29 March 2016

Batman v Superman v Everyone

batman v superman fight

As the moody opening credits began, I really wanted to love Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Instead I've spent the last few hours coming to terms with the most demoralising movie experience of my entire life. This debacle of a blockbuster deserves go down as the worst superhero film since The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Superman v Snyder

Zack Snyder fails to consider that audiences may watch superhero films to enjoy them. 'You're all morons, grow up!' he screams, dismayed at our passive consumption of Marvel franchises. He wants to continue exploring archetypes and the weighty realm of genre deconstruction, tossing aside over 50 years of comics, TV shows and films for the sole purpose of entertaining his obsession. The director's cut of Watchmen just wasn't enough. 

However, I must say Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill do their best to bring their iconic characters to life. Sadly, all efforts are undone by Snyder's mean-spirited approach to storytelling. graduate of the Michael Bay Academy of dudebro cinema, Snyder loves carnage as much as he hates Superman. He makes sure the Man of Steel gets humiliated at every opportunity. His boss constantly yells at him, politicians criticise his actions and the masses seem to be stuck in mindless struggle between worship and mistrust. It makes you wonder why anyone would bother to leave their fortress of solitude. 

In perhaps the cruelest scene, Perry White becomes a Snyder mouthpiece, ridiculing the audience for carrying an idealised yet timeless image of Superman in their hearts. The only time Snyder gives the character any respect is the pivotal (and wasted) scene where he walks into a senate hearing. In this moment, Superman communicates his immense power solely through subtle body language; we've never been that before.  

Then there’s Bruce Wayne. Scenes featuring empty bottles let everyone know he's a troubled soul. In the midst of raging against his alien nemesis, he faces ridiculous nightmare sequences, a weary Alfred and a stack of hate mail from an old employee. He also can't seem to calculate odds, because a 1% chance that Superman goes berserk amounts to 'an absolute certainty'. 

As illustrated by a boot camp montage, Affleck is the most physically imposing and scary Batman to date, and leaves you begging for a standalone film. But as written here, he's fed up with life and takes out his frustration on criminals in excessively brutal ways. His sadistic treatment of Superman, in the anti-climactic fight, caps off the ugliest representation of the character I've ever seen.

Lex Luthor is reduced to a plot device and only briefly emerges as a worthy villain. Mostly he acts as a catalyst for spectacle. Unfortunately for Jesse Eisenberg, he plays out as a B-grade Joker. Jimmy Olsen makes a brief appearance, but he gets shot for looking wimpy. Ideal men, according to Snyder, have gargantuan physiques. Unlike the agile Marvel heroes, Batman and Superman are too muscle-bound and as a result their fight is clumsy and heavy footed. 

Waiting for Gadot

Doomsday is yet another in the long line of digital monsters cloned from the cave troll in Lord of the Rings. I'm sure Warner Bros. spent millions on market research to conclude that all creatures should look the same. Its saving grace is triggering the cinematic debut of Wonder Woman. As portrayed by Gal Gadot, she escapes Snyder's obsession with misery, energising the film and rescuing the finale from CGI boredom. She revels in her status as an elite warrior, and enjoys being a superhero. Batman and Superman are weighed down by responsibility and self loathing. They secretly envy Scoot McNairy, who escaped several hours earlier by blowing himself up. 

It's difficult for me to find any hope in this mess. Snyder makes sure we know just about every character is deeply unhappy. Close ups of anguished faces, the staple of soap operas, drive the point home. Over and over again. The cinematic DC universe is grueling, a true purgatory. It's a place that wears everyone down, including audiences that paid to watch it unfold. The much hyped payoff comes too late. Yes, watching the DC Trinity assemble was simply magical, one of the greatest moments in the history of cinema. But I can only hope everything else about this film fades with time. 

It's going to make tons of money, so who cares

A simultaneous worldwide launch guarantees a massive opening weekend. It will be a hollow victory. This film mocks you for caring about comic book characters. Batman v Superman's worst offence is that it betrays the love that children feel towards their superheroes. These characters are more than intellectual property to be mined for profit. They are imaginary friends, guardians and symbols of hope. 

Unfortunately, this is something Zack Snyder and the corporate machine at Warner Bros. can't seem to understand. They want to portray hateful gods defined by misery and resentment. There may as well be millions of dollars spent to market next year's sequel, but I don't feel anything other than dread for what's in store. 

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