I finally got around to seeing "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" (God, if that isn't a mouthful of a title) so I'm a little bit behind everyone else on weighing in on this one. "BvS:DoJ" (that's not much shorter, is it?) had a very strange critical trajectory for a pop culture icon. Normally things go one of two ways:
a) critics pan it, then everyone pans it, then it's a big stinky flop like "Battleship"
b) critics love it, then everyone loves it, then it's a big surprise success like "Mad Max: Fury Road"
"Batman" had a very weird trajectory. First, all the fans were predicting it was going to be garbage. Then all the critics panned it. Then...everyone who actually saw it started poking their heads out of the woodwork to say, "Hey, you know, maybe the critics were wrong."
That's what happened with me. I thought it was strange that everyone was shitting all over a movie they hadn't seen. Because why? Because Ben Affleck isn't Christian Bale? Well, I have news for you, baby blues, Christian Bale wasn't George Clooney. And George Clooney wasn't Val Kilmer. And Val Kilmer wasn't Michael Keaton. And Michael Keaton wasn't Adam West. And Adam West wasn't Lewis Wilson. This is a stupid, albeit perennial argument.
Then I noticed a lot of people just kind of wanted to dump on Zack Snyder. Except...I've always been a Zack Snyder fan. I mean, first of all, I've always felt a debt of gratitude to him as part of the New Holy Trinity of Kirkman, Keene, and Snyder for rebooting zombiemania. The "Dawn of the Dead" remake is the reason I exist today. I loved "300" and I even loved "Watchmen." The first five minutes of "Watchmen" is one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever. I didn't much like "Sucker Punch," but, you know, everyone gets a bolo now and then.
I mean, the dude can direct. It's really fashionable, especially right this second in cinematic history, to shit all over Snyder, but he's not Uwe Boll. He's not fucking M. Night Shyamalan. He was neither a flash in the pan nor a talentless hack. I mean, he's not Truffaut, either, but he makes good, stylish movies more often than not. I always suspected the problem with "Sucker Punch" was that he had a talent for interpreting material, but wasn't much for creating original stories. And I stand by that until I see otherwise. "Sucker Punch" was way too precious, and probably because it was way too close to his heart, being the dreams of his childhood sketchbook and all. Let Zack Snyder keep rebooting and reimagining good shit as long as Hollywood is going to - which is probably forever. Just don't let him write his own scripts.
And so we come to "Batman v. The Really Long Title." My confidence in one of my favorite directors was shattered - I remembered deliberately saying, "I'm not so sure about 'Sucker Punch' but I love everything Zack Snyder's ever done" before going into the theater for that one. And so I was waffling a bit on "Batman" but finally decided I had to see it.
And you know what? It was pretty great. Was it "The Dark Knight?" No. But then, few movies are, and even with all the same actors and all the same budget, Christopher Nolan couldn't even recreate the genius of "The Dark Knight" four years later. What "BvS" (there, I'll just settle on that one) was, though, was intelligent. No, it wasn't a Marvel movie. But the last Marvel movie I saw - which, I enjoyed, I'll point out - was a string of sex and fart jokes. High cinema "Deadpool" was not.
So people have been complaining that "BvS" was too dreary and not enough like Marvel. Well, fuck you, man! Who cares if it's like fucking Marvel? "The King's Speech" wasn't like a Marvel movie, either. What a stupid fucking argument. No, "BvS" wasn't like Marvel. Marvel movies don't have thematic concerns. Flawed though it may be, "BvS" aspired for something higher.
This wasn't poop joke "Deadpool." This was the Götterdämmerung! This was a heady meditation on what it means to be a man and what it means to be a god. Was it Fellini? No. But there was clearly a point. It was clearly meant to make people have a discussion. What kind of a discussion do you have after "Avengers: Age of Ultron?" "I'm against evil robots pulling a city into the sky?" I mean, "Ultron" could have been heady. It could have posed questions to the audience about what makes a person a person, what's the difference between artificial intelligence and human intelligence, what responsibility does a creator have to his creation, and vice versa. It could've done all that shit, but it didn't. Now people are pissed because Zack Snyder had the gall to make them have to think during a comic book movie. Oh, the nerve of that guy!
I guess at this point I'm just more pissed that no one was willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. No one was willing to go in and see what it was all about before getting all judgey. Because when I went and actually watched the movie...all the stuff that the nerdosphere was complaining about was pretty fucking integral.
"Oh, Ben Affleck is too old to play Batman and he looks totally worn out."
Right...but, see, he's playing an old, worn-out Batman.
"Batman kills people! And he brands people! This isn't Batman!"
Right...but, see, he's playing Batman twenty years in, who's finally become corrupt. He looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back. Oh, but guess what? Batman wasn't beyond redemption, because he's still fucking Batman. And if that isn't at its core reemphasizing and celebrating the importance of Batman, I don't know what it is.
"Batman and Superman would never fight!"
Right...but, see, this entire movie is about them both being encouraged to fight and each finding the moral courage not to do so.
"Superman's too dreary and pessimistic. Where's the Superman from that comic where he talked the girl down from the ledge. It's a complete character derailment!"
(Not even exaggerating, literally every post on Facebook ever for the past three weeks was the fucking girl on the ledge comic.)
Right...but, see, the movie is about the entire question of whether a four-color Superman ethos can exist in the real world - our world. And despite all the efforts of supervillains and just generally shitty human nature in general, Superman never ceases to believe that doing good is the right thing. And if that isn't at its core reemphasizing and celebrating the importance of Superman, I don't know what it is.
The other big complaint I kept hearing was how this was neither fish nor fowl, it wasn't a Superman movie or a Batman movie, it was just a great big excuse to skip over all the meticulous, years-long plotting Marvel had done with their shared cinematic universe and jump straight into a Justice League movie. Well, I won't say it isn't that - clearly DC is trying to skip the crap and jump straight to the team-up - but it wasn't nearly as bad as everyone said. I could've done without the Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash cameos. They added fucking nothing to the movie, which was already testing my patience with a three hour running time. I even groaned when they first pulled up the file that implied three new characters, the only one whose symbol I immediately recognized was The Flash anyway. And then they brought it back and watched the videos and....no, just no.
But that was like five minutes of doing the studio's shitwork. You're telling me you're okay with Thor wandering around in a bunch of hot springs having visions in "Age of Ultron" but not with three relatively concise teasers in "BvS?" And Wonder Woman, who, though never called that, was actually in the movie and everyone kept saying, "Oh, it's going to be this huge crowded mess and blah blah blah" and you know what? It was fine. It was just fine. Wonder Woman was one of the highlights of the movie. She basically played a subdued version of the "my love interest has a secret" role from, gee, I dunno, every spy movie ever, not to mention Catwoman in "Batman Returns." There was plenty of screen time for Batman and Superman and an extended cameo by Wonder Woman. It wasn't this huge kitchen sink mess everyone was complaining it was going to be.
So, hey, what do I know? I guess I'm being just as kvetchy as all the straw men I'm (theoretically) arguing against. But I thought the movie deserved better than the chance people gave it. I'll tell you one thing I'm sure of, this is a movie that will benefit from rewatching and I suspect that its reputation will improve in subsequent years, possibly in direct opposition to the way "Age of Ultron's" reputation degrades. In ten years, when people aren't so hot around the collar about it, I think we'll finally know what "BvS's" true value is.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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