.
At $650+ million against a budget of $117 million, Man of Steel wasn’t failure but compared to the Nolan Batman movies it clearly was an underperformance. The view was apparently, Batman made a billion dollars let’s put Batman in the next Superman movie and promptly scrapped Man of Steel 2.
Avengers had blown the doors off about a year before Man of Steel came out. At that point, Warner executives came to the brilliant conclusion that more superheroes equal more money. So, it was time to mobilize the entire Justice League. Snyder was instructed to make it so. The major parts were all cast and dark and angry Wonder Woman was inserted into Batman V Superman for no real reason. They also wanted edgelord versions of Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg.
Zach Snyder’s primary failure was in doing everything his bosses told him to do until Batman versus Superman’s underperformance. This began a series of corporate management changes at Time Warner, each coming up with a new and different plan for DC cinematic universe on the fly.
The Justice League movie was at best a problematic idea, there was too much going on at once. Four of its major characters hadn’t even had their own features yet. If Wonder Woman and Aquaman had been released first, JL could have gotten away with introducing Flash and Cyborg, developing their characters in the process of telling Justice League’s story. As it was Snyder was going to be making a very long picture.
At a private screening for the Warner executives, Snyder presented a working cut of Batman Vs Superman and they gave it a standing ovation. But they also decided it was a little long and ordered cuts. The result was an incoherent film that only pulled in $870 million against a budget of $250.
Justice League was already in production at this time, Snyder’s reward for doing everything the executives wanted him to do was to be thrown to the wolves.
Autumn Snyder committed suicide during the Justice League’s production. It was at the worst time of his life that the new team of Time Warner executives told Zach Snyder, we’re firing you off this film but we will graciously allow you to say you left because of your child’s death. We’re good like that, you should be grateful.
The rest of that story you already know.
Zach Snyder’s fans were convinced that there was a much better movie hiding under the mess Joss Whedon had made and started their Release the Snyder Cut campaign. Warner Media insisted that there never was a Snyder Cut because they didn’t want it proven without question that their idea of hiring Joss Whedon to reskin Snyder’s film was an idiotic mistake.
Given how many of the same shots that were in the Whedon version were in the Snyder Cut, there can be no doubt that there was a working reel of the film by the time Snyder got fired.
When HBOmax launched it looked promising for a couple of days but then it became obvious that they had blown it. It wasn’t available as a Roku or Amazon channel. The international launch was completely botched. People who did subscribe to it hoping to see Warner properties like Batman the Animated series** or RWBY found out that that they would have to subscribe to different services to get those. And if you wanted Harry Potter, you would have to subscribe to Universal.
That was something else that left AT&T seething. When it became clear that Warner was going to be bought, they didn’t just go massively into debt but they also sold off the streaming rights to their biggest franchise for 4 billion. Ma Bell won’t have the Harry Potter series back for years.
Ma Bell: The entire reason I bought this company was to have a streaming service and nobody is subscribing to watch Gay Perry Mason and reruns of a Game of Sucky Ending!
Warner Media: Sorry about that.
Ma Bell (knuckles clenched, teeth grinding): Release the Snyder Cut.
Warner Media: Ma, that isn’t really…
Ma Bell: These are my instructions to you and you will absolutely obey them.
From a business perspective, it made all kinds of sense. There was finally something that was generating real interest in HBOmax. It could be done pretty fast and it wasn’t going to be some nine-digit-budget high-risk nightmare. Ninety percent of it was already in the can. Most of the expense would just be retakes and special effects. It was a win-win.
Except for the losers.
The Snyder Cut was lemon juice in the eyes of Warner executives. It called into question their entire decision-making process and that of Hollywood. The executive team that had fired Zach Snyder and brought in Whedon had been fired themselves. The new crew headed by Hamada and Sarnoff had already plotted a new course; Shazam, Wonder Woman 84, and Bad Reboot’s Black Superman. They detested the idea of revisiting the discarded Snyderverse and they hated being over-ridden in the decision-making process.
Relations between AT&T and Warner Media had deteriorated so badly that when Tenet failed at the box-office made what really was a Pointy-Haired-Boss decision and announced unilaterally that the entire slate of 2021 was going to be released on HBOmax.
This meant that the talent end of things wasn’t going to be getting paid their back-end theater release money. And there is only so much first-rate talent to go around. Warner Media suddenly became the choice of last resort if you wanted to launch a project in Hollywood.
The Sunday before the release of the Snyder Cut Anne Sarnoff gave an interview to in which she said, not in so many words. We are streaming this thing but the Snyderverse is dead.
The problem is that Ma Bell is delighted with the numbers. They aren’t releasing the numbers but the AT&T bosses have big smiles on their faces. Compounding the problem is that the #ReleasetheSnyderCut fans have turned overnight into the #RevivetheSnyderverse fans.
Consequently this weekend there was what was clearly and obviously a troll factory attack on Godzilla Vs Kong, a film that is tracking to be a very big blockbuster. If you look at the comments there were a few, a very few #RevivetheSnyderverse fans making disparaging comments before Sunday and those comments feel authentic. But the flood of downvotes are obviously bots and they are nearly a parody of ‘toxic fandom.”
When the strawmen come to life you know that someone is paying for the animation. This appears to be a very deliberate effort to damage the credibility of Snyder’s fans.
And I can only think of one party with money that has a motive to do that.
UPDATE: And it might not do that party any good.
The Black Adam teaser trailer with the Rock has dropped and he wants to square off against Cavill’s Superman.
As Johnson said, there is a new powerbroker in town.
*The Sons of Galahad: the Aspirational Hero, is an upcoming post in my heroic archetypes series.
**Also upcoming for RE:Animation, so don’t be a pest about it.