As of Thursday morning, I was fully expecting to be writing an inspired follow-up post about the abortion of reliable and rigorous moral tales in popular culture. My thesis was to center on a viewing of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I am not the type to generally pay attention to films I expect to be terrible. Despite my nostalgic predilections, there are probably a dozen superhero movies I haven't bothered to see for the fact that their presumed quality is low and I'd rather spend my time doing almost anything else, but both the alleged scale and political importance of Batman V Superman anoints it to required viewing if you’re interested in the trajectories of these productions.
The new Zack Snyder entry to the DC Comics film cannon, to which he is happily contributing to their spurious reputation for quality, falls at a cross-section of unignorability. It's the first "blockbuster" of the year in a year that will be characterized by extensively testing the market's patience for superhero epics, and promised to be the biggest-in-scale of all of them. It fails to be, of course, by shrinking its conceivable world to oddly Bay Area-style geography, idiosyncratically moving Gotham adjacent to Metropolis, the two divided by a bay. My knee-jerk "get the fuck out of the Bay Area" native reactions kick in as I make this realization now.
The Onion's headline, as is often the case, summates a good portion of the perceivably general attitude for the film:
The excitement for the film seems trepidatious, and rightfully so. The reviews are uncharacterizably bad--so bad they evoke abstract forms of measure over numbers: they are gleefully anguishable. At this point, with the sheer amount of vitriol focused on the film, there's little that I can contribute; moreover I'm not especially inspired to try. And that is the greatest crime of this film: not only that it's bad, but it's not even bad in an interesting way. It's just boring. The characters are flat, dull, and kind of dumb. I'm honestly struggling, even now, to find interesting ways to complain about a movie from which I was certain I would at least get some material indignance, but it failed even to evoke that much disdain. It's just boring, depressing, bleak. The cities are unpopulated, and thus have no heft. There's no strongly developed motivation, character, or plot through the entire two-and-a-half hour sad-a-thon. It opens and closes with a funeral. I have to hand it to Snyder's hard-and-fast commitment to such a terrible idea.
Relating back to what I thought I was going to be writing about, I now have no strong desire to write about what passes for morality in the film because even that is so wildly underdeveloped that it doesn't even come to contradiction, which is shocking because this is a movie that purports to be about a contradiction in morality. It is Batman versus Superman--two characters that are seen as diametrically opposed working toward the same ultimate goal. Instead, they seem to come to conflict because the movie is called Batman versus Superman. And again, that's not as frustrating as it is just kind of banal, and a special brand of hyper-boring idiocy.
And all of that implies that I felt even more about it than I did. Everything I said is true, but evokes no strong feeling from me either way. I tend to have strong feelings, even about Zack Snyder films: 300 is racist garbage; Sucker Punch is sexist garbage disguised in the most disgusting, patronizing pro-women pretext imaginable; Watchmen is a humiliating attempt at depth, as is Man of Steel. For the most part, I take an eminently forgiving track toward films, and I unironically love objectively bad movies. But somehow, this film is a sedative. I'm more annoyed by how bad it isn't than how bad it is; which is not to say it's good, because it's terrible, but in no way that can be held as interesting, emotive, evocative.
So I leave it at that. The one emotion I walked away with was a desire to rediscover some media from my childhood, so I've spent some time watching old Bruce Timm cartoons and I'm about to watch Batman Returns, which I haven't seen in more than a decade. I've so far enjoyed these not only in contrast to the vile experience of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, but simply as well-crafted stories that take the most simple aspects of these characters and use them to develop complex personalities in an effective pace. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm commits a huge amount of story in an extremely short order--it's only about 85 minutes long, and manages to be more enjoyable for it.
In other news, while I've been meaning to catch 10 Cloverfield Lane for a few weeks now, I managed to plant myself in a preview of Midnight Special, the new film by director Mike Nichols. It's very good, and the less you know about it, the more satisfying the experience will be. It's a smaller film, whose scale carries weight due to its carefully planned narrative. It's more thoughtful, and has no desire to prove itself with pretension the way the all-too-serious superhero film might. I highly recommend this over Batman V Superman.
This will, at least hopefully, be the last time I talk about superheroes for a while. I’ve found myself with a certain amount of expertise on the topic, but I’d rather not exhaust yet another website on reporting and analyzing what amounts to a fad that will be fading in some short order. My next few posts will refer to my deep love of horror and its place in the narrative psyche, and hopefully something about art and artistry that has been brewing since university.