Rewriting Cars 2: Solving the Mater Problem

By Dylan

Ok, let me confess right off the bat that I actually kind of like Cars 2. I have a weird softspot for it in my heart, and I think it’s because I saw it at the exact perfect age to like this movie. Looking back on it I can freely admit that if you’re not in this razor thin margin of ages that Cars 2 really has nothing for you. Unless you really like art design porn. Like, for example, photorealistic Italian hills.

So I decided that I, a complete and ordinary man with no film cred whatsoever except making a bunch of movies as kid that far exceed the quality of this movie and who has hosted a weekly podcast for 7 years, will try and fix this movie.

Before I get started I have to get a few things out of the way. In order to fix Cars 2 I decided it had to fit into the trilogy as best as possible, because really, it actually kind of doesn’t fit Cars 1 and 3 at all. Making this rather broad statement requires me to define what I think the “Cars Trilogy” is actually about. Cars (the first one) is about life being what you make of it, and in many ways, how to use the past and nostalgia to make advances in your life. Cars 3 is about reconciling the past and the future. In this framework I see Cars 1 as a “ghost of Christmas past” and Cars 3 as a “ghost of Christmas future”.

Cars 2 is about… uh. According to Vanity Fair, it’s about OPEC, but I disagree. Cars 2 is about nothing. Cars 2 has no meaningful tie in to this idea I’ve set up. Which is why I think it fails. Thematically and tonally it is completely disingenuous to what the Cars franchise is. Part of that, too, is because Cars 2 isn’t even really about Lightning McQueen. It’s about Mater.

So my proposed fixes to Cars 2 thus would take efforts to try and mold it into a movie that thematically links Cars 1 to Cars 3. For this exercise I will assume you know the plot of Cars 2. I have also set myself the task of trying to change as little as possible about the movie while still improving it. I will have to immediately violate this to indicate, well, Lightning has to be the main character. That’s a big change but I’m sure you agree. We need to do this because Lightning needs to have agency over the story. In the original Mater makes the decision for Lightning to race, instead of him, which given Lightning’s love of racing in the other two movies doesn’t really make sense.

We need this to be a sort of “ghost of christmas present” story. Lightning has learned to be a kinder person, less arrogant. In this movie he needs to learn how to accept his friends for who they are, he needs to learn that sometimes you have to do something you don’t want to “for the greater good.” Not that I really like that term much, but it pertains. For this he can still be reluctant to race, but he has a desire to. When the World Grand Prix comes around, he’s torn between wanting to race and not. To strengthen the ties between the trilogy, Lightning specifically doesn’t feel like he can race without Doc. Doc was his secret weapon Cars 1 is a movie about being mentored, Cars 3 about being a mentor, Cars 2 should be a movie about facing the world solo.

In my new Cars 2, the WGP is less about finding the best racer but rather about finding the best country at racing and so Jeff Gorvette eventually accepts the American mantle before Lightning is able to make a decision, thus making the decision for him. The plot to discredit alternative fuel is now, well, a subplot (and you’ll see how I change the ending shortly), and in the first race Jeff is the racer who gets injured and cannot race due to this plan. Lightning must eventually step up and take his place, as the only racer good enough to represent the American team. In fact lets double down, let’s kill off the American agent right now and have Lighting get confused for being him.

Lightning must then stumble and fail in his second race out. He doesn’t do poorly, he just doesn’t do great. Solidly middle of the pack. Just well enough to put him in the position that if he wins the final race, he can still win the World Grand Prix for the US. Not only that he’s a little distracted by having to be a super spy. Sucks right? This is the turning point, the inflection point between act 2 and act 3. Lightning is at his lowest, he doesn’t think he has anywhere to go but down. For now.

In act 3 Lightning realizes that the power to be a true racer was within him all along™. He wins the race and the WGP, and in the process derails the plot to undermine alternative fuels. By the way, in my version, this is just Prof. Z. trying to discredit alternative fuels because he’s a villain, instead of Sir Miles Axelrod trying to pull the Cars equivalent of Goldfinger. No twist villain. It’s all straightforward. It’s a subplot, no more, and for that it just needs to feel suitably linked to the main plot to be satisfying.

In my version of Cars 2 Mater barely even features. He’s just Lightning’s friend, that’s it. Lightning is the one who interacts with Finn McMissile, who teaches him the value of teamwork and trust. He serves a cross between a mentor and a friend. The movie serves as a stepping point for Lightning’s character, where he relearns faith in his own abilities that he lost after Doc dies. In fact, we can make this stronger by having Lightning delegate his task during the final race to Mater, establishing trust between the two, plus showing character growth from race 2, where Lightning tried to do everything at once and failed. He’s learning that he can’t do everything, that sometimes he has to ask for help, and that’s ok! Which we can then tie into Cars 3, where he learns how to be a mentor to Cruz and cedes not just part of his task, but the entire race, to Cruz. Character growth!

I think my version of Cars 2 is stronger than the theatrical, by 100 fold. It ties into both Cars and Cars 3 by providing Lightning character development that clearly happened between the two. I also remove what I think is the biggest sin that Cars 2 commits: that of introducing a moral counter to that of Cars. At the end of Cars Lightning learns that being a dick is kind of not a good policy to get you what you want. At the end of Cars 2 Mater learns that being a fucking asshole is ok as long as you’re sort of funny to kids. That’s like, not ok man.

Do you agree with my assessment? Do you think that I’ve improved Cars 2? Reach out and let us know, either in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted by Dylan in Blog, 0 comments

Behind the Scenes: Editing the Matrix

I wasn’t intending for this to be my first blog post, but I think this is far more interesting than the review of The Force Awakens that I’ve been trying to frankenstein together for 4 weeks. I’d also like to apologize if you came here looking for information on editing the actual movie, The Matrix. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved with that, I was about 2.

So in the future there may be more of these “Behind the Scenes” posts, but for now you’ll have to be content with this. I mentioned on Twitter that editing this episode (The Matrix episode of Triple Play, also know as Episode 4) had me tearing my hair out, and now I’m going to tell you why.

This story actually beings back when we were recording the Matrix. This is a bit of a “break the magic” moment, so if you don’t like knowing when we recorded something, skip ahead. I can’t give you a precise date, but we watched the Matrix on a Saturday in September, and recorded the episode on the next Thursday. We would normally have recorded Sunday, but Kiyan’s voice started to give him trouble, so we delayed until he could speak at least mostly normally. The reason for mentioning this will make sense in a bit.

Throughout our podcasting adventure we’ve had some mishaps with Audition, and sometimes we lose an episode to the ether. Sometimes Audition will randomly stop recording while we’re speaking. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when it does this, and it’s probably something as mundane as the moon passing in front of Venus. This actually occurred while we were recording The Matrix episode, and since The Matrix episode we’ve actually kept a constant eye on Audition rather than letting it run in the background unwatched. It lost our trust.

The previous two sentences may have given away what happened. We sat down to record our episode at 6 PM. This was solely due to it being a Thursday, I might add, we normally record rather early in the morning. We got through the first version and looked at Audition and… It had stopped recording at what we thought was 1 minute and 9 seconds. We had just talked for an hour and none of it was recorded! This made us rather upset and angry. Our second recording (at roughly 7 PM) was noticeably more aggravated. After finishing Kiyan turned to me and said “pity we lost the first recording, it was way better.” I nodded in agreement.

Usually I edit the episodes relatively soon after we’ve recorded them, but for the Matrix I put it aside for a while. It wasn’t going out till January, I figured, so I may as well wait. So imagine my surprise when I opened up Audition in the final week of December to discover that both recordings had survived. We had misread the time stamp, and the recording had actually stopped at 1 hour and 9 minutes. What fools we are. So the position I faced, after all this exposition, was what to do with two separate versions of the same episode?

I consulted briefly with Kiyan and was left with 3 options: Use 1) Version 1 as is, clipping in the very end where it had cut out from Version 2. 2) Use Version 2 as is. 3) Splice together the best parts of both to create the greatest frankenstein episode in all existence. Clearly I’m pretty lazy, so I chose option 3.

And so began the multi-day editing process. I thought I knew how long it would take, but I was terribly wrong on that count. But hey, it came out to be a pretty good episode. So let’s look at what I did.

Before I begin, however, I want to note. This is not how I normally have to edit episodes. I’ll show you a comparison shot at the end, but usually I’ll only need to cut out some things and I’m good. For this edit I split it into three phases.

Phase 1

Phase 1 was arguably the easiest. I began by listening to both full recordings, without any additional music/edits. Since I figured I was going to have to splice together these two different recordings, I made meticulous notes about what we talked about in each episode. So I opened up my trusty word processor, Text Edit, changed the color of the font, and came up with a nice comprehensive notes document.

Matrix Cut 1

Matrix Cut 2

Alright, maybe not so comprehensive. But I needed it to be accurate, and apparently verbosity helps with that. Mentally I was making notes during version 2, comparing it to version 1 and deciding which was better.  Kiyan’s original assessment of the first recording was, on the whole, accurate. It was better. I did, however, find some minor discussion that we either a) did not have in the first recording or b) were superior in the second that I wanted to cut into the first recording to make the final cut. And so began phase 2.

 Phase 2

This was the most difficult of my self assigned phases, since this was the part where I had to cut everything together without making any of it sound weird. I had to take the intro to a section from here, to lead into a section from there. Things like that.

I started with what I wanted to keep from version 1, and put that in. Whenever I reached a section I wanted from version 2, I cut to there, clipped it out, and put it into version 1. Then I would re-listen to the cut multiple times, making slight edits until it sounded natural. I’d bet you didn’t hear a single cut in the final version of the episode. If you did, it was probably from when I cut out Kiyan yelling at the neighbors, which got cut in phase 3. I spent multiple days on this phase, I was quite tired of listening to us talking about The Matrix after the first two listen throughs, to be honest. Of course you can never escape a half edited episode, it digs into your subconscious and constantly bugs you and I often I  would fall asleep to the soothing thoughts of  The Matrix . I even wrote a story while editing about a woman in a red dress, because I heard the phrase “the woman in the red dress” so many goddamn times. Quite honestly that was the most difficult cut to get right.

I’m sure you’re curious as to what elements I took from each version in the final cut. Here’s the last bit of my notes document, where I laid out my assembly of the final version as I did it.

Matrix Final Cut

Phase 3

After I finished phase 2, I exported the episode, with my newly cut in intro, outro, and endslate (our little email us / find us here blurb) music, and sent it off to Kiyan. I don’t normally do this, but I needed a fresh set of ears to listen for 1) a title and 2) any cuts I missed. Turns out I had intended to cut out us looking up things (and Kiyan yelling at the neighbors, but that never made it to the final cut because it was in version 2) and then promptly forgot to do so. He sent me the time stamps of that, and a few repeated conversations and I got to work. Cut those bits out, exported the whole thing, uploaded it, and it released the next day. I did cut that a bit fine, I’ll be honest, but it came out all good in the end. So what does Audition look like now that I finished editing? Well. You can just barely see the intro music there in the third track on the left. Look how cute it is!

Matrix Audition

Don’t be deceived. Most of those cuts are just topic divisions that I made in accordance with my notes document. A few of them are version 2 splices, and even fewer still are cuts that I mentioned above, like us searching something in the middle of the episode. But it does summarize nicely the amount of effort we put into making it a good episode. I said I’d provide a comparison, so here it is. This is the Audition timeline for Trust Your Doctor Episode 104, the latest thing I’ve edited. This is generally the level of editing that needs to be done, a line or two here, maybe one there, maybe save a funny outtake in a lower track. Those kind of things.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 9.28.31 PM

So what did you think? Was this interesting? Do you want to know more? Let me know. Leave a comment. Email us. Tweet me. The second most editing I ever had to do was when Trust Your Doctor reached The Three Doctors (in Episode 68), and if there’s enough interest I can talk about the conception of that episode and the behind the scenes. What really went through our head when we thought “hey let’s have us from the future appear on the show?” Otherwise, I’ve a few other Behind the Scenes ideas stewing in my mind. But until then….


Posted by Dylan in Behind the Scenes, Blog, 0 comments