Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #60

Short Takes: Zack Snyder’s Justice League, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, the Discon III Update and the Georgia/Dragoncon Situation

By Chris M. Barkley:

Zach Synder’s Justice League ( Warner Brothers/DC Comics, 4 hours 2 minutes) with Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Connie Neilsen and J.K. Simmons. Story and screenplay by Chris Terrio, Will Beall and Zack Snyder, Directed by Zack Snyder.

Bechdel Test: Passed.

I want to start by saying that I have a very soft spot in my heart for the Justice League. Back in 1997, I wrote a 13,000 plus word essay for the print edition of File 770 detailing my two year odyssey to obtain a copy of Justice League of America #47, the second part of a memorable JLA – Justice Society annual team up. The hunt for that comic book started my education about the history of comics and eventually, a decade later, to my entry into sf fandom.

When the first version of Justice League was released in November of 2017, I had no idea that Autumn, the daughter of director Zach Snyder and co-producer and partner Deborah, had died March of that year during post-production and that they had stepped away to deal with their grief.

Writer-director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) was brought in for extensive re-writes and re-shooting major portions of the film. Even though the film went on to earn $657 million at the box office, it was considered a financial failure for failing to earn back enough to cover its production and marketing costs.

(For the record, I gave the original film a enthusiastic review here in a File 770 column: “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #20”.) 

Had I known then what I know now, had I been better informed,I would have written a very, VERY different review…

When we left Batman at the end of the previous film, Dawn of Justice, he was in a very tight fix: Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) had hinted that he had signaled dark forces from beyond Earth that Superman (Henry Cavill) was dead and the planet was ripe for the taking.

When an alien emissary known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) invades Earth looking for a set of powerful alien artifacts known as Mother Boxes, Bruce Wayne, along with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), seek out and recruit other super powered individuals (Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller)  to help against the threat.

But after being on the losing end of several encounters with Steppenwolf, Batman eventually realizes that the only way they may have a chance to survive is to revive Superman from the dead, even though they have no idea whether or not it will work or not.

The fan-driven drumbeat to release the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League began before the end theatrical run of the original film. And when the social media uprising started, I thought it was extremely foolish to expect Warner Brothers to even respond. Never in the history of filmmaking or marketing had a film studio seriously contemplated doing what happened after nearly two years of hectoring, with Warner Brothers shelling out a reported $70 million dollars to complete a film that only existed digitally on Zach Snyder’s laptop.

What was produced is remarkable; a complete origin story of Victor Stone/Cyborg,  the emotional fallout that Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent suffered from the loss of their beloved Clark Kent, the fleshing out Barry Allen’s (Ezra Miller) slightly goofball but brilliant scientist and several tantalizing looks at DC Comics ultimate villain, Darkseid (voiced by Ray Porter).

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

Snyder may never write or direct another DC property but he exits this arena leaving everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) on the field for us to admire. To him, the cast and crew and especially to his filmmaking partner Deborah Snyder, I say BRAVO!

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, Penguin Press, March 2021, 320 pages.

When I was a lad in high school in the early 1970’s, I read John Hersey’s classic and landmark piece of historical journalism, Hiroshima, which chronicled the struggles of six survivors of the first atom bomb attack. Upon reading it, I hoped that every President of the United States, and every leader of a nation who had atomic weapons, should have some incentive to read it.

When it was published, in its entirety, in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, it caused a shocking and sickening realization to unaware civilians that this new type warfare could herald the end of civilization. (Fallout, Lesley M.M. Blume’s equally compelling story of how John Hersey circumvented the US military’s coverup of what really happened at Hiroshima, was published last August).

In the seventy-five years since those attacks, the human race has, on several precarious occasions, managed to avert the end of the world. But since then, it seems to me that the further away we have come since Hiroshima and Nagasaki the more people have truly forgotten how horrible atomic warfare could actually be.

This past Christmas I received a year’s subscription to WIRED Magazine. The very first copy I received was the February issue, which entirely devoted (for the first time, I believe) to a work of fiction, an excerpt of the novel 2034: A History of the Next World War by Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) and Elliot Ackerman.

As I read the excerpt, which vividly and realistically describes a expansive international conflict between China and the United States, I got the same terrifying feeling of dread I  felt when I first read Hiroshima.

It begins when a flotilla of US destroyers are lured into an elaborate trap while at the same time an advanced Navy fighter jet is inexplicably hijacked in mid-flight and grounded in Iran. From there, various characters from all over the world are drawn together as the drumbeat of war grows louder and no one at any level of the crisis seems to be inclined to stop the oncoming catastrophe. 

I had just finished reading 2034 on March 28th when the New York Times published the story below, which announced a 25-year alliance between China and Iran, which happened a mere 20 days after its publication: “China, With $400 Billion Iran Deal, Could Deepen Influence in Mideast”.

This novel, written by two veterans who have an extraordinary and extensive experience with the military and governmental affairs, is an alarming piece of speculative fiction that has every possibility of being prescient in EVERY sense of the word. I urge everyone to read it because if the prospect of this scenario doesn’t scare you shitless, I don’t know what will…

Additional (and IMPORTANT) Reading:  “What Did I Just Read? A Conversation With the Authors of ‘2034’”.

The Discon III Update

This past Sunday, the DisCon III convention committee issued an update on the current situation regarding the Wardman Park Hotel and whether or not the Worldcon would be virtual or in-person:
“Update on Convention Dates and Hotels”.

As you can see, there isn’t much to report on either front.

And seeing that we are on the cusp of April, I would not be pushing the panic button just yet. But if there isn’t any movement by mid to late May, I think the convention committee should seriously think about an all virtual convention.

If the American gets it act together and the vaccination rate reaches 90% or better by mid-summer, I think it MIGHT be safe to hold a full or partial in-person convention.

But until there’s some breaking news, all we can do is wait.

With some degree of measured optimism, I can truthfully say that  I’m fine with that.

The Dragoncon/Georgia Situation

By now, nearly every conrunner and convention committee knows what’s going on in the state of Georgia.

To wit; on Thursday, March 26, the Georgia House of Representatives and the state Senate passed SB202, a “voter reform bill”, in rapid fashion on that very same day. Governor Brian Kemp said that the bill was created mainly in response to what he referred to as allegations of “fraud and irregularities” and “five-hour-long lines at the polls” in the 2020 election. He also stated that the “election reforms” would restore “voter confidence” in the state’s election processes.

Oh, if only that were true.

Many critics of the bill have claimed that the creation of the bill and it’s rather astonishing rate of passage to Governor Kemp’s desk was in direct response to President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the November elections, followed by the election of two Democratic US Senators in a special election held in early January of this year.

Some of the more odious parts of the legislation include the arbitrary removal of Georgia’s current chief elections officer, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and of any county’s board of elections should there be any recurrence of what the House and Senate obliquely determine to be “voting irregularities”. And never mind that the new law would also severely restrict voting by mail and outlaw the giving of food or water to any voters waiting in line to combat what the Republicans called “potential voting electioneering and influencing”.

What the governor and Georgia Republican state legislators conveniently forget to mention is that it was Kemp, as the previous Secretary of State in 2018, in league with the legislature, were responsible for a number of changes, including overseeing the removal of voting machines and the closing of polling places in majority black districts, which resulted in people waiting for many hours in line to cast their ballots.    

Compounding all of this was the arrest of Democratic representative Park Cannon, who was taken into custody and forcibly removed by five white Georgia State Troopers as she sought entry to witness Governor Kemp’s signing of SB202, which was being done in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office with the door marked with a “Governor’s Staff Only” sign. When Cannon knocked on the door, she was seized and handcuffed in a very humiliating manner and was subsequently charged with two felonies, felony obstruction and preventing or disrupting a general assembly session. (Representative Cannon was released on bail several hours later.)

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be of any concern to organized fandom (I mean, besides the threat of voter voter suppression and a general threat to democracy) if it weren’t for the fact that Dragon Con, arguably one of the largest annual gathering of fans in the United States, is permanently headquartered in Georgia capitol, Atlanta.

As of this post, there has been no comment yet from the Dragon Con convention committee or its board of directors. I suspect that they are carefully weighing their options seeing that a number of progressive political activists are calling for a boycott of Georgia businesses, venues and events. It should be noted that a majority of their fan base has been known to lean to the right politically. But there is no telling how many of them outside that base will react to a pro or con statement from Dragon Con. 

Luckily (I suppose), for Dragon Con, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and while there are three vaccines in circulation at the moment, no one is quite sure whether or not it will be safe enough to attend a convention in person safely.

Having said that. Dragon Con can easily punt their way out of this situation by calling for a virtual convention and hoping that the growing numbers of activists, business, judicial and political forces can make Governor Kemp and Georgia Republican lawmakers see the error of their ways and just make this all go away.

But, as a major, for profit business concern in the state of Georgia, they cannot afford to do nothing. The longer they wait, the more complicit and compromised Dragon Con will be perceived by a significant number of fans. Enough fans, I would think, to affect either their standing in the community, their financial bottom line, or both.

They cannot escape making some sort of statement about the situation. As of this post, there hasn’t been any word from Dragon Con on this situation. The authors, editors, artists, cosplayers and fans who do care about the precarious state of affairs in the state of Georgia do have a tremendous amount of influence in fandom and have long memories as well.

Tick-Tock,Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock….  

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27 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #60

  1. I find that I usually forget to attend virtual conventions. I am now presently a member of Westercon in Seattle. Will I remember to attend? I really don’t care because most of my convention experience is seeing people I only see at cons, going to a different city, eating out, going to parties, visiting the dealers and the fan tables. etc. In other words, an in person experience. So if Discon is the same, I who have a full attending membership will probably just check out a few things rather than visit a city that I really wanted to go to. The virtual thing does not work for me. It certainly will not work for my friend who is blind. I don’t care how many appropriate ADA things they do, it just is too much of an effort.

  2. As for Georgia, the activists are calling for the boycott of various things filmed in Georgia. Usually, I don’t know if a thing has been filmed in Georgia until I see the peach at the end. So are people supposed to boycott the Living Dead? This is about the only show I can think of off the top of my head that is made in Georgia. Am I supposed to only watch Canadian shows on TV. Transplant and Nurses are nice shows but where is Star Trek Discovery made? And movies! I guess I could look up the production details of every movie that I have been streaming. Was Godzilla vs King Kong made in Georgia? I am totally opposed to what Georgia amongst a number of other states are doing to voters rights. But this boycott is rather unwieldy.

  3. There’s one thing that the Zack Snyder version of “Justice League” has in common with the Joss Whedon version: nowhere NEAR enough Guy Gardner. (Seeing the famed “One punch!” scene in animated form, in the old “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” series, was great, but it’s not the same as seeing it in 70mm 3-D.)

  4. If you want to boycott, you can use Google, or your search engine of choice, to find out films and television shows currently filming in Georgia as well as films and shows previously filmed there. Wikipedia also has an extensive list of movies filmed in Georgia, but my two minute search did not find a similar entry for TV series.

  5. The Disney+ MCU shows are filmed at least partly in Georgia, alas.

    Chris, I have had vehement “Nuh-UH!” responses to several of your opinions before, but agree heartily with your take on what’s happening in crooked Georgia politics and DragonCon’s need to say something — anything — about it.

    Considering that not everyone will have had their Covid vaccines by then — it’s only 5 months from now — a virtual con would make good sense again this year. Atlanta is a major airport hub, which means you get exposed to germs from around the world even in normal times. After sitting in a tube full of recycled air for hours.

    Possibly they could do a hybrid sort of thing, only allowing people resident in Georgia to attend in person and the rest on line. That would cover both the disease and the political troubles.

  6. @lurkertype:

    Ayup, on my trans-Atlantic trip to MidAmericon III, I went through Atlanta on the way there and Chicago on the way back. All in all, I think I’ve been through Chicago 3 times (once going to the US, twice going back) and been through Atlanta either 7 or 9 times.

    One thing I have seen suggested as a possible DragonCon response is “we will start looking at moving out, with the move date being ‘the year after the last outstanding contract'”. This, apparently, is something that GenCon recently did, in a similar situation.

  7. Somewhat relevant to the Dragoncon discussion, Georgia house just voted to remove a tax break from Delta after Delta criticized the voting law.

  8. I have no interest in attending a virtual convention, so if Discon goes to that format, I won’t be “attending” or watching or participating.

    Onward to Chicon 2022!

  9. @Andrew I. Porter: I will take your spot then, I will attend if it is virtuel not if it’s in person.

  10. Delurking to agree with @StefanB. I’m also hoping for a virtual DisCon. Being in Canada, I’m more likely to attend if I don’t need to travel internationally. Last year I upgraded from supporting to attending for ConZealand when it went virtual and enjoyed it.

  11. Y’all have seen that the MLB has pulled the All-Star game out of Georgia, right? Republican senators are calling it Cancel Culture Gone Mad, because of course they would. (Also because, as they say, a hit dog hollers. Anyone who doesn’t think DragonCon making “moving as soon as we can legally exit our contract” noises would be effective needs to take note of how threatened the party of voter suppression seems to be feeling right now.)

  12. Y’all have seen that the MLB has pulled the All-Star game out of Georgia, right?

    Yes, they have taken the All-Star game and its $100 million dollar impact from Atlanta (a majority black city) and moved it to Denver (a majority white city, with only ~10% black residents). That’ll show ’em!

    And given that the commissioner of MLB, Rob Manfred, still holds his membership in Augusta National Golf Club, and that MLB continues to grow its presence in China, where Uighur slavery still exists, it’s difficult to see what the actual moral principle MLB is advocating. Maybe you are allowed to give bottled water to voters in Xinjiang?

  13. bill: Is Phantom writing your comments now?

    It’s more to the point you seem to be trying to make to look at what a Georgia political leader like Stacey Abrams thinks about the decision: “Disappointed @MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights. GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression. On behalf of PoC targeted by #SB202 to lose votes + now wages, I urge events & productions to come & speak out or stay & fight”

    Abrams also retweeted a “50 Reasons Why Georgia’s New Voting Law Really Is That Bad” thread that starts here.

  14. The economic impact of major sporting events and new stadiums is always exaggerated, but the premise that the All-Star Game would have brought $100 million in economic impact to Atlanta is especially ludicrous. The person making that claim is a tourism official whose only citation is that “8,000-plus MLB contracted hotel room nights” would have been booked.

    Even if you believe that 8,000 rooms would’ve been occupied, the occupants would have to spend $12,500 per day while in Atlanta to reach $100 million.

  15. rcade: I don’t know if that $100M number is any good or not, however, your $12,500 number has the following built-in assumptions which are clearly flawed: (1) only one person to a hotel room; (2) only people renting hotel rooms will be spending money in connection with the event, and the money is assumed to only circulate once i.e., no multiplier for wholesale purchases of items sold at retail; (3) no figure for expenditures by sponsors to promote themselves in the city in conjunction with the game; (4) taxes accrued to various levels of government; (5) government output to support the event.

  16. I did a calculation based on the only thing the tourism official quantified when claiming $100 million in economic impact. I didn’t assume one person per hotel room — I said the “occupants” would have to spend $12,500 a day. 8,000 days of occupied hotel rooms times $12,500 in spending per day per room would equal $100 million.

    There are other things that could qualify as economic impact, but the money spent by the people who came in from out of town is the most credible thing to take credit for. And there’s also the issue of how many people are going to travel to the All Star Game city during a pandemic and how much stadium occupancy will be permitted.

    Economic impact numbers for All-Star Games come from Major League Baseball, not outside sources. They have an obvious interest in making their estimates as favorable to their own interests as they can get away with.

    According to Baseball Almanac the league never claimed $100,000 million in impact for any All-Star site other than New York City from 1996 to 2020.

    But it’s going to be $100 million during a pandemic when people are limiting travel and every ballpark is limiting attendance (aside from Texas during its shameful season opener yesterday)? Not likely.

  17. Correction: “$100,000 million” should be “$100 million”. Though I also scoff at the notion the lost economic impact is $100,000 million.

  18. rcade: But what’s your point? Are you arguing there is zero economic benefit to a city from hosting the MLB All-Star Game? If you’re not arguing that, then whatever the theoretically right number ought to be represents an amount that Georgia will be deprived of by having the game withdrawn. And since cities WANT to host these kinds of major sporting events, it’s not trivial.

  19. But what’s your point? Are you arguing there is zero economic benefit to a city from hosting the MLB All-Star Game?

    That the economic impact numbers involving pro sports in the U.S. are wildly inflated and this $100 million claim is a good example.

    And since cities WANT to host these kinds of major sporting events, it’s not trivial.

    Cities want new stadiums too, particularly if there’s a threat of the team leaving hanging over their heads, but that doesn’t mean the actual economic benefit is worth the massive expenditure in public funds and taxes.

    When I see economic impact claims I ignore the vague and nebulous assertions and focus on the things that are quantified, like the number of days hotels are occupied and actual dollars spent and taxes paid. The rest just seems like salesmanship.

  20. rcade: You can’t handwave away economic impact numbers to win an argument that’s about whether moving the MLB All-Star Game out of Atlanta deprives local business of a substantial benefit. Stacey Abrams said “GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression”. It’s a lost economic opportunity, not the avoidance of deficit spending.

  21. @Mike Glyer

    Is Phantom writing your comments now?

    Nope, this is mine.

    look at what a Georgia political leader like Stacey Abrams thinks about the decision:

    Stacey Abrams? I thought it was a consensus belief here that people who reject election results are delusional.

    “50 Reasons Why Georgia’s New Voting Law Really Is That Bad” thread

    Claim #3 “Challenged voters must show up” [to hearings about being challenged]
    Nope. Read the bill – there’s no requirement for the challenged voter to appear, the burden is fully on the challenger.
    Claim #5 “Makes it a crime for ‘voters’ to accept water”. Nope, criminal status attaches to the giver of water, not the receiver.
    That’s two wrong out of the first five — not much reason to think that Esosa Osa knows anything at all about the subject.

    @rcade — if you don’t like $100 million, I’ve got no problem with that (I never believed that “1 billion” people watched the Oscars). It was a number that appeared in many media outlets, but if you have a better one, share it. Clearly, there is some economic impact from the All Star Game, though. And MLB is moving those benefits from a black city to a white city, which is a “Jim Crow” thing to do.

  22. Bill: The black leader in Georgia you’re slamming doesn’t think the All-Star Game should have been moved. You started the ball rolling by trolling the decision to move the game. I’m sorry your objective was the trolling alone, not a better outcome for Atlantans.

    And while cherry-picking your tweet you probably passed by reports like this one from CNN:

    CNN “Stacey Abrams says ‘democracy failed’ Georgia as she ends bid for governor” (11/17/18)

    …Even in acknowledging defeat, Abrams insisted her speech was not giving a concession and instead delivered a series of sharp criticisms of Kemp.

    “So let’s be clear – this is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper,” she said. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But, my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy. Now, I can certainly bring a new case to keep this one contest alive, but I don’t want to hold public office if I need to scheme my way into the post. Because the title of governor isn’t nearly as important as our shared title – voters. And that is why we fight on.”

  23. From Doug Muder’s invaluable Weekly Sift: Answering 7 Questions about the Georgia Election Law

    The theme: The new law really is bad, but not every bad thing said about it is true.

    There’s also an excellent What does the Georgia law do? section. Here’s the part bill will like:

    The rule-changes almost all go in the wrong direction (making voting harder and less likely), but mostly are not out of line with what goes on in other states. For example: Absentee ballots will be harder to get, but the new standards are not draconian in themselves. Rather than being able to request an absentee ballot six months in advance of the election, you now have to do it within 78 days. Absentee ballots will be harder to fill out and probably more mistakes will be made that allow the ballots to be tossed. For example, you can’t just sign the ballot any more, you also have to copy your driver’s license number (or some other number from a list of acceptable IDs) onto the ballot. (Georgia already had a voter-ID law for in-person voting.) If you’ve ever tried to copy a long meaningless number, you can imagine that a lot of people — especially old, sick, or poorly educated people — will screw that up. So their votes won’t count.

    Small counties (which mostly vote Republican) will get more ballot drop-boxes, but large counties (mostly Democratic) will get fewer. The boxes have to be taken indoors in off-hours, an inconvenience that hits people who work during the day and can’t easily take unsupervised breaks. Small counties will extend their early-voting periods, but large counties were already at the maximum. Even granting that, though, there are many parts of the country that have even less early voting and/or ballot drop-boxes.

    He won’t like the rest of it, but that one part supports his argument. Note how measured and qualified what Muder says is here, generously making the qualified defense of the law he can conscientiously make before he gets down to nutcutting. I suppose it’s Losing An Internet Argument to admit your opponent isn’t Satan, but just some jerk.

    Muder goes on to explain the pernicious implementation of the law in detail. More people should focus on that. You need to be able to refute bill’s

    The whole thing is worth your time, as is every* Weekly Sift article.

    *Okay, one went viral recently that I thought sucked, but that’s one out of several years.

  24. @Mike – Abrams “conceded” only for very precise values of “conceded” — she maintains to this day that if the election were held by her personal standards of “fair”, she would have been elected. Which is pretty much what Trump has maintained, and has been derided for.

    “I’m sorry your objective [was not] a better outcome for Atlantans.”

    It seems like (unless I’m misunderstanding) that you, Abrams and I all agree that leaving the All Star Game in Atlanta would have been better for Atlantans.

    And as far as what is best for Georgians, that’s for the political process in Georgia to decide, and they’ve done so. Why is MLB better equipped to make that decision? Or Joe Biden? Or any of the many others who opposed it?

  25. @bill: “Which is pretty much what Trump has maintained, and has been derided for.”

    That and instigating an attempt to overturn said results with a violent coup. Abrams is attempting to reform the laws via the rule of law. A significant difference, don’t you think?

  26. bill: she maintains to this day that if the election were held by her personal standards of “fair”, she would have been elected. Which is pretty much what Trump has maintained, and has been derided for.

    The difference is that Abrams’ idea of “fair” is black people getting to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and Tr*mp’s idea of “fair” is black people not getting to exercise their constitutional right to vote. These two things are not equivalent in “rightness”, as you imply.

    Also, as JAA has pointed out, Abrams did not incite an insurrectionist attempt to overthrow the U.S. government when the vote did not go in her favor.

  27. I’ll enthusiastically second John Arkansawyer’s recommendation of Doug Muder and the Weekly Sift.

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