Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The problem with Batman V Superman : The Dawn of Justice

WARNING - This is not a work based blog post. Please veer away if you want to know about medical insurance !!!!

I always really liked Superman II the sequel to Christopher Reeve's initial outing in the red cape and boots. We'd got all that boring origin story out of the way and got some interesting villains that actually had to be punched (the ultimate reason for any comic book story surely - the punching ?) and a bit of other losing power, gaining redemption style shenanigans going on in the plot that meant there was enough story to sustain the length of the piece.

Reeve was comfortable and confident in the role and although it was still a little too tongue in cheek for my sensibilities there was a sense of joy de vive that meant not only could you enjoy the action but the characters felt about right too. After all when you think about it, when Ursa and Non aren't punching him in the face, as a general rule Superman seems to enjoy being the most powerful being on the planet.
I know this is Marvel not DC - I do mention Civil War in a bit ....
Then we had Superman Returns or as some have called him, Emo-Stalker Superman, hanging about outside Lois' house abusing his X-Ray vision privileges. The only thing going for this semi-sequel re-boot was that it is a notional sequel to Superman II (and has THE music) but the logic fails in this premise alot and when is Superman going to do anything except lift heavy stuff ?

I did have high hopes for Man of Steel but once again we had to have the whole Kryptonian soap opera thing as the origin story. By the way,  how many more times am I going to have to live through Batman, Superman and Spiderman's origin story again ? It seems that Henry Cavill's Superman really takes many Emo to a new level - sorry Brandon Routh you just can't keep up. I don't need to mention the destruction of Metropolis (it really was all Kal's fault - he crashed the ark ship into Metropolis on purpose it looks like, although to be fair in Into Darkness Kirk does the same thing by crashing the Enterprise into downtown San Francisco) or the death of Zod at Superman's hands. Too dark, not Superman enough and although it was nice to see Zod getting a kicking once the title character retreats too far from the source material then it stops being Superman and becomes some thing else - maybe that's why 'Superman' isn't in the title ?
Finally a DC picture - not a big fan of New 52 Superman though although I do like Lee and Synders Superman Unchained
So we can finally move on to BVSDOF (?). I did enjoy it, strangely enough. Loved Batfleck aside from the judicious use of murder (doesn't becoming the Punisher mean that ultimately he becomes the very thing he's sworn to protect Gotham against ?). As a screen presence Batman was clearly the best thing in the movie and he looked, acted (generally) and fought like a Batman we'd expect from the comic material. Wonder Woman didn't have much to do but what we saw was great, especially her attitude during the boss battle fight at the end (thought I was watching the end of Norton's Hulk during that fight scene). Even Henry Cavill was ok insofar as the limited script he had which allowed him to mope around being all philosophical and Jesus-y.

Let's not get too far into the enormous plot holes on this one - what did Lex want to achieve, how is Batman receiving telepathic signals from Apokolips, how come Lois knew to go fetch the Kryptonite spear when she wasn't party to the conversation between B & S, what are the chances (SPOILERS) of Batman and Superman's mum having the same name and how the hell is that possibly relevant, why did the employees of Wayne Enterprises stay in that building, come to think of it why did everyone at the Daily Planet do the same thing when the spaceship crash site went all lightning storm at the end, why didn't Superman X-Ray vision that dudes wheelchair in Congress, how come Superman couldn't be bothered to save everyone in the desert - just Lois, what did the Flash want when he sprang out of Batman's console - was it a dream (part of the previous Knightmare), a new dream, a new message form the future ? If you're going to show us the Flash along with ParaDemons etc why not a line of dialogue explaining what the hell is happening. Don't say that" Lois is Vital" because we all know that she flipping isn't - cue gratuitous bathtub scene - what demographic were they going for there because I guarantee you that 45 year old comics fans were going to see the film anyway and Amy Adams semi-nude is not going to get any under 21's hot under the collar ?

Sorry said I wasn't going to do that about plot holes ..... so logical flaws aside the film fairly rattles along, then it all starts to fall apart following the explosion in Congress. For me that was the first wrong note. We get that Henry is 'conflicted', a lot ! and that Lex is evil but if Superman is to blame in any way for that explosion (which of course he's not) then either follow up the plot point and make everyone hate him and not just Bats - we know Bruce hates Kal because of the Wayne Enterprises deaths. I suppose that the Congress scene was a plot deus ex to get Bats planning the beating he was going to give Supes a bit faster but it wasn't necessary and it made the whole shooting match miserable. Let me repeat that. Mass death, all the time is upsetting. Isn't the point of superheroes to stop that sort of thing rather than miserably participate ?

 Then Lex kidnaps Lois and Martha Kent - now it's both personal and even more miserable (cue the flamethrowers). But Superman fought Batman in a restrained way anyway even with the threat to his family - so why bother. It wasn't Superman who wouldn't see reason it was Batman - flaw after depressing flaw in a simple premise, Batman hates Superman and needs to take him down. Lex could have orchestrated this all without the extra murdery kidnappy elements and never risked going to prison - LIKE IN THE COMICS. Lex always had a way out. A rogue employee who stole the SupermanKillerArmour or the 'industrial accident' that leaked the synthetic kryptonite. The plot devices to get from a) (alien) to b) (Bat beating) were too far from the source material and too sad, too murdery/depressing and ultimately unnecessary. I haven't see the film yet but I bet not too many people need to get murdered to set Cap and Iron Man fighting in Cap 3 Civil War. Were I a gambling man I'd hazard a guess and say that we'll see Tony Starks arrogance and hubris build up in counterpoint to Steve Rogers unshakeable principles. Totally in keeping with the characters (both comic and MCU).

Best scene in the movie is though the rescue of Martha Kent by the Dark Knight - then again we all saw it in the trailer, still the best bit of bat fighting ever.

But here's the thing. One can enjoy a film like BVS on the level of seeing the two titular leads of against each other on screen and the general thrust of the movie : Wonder Woman, introduction to the JLA and so forth whilst at the same time acknowledging that the whole thing is ultimately joyfully a bit naff. But that's the problem. Batman V Superman isn't naff but neither is it in the slightest joyful.

Batman cannot be a wisecracking hothead. He's not Spiderman or QuickSilver. Neither though is is a humourless psychopath. There needs to be a middle ground.

Can't Superman take one second to appreciate how awesome it is to punch Batman through a building. He needs actually to be the cheerful bright counterpoint to Batmans darkness. Didn't Lex even say that at one point :  "day versus night".

In BVS though it's really : dark miserable day versus upset psychotic night.

In the DC Extended Universe it seems there can be no happiness and that is the problem with this movie. It is a better film in terms of mixing elements, visualisation (on screen) of the characters and plot drive (not plot coherence mind you) than it deserves to be. Unfortunately it is comic books re-imagined for the bi-polar age, for 20 something millennials who like being depressed and want their entertainment to match their mood.

Like I said this isn't a bad film, it's more of a missed opportunity. Some of the elements of Man of Steel could have played well here if Zach Snyder hadn't been so earnestly out to hammer home the message of depression that seems to exist in Superman's soul.

As a finishing thought, let's just hope that Suicide Squad, a comic which really could and should explore the darkest side of the DCU will do so with a little more confidence in the comics creators and actually make the Joker scary but funny and Harley Quinn psychotic and erotic.

Dark is ok but comics movies can be fun, escapist and even funny. You might even argue that that is why we enjoy them ?

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