Fans love to bicker about things. SEGA vs. Nintendo, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Marvel vs. DC. Depending on your age, you’re probably familiar with at least one of these pointless debates, but, thanks to the internet, what was once just silly playground squabbles has turned into genuinely nasty discourse.
And what makes it all even more absurd is that almost no one actually involved in making these things see it in this light. Hell, many of the most prolific writers and artists in comics have done great work for both Marvel and the Distinguished Competition.
And, as it turns out, the people making movies in the DCEU enjoy some of the MCU movies as well. When I recently sat down with Batman v Superman Second Unit Director Damon Caro and Visual Effects Supervisor Bryan Hirota, the subject of these kind of intense fan wars came up, and they agreed that it’s all a bit dumb.
This is an excerpt from a larger interview. Look for the full interview later this week.
Both of you guys have worked on Watchmen, you’ve worked on Man of Steel, what was different about it this time around? Obviously you’ve got this rapport, you’ve got this shorthand that you’ve built up over these years, but was there anything substantially different about working on this one versus those other big comic book movies with Zack Snyder.
Bryan Hirota: More secret.
Damon Caro: (Laughs) Yeah, I mean, it was that, but we were better and more streamlined. Shorthand I don’t think quite does it justice. There was a workflow and an understanding and the techniques we had developed. So go back to Watchmen, Watchmen was more of a drama so there wasn’t a ton of stunt-vis, but I shot stunt-vis for the opening fight in the apartment and various other parts. We did Sucker Punch after that which was fun, there was great stuff with the train. But I think we had just really nailed the process of how we go about it. This goes to here and these guys come in, and everybody was just more efficient, and it was a good time for it because it was such a massive undertaking to do it well. We really look for the truth and the beauty of what we want it to be, I can go and choreograph ten versions I hate and still start over with a clean slate, so they gave us more time to do that. It gave us more time to really refine it before we got to the later stages of it. And it was a big undertaking to bring those two characters together for the first time ever, and we felt that weight. Whatever I’m doing, I want to make a movie, in every aspect of it, that would make me go to a midnight showing and stand in line and do that. And for us, we succeeded. Especially the Ultimate Cut. I love them both, but I think it’s an amazing comic book film. I think it’s super layered and I think a lot of what Zack does is really deep and layered and that’s not as common in the comic book scene so it feels disjointed to them. But you see a lot of critics even revisiting it and saying “oh, fourth viewing, I’m getting it now.” I worked on Fight Club years ago with Fincher for about nine months and that was a wonderful learning experience, and that was a similar sort of process where the movie was not well received, but the movie is so deep and it became this cult classic. And now, almost twenty years later, it’s studied and lauded in film schools and high school and they see the layers of it because it’s so deep. If you have to see a movie four or five times to get it, that’s telling you the movie has some depth to it, and I think BvS is on par with that. But I’m prejudiced. And I’m a fan of Marvel and DC too. I don’t understand the hatred and divisiveness.
Right, the rivalry is so silly.
Caro: It’s so silly!
And it was fun back in the day where they would kind of take potshots at each other in the back pages of the comic book, but it was never taken seriously. But the whole internet culture has turned it into this thing it was never intended to be.
Caro: And some people are kind of serious about it.
Hirota: Although there are Marvel comic books-
Caro: Oh yeah, I saw something the other day, it was Deadpool and Spider-Man. You guys are that annoyed at Snyder that you’re talking about him months later? I just don’t get it, because I like a lot of the Marvel movies. If I think a movie is bad, I’ll say I didn’t care for it, and it’s just my opinion, but I really think beauty’s in the eye of the beholder. I can defend my point as other people could as well, but I don’t understand. I enjoy them both. Marvel has a certain tone, and with the DC universe we’ve set a different tone, but I enjoy them both. And I don’t understand the crazy hatred I see sometimes. That’s just not me.
I’m totally with you there. It’s all just sort of silly and, frankly, a little petty. And there’s nothing I love more than a really well-written, well-argued unpopular stance. Even if I disagree with it, if it’s well-argued nothing thrills me more than to read something like that. And I’ve got plenty of unpopular opinions of my own. I’m a big fan of Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger which has enormous problems, but there’s so much there that’s so much fun that I can’t dismiss it out of hand.
Caro: And that’s ultimately what it is. Did you enjoy it? Did it move you? Did it entertain you?
Hirota: What I think is funny about fan culture now is that people love to get worked up over things they don’t like.
Caro: It’s almost like it’s their mission.
Hirota: What I think is funny is, and I don’t know that it matters in any significant way, the amount of work, and the hundreds of people, and the millions of man hours that go into making something that a person can put $15 down and go see for the whole purpose of hopefully entertaining you, it’s weird to go on a tirade of how angry this makes you. Because they just don’t know. Hundreds of people work on this for two years, three years, with the hope that for your $15 you’ll go, “I liked that. That was fun.”
Caro: And for fourteen to eighteen hours a day. Grueling hours. We love it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard.
Hirota: People don’t really understand. From the top down, people who touch this thing, who bleed to put it together, and for a relatively small amount of money you can go see it, and maybe you like it, maybe you don’t.
And, of course, there’s value in criticism, both positive and negative, but-
Hirota: But I guess it’s weird to me when it makes people mad.
Caro: Right, constructive criticism is good, or honest opinion.
Hirota: But even with stuff I don’t like, I don’t want to pour gasoline on them and start a fire.
Like I said, it gets a little petty. And it’s just ridiculous. The internet allows people to hide behind anonymous personas and just spew whatever they want, but ultimately it’s something that’s designed to hopefully bring a certain measure of joy, and if it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine, but there’s no reason to send threats to people.
Caro: But I do find it fascinating, in a good way. Clearly to invoke that kind of passion – and it’s still talked about! It came out nine months ago.
Hirota: The movie touched a nerve.
Yeah, there are certainly movies that have come and gone since that have not lingered in the conversation that way.
Caro: Clearly. Hence the passionate debate pro or con. And I’m fine with that. It’s a movie that’s saying something. And if it makes a little money, great, if not, oh well.
Hirota: But the strange narrative of it being a financial flop-
Caro: It’s that old, “you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.” It made $800-
Hirota: Close to $900 million.
Caro: That’s massive!
Hirota: Not many films gross that number. But ultimately that doesn’t matter. It’s so immaterial. Does Warner Bros. like the fact that people love to pillar this movie? No, they don’t.
Caro: You want both. Did they want it to make a billion? We all wanted it to make a billion, but I’m sorry it was $873 million. That’s not a failure.
And the whole box office thing is silly because it comes out of this desire to treat movies like sports where the box office becomes the score. At the end of the weekend, everyone wants to know who “won,” but what does it matter? If the movie was good, and it endures with you longer than that weekend, that’s what really matters. There are plenty of movies that were huge success right out the gate and have faded from the consciousness.
Caro: Absolutely! It happens quite often.
And movies that have made almost nothing that have gone on to become enduring classics. The whole numbers game is just a bit silly to me.
Caro: No, it’s true.