So, I saw Batman v Superman. I have to say that after some thought and examination, I liked the movie. That being said, the film does have some issues. It seems like a lot of the commentary that I’ve seen so far missed a good amount of important details and clues as to why the film is edited in a seemingly haphazard fashion. It is my honest belief that the film makers were really keen on challenging the audience, and that they hoped that people would ask a lot of questions about what was happening – but instead there has been a massive outcry of confused and infuriated movie-goers, so to address this, and why I think it’s worth discussing, I’ll break it into three sections. The Real Story, Heroic Dogma, and The Angry Fan Effect.
I. The Real Story
Getting straight to the point, Batman v Superman is not about two costumed orphans punching each other. It appears to be about at least 4 concepts related to how power is viewed. I feel that they could be explained as: A clash of ideologies that inevitably end in similar consequences, the hypocrisy that comes from opposing sides criticizing each other, the eventual abuse of power (both accidental and with malice), and the readiness of the powerless to attribute higher status to the powerful. I find it frustrating that these topics escaped the fans even though the unlubricated insertion of expositional dialogue dominated many of the pivotal scenes. One of the most annoying aspects of some people critiquing the film it that many of them are even unknowingly parroting dialogue that is clearly intended to highlight the subtext to casual viewers. They only believed the thoughts to be their own because they didn’t realize they heard it in a montage.
During the film, we see a few examples of how the heroes have internal dialogue. The director choosing to show you what the character is thinking, rather than simply what they’re doing is a very specific choice. As the audience becomes more acquainted with character motivations, we understand them on a more personal level. By seeing what is in their mind and heart, we are more able to align ourselves or be repulsed by their actions(much like Jesse Eisenberg’s performance), but Batman v Superman takes it a step further by showing us that they are also somewhat unaware of the true impact of their actions. In the first 4 minutes of the film we see that Bruce Wayne sometimes colors his memories with dreams, or distortions of reality. “in the dream they carried me to the light. A beautiful lie.” This also explains why Batman has a belief that he doesn’t kill people, but has done so on occasion throughout his entire written history. People got worried because of the symbolism in the beginning of the film. We used to be able to use literary devices. Thank God that Don Quixote didn’t come out today.
II. Heroic Dogma
People constantly complain that Superman doesn’t smile, and in response to that I have to ask, why would Superman have anything to smile about? Most people get weak stomachs over who died on their favorite tv show. Could you imagine having the entire world looking at you through a lens after saving the planet, killing one of the few survivors of your home world, then being framed for killing a bunch of people while saving your girlfriend from a war lord 3 minutes after your work friend who turns out to be a CIA agent was killed?” Chill out. A smiling goofy Clark makes no sense at all. He is in total turmoil, and becoming increasingly withdrawn and isolated. A shot of Clark’s empty chair at work is one of the best shots in the entire movie, and it makes sense that he doesn’t lose his job because this behavior is normal to people at the Daily Planet. This is how we lose people to depression. Stop being so self-centered, you monster.
“No one seems to like Superman.”
This one should be obvious. Poor people love Superman. It’s the rich and powerful in industry and government that fear Superman. If the government and rich loved Superman, it would just be yet another story of how having the right genes gets you privilege in the world. It should make people think if they see something wrong with the people of the comic book universe showing fear of a nearly invincible alien with laser eyes, when in the actual United States – all if takes is a tan and a beard to get you questioned by security at the airport.
The gun-toting Batman in the desert wasn’t a dream sequence.
Was there a single person that thought that ‘X-Men Days of Future Past’ was a dream sequence just because Wolverine wakes up from his adventure? No. Do you know why? Because everything we saw was explained every step of the way leading up to that final scene. Have we been trained to only absorb the elements that are spelled out for us? In Batman v Superman, Bruce Wayne’s “dream” ends with a guy who is clearly the Flash coming out of a portal to give Bruce a message and complaining about not traveling back far enough. I believe what that was originally intended to be, was a realignment of the time line, which the studio likely backpedaled on because they felt that it was too confusing for the audience.
III. The Angry Fan Effect
The internet allows many people to have a voice, and because many people forget about the nature of the entertainment business, they don’t realize how much a piece of work can be damaged by this new and exciting medium of communication. In the past we had focus groups, but now mass communication allows many people to
become unwitting members in this global system, and largely, when an idea presented is outside of what has been seen before, it will fly under the radar of the most intellectual consumers because they have so little faith in entertainment providers. This creates a vicious cycle of artistic compression, suppression and regression.
A. Compression: The project created doesn’t meet standards of public, so content creators begin to make last minute adjustments or omissions to the script to make the audience happy and you end up with forced lines from random extras preceding fight scenes like, “The city is uninhabited!!!” which was borne out of the complaints following Man of Steel.
By telling film makers that you’re upset that people got killed or injured in Metropolis, you’re saying 1) you want the formula of the last 50 years, which is a fight scene that avoids any stakes outside of the personal safety of your hero, and 2) follows the exact arc of every major movie made in the US. This flies in the face of nearly a decade of clever commentary between friends that massive destruction would undoubtedly be the consequence of 2 nearly indestructible beings fighting. Superman can’t pause every fight and say, “Let’s take this to Wyoming.” Sweet – 2.5 hours of Superman saving cats it is! Oh the thrills!
B. Suppression: The studios collect data on the angry public and refuse to support or publish works that aren’t perfectly relatable to “average citizens” resulting in even fewer original ideas and studios taking far less chances with new scenarios.
C. Regression: More reboots! More resurrected franchises from film and tv that don’t make sense because half of the issues from the original concept could be solved by owning a cell phone. Full House the movie! You thought you would get a new show with edgy, interesting jokes? NOPE!
So, yes of course the movie had it’s problems, but they are no more numerous than the things people let slide in every movie that is produced in Hollywood. Tons of movies have terrible plot holes if you sit and think about it for a few minutes, but the primary thing about commentary on these films that people forget is that copyright law forbids the use of copyrighted content, except under the protection of fair use, which makes it possible to use copyrighted content in the context of parody or satire, which means that a lot of the rage and jokes are simply a way for people to legally cover themselves and make money talking about a new movie that just came out.