Before the DC fanboys and fangirls freak over this negative Batman V Superman article, please note that I intend to pay actual hard-earned dollars to see this film in theaters this weekend. Yes, I have yet to see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Don’t be thrown by the title. I can confidently state that the film was “destined to suck” due to observations any person can make without actually watching the movie. Don’t believe me?
The first reason Batman V Superman getting panned struck me as inevitable is that I could see that it had far too much in common with the largely disliked Man of Steel movie that preceded it. The Verge even went so far as to refer to Batman V Superman as “a very expensive reaction video for Man of Steel.”
“The sequel, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, isn’t just a sequel to Man Of Steel, it’s a pointed referendum on the debate that followed the film. Occasionally, the self-awareness is hilarious, as when secondary characters go out of their way to point out that the climactic battle is taking place in an unpopulated area.
“Batman v Superman addresses Man Of Steel‘s problems in words without learning anything from it in tone. Instead, the new film doubles down on the grimness, the ugliness, and the indifference to human life.”
I shudder to think that rather than address the flaws in Man of Steel, Zack Snyder and company went out of their way to force characters to explain away the previous film’s problems. That would be both stupidly egotistical and a waste of time. Critics aren’t going to respond well to having their opinions flipped off on film; this could explain the backlash among movie reviewers.
That aside, Man of Steel was unrealized potential placed behind an Instagram filter. With Batman V Superman being treated in a similar vein, it would definitely have been destined to displease anyone who hated the previous film.
A part of me feels like this negative backlash is karma that’s overdue for DC’s ridiculous treatment of their TV universe. Although limited to CW and CBS (NBC continues to try to find a foothold, but the cancelled Constantine suggests the network may have to sit the comic book craze out), the DC TV universe has a loyal following. It certainly has an outstanding Flash in Gustin Grant.
Zack Snyder felt the need to go out of his way to explain why Grant (and indirectly, other TV DC heroes) weren’t cast in the film.
“I just don’t think [Gustin] was a good fit. I’m very strict with this universe and I just don’t see a version where… that (tone is) not our world.”
This would sound very dignified if it weren’t for the existence of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor — a casting decision that was much criticized from the beginning. It doesn’t help Snyder’s snooty argument that many DC fans agree that the best live action version of Lex Luthor we’ve ever seen belongs to a CW interpretation played by Michael Rosenbaum.
When struggling television networks have better casting choices going for their shows than your big budget movie, there’s a problem.
Of course when you’re trying to jump-start your own version of the wildly-successful Marvel Cinematic universe with a couple of films (rather than over a decade of interlocking film projects), you tend to overlook the small pieces that make up the big picture.
Whereas DC has been almost hostile in terms of what the TV universe can and can’t use, Marvel took the time to build a television universe that worked hand-in-hand with their larger movie universe. For instance, rather than trying to explain away the devastation of Metropolis (Really, Zack Snyder?), Daredevil‘s first season demonstrated the corruption and criminality spawned by the devastation of New York during the Avengers. You saw a series of consequences play out on the street level, with the everyday person.
These are the kinds of stories that DC and Warner Bros. won’t be able to tell on the big or small screen, simply because there’s no indication that the company feels that storytelling is relevant to the superhero movie experience. I kind of want to pull Snyder aside and tell him that visuals aren’t worth a damn if the story is incoherent and an anti-thesis of the comic book movie experience.
And that brings us to the biggest reason that Batman V Superman is set to upset so many people.
DC and Warner Bros. seem to think audiences hate fun. The entire point of movie blockbusters is to be fun and entertaining. This is why I fully expect Suicide Squad to get all the movie plaudits that was hoped for in Batman V Superman and I hope it serves as a wake-up call to DC, which is convinced that a bland color scheme and boring interpretation of its comic books is the best way to compete against Marvel.
I do feel bad for DC and Warner Bros. In their determination to be the “opposite” of Marvel Studios and Disney, they were thrown a curve ball by the grittier, bloodier, and very “mature audiences only” Netflix branch of the Marvel live-action universe. People are already starting to claim that Marvel produced a superior version of Batman V Superman through its second Daredevil season.
I think Marvel, having taken the time to grow its own universe has now been given space to “diversify.” It can be quirky and self-depreciating and it can also be dark and controversial. Marvel gets to be fun and grown-up because Marvel never put itself in a box.
DC is going to lose if it doesn’t pull its Justice League franchise out of the monochrome box Zack Snyder put it in.
[Image via Warner Bros./Movieclips Trailers]