Sunday, March 27, 2016
I Didn't See A Batman/Superman Film This Weekend
The writing is beyond the walls, and the consensus has largely digested a pretty clearly shared distaste for certain filmmakers this weekend. In many ways, I feel like I shouldn't even have to comment on any of this. It's not a place fot a review because to put it any more plainly, what many of us witnessed, wasn't something any film pundit, theorist, or armchair theorist could dissect outside of an autopsy. I didn't see a Batman/Superman film this weekend. I truly didn't. I didn't see the adverts plastered across every third corner of my L.A. living eye, and say to myself that what was contained within the two plus hours of footage, something that resembled a coherent story filled with discernible beats, engaging characters, thematic throughlines, and even an attempt at capturing the most important element in such common superhero tales, the essence of these mythological beings, and the ethos they each uniquely stand for.
It's not enough that I dislike Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it's more that I find it's existence to be pretty much tragic.
I don't see merely failed storytelling. I see board meetings soon after the glow of Harry Potter, and the Dark Knight Trilogy fading into the distance, while Sony crumbles from awkward start to post-internet hack panic attack. I see film executives fumbling over how to best repair the damage done by hoping that throwing money at auteurs, and expecting workable franchises with no real personal investment in a shared universe, nor its slate of popular characters. That's right. This entire debacle can be traced back to when WB said nevermind to Justice League soon after the Iron Mans took flight, and Asgardian royalty graced Earth with his presence. I see a cat, scrambling desperately after diving into a tub of scorpions after thinking that might be a good idea. No, cat. There is no grace to be found. Licking your paw, feigning innocence will not help you today. This is what many of us would like to call either hubris, or a deliberate attempt to renege against the very task you chose . A work of corporate art, undone by juvenile, throbbing, gnashing, bile duct expending, knee-jerk, anti-human. borderline sociopathic emotion, far less interested in storytelling and world-building than it is in flexing its muscles in the name of creating an anti-altar for those it deems lesser than they.
That is right. In a nutshell, this film hates you.
However, this project cannot find any more clever means of expressing this hate than nods to Benghazi, a middle finger to democracy, and shooting a beloved boy photojournalist square in the face. If one were a conspiracy nut, it might not even be a stretch to assume that those involved were taking their reflexive stance on the very idea of this film, and plugging in what they feel is a "necessary" counterpoint to the more all-inclusive, community-centric, closer to centrist politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It felt that a certain demographic had indeed found itself largely ignored in multiplex cinema, and figured the opposition during a contentious time of political turmoil, required a voice. This film openly doesn't care about the endless nods to FDR and the spirit of the New Deal that inspired the classic Superman character. It's not that the film simply doesn't understand him, it sees him as problematic in their view. They cannot reconcile with his very existence, even in fiction, so this is what we get. In fact, similar comes in the shape of a grizzled, homicidal Batman, who's motivations feel less organic to the tormented billionaire playboy, and more to a painterly violence fetishist with the reasoning of an abused pre-teen. The film simply doesn't work, not because it fails to tell a story, but because those in charge never listened to the warning signs posted writ large by films such as 300 & Watchmen. Films that adore the punishment of the morally compromised, and the aggrandization of extremism over conversations. They saw pretty pictures about fascists, and thought that was good enough.
And what they have on their hands, is something both blander, unintentionally funnier, and uglier than I could ever have imagined. Like sending a loved one a bag of feces in protest, when all one had to do was walk away from what looked on paper to be a bad deal. With my day job as help for a powerful law firm in a Century City high rise, suddenly, the title makes total, telling, completely honest sense. If it's not merely desperate to sell based on a battle that barely lasts for seven minutes, it is desperate to call to attention the legal clusterfuck hovering over a studio scrambling for something resembling a clue.
Or perhaps it's merely an engravement on a tombstone? Either way, it's a raging sigh for a culture awash in its own poor choices.
Post Script: There is another telling moment in the denouement, where Bruce Wayne posits to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, who's Wonder Woman, is gravely underused) that the so-called Metahumans, should eventually band together (in a nod to the possibly-now-not-upcoming Justice League feature?) . And when questioned about this by Diana, Wayne (not looking her way) replies with the supposedly arc-completing line, "Men are still good". This is after certain female characters are seen to be killed in a suicide bombing, targeting a place of power.
Take from that what you will..