I haven’t been shy about my (negative) opinion of Man of Steel. It is a dreary, lifeless bastardization of everything the character up Superman stands for.
Where a Superman movie should show you the power of hope, of a noble spirit, of good family and inspiring others by setting a good example, MoS shows us compromised ideals, terrible role models poisoning a noble soul, willfully idiotic disregard for human life and replacing inspiration with pretentious idolatry.
If one thinks I hate MoS purely because [THREE YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT] Superman kills Zod in the most contrived manner possible to save possibly the dumbest people in Metropolis, then you have just observed the very tip of an iceburg of bad movie making. [END SPOILER].
And now the writer/director team of Goyer and Snyder are back again with a sequel to that atrocity unto a genre that they intend to use to launch the DC cinematic universe. Because two and a half successful Batman movies weren’t a good enough springboard.
For the next month, everyone I know is going to ask if I’ve seen it because they know I’m a fan and creator of the superhero genre. And my answer both before and after the reviews came in is ‘nope’, and I hope you don’t either.
Why am I so vehement about this? Well… [SPOILERS AHEAD]
It Finally Hits Rock Bottom In 9/11 Imagery
No doubt, 9/11 has had a profound effect on US society. It was a huge, tragic and terrifying event. I could open up a whole can of worms about the fallout from what happened, but one of the minor side effects is that every film maker ever now uses the images of toppling buildings as a cheap shortcut to trigger a very small form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in an entire generation, thus making their work seem more serious and poignant.
I am of the opinion that this is one of the most crass, manipulative things ever and BvS ups the ante by literally making it the motivation for Batman to want to kill Superman.
Remember how Superman was stupid at the end of Man of Steel and ended up flinging Zod through buildings and heat-visioning the shit out of everything? Turns out one of those buildings was the Metropolis HQ of Wayne Enterprises and Bruce gets to watch up close and personal as several of his people die or have their lives ruined. And thus, much like Frank Miller (whose work is constantly cited as an inspiration) allegedly became a fan of fascism and racism by the events of 9/11, Batman is motivated to want to murder the crap out of Superman because of the Battle of Metropolis.
Look, far be it for me to discount personal tragedy as a motivation especially in regards to Batman, but I do want to say that no one ever should compare the moronic mistakes of Superman to the calculated violence of 9/11.
9/11 is not a concept that has endured fifteen years because some buildings fell down and a lot of people died. Tragedies on that scale happen a shockingly frequent number of times every year and we don’t remember or memorialize them like 9/11.
No, it is the fact that it was a surprise attack from enemies we never expected in a way we couldn’t predict that makes it live on in infamy, like Pearl Harbor.
Superman stupidly lasering Wayne Enterprises is more akin to if instead of a terrorist attack, 9/11 was caused by a pilot getting sauced out of his mind an crashing. There is no equivalence here and the attempt to force one—and the stupidity and evil it spurs Batman to later is deeply insulting.
Batman is Stupid and Evil
No, I don’t mean Bob Kane’s brilliant creation of a man haunted by the evils of crime who chooses to dedicate himself to making sure it never happens to another child, I mean Goyer’s Bizzaro-esque immitation as portrayed by Ben Affleck.
Unlike a lot of folks online, I don’t care about Affleck being chosen for the part. After Heath Ledger and Idris Elba, I will never question casting in a comic book movie again until I see a screen test.
Sadly, Affleck is forced to play the Batman from Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham, or worse: Rorschach from Watchmen. He is no Dark Knight. Instead he is a lunatic who mows people down with machine gun fire, brands them with batarangs so they’ll be killed in prison, and spouts fascist bullshit worthy of later day Frank Miller comics.
Oh, and when I say he wants to kill Superman? Yeah, he’s not trying to capture him to stand trial or convince him to change his ways. No, he wants to straight murder the Man of Steel. Because Lex Luthor told him it was a great idea.
Yes, Virginia. Lex Luthor convinces a gun-wielding Batman to try his level best to kill Superman. And if Lex in this movie wasn’t more or less Riddler from Batman Forever, and did something stupid to tip his hand, he would have succeeded.
That’s this movie. Two and a half hours of it.
It’s Two and a Half Hours of Chaos
Even the reviews that like this movie struggle to justify the fact that it’s chock full of scattered motivations, pointless dream sequences, and all manner of other padding (while somehow still not giving people like Lois Lane much of anything valuable to say).
If you remember the trailers, you probably remember the scene with the troopers wearing the Red Son logo as their squad patch. Yep, imagine spot. It doesn’t really happen and is only there to show that another awful writer (Mark Millar) managed to write something good once, so why not David Goyer?
Naturally, we have not one but two recountings of Batman’s origins, both used to motivate him—again to murder Superman.
One might think this is necessary to set up all those movies WB wants DC to make, but nope. That’s sloppily laid in in the final half hour like the entire rest of the movie.
Of course to me the major sin of this film is…
Before I start, let me say first that there is nothing wrong with stories that question the value and effect of superheroes. There is also nothing wrong with thinking about supers in a philosophical light.
What I object to and what I seem to have to keep objecting to when it comes to DC is this constant thing where they take heroics, examine them and conclude, ‘Nope. Not Worth it. Never be a hero kids. Helping others is just misery and wasted effort’.
And they do it here. They do it with Batman and Superman as their mouthpieces. Sure they try to couch it in babble about fallen gods and abuse of power, but that’s the crux of this. And it’s all the more galling when the problem isn’t with heroics in general—Wonder Woman is praised even in the negative reviews for being heroic—but the fact that Superman of all people is bad at being a superhero.
He honestly just needs training—or really just common sense. Yes, he needs to take responsibility for his mistakes, but it’s just stupid to tell him not to help people who he can help because you’re scared he’ll become an asshole. It’s much more likely that he’ll become and asshole if you keep being a jerk to him.
I don’t get this. DC’s bread and butter is superheroes. Not just any superheroes, but the mythic superheroes. While Marvel’s heroes are generally realistic people who gained powers, DC’s are being to which we should aspire to.
Superman is a symbol of hope. It’s right there on his chest. That’s a literal rune for ‘hope’. Even goddamn Man of Steel got that right. Batman is a symbol of justice, not just for keeping the order, but for making sure bad things don’t happen in the future. That is his entire motivation and the reason he doesn’t use guns, much less machine guns—because his parents were killed by a gun. Wonder Woman is the literal spirit of truth and was even Goddess of Truth for a while.
These characters mean something. Their struggles and victories are something bigger than what we can accomplish and they carry more weight.
So to use them as hand puppets to tell people how much being a good person sucks… what the actual, factual hell? It’s like carving a beautiful statue… then shoving it up an elephant’s ass and sending pictures of that to everyone who ever admired the statue in the first place.
I genuinely cannot explain why DC would follow that philosophy and I hope they stop.
Why I’m Asking You Not To See It This Weekend
Let’s be clear: I don’t normally care what people take in as part of their daily recommended dose of popular culture. I will generally not tell people not to read Punisher even though I hate the character. I won’t come down on people for watching the Kardashians or whatever uncomfortably racist thing TLC has out now. I will call CPS is you participate in Toddlers and Tiaras. But generally, I don’t care. I will say what I hate and why and that’s the end of it.
Batman vs Superman is meant to the the launching point and foundation of a whole new universe for the DC superhero characters in the same way Iron Man and The Avengers launched the MCU. While Marvel has done a good job of varying the moods in their films, the originals still inform the later movies heavily… which is the problem.
If you like any of the characters DC has on the line for their oen movies—like say Wonder Woman who has waited for-damn-ever to get the movie she deserves, or Cyborg, who has been waiting forever for the Wolfman era Teen Titans to get the movie they deserve, then you should care about the lessons WB learns from their box-office take; specifically, the opening box office.
See, studios and DC in general learn nothing from things like fan feedback. All they care about is how much money they make. This is why DC did stupid gimmicks like villains month and pumped out those 90’s throwback holofoil covers. It makes money even if there is nothing good or enjoyable about the finished product.
Same goes for the movies. If BvS makes a ton of money this weekend just from people who really want to see a superhero flick, or even have a morbid curiosity what those godawful trailers were about, they will learn that going full steam ahead with their bullshit and keep it in their already in-production movies like Wonder Woman.
If, however, they make less money than they expected because people wisely stayed away? Maybe just maybe they’ll take another look at what they’re doing and retool things so we get the movies we want, not the movies we apparently deserve.
So just enjoy this weekend. Have a big, fancy dinner, let the kids hide eggs—watch Iron Man or Guardians of the Galaxy on DvD. This garbage fire of a movie will be there next week. Let’s just at least try to send a message that we want them to do better, please?