I just saw Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It was not good…
To be fair, I walked in knowing that I was going to be disappointed… Like, I was going to eat at McDonalds including the resignation of gastronomic depression and utter despair that comes with making such a decision.
It was X-Men: Days of Future Past bad… With Days being about 5% better.
Nah. It was bad… Don’t need to see it twice to change my mind. The film was a solid “C” when it should have been an “A.”
That’s not good. Especially when you have a film featuring the three most iconic superheroes of all time in one film.
At least DOFP followed one story thread. BVS was a slapdash (yeah, I said it) Frankenstein’s Monster, but less cute, crappy mash-up of three different storylines from three different franchises. Worst mash-up of The Dark Knight Returns, Death Of Superman with shades of the New 52 Justice League reboot and a dash of the video games Arkham Knight and Injustice ever.
Zach Snyder wanted to make The Dark Knight Returns, but DC wouldn’t let him. He is not a gifted storyteller. As a visual director, his work is lovely. He is the cinematic equivalent of a top-tier, fan-favorite penciller such as John Byrne or, probably more accurate, Jim Lee. He’s fine on a remake or adaptation of a well-written work (see Dawn of the Dead, 300 or Watchmen).
Original stories a la Sucker Punch for example… Not so much. He is no, shall we say, cinematic Frank Miller in his prime. He’s the “dude-bro” type of fanboy who is dazzled by flash and style. He is not known for substantive films that stay with your psyche. His films don’t really invoke the desire to see them over again whether for entertainment or because his films carry layers of nuance that one gleans through repeat viewings.
In other words, when Avengers: Age of Ultron or Ant-Man pops up on Starz, I’ll watch those films over and over because they are enjoyable, because the narratives and the characters are engaging. Even though these characters have been around for decades, the films make their intricate back-stories and histories accessible for the moviegoer who is not a comic book fan. The stories have singular focus, which means that they can stand on their own while tying into a larger narrative… Kind of like how comics from the “Corporate Two” used to be written.
It’s like this: Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman were fine visually. In terms of brief character development, WW was great. Zach Snyder wanted to do his version of The Dark Knight Returns so bad, the script straight up, word for word, lifted lines from that book like a Diddy sample.
The storytelling, however, was horrible. There was no gravitas, no reason to care about any of these characters. This film does not trust itself nor trusts the history and legacy of these characters. It’s inaccessible to the casual viewer and there is no joy in this film… At all.
I’m sick of seeing the snuff film that is the death of the Waynes over and over again. The only time I smiled is when I saw the Trinity together for the first time. It made its opening weekend money, but the film has no lasting power.
I actually wanted more spectacle. At least, it would have been quality junk food… If they were just honest about the film and called it Dawn of Justice, I would have been fine with that. Instead, we got this convoluted thing that, again, tries to hard to play catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic Method while still not trusting the course that DC set to establish their cinematic universe.
Meanwhile at the House of Ideas…
It’s crazy that a comic book release would garner so much attention. I mean we’re not in the 80s and the 90s anymore (even though the strip-mined “story” of BVS would have you believing otherwise)…
And, it’s not like this character has been out of the limelight for any significant length of time. I mean, since 1999, my man has been in no less than 4 successful series, at least 2 of which he was the headliner. He’s had his own animated series as well as appeared in a number of Marvel animated projects.
Yet, today is a special day. With his first live-action film appearance looming, with the massive marketing push that we have never seen for a character of color before him, with pre-sale numbers comparatively equaling the biggest-selling African American comic book of all time (I see you Todd Johnson and Larry Stroman… #TRIBE), the King is ready to claim his throne.
Black Panther #1 scripted by Ta-Nehisi Coates and illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze drops today. This is some actual pop culture history happening today, and I guarantee you’ll be more satisfied with this $4.99 expense than the money you lost suffering through BVS…
And therein lies the difference. With Marvel Studios, with Marvel Comics, this company is confident in the universe it built. So confident, they didn’t compromise what makes the Marvel Universe special to bring their characters to the big and small screens. There is no confusion, no pandering to a fickle audience that does not understand the complexity and rich history of their fictional world. Instead, because of this confidence, Marvel Studios has been able to dominate the film landscape.
Cinematically and in the printed world, DC’s footing is less sure. They constantly second-guess the strength of their brand and their properties (with the exception of The Batman). They spend too much time chasing the success of Marvel, while ignoring what makes the DC brand so special, so unique.
A bigger problem is that the Powers That Be at DC/WB have no idea how to proceed. They’re too busy playing catch-up to Marvel/Disney as opposed to laying out their own path. The benefit of Marvel Studios is that the comics dictate the stories and character developments and the films follow the lead unlike DC/WB.
The DC Universe is not a “grim and gritty” one. It is not dour, nor depressing. It does not reflect the world around us. It is a fantasy world, which strives to be a utopia. Its heroes are benevolent gods that protect the populace from the forces of evil and darkness. There is a sense of legacy in this universe, the passing of the torch from one generation of heroes to another.
In other words, the DCU is kind of corny… And that’s fine. This is what makes the DCU so fun.
On television, the powers that be get it. That’s why Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl work. They are fun to watch. They put a smile on your face. The Supergirl/Flash team-up was cute and wonderful. There were moments of unbridled joy between Barry and Kara during their team-up as if you were watching two kids in kindergarten becoming best friends for life.
Watching Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a chore… And, watching a superhero flick should never feel like a chore.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to prepare for Captain America: Civil War… Now, that’s gonna be a whole lot of fun.