Alright let’s get this over with. The world doesn’t need another article about superhero movies, they make enough money and don’t need defending by lone gunmen like me. HOWEVER Batman vs Superman has come under so much fire I feel like I need to say something. Because I like it. I like it a lot. Yes, I’m a DC kid, always have been, so I am biased but I never went in for the tribalism. I love Marvel and think the films are great too and they’re certainly “winning” (if this were a battle, which it isn’t). The reason I wanted to write this is because with the DVD release of BvsS the vitriol tap has been reopened and I get a little annoyed at the rhetoric that implies I shouldn’t like this film as a sane person: it’s garbage and if you like it you’re stupid, seems to be the overall line which really annoys me because I, without irony or concerted effort nor turning a blind-eye, really like Batman vs Superman.
Well let’s deal with the problems first. Most of the dislike is a matter of opinion. People do not care for the sombre, serious, murky world Man of Steel and BvsS inhabit. Marvel by contrast is bright, wry, wisecracking and fun. What warner bros are doing is quite sensible, don’t try and beat Marvel at their own game, they’ll lose. As such, the DC film universe is entirely different. My argument would be if this came out 10 years ago people would have lost their shit over it but whatever, no point ‘what-iffing’. BvsS was roundly lambasted by critics and fans, therefore there must be problems with it and there are, or rather there is. One main problem. The script.
Like every hollywood blockbuster these days, to justify the ticket price and get the most bums on seats you have to have a long film that has a universal appeal to adults and younger audiences, for lighter tone movies this is easy (Marvel strikes this balance exceptionally well) but a ‘darker’ movie will struggle. In short the script is too long, bloated and way too convoluted to be generally entertaining and despite the run time too little time is given over to development. The pacing is strong but leaves a lot behind and there are a lot of plot holes. Not to mention the confusing “Martha” plot hinge. Generally its a bit of a mess. You know, just like pretty much every major hollywood blockbuster of the last 10 years. In fact at least the Villain’s plan didn’t rely on getting captured for once like Dark Knight, Avengers, Skyfall, etc etc. Prometheus is a good example of a film destroyed by its script, it could have been great but I hate that film purely because of its script. So yeah there are script issues, lots, but no less or more than any Marvel movie it just came under greater scrutiny and comparison. When you’re up against the biggest movie series of all time and the most critically acclaimed Batman movies you can’t succeed sadly.
Then there’s Jesse Eisenberg’s repeat of his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as Lex Luthor. I won’t defend it, it’s a bad misstep and doesn’t fit with the tone. And is pretty annoying. BUT his motivations and his plan make as much sense as ANY other film at the moment. But yeah, Lex was a misfire.
So if we ignore my bias and accept the fact the script is droopy and flawed why do I love this film? It boils down to one reason. One word in fact: Imagery.
I know I boil everything back to Poetry but Imagery is a powerful tool in any medium and as I said waaaaay back in my post reappraising Man of Steel the iconography used is deliberate, the same is true here. Gods and Monsters, heaven and hell, Jesus and the Devil, this kind of symbolism is inherent in comic books and superheroes and was deconstructed in the comics very well. BvsS transfers this imagery to the screen, very successfully in my opinion.
I get the impression everyone hates Zack Snyder which means you should give props to Warner Bros for staking the entire series of films on a single auteur. I don’t mind him and like Watchmen a lot too. But, despite protestations, Batman vs Superman is NOT badly made. Badly written? Yes. (But for me no worse than any other blockbuster) but it is not badly made. Want to see badly made? Watch Party Monster. This will seem like Citizen Kane afterwards. Snyder, to my mind, is actually the only true blue comic book filmmaker working today because he uses the imagery and iconography of the comics for his screen interpretations, way more than Marvel does. Freeze frame any part of BvsS and it will be a (admittedly dark and murky) classic comic book panel and that is what makes my goosebumps come up. Bruce running into the cloud, Superman hovering in the air over the woman reaching out, the statue, the dream sequences, the dilapidated Wayne manor, in fact almost any frame of this film is a picture and nearly all of them reference one or many comics: Dark Knight Returns, Year One, For Tomorrow, Death of Superman and many more get visual references and I squeed a little every time. Snyder and Team have deliberately gone in a (literally) more operatic direction. The imagery of Man of Steel was the same, continual Biblical and Greek references including the hints of Darkseid as what looks like a literal devil in BvsS plant the flag pretty heavy in the ‘Serious’ camp. For a stupid superhero film where they beat seven bells out of each other this is clearly problematic and it, understandably, lost a lot of audiences. I was so happy in Man of Steel to see Zod and Supes beat the crap out of each other. If Gods did fight that’s what would happen.
In short BvsS is much more philosophical, and akin to the comics of Frank Miller, Alan Moore, et al, than any other superhero movie – which I loved – but is why I think everyone else hated it. These films are for entertainment and perhaps discussions of theology, senate hearings, heroism as a political act and personal soul searching is a bit much for people who just want a popcorn movie. Saying Batman vs Superman is ‘cerebral’ is silly, but it does ask more questions than any Marvel film does, its just not any questions an audience wants asked. Except me apparently.
This is to say nothing of Batman and Alfred being my absolute favourite screen incarnations of those characters ever. Batfleck and Irons are just EXCELLENT in those parts and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Gal Gadot kicks all kinds of arse too, her introduction at the end was a delight for me and I look forward to her own film with relish. Also, and I will happily fight for this one, the score is better than ANY score of any blockbuster I’ve seen of late. Zimmer is a notorious thief and false advertiser of a composer but by golly he makes music that is SO memorable and attuned to the scene Marvel should actually be ashamed. It saddens me to hear Hans won’t be doing anymore such films but if it were up to me I would make it a priority to find someone with as sensitive an ear as him to score the rest.
I won’t deny there are problems with Batman vs Superman but I honestly believe it has come in for a lot of unwarranted stick that boils down to expectations and just general opinion. It can’t fight that sadly and whether we like it or not we’re grandfathered in to a million more of these films that frankly even I am sick of now but whatever. I like Cavill, I like Affleck, I like Gadot and I like Snyder. The series needs work if it wants a more favourable response next time but I really hope that doesn’t mean sacrificing all the things I like about this movie.
In short, I’m just asking for some perspective please and to stop making me feel guilty for liking this dumb film instead of your favourite dumb film about dumb superheroes hitting each other. This is all stupid and we’re all taking it too seriously, including the film I’m defending but can’t I just enjoy my favoured bit of idiocy without being made to feel more of an idiot than we ALL are for sponsoring this kind infantile nonsense? You want better films? Stop watching these. Or better still, make your own…
P.S. If you want a more rounded response to some of the things I like about BvsS this has a lot of it (but is actually too fanboy for my likes, it defends stuff that shouldn’t really be defended and ignores parts that should be pointed out but generally I agree with it) but equally this is a good reference point for a lot of the major issues (though, again, it leans too heavily on some pretty petty stuff and – like most people – really really hates it so kinda skews the supposed objectivity). This was written in response to my buddy Matt Post making a video about why he didn’t like it so basically FUCK YOU MATT! YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT! IMMA CUTS YOU BITCH! (Seriously though he makes a good point, but it is a point I feel can be made about every superhero movie of the last 6 or 7 years).