Dark Knight vs The Man of Tomorrow

Writing well, turning out a good poem, story or essay takes me a lot of time. Okay, I’ve never written a good poem that I know of, but you get the point. I’m in awe of persons who write well fast. I’d guess that most times something written fast turns out well it is combination of many factors. Talent, experience and luck being top ranked.

Batman Vs Superman looks like something that was written fast, to meet a set of conditions it does not completely agree with nor is prepared for. As someone who has never written a film my impression is that writing a movie must be very hard. Or rather, writing a good, solid screenplay would be very hard for me because there are so many factors. One of which is time. This movie had to be pitched and stitched together fast to meet a lot of business conditions. Movies are collaborative, and often constructed in compromise. They are built on the input of literally hundreds of people. If I write something purely for myself I’m not influenced by business concerns and business concerns are a non-trivial part of big studio movies. Business concerns probably outweigh artistic ones, because getting someone to bankroll something I created to satisfy only myself may not be a good business decision. I understand business decisions to a degree, as I do artistic choices somewhat. Building on collaboration and compromise is not bad, but it is hard to steer cleanly. Simply put Batman Vs Superman does not seem to me to have a well-crafted screenplay. It has good performances all around, great music and tremendous technical effects. Those tools are not given the appropriate platform to build on:

The story.

The story reaches boldly for some things that it does not successfully grasp. I commend the reach because to aim low and score is not a concept that is easy to get behind, but the filmed story is also deeply flawed.

The filmed story of BvS starts from an unstable place. It does not establish Superman as what the public wants: Sunlight, goodness, hope, good-triumphs-over-evil, the hero who succeeds because he represents what is Right and Ideal. Truth, justice and the American Way (in whatever the best sense of that phrase is). The Superman in BvS is not the Superman the audience wants. He is powerful but conflicted, and severely compromised by the fact that he is a murderer. The archetypal Superman that we expect is the ideal, he is what we aspire to be in our best selves. He came to this planet from a foreign place and was infused with the best human ethics we have built over our brief time on this planet. Superman is the perfect molded creation of man. There’s a reason one of his sobriquets is “The Man of Tomorrow.” That’s why writing a Superman story for the general public is hard. One is writing the adventures of God and it’s hard to give the perfect hero compelling conflict. The best fantasy sequence in the film is the one where Kevin Costner as Pa Kent relates a story of how by doing a good thing on his farm he inadvertently harmed someone else. That’s the stuff that Superman rises above in concept (but not Zack Snyder’s Superman). Superman in BvS is a very human superman, and we don’t want Superman to be human. That’s what Batman is for.

The contradistinction is that Batman is molded from the lowest parts of us. Anger, resentment, fear of abandonment, guilt. He is the Dark Knight. Goodness out of the shadow. Why is he the most popular caped hero of all? Because we all recognize him. We look at him and know that we could be him if we had the right genes and bank account. He is imperfect like we are. Something early in life scarred us and we are fighting to make it right. The real battle of Batman fighting Superman is us as we see ourselves versus how we would like to be. This ethic is missing from the movie Batman Vs Superman.

This should be light and hope and the belief in What is Right vs. what we live with every day as Real and Hard. This movie is mostly dark when it needs to sharply juxtapose light and dark. That’s the vs in a true Batman vs Superman.

In the film there is a scene where Superman interrupts Batman’s super-violent car chase and tells him to knock off the vigilante bit. That’s an interesting point if Superman were pure and good (picture Christopher Reeve delivering the message to Christian Bale), that is an argument we could take sides  on and have a  movie party worth the outrageous price of popcorn. That contention is God interfering in our free will. An act that would be a sufficient cause for a fight. Both guys fight the Good Fight but what happens when the new fighter tells the first fighter to stop because the new fighter does not approve? There’s your movie story.

But the BvS Superman cannot come from the place of Truth and Justice. Remember, he let his loving adopted father die to keep his secret and later breaks the neck of the bad guy to end his movie—this hero can’t do the right thing because he has no idea what that really is. Superman can be conflicted but he always makes the Right Choice when it counts.

Batman Vs Superman as written is a very muddy collection of distracting events, too many dream sequences and fights. Add to this the business concerns of needing to launch the DC movie franchise and you get a very unsatisfying story experience.

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Filed under Essay, Movie Review

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