Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Batman v Superman: A missed opportunity!

Let me begin by saying that I enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’ve watched it twice so far. No plans for a third viewing though! The first time I watched it, I enjoyed it a lot although I could see some glaring loopholes in the movie. But I decided to go for a second viewing. Not because I loved the movie a lot, but because the internet had exploded with reviews and fights between the fans and critics. 

Nobody had anticipated such a wide divide on the movie and over the last week the movie fights escalated considerably on the internet. There were people who loved it. There were others who hated it. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that there were some major defects in the movie. The second viewing turned out to be rather interesting. I still enjoyed the movie, I’ll not lie. Especially the action, those scenes were magnificent. But the loopholes became even more apparent this time and I was left fuming over the phenomenal fuck up that DC and Warner Bros had done with their cinematic universe.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Back in 2013, when Man of Steel came out and kick started the DC cinematic universe. While that movie too faced a lot of criticism, I was blown away with what I saw. This was not just a good reboot, but it was also the most realistic take ever on the character of Superman. Credit goes to the great Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer, who wrote the story, and gave such a realistic treatment to the character of Superman. I quite liked the dark tone of the movie as I prefer DC comic movies to have darker tones than the others. They established a perfect origin story for the newer generations who had either not seen the old Christopher Reeves movies or were not much familiar with the Superman lore as we comic book fans are. Nolan and Goyer’s aim was to invest into the audience who had never read a Superman comic in their lives and hence we got a rich backstory into the character. I really did not mind all the destruction of Metropolis in the climax as so many people complained. Yes it did take me by surprise in the first viewing, but even back then I could understand that this was a raw and inexperienced Superman who was taking on a formidable opponent like General Zod. This was a Superman who was still coming to grasp with the full potential of his powers. He was a very conflicted character, which is why I did not mind him killing off Zod in the end. What Superman purists forget here is that Christopher Reeves’ Superman also killed Zod in the old Superman 2 movie, but I never heard anybody complain about it. That’s hypocrisy, bitches!

Anyway, I was quite happy with Man of Steel and felt that the DC cinematic universe was in safe hands with writers like Nolan and Goyer and a director like Zack Snyder. So when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was announced two years ago, I was pumped up like hell even though I must confess I was a little miffed as to why they did not go with a Man of Steel sequel and further develop Superman’s character. But this is also where shit started to go down. Warner Bros could not contain their greed over the huge money that Man of Steel made and decided that it was time for them to compete directly with Marvel who had painstakingly established their own cinematic universe successfully. But DC decided to take a terrible leap without doing their homework and decided to bring a prelude to Justice League without going for any more movies to establish the characters of their cinematic universe.

I think this was also the reason why Christopher Nolan backed out of this project because he and Goyer had a specific vision and a process to establish the characters of this cinematic universe. I’m sure they wanted to develop Superman’s character with another movie before they push him into a frame with the other DC superheroes. DC’s decision to cram in atleast five different storylines resulting in a jumbled up mess must have prodded Nolan to back out although his name still remains as Executive Producer in the movie credits. Unlike Marvel, who decided to stick to most of the lore from their comic books, DC made a glorious mess by fusing so many storylines that could have made great standalone movies individually. I call it a glorious mess because inspite of all the shortcomings, it is still a good looking movie. The credit here goes to Zack Snyder. He is a fantastic visual director, but not a good storyteller. His previous films, which can be termed as good movies, are so because they were backed up with solid stories. 300 was fun to watch because Snyder copied the movie exactly frame to frame from the original Frank Miller graphic novel. Snyder’s Watchmen was also a fantastic watch because he gave out great visuals to a well written story based on a rather difficult graphic novel series.

But Snyder’s shortcomings as a storyteller become evident when we see movies like Sucker Punch. That film has some of the most amazing visual sequences I’ve ever seen in cinema. But at the end of the day, I was left wondering what the hell was that all about?! Pretty much the same thing happened with Batman v Superman. A shoddy script with several plotholes could not be saved by Snyder’s mediocre storytelling skills. The result is evident. The film’s story has got plots from several DC Comics story archs such as A Death in the Family, The Dark Knight Returns, Justice League: War and of course Death of Superman. The worst part is that while fans like us could get all the references in the movie for the different story archs, non-comic book reading people, who formed the bulk of the audiences, were left confused.

The nightmare sequence has left most of the audiences heavily confused. In that sequence, they teased the coming of Darkseid with the Omega symbol and the parademons in the movie, but how many from the audiences got that? They showed a grim and darker Superman who complained of a dead Lois Lane to Batman. Then immediately in the next shot in that same nightmare sequence, they showed Flash making a sudden appearance and warning Bruce Wayne to be careful of Superman and fear him. That was a direct reference to DC’s Injustice story arch. How many people in the audience got that? In a theatre full of, let’s say about a hundred people, there are a maximum of 30-40 die hard comic book fans who are familiar with all the story archs and can enjoy these scenes to the fullest. But what about the rest of the audience who were left confused as hell? Then there is another scene where Bruce Wayne walks past the suit of Robin which has the words ‘Ha ha! The joke’s on you Batman!’ written over it. This is a direct reference to the second Robin, Jason Todd, who gets brutally murdered by the Joker in the A Death in the Family storyline. But how many in the audience really got that?

I see it as a great disservice to the audience in general as the non-comic book reading folks are those who make up the bulk of the audience for these movies and DC has taken them for granted. Man of Steel set up such a rich origin story for Superman with even the movie’s first fifteen minutes dedicated to the events on Krypton so that audiences connect fully to the character’s background. Here characters are introduced from the middle without any explanation as to what led them to their current state? Bruce Wayne is quite a bitter man from past events and he has pretty much given up his moral code never to kill as Batman. This surprised many die hard Batman fans like me, but frankly, I really don’t have much problem with that. I never really could connect to the theory as to how you can fight some of the worst imaginable villains in human consciousness without killing off even a single one of them. This is exactly why I did not have problems with Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel.

All the good work of Nolan and Goyer, which had been achieved with Man of Steel, was undone in this movie. People got to see a good origin story for Superman, but they could not see his character grow with another standalone movie. In the movie, people are still divided over their opinion for Superman and it is quite evident from the TV debate shots that are shown in the movie. It’s only been eighteen months since the events in Man of Steel, most of the people in the movie are still coming to terms with the presence of a godlike character such as Superman, but what is strange is there is a huge Superman statue in the city as well. If there is such a strong division of opinion regarding the guy, who let such a big statue be constructed in the middle of the city that the fellow almost ruined eighteen months back? Makes no fucking sense! The last shot in the film that is shown of the general public is a mob burning an effigy of Superman. And when pretty much the same night, he gets killed by Doomsday, he becomes a hero in the eyes of the very same public? Makes no fucking sense!

Now I come to my biggest resentment in the movie. The death of Superman. This is the second movie in the DC cinematic universe, and they killed off Superman so soon! Seriously, in their haste to match up with Marvel, DC has ruined the character of Superman. No space was given for the character to grow and become relatable to the audience and believe me when I say this, nobody, I repeat, nobody could feel the full emotional extant that one should feel at the death of a character like Superman. Somehow I had suspected it beforehand when I saw Doomsday in the movie’s second trailer. I felt Doomsday was too early a character to be brought in the cinematic universe’s second movie itself. But I dismissed the idea of Superman’s death because it seemed too early to go that route. And boy was I wrong! Now that Superman is dead, there is really no point in making any more Superman sequel. Yes he will be resurrected, but they can’t kill him off again! That’s been done!

This is what has pissed me off so bad! They did not let the character grow, they killed him off so suddenly, and it’s pretty much certain that now his impact won’t be as it should have in the upcoming Justice League movies. And in the movie, they’ve teased Injustice, which means they’ll be turning Superman into a villain during the last phase of the DC cinematic line. They have ruined Superman in ways none could have fathomed. In their haste to catch up with Marvel, DC has suffered from a bad case of premature ejaculation.

Marvel had standalone movies for their major characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor before they came up with the first Avengers movie. The movie was a grand success because audience all over the globe connected with the characters as they knew their backgrounds from the previous movies. There was no such scope in this movie and none remains so for the Justice League movie. So when Superman died, it did not leave the impact it should have otherwise left on the audience. Marvel is coming up with Captain America: Civil War next month, and mark my words, the audiences around the world will give a reaction filled with emotions when a certain major character goes down in the movie.

I don’t want to delve into the details of the storyline of the film or discuss its plotholes as that has been done meticulously by critics. You can get those stuff on Youtube. I will though say that the scene where the other Justice League characters are introduced when Wonder Woman opens an email that Bruce Wayne sends her, feels completely rushed, badly executed and out of place in the movie. In that particular sequence, the files that contain the CCTV camera footages for the characters had the actual symbols of the characters from the comics. What should I call it? Lazy story writing? Bad direction? Or have the makers of this movie taken us audiences to be so stupid that they feel we should be spoon fed this nonsense. Why do the files have those symbols over them? Did Lex Luthor hire a team of designers and put those over the files that best fits each character? During my first viewing, when the scene came out, I almost blurted out loudly in the theatre, “That is so stupid!”

Another scene that left me fuming in anger was the one where Batman and Superman stop fighting after they discover their moms have a common name, Martha. This time I could not contain myself and actually said out aloud in the theatre, “Ok now this is fucking stupid!” Those were the exact words I uttered and a few people sitting around me laughed at my comment. Really DC, the audiences are not so stupid. Even the ones who don’t read your comics. Batman planned this attack on Superman for months and you expect me to believe that he would give up the idea of killing Superman just at that point? Pure case of lazy story writing!

Like many critics, even I agree that Lex’s motivation against Superman are unclear. Bruce Wayne’s motivations are established clearly in the film’s opening when he witnesses Metropolis’s destruction during Superman and Zod’s fight. But what were Lex’s reasons? Also I don’t understand why did he take that stupid approach to make Superman and Batman fight! He knew the true identities of both the characters and in my opinion, he could have either exposed them publicly or meticulously destroyed their lives step by step. But no! He came up with his half-baked plan to make them fight which had to fell apart. And then he created Doomsday as a backup plan, which I’m pissed about because the writers ruined Doomsday’s origin story and his character. I feel Metallo or Bizarro would have been better choices for a villain in the film’s scenario.

On a positive note, I feel delighted with Ben Affleck’s Batman. Like all, I would reiterate that he was the best thing in the movie and I am looking forward to his standalone Batman movie. Plus, at the end of the day I have no qualms over Batman killing bad guys. In fact I do prefer the brutal Batman now. Henry Cavill was good as Superman, but the writers did not give any space for his character to grow so it would be unfair to make any negative comments on him. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was also fantastic and her entry in the last fight had me roaring in applause with the rest of the audience. Jesse Eisenberg took a very odd take on Lex Luthor. But I won’t blame him because he did what he was told to do. I feel he would have looked much better if he had carried on with his cold and calculative business tycoon act from The Social Network. But I must say that the fight scenes in this movie were so good! Especially the one where Batman takes down Lex’s goons in the warehouse. That was brilliantly done. When I look at these delightful action scenes and then I compare them with the rest of the movie, I can’t help but notice that this movie is nothing but a huge missed opportunity.
In the end, I will not say like others that the movie could have been better. In my opinion this movie should not have existed without a proper Superman sequel in the first place. DC has fucked up big time with this movie. I don’t know how they are going to proceed with the other movies. They’ve ruined Superman and now there are really no stakes attached to that character for future. And sadly by teasing Injustice, they’ve hinted that they are only going to further deteriorate him.

Yes, this movie is making tons of money and I enjoyed watching the movie both times. But I can’t help lament over the mess that DC and Warner Bros have made with this movie. This is not really a rant. I am just expressing my concerns over a movie franchise that I really wanted to shine. I really wanted this movie to be good. I am a Batman fanboy and I was delighted with the new Dark Knight in the movie. But it somewhat hurt me to see Superman’s character being demolished so unceremoniously. Warner Bros tried to take on Marvel with this one, but the truth is they are not even half as smart as the bosses who decide the course of Marvel’s cinematic universe. It's not a bad film. But it's not that good either. 

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