COMMENTARY | Superman Batman movie talk has been all over the web since last week’s major announcement at SDCC, which revealed the two iconic heroes would appear in their very first live-action movie together. The film will be a sequel to Man Of Steel and a reboot of Batman.
Given the longevity of the characters and the obvious fan base, of which I consider myself a member, this should be one of the most inspiring ideas to come along in quite some time.
So why do I hate it so much?
For me, Warner’s decision is terrible on every level.
First, let’s take the movie itself.
It appears the studio looks at this film as a foundational move for out-Marveling Marvel with a Justice League movie. Realizing most of the JLA characters predate the Avengers in comics, I still feel safe in saying this is a move completely lacking in originality.
While DC has the older house of heroes, they simply didn’t attack their movies with the same gusto and inventiveness that Marvel did in setting up The Avengers one hero at a time. Anything DC tries with Justice League will come off as more of a copycat than anything else because, really, what can they do with this idea that hasn’t already been done?
And even if you can forgive the fact the idea is just a rehash, let’s look at who’s in charge of the project: David Goyer, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder. That wouldn’t be so bad if it was mainly Goyer and Nolan, but the disturbing truth is, Snyder will have his hands all over this thing, based on the mistaken assumption that, because Man Of Steel made money, it was successful.
Man Of Steel made money in spite of Zack Snyder.
In fact, Man Of Steel was destined to make money no matter who was heading the project. The fact Superman Returns turned a $121 million profit in spite of being a nearly incoherent mess is proof of that. Just have the title mention Superman in some way, and hello, return on investment. (At least for now.)
Furthermore, after taking flight in its first week at the US box office, Man Of Steel had an unusually large second week drop. It also earned — and I do mean “earned” — a rotten rating from the Top Critics at Rotten Tomatoes and a “meh” 77 percent from the user community.
Had Snyder made the sequel without Batman, I would have expected a considerable drop based on these signs. A Superman Batman movie obviously changes those expectations, but that’s also what makes it feel like a gimmick.
As for Nolan, his Dark Knight trilogy was an undeniable success, both critically and commercially, but his heart no longer appears vested in these comic book projects. The way Man Of Steel unraveled in the final 45 minutes revealed to me the wrong person will be making the major decisions for this potential franchise moving forward.
Had Nolan directed Man Of Steel, he would have never allowed the shoddy camerawork and poor special effects that plagued the ending of that film. The entire third act completely negated an otherwise interesting take on the Superman mythos.
It was as if Nolan held Snyder’s hand through most of the production, and then finally turned him loose and said, “Well, Zack, do your worst.”
Unfortunately, he obliged.
I don’t want to hate on Zack Snyder as a person. I’m sure he’s a fine human being, but the simple fact is, he represents a regressive form of filmmaking that forsakes storytelling for shiny, flashy, special effects-laden pictures that are so stylized they cross over from cool to inept.
He’s not unlike DC/Marvel comic books themselves from the last 20 years, which appeal only to children and the lowest common denominator of mentally capable adults. (That’s not a knock on all comics. There is a lot of good sequential storytelling outside of the Big Two.)
With convoluted and childish storytelling, DC and Marvel have routinely killed off characters only to bring them back a year or two later. For a number of years, they mashed together every character in their stable with “maxi-series events” that promised to “change the face of comics forever” and that “things would never be the same.” (At least until the next one came along the following year.)
This idiotic compulsion to do teamup after teamup very nearly killed the industry, and now it appears to have graduated to the cineplex.
The system has already shown signs of breaking down.
Through the failures of The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., and, shockingly, Pacific Rim, Hollywood has continually had to rely on overseas business to create blockbusters.
Fanboys choose not to see it because the Superman Batman movie carrot has been dangled in front of their noses, but it’s there, and it could eventually infect franchises that are seemingly bulletproof.
(Looking at you, Avengers.)
If the Superman Batman movie turns a profit — and it will — Hollywood will continue to learn the wrong lessons from it, even as every other big budget clone they create turns out more Jonah Hex than Dark Knight.
Storytelling will be sacrificed to the gods of CGI, and movies built around fascinating characters will continually head to the small screen (see Bates Motel, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter, The Shield, etc).
If it happens often enough, prophecies like the recent film industry implosion George Lucas and Steven Spielberg predicted will come to pass sooner rather than later. And then, no more Hollywood. Only Netflix, Amazon, and whoever else figures out that most of us prefer great scripts, great acting, and great ideas, to a bunch of bright colors.
Hollywood needs to learn the lesson of why ticket sales are in continual decline, and why so many of us are abandoning cinemas for television. A Superman Batman movie victory will be temporary at best and only further cause the decline of motion pictures. That’s why it must be stopped.
Unfortunately, the motion picture industry needs a hero right now. A real hero.