By now, we’ve all seen all of the Batman v Superman trailers, TV spots, and Turkish Airlines ads. DC Comics’ two biggest heavyweights are sharing the screen together in a major motion picture for the very first time.
So why don’t we seem to give a shit?
Why can’t we shake the feeling that this is a schizophrenic mess?
Is it superhero event movie fatigue? Possibly. But if Marvel can wring a box office hit out of Ant-Man, surely the Bat and Big Blue should have the star-power wattage to shake off some of the malaise.
Suicide Squad—featuring Z-list DC villains like Captain Boomerang—is generating loads more buzz. Hell, according to Fandango, Batman v Superman is a meek No. 3 on the list of most anticipated films of 2016 . . . behind Finding Dory.
The reasons may go a little deeper than just superhero overkill. Maybe it’s because the real battle is not Batman versus Superman, but Warner Bros. versus director Zack Snyder. It’s a grudge match between a studio marketing machine and a creative team with two different movies in their heads.
Batman v Superman is being touted as “the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world,” and the Warner Bros. marketing team has gone all in on a “Who Will Win” hashtag game.
But . . . we know who will win. And the answer is: neither of them.
This is the “Dawn of Justice.” This is the start of the Justice League of America, DC Comics’ answer to Marvel’s Avengers. A superteam of super friends. So why is the movie selling us on a winner take all bout we know has no actual winner?
What’s more: Why is Snyder announcing an R-rated DVD director’s cut for a film that has breakfast cereal tie-ins?
This is cereal.
To answer that, we need to go back to San Diego Comic-Con 2013.
Man of Steel director Zack Snyder took the stage talking about what was then being referred to as the Man of Steel sequel. He brings up character actor Harry Lennix, who took the podium and read a passage from Frank Miller’s seminal Batman story, 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns, about Batman fighting Superman.
Snyder claimed that this story was “the key” to understanding his direction forMan of Steel 2. It’s also the first really, really big problem.
I’ll sum up quickly—don’t tl;dr. Miller’s Dark Knight Returns is about an old, beaten, bitter Batman whose decades-long friendship and partnership with Superman has fractured and crumbled beyond repair. These are guys who know each other’s darkest, most intimate secrets finally reaching an impasse after years and years. So when they clash, there are legitimate stakes. Batman means to kill his old friend, whom he now sees as a government sellout.
Ben Affleck is Batman in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But where is Wonder Woman in the title, huh?Photo: Zack Snyder, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
This is the problem: Snyder wants to make Dark Knight Returns. Warner Bros. wants to take what Marvel Studios has done over 11 movies—introduce individual heroes, give them each a unique POV and personality, THEN bring them all together—and cram it all into one monstrous three-hour Frankenmovie.
Superman wins right? RIGHT?! Because he is an alien, and because HE DOESN’T NEED AN ARMORED SUIT (or hockey pads).
Which is why you have a story about the END of the Justice League ideals being used as the way to START the Justice League.
When Captain America and Iron Man throw down in Captain America: Civil War, they’ve earned their animosity over the course of multiple team-ups (you’d be pissed too after Age of Ultron. Yeesh). Plus, savvy fans know that certain hefty contracts must be coming to an end (hello, Evans and Downey and Hemsworth), so the stakes are real. Characters may actually die. Now imagine Civil War being used to introduce the concept of the Avengers . . . right? Makes no sense.
But then again, Snyder also gave us a Ma and Pa Kent who instilled in their adopted son Clark those good old-fashioned America values: “You know what? Maybe you shouldn’t save people. Especially not kids.” So the foundation was shaky from the get-go.
This from a man who later willfully dies trying to save . . . the family dog. So kids? No. Dogs? Yes. Any wonder Superman is destroying cities and snapping necks with that kind of confused upbringing?
Feel better? The feeling you can’t shake when you watch Batman v Supermantrailers? The one that tells you, “This looks . . . muddled and bad.” It’s not because you don’t read the comics religiously, and it’s not about someone trampling on your childhood . . . it’s that you’re reading seriously mixed signals from all sides, and that’s never a good sign.
But, hey, at least we’ll have a solo Aquaman film in 2019 or something, right?