Batman vs Superman, the movie that’s coming out next year, which is not based on any comic in particular but which is probably inspired on some level by the work of Frank Miller, will not be bad.
Watch the trailer again with me:
Sigh. It makes me happy every time I see it. This has to be great.
Then I remember: Zack Snyder directs Batman vs Superman. Snyder’s greatest talent is making movies that produce crazy great trailers. Seriously, look at these trailers and then realize that the movies weren’t that great. They weren’t bad or anything but they didn’t reinvent the wheel. (And I expect my comic book movies to reinvent cinema as we know it.)
Those all look great! But, most were merely “not bad.”
I’ll ignore that for now. I’ll instead nerd out and analyze the movie, what I think might happen and all that, based only on the above trailer. Naturally, this is all 100% crap but whatever.
OK. Obviously Batman’s motivation is stated and is clear: Superman’s battle with Zod in Man of Steel destroyed a bunch of stuff, including some Wayne buildings, killed a bunch of people, including some Wayne employees, and Batman sees this unchecked power as dangerous. Batman – Bruce Wayne – feels guilt and responsibility for what happened to his people.
He’s not wrong in many respects. The thing that has always made Superman great isn’t his power, it’s him as a person. HE is good. HE is the one guy that does the right thing and is willing to never give up, never quit, and never stop believing in people. He’s the world’s greatest optimist – which is a good thing when you have the power to incinerate people by looking at them. Batman just doesn’t know this yet.
And even when he does learn it (spoiler from the past 75 years of comics: Batman and Superman become friends) he still always has contingency plans to take down Superman. And Superman, to his credit, is essentially OK with this. He knows Bruce is the one guy he can trust to make the tough call if Superman were to ever get out of control.
And then we see clips of presumably the President (but it’s a woman and like that will ever happen…) saying that Superman is potentially dangerous and such. Luthor shows up and he’s obviously manipulating everyone. Superman’s mom tells him to be a hero, a symbol, a god, all that – or be nothing because “you don’t owe the world a damn thing.” Eh, she’s a mom, she’s looking out for her kid. (Incidentally, my mother’s likely lasting words are “Stop being a jerk.”)
What I like is that the movie deals directly with what happened in Man of Steel. Man of Steel had some really good, flashy, Snyder at his best, fight scenes. Zod and Supes crashing through buildings, destroying things, all that. (You saw it. If you didn’t and have no interest what in the blue hell are you doing still reading this far?) There was never really any interest shown by Superman to save innocent people, instead he was focused on beating up Zod.
This could be explained away as it’s really the first time Superman ever had to fight someone like that so maybe he didn’t know what to do. But it stood in contrast to The Avengers where there were scenes of Captain America actively protecting innocent people, not just fighting the bad guys.
Suddenly, by making this movie a direct follow up – a logical one in many respects – it makes Man of Steel all the better. I don’t have to watch it and roll my eyes, being all, “Oh, come on. Superman just let 50,000 people die right there and didn’t care. No one seemed to care.” Batman cares.
Batman is shown as an older Batman (though Affleck still looks the same age as he always does because they’re not gonna Old Him Up too much). He’s clearly been through wars in Gotham, fought The Joker and all of that. He even has a line where he basically says, “There are no good guys left, I’m not trusting these guy.” Again, this makes sense because it’s something Batman would think and say.
In that respect, the film actually feels organic; a natural sequel and not just a blatant excuse to make a movie where Batman fights Superman (even though that’s really what it is at its core).
Luther makes a speech about light vs dark, man vs god, all that. It’s true and such but, come on FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE WRITING CREDITS, you don’t need to actually have a character in your script literally say the theme of the film. But there are other tones to the movie, some blatant, some not – that’s not true. Synder is not a subtle man.
The images of people protesting Superman act as a clear allegory for the issue of illegal immigration in America, and when you put Superman on the opposite side you flat out make the anti-illegal immigrant folks wrong. Emphasized all the more by the fact that the guy(s) fighting Superman are all rich white guys who are captains of industry. So, Batman vs Superman is really Republicans vs Democrats. Hey, it’s Snyder’s movie, he can make any point he wants.
But there are two inherent weaknesses in all Batman vs Superman battles.
1. We have to pretend Batman can win. He can’t. He’s a man. He’s super rich. He has every weapon ever invented. He has a brilliant mind and sees the outcome of everything. He can plan a strategy better than anyone. But: he’s a man. Superman can just stand 50 feet away and blow him over – literally. When man fights a god the god always wins. The only reason Superman doesn’t win right away is because he holds back. Which fits his character because he never stops believing that he can reason with Batman but still: Superman can literally kill Batman with a wink.
2. Batman is shown to be wrong. He shouldn’t be, not automatically, but the basic concept, as noted, is always: Superman is too much unchecked power. There’s no resolution to that. You can’t invent a way for Superman to not have power. He can’t have his powers only turned on after a majority vote by Congress. By not killing Superman – or by not continually opposing him forever, however you can – the story becomes, “Batman realizes that this guy is an exception.” This has to be, for the sake of the story, but on some level everyone knows this going in.
No, I can’t complain at a lack of drama about who will win because it’s pretty obvious that they stalemate and join forces to fight the larger evil, become best buddies, and life moves on. But because Superman as a character – as the embodiment of the concept of “Truth, Justice, and The American Way” – is so ingrained in everyone’s head because of decades and decades of exposure, the story inherently lacks balance.
Then there’s the wild card of Wonder Woman. No idea how she’ll be used. Despite being one of the most well-known names in comic book history, she’s really not … good. Her powers are half-defined; her origin gets rewritten; she flat just isn’t relatable.
Again, she was added because ultimately Warner Brothers wants this to be the beginning of their attempt to do what Marvel is doing (they’re doing it ass-backwards as they’re starting with the big epic movie and then going to branch off into smaller, character films). But for how she works with the movie … I’m curious. She’s not as god-like as Superman, but she’s also someone Batman would clearly see as needing to be watched. She may ultimately act as the link between man and god – which isn’t half bad.
I just want Batman vs Superman to be better than not half bad. I want it to be great.