Or to be more accurate, the trend they’ve been going on as of late.
I’m in no way a DC fan. I was more of a Marvel enthusiast growing up. I say that to make it clear that I have no particular reason to prefer Snyder’s DC adaptations to Disney’s Marvel ones other than the fact that the former are actually good whilst the latter are not because Disney are money-seeking whores. In an age where superheroes are all the rage and nostalgia-baiting has become an accepted form of entertainment, the “House of Mouse” has pretty much been exploiting my childhood worse than Nintendo ever will by releasing the same movie over and over again, just with a different name attached. I mean seriously, is there any real difference between Thor or Ant-Man besides the characters, setting, and powers? The story and humor (aka the most important parts of any movie) are all so freaking interchangeable and there’s so little of it to begin with in those films because it’s clear they’re structured in a way to advertise for the big team-up stuff like The Avengers and Civil War.
Great marketing perhaps, but it’s a shitty way to tell a story. What if I want to show The Avengers to my little cousin during his birthday party? He’s going to have to watch at least four other films before he can understand what’s going on in it, which is something that even the prequel trilogy avoids. And it’s because Zack Snyder understands this mentality that I love his superhero films so much. He understands that portraying characters accurately and with a sense of fun should never be a priority compared to telling an actual story, and he understands that the concept of the superhero itself is inherently stupid. But at the same time, he also understands that you have to love what you lash out at, because – let’s face it – no one’s going to listen to a strawman hater and who better to criticize something than a fan? And it’s through his balance of understanding the lore of the superhero whilst poking fun at how silly it sounds when you explain it to a normal person that makes his movies such great post-modern meta commentaries on the genre. Hey, if Quentin Tarantino can change the outcome of WWII in order to make a point, then why should a fictional character like Superman be immune?
With Watchmen, Snyder transformed the most well-regarded comic book of all-time into a tribute/criticism of the genre’s “recent-at-the-time” turn into faux-grittiness with those X-Men/Spiderman films and Nolan’s stuff whilst ditching the Cold War metaphors that wouldn’t really connect with today’s audiences. With Man of Steel, he turned Superman into…well…Batman in order to criticize how stupid his very concept is whilst making sure to understand that we’re still supposed to see the dude as a savior. He’s just not allowed to be perfect anymore and has to work really hard to be one. And now with Batman v Superman, he’s directly criticizing Marvel’s practices themselves, turning Batman into a wearisome fool who’s been doing the hero thing for so long that he can’t make good judgments anymore whilst continuing to criticize the idea behind Superman, and all whilst delivering on the film’s promise that we’d see the two fight (which incidentally was pretty cool to see).
But let’s start with the plot first. When the destruction in Man of Steel’s climax destroys one of his towers and cripples one of his employees, an aging and jaded Bruce Wayne becomes distrustful of the man who might as well be named Jesus whilst a young and jovial Lex Luthor shares his opinion to a quite frankly psychotic degree. So much so that he somehow ends up discovering the DC heroes’ identities and tries to setup the titular conflict so that Superman can go bye-bye whilst he tries to become the most powerful human being through his own kryptonite research. This quite frankly is not hard for him to do because the two already distrust each other due to how they go about with their very similar views. Meanwhile, a young woman named Diana Prince – who you can easily tell is Wonder Woman from the very first second you meet her, but that didn’t stop the audience from cheering wildly when she shows up in costume – works behind-the-scenes to erase the traces of her existence discovered by Luthor. But when the men end up taking their stupidity too far, she ends up having to take center stage in a way that makes you look forward to when she gets her own movie.
I’ve read a lot of criticisms regarding Batman v Superman and it’s pretty much just the reaction to Evangelion 3.0 all over again: some valid ones in regards to the performances and such, but most of them come off to me like they’re reaching. More specifically, the complaints regarding the presentation and how confusing it is to follow. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen Jodorowsky, Bergman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and am currently watching Concrete Revolutio as of this moment of writing, but Batman v Superman and its multiple out-of-nowhere dream sequences were as easy to follow as the 1989 Batman film if you ask me. And it’s not like it’s that complex a story to begin with: Batman v Superman’s (surface) story is all about the two leads growing to distrust each other due to their histories and how said histories have shaped their very similar, yet completely different beliefs. Maybe there were one or two too many dream sequences in order to convey that, but condemning a product for not being subtle with its message is a criticism that’s quite frankly lost on me, and it definitely doesn’t disrupt the flow in any (well, not more than a minor) way since they’re in service of that story.
Then there’s the criticism that this movie is a big advertisement for the Justice League movie, which I just had to laugh at upon hearing that that complaint was a thing. Whilst it may be true that Batman v Superman’s main reason for existing – besides getting Batman to fight Superman of course – was for WB to advertise the thing, that doesn’t automatically negate everything else you can read from it. Also, when have any of the other superhero movies not been more than long advertisements to a much bigger movie? Did the first Iron Man have any purpose in its plot other than to promise a future gathering of superheroes? Was Winter Soldier more than the characters getting betrayed by their organization and preparing to fight them in the future? You can’t serious tell me with a straight face that a movie where Superman dies in the end had less things happen in it than Thor 2.
As for the other problems that most people point out, they’re all in service of the even bigger story surrounding Batman and Superman’s conflict and what Snyder’s been doing with his superhero films for a long time now. Batman and Superman’s new portrayals should offend whatever you knew about them prior, because this film doesn’t just want to destroy the hero so that they can inevitably be redeemed. It wants to destroy everything Marvel has ingrained into us since Iron Man in regards to character loyalty and a sense of “fun” so that we can get the film franchise we deserve rather than the one that we think we want. From the dour mood to the “stupid” characterization of our leads, everything is done for that purpose. And destroy, Batman v Superman does, to the point that it might even be considered Snyder’s End of Evangelion if it wasn’t for the fact that Snyder does make it clear that he hopes to rebuild a new legacy from the ashes with the DC film franchise by including Wonder Woman into the movie and slowly reviving Superman after his death scene whilst giving Batman a new reason to keep fighting after all the hell’s he been through. Hopefully one where each movie must serve a larger purpose besides introducing another hero for the sole purpose of making them a team member for a bigger film.
Batman v Superman doesn’t just exist to introduce another big player in today’s current trends. It wants us to question whether or not what we’re getting right now is really all that satisfying. It wants us to see that “how” we tell a story should not overtake “what” the story actually is. It does not hate the hero, but its pretty clear that it does hate Disney – or more specifically, its practice of giving us what we’re familiar with whilst executing the elements on a level that never rises above more than okay regardless of whether or not they actually add to the story or doing anything actually new. And seeing as how they’re now giving the Marvel treatment to Star Wars in terms of releasing one movie a year (a film focused on the team who retrieved the Death Star plans? Really?!), I can’t say the film’s dislike is misplaced. In fact, I can just see the board meeting for the writing process of Batman v Superman right now. “Sorry fanboys, but Jimmy Olsen has no place here and we’re not going to keep him around just to satisfy your desire for comic loyalty like that other company would do. However, I think we found a way to integrate him into our story naturally for a few moments. Boom! Headshot!” *laughter all around*.
This film is completely unapologetic about how much it refuses to play by the rules of what the mass market considers acceptable, and whilst that’s often a bad thing because it tends to lead to nowhere but shallow hipster-ism, Batman v Superman has a goal and a reason to use its rule-breaking for said goal. And as a post-modern critique of our current pop culture and how it treats superheroes, I’d say Batman v Superman always stays on course with few – if any – deviations and comes together very well at making its point by the end. Sure there are plot points that don’t make sense, but this is a movie about an invincible alien fighting a man dressed a bat, so who says that everything has to make sense? Is it weird that Lex Luthor knows who all these heroes are without any buildup to said discoveries whatsoever? Couldn’t Batman and Superman have avoided fighting each other if they made an effort to communicate? Why is Aquaman being played by Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones?
At the end of the day, I think the meta-narrative that pervades the film’s runtime is strong enough to overcome those flaws and narrative holes. I’d even advise people who like what Disney is doing to watch this movie with my viewpoint in mind. Hey, if they can’t take criticism, then they shouldn’t be criticizing movies to begin with. Batman v Superman is easily the best film I’ve seen this year and I doubt I’ll see better unless Sion Sono has some unannounced project coming out soon that actually has a chance 0f getting subbed. I’d even go so far as to say it surpasses Snyder’s previous attempts at superhero storytelling, and given how much they push the bar to begin with, that’s saying a lot. With the movie not performing as well as Warner Brothers hoped, I can’t say for sure whether the DC universe has a bright future ahead. But I’d rather take a good thing that’s short-lived over one that overstays its welcome to the point of indifference. Dear lord, The Force Awakens is a lot lamer on rewatch; and if the following films don’t try much harder, Star Wars is going to end up like the Indiana Jones franchise – a popular series we all love that we want no more of, and yet we’re getting more anyways.
- So how about the recent positive response to that Captain America: Civil War film, huh?
- For the record, I don’t regret buying The Force Awakens and will give Rogue One a chance to impress me. At the end of day, I’m a Star Wars fan at heart.
- Iron Man 3 is okay. Just want to throw that out there.