Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How Haste Hurt the Heroes in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

(Contains full spoilers for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice as well as comparison with the Ultimate Edition release on Blu-Ray, as well as it's "Twin Movie" Captain America: Civil War)

As we pass the one year anniversary of the theatrical release of Warner Bros.' Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the chips seem to be on the table when it comes to the divisive response to the movie. The Ultimate Edition has been released and had its initial sales, so there really remains no degree of discernment left for the movie's potential audience. When it comes to this movie, a proper critic's work is already done. There may be little impact and effect in an article from a mind that has percolated through the movie for a year. But I hope a considered look, well after the furor over the film and its dramatic and divisive reception, might be more dispassionate and truthful.

I truthfully found this opening sequence mesmerizing.
I don't think Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a great movie overall, or one that succeeded in everything it attempted. But the movie, to be fair, attempted a lot, and despite its flaws I still enjoyed it immensely. At two and half hours in the theatrical cut, and just over three hours in the vastly superior Ultimate Edition, Batman V Superman is a big vessel that bears the burden of multiple purposes, like Man of Steel did before it.

Like Man of Steel before it, Batman V Superman needed to redirect and refocus a
character who had been steered into a corner by a previous director.
Zack Snyder revealed intentions to have his Batman/Superman team-up movie take at least some inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (without being a direct adaptation) when the film was first announced at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2013, shortly after the release of Man of Steel. That's a tall order alone, particularly in the rebooted Superman's mere second outing, but the resulting movie's story also suffers as a result of grafting of the Doomsday and Dawn of Justice story onto its posterior. What could have been two great, impressive movies instead becomes compressed into a flawed creation—full of merit and great scenes but also full of artificial acceleration and gratuitous gaps.

Yet when the honoring of  The Dark Knight Returns and other inspirations is a matter of
  visual composition, the movie is beautifully faithful, like Watchmen before it.
There is a beauty and a bravery to the film, that doesn't get recognized enough. Critical response to Batman V Superman has been savage and largely negative. The negative response was encapsulated in reviews, as well as in a number of ancillary opinion pieces and listicles, such as vox.com's "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: 19 things that don't make sense in this nonsensical movie." Although I don't much stock into the value of opinion aggregators, they function as a handy shorthand, and with a 26% approval rating among critics and a 63% approval rating among audience on rottentomatoes.com it's inarguable that the movie impressed some people and very much failed to impress others—particularly movie critics. Not being a proper critic, I am free to commit a cardinal sin of criticism: armchair screenwriting. In this article I'm going to point out not only what was missing from BvS, but interpret from the negative space the plot elements that should have been there.

"Martha" can stay. It worked for me, and its failure in working for others
seems mostly to be a matter of timing: artificial acceleration.
Another cardinal sin of criticism I fully intend to start with here involves looking at the atmosphere outside of the movie itself, and speculating on the studio management decisions that led the movie to become what it did. Peering into studio motivations from the theater seat is of course a matter of conjecture. But with a bit of logic, a story of behind-the-scenes rivalry fits the circumstances neatly in explaining how the movie became too big a vessel to right itself in choppy waters.

Batman 5: Superman

In my previous article discussing the first in the DCEU releases "The Misreporting of Manslaughter in Man of Steel (2013)," I lamented how difficult it was for the DC Extended Universe movies to be greeted by various audiences with an open mind, because of how polarizing our digital society is and how it pushes us into extreme viewpoints with little nuance: "choosing sides." Genre fiction fan rivalries are not a new thing, predating the internet and its innovation of allowing anyone to "join the conversation." Nor are these rivalries unique to the fans. Over the decades, the comic book creators at Marvel and DC have played with their own rivalry for sales, thrills, and laughs.

You could probably imagine movie and comic execs under those hoods
and not be too far off from the truth of the matter.
Movie studios have also shown a tendency to fall into this binary competition over the same singular thematic bone. In a town that uses story ideas as fuel for an entire industry, Hollywood producers often seem to chase the same fads and trends, by accident or design. In fact the phenomenon of "Twin Films" is so well-documented a wikipedia articles exists on the subject and is, characteristically, very thorough. Den of Geek offers a more considered look at the phenomenon from Simon Brew in their handy countdown "14 Times Similar Movies Went Head To Head At The Box Office."

You know it's an artificial binary, even if born from real rivalry, when you
can contribute revenue and support to both endeavors.
Combine the might of the obsession of fan rivalries and the long-standing rivalries of the comic publishers themselves, with a binary competitive nature built in to the movie industry, and you had a gravitational singularity of rivalry ready to implode (theoretically) once Marvel Studios launched its initiative to create an integrated Marvel Cinematic Universe. For Marvel fans, and Disney executives, the MCU served as counterpoint to the superhero movie dynasty over at Warner Brothers comprised of individual movies dedicated to the characters of Batman and Superman.

Unfortunately I can only speculate regarding the intentions of executives at Warner Brothers in response to seeing Marvel's successful development of their integrated universe and subsequent team-up in The Avengers. Marvel's debut team-up movie remains at this date, the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time according to Wikipedia, and the highest grossing superhero movie of all time, having just edged out Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight's spot as the top super-hero movie earner, according to Boxofficemojo.com.

It's untrue to say that Marvel Studios was the first to consider the concept of a film based on a super-hero team-up of characters established in individual cinema franchises. It's also logical if not provably factual, in this competitive atmosphere, to infer a bit of resentment, and perhaps envy, on WB's part. Particularly so when you consider that a 2014 interview with director Francis Lawrence reveals they had been considering scripts for team ups years before, as revealed in an article on comicbook.com:
In an interview with I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence, Collider got to the bottom of the mysterious billboard. Lawrence explained the reason that it was there is that the producer and writer of I Am Legend, Akiva Goldsman, actually wrote an early draft of a Batman and Superman movie. However, the movie never got made as the script wound up getting dropped, and Christopher Nolan launched his trilogy of Batman movies instead.
At this point it's really hard to imagine what that interpretation might have been,
without Nolan's redefining trilogy's modernizing effects.

Warner Bros. had little reason to regret letting Christopher Nolan reign supreme over the Batman franchise and character for his full trilogy—it pulled record numbers in ticket sales. Yet as Nolan's success garnered him further clout and creative control, the studio found themselves with a creator determined to tell a closed loop story of Batman, within a seemingly self-contained universe. He explains this clearly in an interview with Scott Foundas on filmcomment.com:
For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city.
Frankly, as a fan of the "Batman mythos," I found myself straining against the interpretation not due to it closing the loop on the end of the character, but its contention that Batman of the Nolan universe went into reclusive hiding between the second movie and the third. In the Nolanverse, a fantastic number of Batman's iconic villains are removed from his story. There was never a window of time in which for them to appear and face Batman. This is indeed the kind of "comic-fan-only concern" that movie adaptations have been casting aside for years, in an admittedly legitimate quest to reign these fantastical universes into something that feels grounded and believable to the general audience. Nolan's vision includes a very "movie-like" desire to own the entirety of its characters' story arcs.

Two-Face's brilliantly written, perfectly devastating rampage in The Dark Knight
is a great example... in that it lasted a day and ended in his death.
2008 was the year that The Dark Knight Rises was released in theaters, and the culmination of Nolan's trilogy pulled in record box office numbers for Warner Brothers Pictures, but didn't quite reach the record-setting heights set by its predecessor The Dark Knight. That same year, Marvel Studios debuted their work and united vision in Iron Man, laying the groundwork for the movie that would eventually shatter that record.

The L.A. Times quoted part of Zack Snyder's San Diego Comic-Con announcement of Batman V Superman, and at the risk of over-interpreting, his quote clearly seems to indicate that the direction and mission of the team-up movie as an studio directive. I suppose it's a lot of gravitas to assign to a quote about looking "for a way to tell this thing," but to me it reveals signs of external story ideas or mandates coming to Snyder:
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation about what we’re doing,” the Man of Steel director teased the audience when he took the stage at the end of the Warner Bros. panel. “It’s official that we are going to make another Superman movie.… I sort of pored through the DC universe to look for a way to tell this thing … and I came across a thing that I feel sort of sums it up.”
Queue the line reading from The Dark Knight Returns. Having just completed Man of Steel for Warner Bros., speculation was widespread about Snyder's (and Superman's) next direction being determined by "disappointing" returns of the Superman reboot. Another site aggregating box office revenues for the category, the-numbers.com, helpfully reports revenues normalized for ticket price inflation. Although that adjustment certainly doesn't cover all the ways the span of years between the various films influenced their reception, it nonetheless indicates that Man of Steel showed an impressive debut. The DCEU debut placed above Fox's X-Men and WB's own Batman Begins, both of which proceeded to spawn successful movie franchises... with the benefit of their respective studios' faith in pursuing a direct sequel.

Man of Steel earned triple the gross of 2011's Green Lantern, and yet articles still led
DC fans to brace for another dangling, abandoned franchise adaptation.
What else changed in the intervening period? Expectations. I've run across a great post, "Man of Steel - The $660 Million box-office disappointment?"—from 2013 on a lonely neglected blog called Movie Poster Critic—that cleverly explains the bloated expectations (if not, perhaps, the associated extensive investment) assigned to Man of Steel:
The [boxofficemojo.com] article suggests that Man of Steel's box-office performance was middling at best, despite the fact that it has grossed in excess of $660 million worldwide. Sadly, this comes as no surprise whatsoever and is simply a direct consequence of the modern era. Expectations have risen to completely unrealistic levels during a period when the market is saturated with comicbook adaptations. While this will generally be considered as a positive development (for Marvel/Disney at least) it means that most adaptations will now have to exceed even the wildest expectations from the get-go.
Scott Mendelson, a contributor at Forbes, puts a finer point on the actual dollars at stake in the expectations posted for a film's release, and the questionable sources from where those estimates now sometimes originate, in another 2013 piece titled Man Of Steel And The Politics Of Box Office Expectations. He concludes, with prescience:
This is of course what happens in politics as well, such as when rival parties predict a 10-point bump after a convention so they can scream "FAILURE!" when the bump is only 7 points. Tracking was once mostly internal data, used to plan marketing efforts before a film's release. Now it's public knowledge, used either to create the preconceived perception of failure ("Oh no, The Internship is tracking soft; it's a flop!") or to be used as a low-water mark for which to measure success, even as the rival studios use it as a starting point to raise expectations ("Man of Steel is tracking at $75 million... could it go as high as $100 million?!") [...] Point being, like all would-be news, take a moment to actually process who is giving you what pre-release box office figures as well as the respective spin on the actual [...] figures.
By definition, the most recent renditions of the character will always have the
most numerous beloved previous incarnations against which to be judged.
No matter the spin on Man of Steel's returns, the only outside force really capable of influencing the sequel's director is studio management and the movie's producers—and Batman V Superman has an extensive list of producers including Christopher Nolan himself as Executive Producer. The producer lineup, as well as the creative lineup, speaks of a production designed to capture the essence of what elevated Nolan's Batman trilogy to record box office returns, as the Times expounds and quotes from the Warner Bros. press release issued along with the announcement:
Snyder is directing, as well as co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who is to pen the screenplay. Goyer co-wrote The Dark Knight trilogy with Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.

“Zack Snyder is an incredibly talented filmmaker, but beyond that, he’s a fan first, and he utterly gets this genre,” Greg Silverman, president of Warner Bros. creative development, said in the news release. “We could not think of anyone better suited to the task of bringing these iconic superheroes to the screen in his own way.”

Man of Steel producers Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are returning as producers, and Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers on the upcoming Batman-Superman film, along with Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan.

“Whilst our Dark Knight trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack’s fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction,” Christopher Nolan said in the news release. “His vision for Superman opened the door to a while new universe, and we can’t wait to see what Zack does with these characters.”
A Batman/Superman team-up as story mandate came into development of this movie. The single letter 'V' after Batman's leading name implies the studio hopes at least some of the audience perceives the movie as a Batman Five (conjuring dark versions of a multiverse reality where Man of Steel's home release suddenly comes preceded by Batman IV:). Yet even within an interview with Brian Truitt of USA Today shortly after the start of shooting, addressing the single V in the title, Snyder reveals clues that a team-up movie was not his original plan:
When developing Man of Steel, Snyder didn't harbor dreams of one day putting Batman on screen, too — he figured he'd one day tackle an adaptation of Frank Miller's seminal 1980s masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns, which pits a retired Batman against government agent Superman.

It ultimately made sense with Dawn of Justice to add Bruce Wayne and his cowled alter ego to the mix. Because of Christopher Nolan's recent Dark Knight trilogy, "I was in no rush to put Batman in the movie," Snyder says, "but on the other hand it seemed organic the way our story was unfolding to start to feather him in."

...The director can't say exactly how the relationship between the two superheroes evolves, "but suffice it to say there is a 'v' in between their names" in the movie title, Snyder says. He explains that having the "v" instead of "vs." is a way "to keep it from being a straight 'versus' movie, even in the most subtle way."
Superman fans had some legitimate concerns that the origin story in Man of Steel
would be his only solo outing for quite a while.

The Preemie Justice Teamie

Six months after the announcement of the movie, in January of 2014, Batman V Superman was pushed from it's original summer 2015 release date to May of 2016. This release delay translated to a three year gap between DCEU releases. Would the Dawn of Justice portion of the movie—the "Metahuman Thesis" universe setup scenes as well as the introduction of the Wonder Woman and Doomsday—be the result of this delay? Entertainment Weekly posted an interview by Jeff Labrecque with Dan Fellman, Warner Brothers’ president of domestic distribution in the article "'Superman' versus 'Cap': The superhero showdown that everybody won," revealing the strategy for the initial release date move was very much driven by counter-punching with Marvel Studios:
Marvel had announced May 6 first, but initially it was reserved for an untitled superhero film. Warner Bros., armed with its two biggest comic-book characters meeting for the first time on-screen, didn’t hesitate to trespass when it pushed back Dawn of Justice‘s original release date from July 2015. “In terms of going back and reviewing the situation, it looked to us—and maybe our reconnaissance wasn’t great—that they were not going to have a movie [ready] on that date,” says Fellman. “Just that they held onto it and they might not be able to deliver. But they took another position.”

That other position was solidified when Winter Soldier opened to critical accolades and more than $713 million globally, surpassing the total take for Man of Steel. Once Marvel announced that Cap 3 was the MCU film set for May 6, the showdown got serious—and potentially very costly for both sides.
Winter Soldier itself, by featuring Black Widow, Nick Fury, and continuing a S.H.I.E.L.D.
story in a great movie, enjoyed a share of the Avengers' team, and success.
A similar logical, competitive choice without concrete proof is presumed on behalf of Marvel Studios in slotting Captain America: Civil War as the untitled Marvel picture scheduled on May 6. Marvel announced the movie's title, invoking the title of one of Marvel's best-known iconic original superhero team-up/battle storylines. Patrick Brzeski of the Hollywood Reporter snagged an interview with Joe Russo, director of Marvel's May 2016 release of Captain America: Civil War, that reveals a clue to the movie's origins as answer to WB's announcement:
...For our part, when we finished Winter Soldier two years ago and we were thinking about doing the next one, the only thing that seemed interesting to us was to deconstruct the Marvel Universe — because where else can we go at this point? There have been 11 or 12 movies so far, all with a fairly traditional structure. Our pitch to them was: People will tell you they love chocolate ice cream — until you give it to them five days a week. It's time to give them some rainbow sherbet. Kevin [Feige] is a maverick and he's very sensitive to how people are responding to his content. He said he thought we might be right. And after they announced Batman v. Superman, he said, 'you guys are absolutely right.' We needed to do something challenging with the material or we were going to start to lose the audience.
Did Marvel already know, as we'll see later, that a "deconstruction" piece was in the works over at Warner Bros? Be it deconstruction themes or the spectacle of a story of heroes pitted in team-rending battle (in some ways, much the same thing), again Hollywood has found a common rope-bone over which to wrestle. Further elucidating the flow of idea direction for these massive studio-supporting tent-pole releases, Mike Sampson of Screencrush.com followed up with the writers of Civil War, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, to discover how the movie transformed from its initial focus on an individual Captain America story to the team-up event the movie became:
“It never got to draft. We started out working on a Captain America 3 and what would that be, picking up the thread that had been left behind by Winter Soldier. So it was Bucky, it was Steve and the ramifications of digging deeper into that relationship.”

It seems very much like more of a direct sequel to The Winter Soldier that would’ve served as a standalone tale focusing on Cap and Falcon and their search for Bucky. But, Markus says that as they working on their movie, Feige came into their office and just said two words: “Civil War”.
Adding Robert Downey Jr. plus Spider-Man was pretty clear one-upsmanship.
In the aftermath of the announcement, it became clear that both Warner Bros./DC and Disney/Marvel Studios had staked claim on the same release window, with the same type of movie. Marvel President Kevin Feige had transformed an individual Captain America release into a competitor for a team-up pic at a competing studio (spending a great deal more on the movie in the process by securing the involvement of Robert Downey Jr. to reprise his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and working out a deal with Sony/Columbia to use Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Eventually Warner Bros. would cede the May release date to Marvel/Disney in an announcement made in August of 2014, moving the release date of Batman V Superman up to March 2016, and adding a full slate of untitled projects to their DCEU roadmap for years to come.

By the time January 2015 had rolled around, a series of news stories derived from an anonymous image post on reddit seemed to indicate that one of the primary premises of my piece was coming true: the story of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was turning out to be too big to be done properly in one movie. The Nerdist ran the story, with an appropriate amount of skepticism, in a story titled RUMOR: New Image Suggests A Dc Movie Before Dawn Of Justice. Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson, previously quoted in response to the expectations for Man of Steel (as well as many other voices across the internet) cried out in protest, penning an article titled Splitting 'Batman V Superman' Into Two Films Is A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea. Suddenly an image... captured from a teaser... that was part of a test-screening... was drawing unexpected negative PR. Unfortunately, I'm left to wonder if internet response to the rumor steered the studio away from what, to me, may have been the right choice for the multiple stories in the final released movie.

I'm no fan of the title "Enter the Knight," but splitting the movie into two
as a rumor now holds more water, having seen the result.
As a key tent-pole release not only for the DC Extended Universe, but also the studio's financials, the pressure could not be greater on the work, previously announced as a single film. Announcing a change in those plans may have been the better choice for the result (and seems plausible to be something that was considered), but would have presented significant PR challenges in assuaging both audiences and investors. WB confirmed it had elected to take the work in progress and make it accomplish its goals in one movie. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in August of 2015 by Stephen Galloway titled Warner Bros.' Chilly Summer Puts Execs in the Hot Seat (Analysis), chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara would downplay the importance of Marvel's influence, and instead point to the initial release delay as the result of a movie that had been targeted to be made "better," for a franchise first, DC comics second, and, finally, the movie itself:
[Tsujihara] says this summer would have looked better had Warners not pushed Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice from July to March 2016. "It was a tough decision at the time because it was going to create a hole in 2015," he says. "But it was absolutely the right decision for the franchise, for DC and the movie. Having seen the movie multiple times, and again last night, I’m extremely confident it was the right decision to make the movie better. And it’s so important for the studio to get the foundation right on DC.”
Did the extra year added on to production signify a shift in priority from a Batman V Superman story to a Dawn of Justice, one debilitatingly concerned with universe-establishing scenes? Or did Zack Snyder push for a way to include his ambition of adapting The Dark Knight Returns into an original Dawn of Justice intention, as his quotes might suggest? Either theory seems reasonable, considering that Warner Bros. filled out their announcement slate in a shareholders' meeting a mere two months later, announcing two Justice League movies, also directed by Zack Snyder, to immediately follow Batman V Superman... one in late 2017 and the second in 2019. Whichever part of the amalgam of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was developed first, the movie would have to serve as the bridge into Justice League for all its included characters: except for the Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman projects, all other movies would come after the Big Team-Up.

It seems like the plan included hopes for the "dark side" team-up film to come along later in
the summer and prove it could be done without all the individual film lead ups.
This is how a movie initially delayed a full year could be subject to a less-than-optimal result because of a hasty process: not because the initial Batman V Superman team-up was premature, because although it may have been, it still had a chance to succeed, and had all the elements necessary to do so. The haste comes in the third act of the movie, and in how it compressed the rest of the film with its conclusion. Movie Poster Critic guys sums it up nicely:
Warner Bros/DC have panicked due to the phenomenal success of Marvel/Disney and have opted for a quick-fix at the global box-office rather than patiently building a franchise. It's a shame Warner Bros/DC can't simply bite their collective tongues and admit defeat while steadily building for the future.

At this point, they will always be second-best because Marvel had a long-term plan and were dedicated to its implementation over several years. The strategy has paid-off dividends but this type of sustained success is impossible to maintain and Marvel's popularity will eventually falter when they exhaust their primary roster and audiences look for something new.

If Warner Bros/DC accept that this is Marvel/Disney's moment, they completely ease the pressure on themselves needing to deliver immediate results. In turn, this will allow them a sufficient amount of time to develop a long-term Justice League plan that has been carefully nurtured and not rushed in a desperate attempt to compete with their rivals.
The prescient post quoted above was written in 2013, and Warner Bros/DC did not follow Movie Poster Critic's advice. This has become very clear by seeing how many characters and elements were introduced in Batman V Superman, culminating in the third act. However, by fingering the influence of the studio's ambitions, I don't mean to suggest the hoary old cliche of studio interference, as you see famously reported by deleted tweets by director Josh Trank himself, in the case of Fox's Fantastic Four (2015). I believe everyone at WB including Zack Snyder was aligned in their desire to tell an effective team-up story as quickly as possible. And, in truth, they may be successful in that long-term goal... at the expense of the reception to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

No matter my opinion, it's irrevocable that many people consider the movie
a stumble and fall on the way to launching Justice League.
That's why executives and director were still united, focusing on Justice League, moving forward... at least, up until the reception to the movie across all sales channels was clear. As reported in the review of the Ultimate Edition on YouTube by the channel GoodBadFlicks, it was rumored that WB executives gave Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice a standing ovation when they saw the original cut, before brutally cutting the film further for its theatrical release. To me, using pure conjecture, this speaks to me of executives focused for too long on the goal of introducing the team-up concepts in the film, myopic to its faults in pursuit of this goal. This is even understandable, considering how the movie has significant uncelebrated merits, as well.

The Dream World of Zack Snyder

As I sat in the darkened theater and the beautiful opening sequence of Batman V Superman drew to a close, and single falling pearl clued me into the fact that I was watching a dream as opposed to a memory. I know for a fact that people around me in the audience missed it, because I heard the dude next to me in the audience snickering when the "beautiful lie" dream sequence concluded with bats lifting young, traumatized Bruce Wayne up into the sky. We were five minutes into the movie, and already I knew it had lost some people, and I knew exactly why.

It was indeed a beautiful lie, but is there in truth no beauty?
A few moments later as Ben Affleck's narration came in and corrects audience perceptions by revealing the sequence to be a dream, a visual metaphor, a "beautiful lie," the Snorty Dude settled down. But it was a moment, very early in the film, that made clear to me that the movie was going to challenge the audience in some ways. Ways both fair and meritorious, and unfair and accidental.

The sequence I mention above is beautiful, visually engrossing. The movie itself is as well, and Snyder's use of slow motion, powerful cinematography, and Herculean fight choreography continues a fine tradition for which the director has been praised even in movies that were poorly received. Snyder is very comfortable working in a borderline dream-reality, and seems drawn to stories allowing him to explore it overtly, such as Sucker Punch (2011). This dream-reality has, when applied to real-life conflict, been excellent at establishing a heightened reality. As seen in 300 (2006) or The Watchmen (2009), his techniques can make very clear to the audience an adrenaline-fueled, subjective experience of a true fight, if not always the objective story of the conflict.

No slow motion here. Even with his most ardent critics, Snyder gets recognized
for executing the best Batman action captured on film, hands down.
When Snyder applies that dream-like quality to real-world action, the results are sublime. All of his most recent DC adaptions have the best depictions of visual comic-book action, by far. Criticism of the movie that has captured my interest has done it's best to take an even-handed look at the film's strengths and weaknesses, such as Ryan Lambie from Den of Geek in Batman V Superman: a spoiler-filled dissection:
Snyder’s ability to craft short, eye-popping sequences is both his great talent and a narrative hindrance. These and many, many other moments in Batman V Superman are technically dazzling and look great in isolation, yet fail to add up to a satisfying whole. Some of the action sequences featuring Batman and his new arsenal of vehicles and weapons - seemingly crafted from solid iron - are as explosive and dynamic as any you could hope to see on a cinema screen.
Often, when Snyder applies a dream-vision to his story, to the exposition, through using an actual dream or pseudo-dream, the narrative almost always suffers. The world itself as he depicts it is too dream-like to allow for the contrast—a visual distinction between our world and a dream-world hardly exists. But in playing to the director's natural strengths, his movies often find a rationale to include them, often in awkward ways... such as in Man of Steel when Zod's plan to destroy Earth is exposed visually, er... 'psychically' because "they must have done something." Feh.

Yet in Batman V Superman, Snyder actually has a reason why the dreams are intruding: Bruce Wayne has deep-seated P.T.S.D., and is haunted by nightmares. These nightmares, like the beautiful lie in the opening of the film, defy expectations and enter masquerading as real life. Lambie of Den of Geek agrees:
Bruce’s nightmare sequences, which become increasingly unpredictable and baroque as the film goes on, are also effectively staged, and even appear to imply that the hero’s struggling to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t.
The opening scene and this one were great storytelling, showing us without
telling us about Bruce's traumatized state of mind. Also, Man-Bat.
The blurring of the dream-world into the real world and the confusing of the two is used organically here to further the plot, rather than artificially as in Man of Steel, and so it belongs in Batman V Superman a hell of a lot more (up to a point). The cinematography of the film, and to some extent the plot, has been surmised to be invoking multiple mythic references, including homages to the film  above the marquis in the opening shot, Excalibur, as detailed in this short reddit post. John Boorman’s 1981 fantasy epic played with the connections between dreams and reality as well. In writing this article, I have discovered that Snyder has also played around extensively with aspect ratios, shortening the screen and heightening it to shift audience perceptions.

The Real World of Distorted Perceptions

The opening dream sequence of the movie is followed by a flashback to the wide-scale destruction in Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel, as catalyst for Bruce Wayne's renewed trauma. I've written previously about how I felt that the character of Superman was unfairly blamed for the destruction of Metropolis depicted in the battle with Zod and his Kryptonian renegades at the conclusion of Man of Steel (again, "The Misreporting of Manslaughter in Man of Steel (2013)"). So I really appreciated how the opening of Batman V Superman showed Bruce Wayne experience a direct-yet-selective perception of the urban destruction, ironically omitting as much of Superman's heroism as the first DCEU movie's detractors did. These moments are powerful and self-aware, and I felt they owned the criticism of the disaster-porn accusations leveled at Man of Steel, and leveraging them expertly to lay the foundations for Batman's obsession. Once more, Lambie from Den of Geek praises the high point:
Bruce Wayne’s introduction into what was once Superman’s territory is also artfully done. The conclusion of Man Of Steel - itself controversial on the film’s release in 2013 - is seen again from street level, as Bruce races through the streets in a vain attempt to save his office building from inadvertently being destroyed during Superman and Zod’s apocalyptic punch-up. Yes, the way the Metropolis destruction recalls real-world events is as disturbing as it was in Man Of Steel, but here, we get more of a feeling of its senselessness - through Bruce, we’re shown the human consequences of that climactic battle.
Seriously. Best super hero movie open since Iron Man.
The movie proceeds with a key sequence next upon which much of the Superman narrative relies: Superman's rescue of Lois lane in the desert from a terrorist camp. It is a sequence that is significantly extended in the Ultimate Edition, but the end result of both cuts is: although Superman saves Lois, his taking that unsanctioned action overseas leads to a series of congressional hearings about overseeing his activity. We meet Lex Luthor, and it becomes clear he wants to arm himself against Superman with the newly-discovered Kryptonite. We meet a victim of the Battle of Metropolis, who hates Superman so much he is subject to hate-crime prosecution (!?) for defacing a statue erected in Superman's honor.

As the movie proceeded, I began to feel the story owned too much of the criticism and accusations regarding its new, more darkly realistic incarnation of its time-honored character. It started in Man of Steel (and this movie) as a brave avenue to explore: leading nearly every character, and the audience itself, through a process of overcoming their fearful mistrust of him. Yet with themes distorting the real world and a dream-world, Batman V Superman heaps scenes of tremendous Zack Snyder visual power into compiling that mistrust—and establishes in the minds of the general audience an unintended dark portrait of the character overall. This is particularly true when the scene becomes indispensable... in that it is burdened with greater, universe-establishing purpose.

Another Dark Superman "dream sequence" is implanted later in the movie with far less subtlety: the heavily promoted "Knightmare" sequence, a key piece of the world-building for upcoming DCEU plotlines. All the other dream sequences arrive stealthily, but the extended dream about a future Earth taken over by a alien invasion force seemingly led by Superman elbows its way into the movie awkwardly. Missing the slow motion as well as the stealthy introduction, it executes heavy lifting in foreshadowing an upcoming conflict, for an upcoming movie. Yet like the psychic exposition scene in Man of Steel, the audience is left baffled: is it a dream we're watching? Is it telepathy? Is is precognition? Whatever drives the imagery within the plot, in the movie the sequence stacks very powerful dark, frightening images of a seemingly evil Superman onto a movie reality already showing very little "bright side" to having Superman take any action at all, including the character's single meaningful act in the movie (so far) of saving Lois.

Holy crap, that's terrifying. Really sticks with you, whatever it was.
This is intentional. Perhaps more clumsily (due to multiple purposes) than the rest of the film, the Knightmare scene furthers the expression of the distorted perceptions of Superman that are at the heart of the theme of the story. Batman V Superman is, like Man of Steel before it, both an adaptation and a deconstruction of its titular comic book heroes' conventions. For Man of Steel, the movie challenged itself to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy in depicting its fantastical hero in a world as much like ours as possible. Batman V Superman starts with very much the same ambitions, and succeeds at first, but as its character's motivations become less believable, and its plot less "real world" and accessible to the general audience, it's success is mixed.

If you want a full detailing of the deconstruction methodology of the "Superman mythos" as Batman V Superman explored it, I've found a concise and coherent write-up as the single (so far) entry on a blog called Men Are Still Good: A Batman V Superman Blog, titled Deconstructing the Man of Steel- an analysis of how Zach Snyder, Chris Terrio, and the other contributors to the narrative of Batman V Superman grounded the superman. The nameless author details blow-by-blow the conventions cross-examined by the movie, acknowledging that the result may color fans' reactions:
Alas, like any other deconstruction, there will be fans of the genre who feel betrayed and ask: what is the point of tearing down the conventions and traditions of a genre if those conventions are well loved? Well, I’ll respond by saying this: through deconstructing the many tropes of a character, one can analyze the tropes themselves and may also find the qualities, traits, and conventions associated with a character or genre that still holds up under heavy scrutiny and analysis. See, it’s easy for a creator to hide behind certain tropes because they’re crowd pleasers and nostalgic- but if you only rely on them you never have a chance to get to other and deeper aspects of the character by digging through the tropes that can become overused to the point of staleness. (alas, what happened to the superman character in the 90’s that led to his death).
Certainly there are some critics and audiences who disliked both Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice because of both movies' subject matter and tone, just as there were viewers who didn't enjoy The Dark Knight Trilogy's interpretation of Batman (or specifically that of The Dark Knight Rises). Deconstruction pieces tend towards thoughtful defiance of expectations, as expressed here through contrasting these fantastical characters ideas in "the real world." They are darker, more serious movies, and they stand in (to me, welcome) anathema to the Marvel Studios pictures' less serious tones.

In today's news, every major religion today announced new initiatives to acquire
interdimensional portal technology, in hopes of meeting their own deity.
My wife asked me the other day how the news media and the average people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe responded to the revelation that, of all of Earth's religions, it was Norse mythology that turned out to "be real." I don't know. Do you?

However if challenging the conventions of these heroes as they were re-introduced was all it took to drive review scores down, the disparity between the reception to Man of Steel versus its follow-up would be unexplained. But in bearing the weight of universe-launching and standing in for a follow-up to the individual Superman movie that preceded it, there's simply not enough time with Superman as a hero in this movie, saving people. It was a valid complaint in Man of Steel, and in Batman V Superman it's only gotten worse. Our eyes hungrily soak up the Day of the Dead rescue scenes, the music-only montages, as we also listen to a debate across the media about how Superman's appearance challenges our notions of our place in the universe. The disillusionment is being broadcast along with the illusion, the deconstruction work eats itself because although construction of the hero myth—perhaps from other sources—may be complete, but the construction of the heroic character of Superman is not yet complete for the audience.

The Superman Question: "What is he doing here, with the boat? Why does this need to be done?"
Batman V Superman thus attempts the ambition of a deconstruction piece and only partially succeeds, and it attempts the ambition of a universe-setup film (certainly Hollywood's newest story type), and also only partially succeeds. Where it fails as a movie is connecting the narrative dots with character motivation lines, forming whole arcs for every character.  This is where the challenges the film presents it myriad audience become unfair, the result of a rushed story, making room for its significant load of character-adding, universe-building junk in the trunk.

This is where the film forgets the obsession of the Nolan-verse predecessors in telling beginning-to-end character arcs for its most famous characters. It's also where the film fails to measure up to its twin, released six weeks later, Captain America: Civil War.

Gratuitous Gaps

Batman V Superman and the DCEU films have been caught between two comic-book-movie worlds: the somewhat highbrow cinematic respectability and success WB has experienced with The Dark Knight Trilogy, and the popular comic-romp success Marvel has developed with the MCU. Caught between the expectations of general audiences who were able to step blindly into Nolan's Batman trilogy (with minimal point of reference for DC lore) and dedicated DC Comics fans and movie executives at Warner Bros with significant expectations for known characters and storylines, BvS leaves gaps in its goals as a sound stand-alone narrative in service of DC universe setup. These gaps undo the movie's goals as a Superman deconstruction piece, because they leave one of its main mythos characters a cliché unexamined.

I was happy to see a unique take on the character of Lex Luthor, until I realized that take
was more a throwback to the Golden Age Superman mad scientist.
The primary gap in the story of Batman V Superman is the motivations of Lex Luthor. In the theatrical release, Alexander Luthor Jr's plan to bring down Superman seems like a haphazard affair and his motivations are murky at best. In the Ultimate Edition, key scenes are added that make his plan not only more deviously and credibly designed to bring about Superman's downfall, but more clearly present early in the story and throughout.

Out of my armchair, I have to admit that only in the Ultimate Edition, and not the theatrical release, we do have a set of events deviously designed by Luthor in a way to discredit Batman and Superman in each other's eyes. Without the additional scenes detailing the burning of the bodies at the Nairomi terrorist camp, it makes little sense that Superman is blamed for all the deaths of the occupants at the hands of Lex's mercenaries. Without seeing Superman destroy the CIA drone sent to destroy the entire camp, we don't understand we the government is unsympathetic towards Superman and unwilling to exonerate him with classified data. Without the details revealing the character of Kahina Ziri as a bribed witness falsifying testimony, the deaths in the villages she reported actually happened as a result of Superman's actions. Without the scenes detailing more of Lex's bribes ensuring criminals branded with the bat-brand are killed in prison, we're left to wonder why it would happen, or if it was in fact what Batman actually wanted. Without the scenes detailing Lois' investigation of the Capital building bombing, we never learn that Superman couldn't see the lead-lined bomb inside the wheelchair. Without the scenes demonstrating Superman rescuing victims after the bombing, he merely runs away to Cliché Mountaintop for the movie's worst-conceived pseudo-dream sequence... functioning as an excuse to give Kevin Costner a cameo. Is this a dream we're watching? Is it a ghost? Is it Superman's conscience?

C'mere son. From up here, you can see all the useful story things that could have been done with this time.
Conversations with live characters, something heroic, even. Really makes you think.
The Ultimate Edition cut of the movie is over three hours long, with the full glorious detail of Lex Luthor's manipulations spelled out. In some cases, outlets recognized it as the definitive cut of the movie, and recognize that it rescues the intelligence, if not the depth, of the character of Lex Luthor. Ben Kendrick at Screenrant.com recognizes this in a review of the blu-ray cut:
The added footage isn’t going to alter the opinions of people who simply don’t like Eisenberg’s take on the villain but, where the theatrical cut often reduced Luthor to an unhinged weirdo, the Ultimate Edition makes it clear that he is a patient and ruthless puppeteer. Viewing the full breadth of his plan and the numerous ways he exploits the people and systems around him sets a much more intriguing precedent for the character’s role in the DCEU going forward than his appearance in Batman V Superman‘s theatrical cut might have originally suggested.
This extra detail, filling in a number of gratuitous gaps but leaving others intact, only addresses the how of Luthor's plan, making it believable. The why of Alexander Luthor Jr.'s motivations, however, remain unclear. Jesse Eisenberg has taken a great deal of criticism for his portrayal of the character, but an actor can only do so much with what he is given. And Lex is given almost exclusively pathos: his character's internal conflict is defined only by a few throwaway comments about his treatment at the hands of his unseen, apparently deceased, father. His mission and plan to remove Superman seems motivated, in turn, by a generalized resentment of authority and potential power over him, expressed awkwardly in allegorical conversation with Holly Hunter's character of Senator Finch regarding his father's office and a painting of angels and devils. It ends up being very hard for me to question Mr. Eisenburg's "mad scientist" interpretation of the character when Lex's motivation for taking on this improbable cause and course seems itself without logic or sanity.

After all, any sort of proclamation of concern he has made about destructive meta-humans loose in the world goes out the window as soon as he unleashes Doomsday.

The end result of this is that the character defies the deconstructive technique of the rest of the movie, and actually reverts to an earlier and more clichéd form of the character of Lex Luthor, that of the irrationally Superman-hating, two-dimensional mad scientist. In the 198os DC Comics' series Man of Steel, a reboot of the Superman character helmed by John Byrne, Lex Luthor was reimagined as a captain of industry, the head of LexCorp and a ruthless businessman with a shock of red hair. Superman: The Animated Series took a similar psychological treatment of the villain and removed the hair (that the comic counterpart would eventually lose as well). Eventually the comic reality would introduce Alexander Luthor, son of Lex, a thin young man with long red hair, very much a mad scientist of his own. Smallville would give us one of the most popular Lex's with Michael Rosenbaum's interpretation of a similar young Luthor, growing under the dark shadow of his father Lionel Luthor. Batman V Superman seems to give us an amalgam of the various interpretations, yet missing a vital, key ingredient: a real reason to hate Superman.
You had to read a Dr. Pepper promotional comic release to learn that one
of the buildings destroyed was his.

It's been suggested that more individual hero movies within the Superman universe, before this DC team-up, would have addressed this. This of course makes sense... but really a small change rather than a full movie is all that was needed. As mentioned, BvS successfully executes on the work setting out the details of the motivations and plans of another character who is also obsessed with Superman, and plotting to obtain Kryptonite to to kill him. A man who is also a driven businessman/genius who can't seem to get over past trauma: Bruce Wayne—the other orphan, the most effective villain of the piece. And so here is the moment where I can't help but shift into forbidden territory for a proper critic: armchair script doctoring. Because here we have a situation where we have a primary antagonist in the form of Lex Luthor, a billionaire industrialist with a secret criminal life, who is mirrored in a foil character in the form of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire industrialist with a secret criminal life. And without adding another movie in the continuity before BvS (because I would add one after), it would have been much easier to fill the gratuitous gap in Luthor's motivation with a further commitment to creating foils out of the characters of Wayne and Luthor:

Lex Luthor Sr. should have been killed offscreen in the Battle of Metropolis.

Offscreen death retains the necessary legendary bad guy death ambiguity.
How complete would that have made the ouroboros of this story? To have Luthor's motivations seem to be the same as Wayne's, even able to appeal to Wayne: a sense of justice in name (if eventually revealed to be revenge in nature), shared between the two of them? These foil characters have their fates drastically intertwined and intermingled, yet never have a face-to-face confrontation. Wayne ends up investigating Luthor, and attending one his dinner parties where they finally do trade a few minimal words, and that is really the extent of their direct interaction. Luthor successfully manipulates Wayne into arming with his smuggled Kryptonite and attacking Superman. I feel like a great deal of time spent showing Luthor manipulating events to bring that about could have been substituted with direct manipulation through dialogue, and a character relationship that would have had more meaning. If only Luthor had taken a moment to discuss Superman with Wayne privately at that party, instead of giving that awful speech.

It would be a relationship arc that would certainly go places. Because, in the end, Luthor would not be able to hide the fact that his resentment of Superman taking away his father would be different than Wayne's search for justice. Because Alexander wanted revenge in the first place on his father, to kill his father himself, and Superman robbed him of that... and thus becomes his new target of rage.

Another plus to this simple historic revision? Six weeks after the release of this movie, Marvel would release Captain America: Civil War, the plot of which would extensively rewrite the background of a major villain Baron Zemo to suit its plot, making his motivation revenge for the death of his family in Sokovia after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Warmly received by most fans, Civil War was forgiven for rewriting the character's origins because his motivations were fed by the movie reality that general audiences had seen in the cinematic story so far. Like The Dark Knight trilogy, the MCU largely hews to the movie-tradition creed of owning the whole of a character's arc. That's what makes the arc satisfying, to movie audiences, seeing its beginning and end. If BvS had tied the major villain character's motivation for revenge neatly into a previous movie like this, they might have gotten credit for getting the jump on Marvel in super hero movie innovation, for once.

No one lamented that this guy didn't show up, after all.
Luthor holding Superman responsible for taking his father from him would have provided something more concrete for Mr. Eisenburg to latch onto in his alarmist diatribes. It would have provided him with a more concrete talking point in his father's office when trying to convince Senator Finch of the dangers of Superman. Alexander Luthor Jr.'s inexplicable God/Devil power-based hatred of Superman is the most gratuitous gap in the story of all, because now that I've considered the plug for the gap, a logical built-in fix was standing right there (in anonymous spirit) in aforementioned "Daddy's office," wondering at his own absent backstory, and death story.

Furthermore the heavy concentration of DC Extended Universe scenes, setting up additional future characters and plot points for films to come, stand in awkwardly for scenes that might have filled these other gratuitous gaps. In the case of Lex Luthor's "Meta-Human Thesis," the universe-building work strikes a blow to the character's own in-story logic. When Lex is appealing to Senator Finch for an import license, he is trying to get his hands on Kryptonite. At this point in the DCEU, Kryptonians are the only super-powered beings discovered—more than one of them have arrived in a giant space weapon that attacked—and they should be the only threat Lex need mention to make a stronger case for weaponized Kryptonite. Why even bring up your clearly outlandish and dubious Thesis about all our myths yadda yadda, Lex? Universe-building.

Face it Lex, you lost this cringey debate by discussing anything other than Kryptonians.
Another critical character is present without believable motivation because of a gratuitous gap, that of Diana Prince as Wonder Woman, a mysterious victim of Luthor's "Meta-Human Thesis" surveillance. The character is a welcome breath of fresh air in the movie, even if she is the very definition of a non-sequitur: a character not even following the namesake conflict of the movie at all. Lambie of Den of Geek accurately predicts her effect:
Away from the testosterone-laden grudge match, it’s Gal Gadot’s brief appearance as Wonder Woman that really sticks out - not least because she glides through the movie with a dignified grace while everyone else’s veins are popping out of their necks. Most of the seeds for spin-offs and sequels land with a clang in Batman V Superman, but Diana Prince’s introduction doesn’t follow suit; it’s Wonder Woman, we suspect, that moviegoers will be talking about the most when they leave cinemas.
Her presence is a welcome tone-changer, but nonetheless poorly motivated. When Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince meet at the same fateful aforementioned dinner party, they are both interested in Lex Luthor's files, different digital files, for different reasons. Only Bruce's reason makes sense. His goal is to discover the file with the identity of the "White Portuguese" to lead him to the smuggled Kryptonite he knows Luthor is bringing into Metropolis.

Her goal is to recover a photo of her Luthor has stolen, which might reveal her identity and existence, which is not a thing you can do with a digital file ordinarily copied to a new location without deleting the original. She has specific knowledge of the photo, and the movie makes clear she can be recognized from it as well. So even if I yield the point and allow that she knows she cannot relieve Luthor of his copy of the file, and is instead seeking to find out what more he may know about her, is turning up in an eye-catching dress at his house for a dinner party the way to do it?

Wouldn't it have been better if the reason she was present, in the movie, was because of Superman? With the "Meta-Human Thesis" data as her motivator, she becomes involved and present due to Luthor's investigation. But if Luthor's focus shifts to Superman, then it makes sense to involve her in the plot if hers does too. Isn't she also interested in this visitor from another world who, although not be the first she's seen, is the first to announce himself to this new Man's World? She might have shown some interest in the battle that leveled Metropolis the previous year, had something to say about it, something that might have made Bruce consider a different viewpoint, however briefly.

It might have been a nice touch to have a scene Wonder Woman surveilling Superman, discovering who he is by quietly, surreptitiously watching... even aiding a rescue, without him knowing. She might have even traded some lines of dialogue with Superman, before the movie's climax, though I'm loathe sacrifice the best comedic moment in the film when they meet, and Superman asks Batman "Is she with you?"

"I thought she was with you." It's funny because she's not with either of them.
It would still flow better if she was there because of one of them.
Regardless, her "recover the file" motivation is a kind of hoary old intrigue-movie cliché, something in my opinion long overdue for updating, but still widely accepted. These conventions allow a script writer to quickly lean on a movie plot shorthand to get from point A to point B, but they irritate dedicated comic fans who have been pampered by having the most outlandish plot contradictions and shorthands retconned and backfilled with detail that is always exhaustive and often outlandish. Batman's revelation regarding the "White Portuguese" code name actually being the name of a boat is another perfect example of this. It's an old movie cliché, belonging to a time before the internet. It's an awkward doorstop to keep him from going after the Kryptonite until Superman can resent him in return, and then artificially accelerate the two characters to their first confrontation.

Artificial Acceleration

When viewing the Ultimate Edition, you get a fleshed out version of the long-term plan Lex Luthor set in motion to discredit Superman, and attempt to convince the head of the Congressional committee on Superman to let him import Kryptonite for weaponizing. At the same time he is acquiring the weapon, he is manipulating resentment and misunderstanding between the titular heroes, arranging for Superman's death at the hands of Batman. DC comic fans are more than familiar with the two characters coming to some sort of blows. Audiences whose primary experience is the previous WB super hero adaptations find the two characters fighting much harder to conceive, requiring a lot of explanation. Yet, to movie fans unfamiliar with either history, it's entirely up to this movie to justify the conflict with the character arcs as they have been portrayed here alone—something the movie actually accomplishes for its own cinematic versions of its titular characters. But, frankly, I'd surmise hardly any audience members for this movie are totally unfamiliar with previous incarnations of the characters.

It's at this point that high-brow movie interests and comic book interest collide, in that we are dealing with the versions of the characters as they are in the cinema reality: a new and inexperienced Superman unsure if and how to be a hero, and a grizzled and angered Batman with P.T.S.D. and way too many grudges and demons. These characters have decades of (oft-rebooted) relationship behind them in comics. Despite the scoffing of fans seemingly only familiar with previous DC cinematic incarnations, there's plenty of precedent, beyond Frank Miller, in Batman and Superman in open conflict in this storied history. The movie does such a slow, careful job (in the Ultimate Edition) of laying out the how and why of their conflict... even if it does amount to a lot of intentionally manipulated misunderstanding.
With highbrow Dark Knight influence and stomp-romp Marvel envy goals competing,
neither influence wins precedence over the resultant goal of the movie.
Yet as the movie proceeds in the second act and into the third, slow and careful establishment of how and why (for Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, if not Lex Luthor or Diana Prince) starts to speed up drastically. The execution of key moments of concern and conflict become rushed to make way for the introduction of the "Meta-Human Thesis," Wonder Woman, and Doomsday. The first half of the movie attempts to please cinema fans taken with the The Dark Knight Trilogy by weaving a believable, real-world drama from a fiendish plan, the second half drops inexplicable gods and monsters in to alternately threaten and save the day with seemingly no plan.

The second half of the movie begins to bust out big, time-honored DC action scenes and scenarios, in clear service to the comic book fans. But for many DC fans, these long-anticipated film enactments are too fast, too many, not given proper time to unfurl and be expressed faithfully. We knew it when we saw the second trailer, the one that spoiled Doomsday's reveal. I won't even go into the hubris of the marketing had to have to spoil what could have been the best thing about adding him to the movie: the surprise of his reveal. It seems they replaced the potential word-of-mouth of his presence with a record marketing spend. His premature reveal gave fans time to consider the Doomsday story arc, how much it involved including the arc of the Death of Superman, and how well it would fit in a story already aspiring to capture the story beats of The Dark Knight Returns.

The fight in the original The Dark Knight Returns was depicted as the culmination of
years of disagreement between the anarchic vigilante and the Boy Scout sellout.
This acceleration effect exacerbates as the third act proceeds. By the conclusion of the act and the frantic final fight with Doomsday (a scene that may have been the highlight of the film for movie-goers not steeped in DC lore) comic fans have seen whole story arcs: like the discovery by Superman of the existence of Kryptonite, the titular fight, the reconciliation, the rescue of Martha, the birth of Doomsday, the debut of Wonder Woman and her introduction to the other two, the nuking of Superman by the U.S. government (from the Frank Miller inspiration), the healing of said nuked Superman in the light of the sun, one more Lois rescue, the Death of Superman, and, as if in a final Coup de gras of excess, the first hints at the Return of Superman.

Zack Snyder's fantastic visual work in all these scenes gives DC fans amazing fight scenes, as well as brief and powerful compositions that evoke the comic book panels of the powerful character arcs as they become encapsulated as individual story beats in one apocalyptic Batman/Superman blowout. The wedging of so many arcs-as-beats in the movie's back end has ripple effects forward into the movie, hurrying the movie through or entirely past key concerns of DC fans in the fight between Batman and Superman that served, at first, as the core draw of this movie.

The script rushes through and past any sort of concern about the characters learning each other's secret identities. Clark Kent the reporter, very much concerned with the activities of the Batman, learns at the aforementioned dinner party that the Batman is, in fact, Bruce Wayne... and never says or does anything with the information. Bruce in this story, to be fair, is unaware of Superman's knowledge (and I give full props to Ben Affleck's impressed smirk when Superman refers to him by name when their fight scene starts), and doesn't seem to give a crap who Superman is IRL... but seems to recognize him mid-conversation. Later, it's revealed that Lex knew everyone's real identity, and the party scene itself become an almost farcical deconstruction of the usefulness of everyone's "day face," except, of course, for the incredibly eye-catching woman in the red dress.

I'm a fan of animated Batman. Animated Batman made sure to even the score.
In a way, Batman V Superman was never going to be able to escape some of these criticisms, in that its very plot is about accelerating the meeting between these two characters in conflict. But it is a built-in concerns of DC fans in seeing this material executed. However, it's one thing for me, as a non-objective DC fan, to wish for arcs that were never addressed. It's another when the speed with which these heroes attack each other with deadly force arrests all the movie's viewers. The artificial acceleration of their meeting, from a few terse words into deadly combat, is very jarring.

This is really a shame because, as I pointed out in my previous DCEU article, the timing and execution of the final execution scene of Zod in Man of Steel was so carefully laid out to justify Superman's violence. In Batman V. Superman, however, despite a great deal of lead up and justification as set up by Luthor's manipulations, the key timing of the first conflict between the titular characters is rushed. Superman's response to Batman's "greeting" is too aggressive, too fast, by just a few moments, or words of dialogue.

If Batman gets all up in Superman's face, and his suit is instead made of hockey pads,
is he going to shove Bruce's ribcage 300 yards behind him and then feel bad?
When Superman growls in frustration, "there's no time!" we don't believe him, and in fact the author's voice intrudes into the narrative through Superman's words at that moment. Armchiar scriptwriter insists another appropriate mechanism could have been in play, instead. Bruce could have shut down his ability to hear outside noise when he activated his sonic weapon, literally as well as figuratively blocking out what Supes has to say, only getting his audio back later when Superman ripped away part of his cowl. That's my device, to fix the problem, but in truth Superman has little to say in the movie overall, as pointed out in a Screencrush article by Charles Bramesco, summarizing a reddit post pointing out that Superman Only Has 43 Lines of Dialogue in Batman vs. Superman. Despite the accelerating factor of Luthor holding Martha Kent hostage with a time limit for her death, Superman doesn't spend enough time trying to talk to Bruce, to explain that he's aware that their resentment of each other has been manipulated. Apparently, there's no time.

Once the Kryptonite comes out all bets are off, and Superman—no doubt shocked as I was to be in a universe where Batman is the first character to use it on him—is fighting for his life, and I wouldn't change a thing. The Batman and Superman fight, once it's begun, is beautiful, luxurious, and as a DC fan I felt a palpable delight to have navigated the gappy rapids to the payoff I had been hoping for. It can be stated enough there where it really, really counted, Zack Snyder didn't let me down.

But as the fight came to its conclusion, I was beset with another moment that worked for me and was holding me deep in its grip, when Snorty Dude next to me clued me in to the fact it didn't work for everyone. I had responded so strongly to the plot elements establishing Bruce's P.T.S.D. And somehow, in all my years of DC fandom, I had never actively considered or brought to the front of my mind the fact that Batman and Superman's mothers had the same first name: Martha. When the utterance of the name was the break point in the conflict, even as I lamented how Lois ran up just then to essentially finish Superman's sentence for him, it worked for me. I watched Ben Affleck's performance transfixed, as Batman realized and broke out of his trance-like obsession and threw away his weapon, and I heard the snickers from the audience including Snorty Dude, who didn't have the same response.

I think it could have worked for most audiences, if it had not borne the weight of the entire reversal of Bruce's course of action on its own. Once again, just a bit more time or an alteration of the timing: Superman uses his words and explains that Lex has his mother hostage and has set this all up, before Bruce throws away the spear. Martha as the interrupt, but manipulation as the reason Batman won't follow thorough. Some further dialogue from Superman, just a little bit, detailing all the steps Lex had taken would have further cemented the Batman's change motion into his next course of action: saving Martha, one of the best sequences in the film.

If the primary criticism of this scene was the suddenness of the characters' change of heart,
the solution would have been more time invested in the scene.
In the theatrical cut, the fights survive beautifully, luxuriously intact, but all the moments of character decision and change are rushed. Before rescuing Martha, only in the Ultimate Edition do we get to see Batman redeemed with Alfred by apologizing and stating he doesn't deserve him, to which Alfred wholeheartedly agrees. After that regardless of edition comes Doomsday, Luthor's mad-scientist backup plan—in truth initiated before he's barely begun his primary one—involving reviving and mutating Zod's body into an ancient Kryptonian deformity. Luthor's increasingly irrational actions after being denied his import license for the Kryptonite are artificially accelerated to establish the later debut of Doomsday. And the acceleration of Doomsday is all about the acceleration of the introduction of proper Wonder Woman (since she hasn't been provided another reason to be there other than the lure of a good, necessary fight), and thus the uniting of the classic DC Trinity to face the threat Doomsday represents.

Why blow up Congress with a wheelchair made out of your unique special metal "implicatium," if you just smuggled in the Kryptonite anyway? Wouldn't it have made more sense if the bombing led to him not only receiving the import license from the Senator's treacherous lackey, once it makes sense that the surviving senators would happily grant him carte blanche  access to the spacecraft and Zod's body in fearful response... instead of surreptitiously, implausibly?

Why unleash Doomsday if you don't know yet if Batman has killed Superman? Why even start that part of the plan until you have monitored and realized it's time for the "hail mary?" Won't Doomsday just pretty much destroy everything? How is that winning, if your goal was to kill godlike things? Spawning Doomsday to kill Superman is such a personal act of vengeance. There's no reason for it until Lex has experienced defeat at the hands of Superman. Sure, he gets to gloat about Doomsday after Superman reveals he is not dead, apparently to Luthor's surprise. But if Luthor had not been surprised, Doomsday would have been born and just smashed Luthor, "mad scientist" enough to hang out in the downed Kryptonian ship long enough for Doomsday's chrysalis to mature (or influenced by a scene detailing his contacting another alien influence, present only in the Ultimate Edition).

The flowhcart lies: Lex gets access to the Kryptonian ship before the bombing. He then skedaddles
back to it to birth Doomsday with no idea how his Fight Night is going.
Wonder Woman stays focused on retrieving her file, with Bruce's help. And thanks to the "Meta-Human Thesis" we are treated to an awkward scene of her viewing an introductory movie file of all the future Justice League members, instead of showing any interest or interaction at all with Superman, who doesn't even seem to get his own file! Without an MPG of his own, Superman apparently doesn't draw Wonder Woman's interest or present a threat, and so we are treated to scenes of her heading out of town on the latest flight with complete disinterest in the fates of Batman and Superman—or even the growing disturbance at the Kryptonian ship—until Doomsday presents himself as a worthy opponent. Although the change of heart is consistent with the character of an immortal Amazon warrior who loves a good fight, the movie would undoubtedly told a better beginning-to-end story arc involving her character if the audience knew that she arrived at the story with goal in mind, evaluating and rejecting the threat of Superman.

The final fight with Doomsday is, as mentioned before, probably one of the comic arcs subject to the most artificial acceleration of all. It comes as the concluding conflict in a third act replete with combat, and so faces the issue of outstaying its welcome should it stretch on too long (particularly for general audiences). Simultaneously the sequence as conceived as the film's "capper" is doomed to short-shrift long-standing DC and Superman fans hoping one day for a cinematic treatment of the epic comic story arc.

Some fans took issue with the design of Doomsday, toning down the bone ridges and the hair from the comic design (which is something the character developed in the comic arc after mutating in response to plenty of combat). Some fans took issue with the origin of the character, a genetic deformity Luthor spawned using the genesis chamber on the Kryptonian wreck merging his own DNA with that of the corpse of General Zod. I didn't share either of these complaints, in fact I felt the appearance and introduction of the character was a great innovation, once again applying in-movie logic to weave believable, traceable beginning-to-end story arcs for its characters. I thought it was a strong enough of a premise to carry it's own movie, if Lex's "Doomsday option" had been launched later in Batman V Superman, as a desperate revenge play when knows he is beaten.

The unfortunate thing, for a DC comics fan, about Doomsday in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is that they altered the already imposing monster to show him appear to detonate in periodic energy blasts when attacked. If there is no clearer sign that the production team had some amount of self-awareness about the length and compactness of the final third of the film it is this revision to the character of Doomsday: transforming him into an actual bomb.

This straight-up prevented a telling of the comic battle, a long and brutal fight
where Superman gave his all with his final ounce of strength.
I won't tell you that I thought the Doomsday arc and the Death of Superman was a triumph in comic storytelling. But it stretched across hundreds of miles of real estate, involved and challenged nearly every member of the Justice League, and gave Superman dozens of opportunities to take it in the chin by rescuing both civilians and his teammates before the final battle, really proving himself as a hero to be mourned before his heroic death. That's what made it good to the readers. It had almost nothing at all to do with Doomsday, who appeared without origin as just some sort of unreasoning and marauding force, a match of strength for Superman along, and perhaps even more than a match for him. It was a story about Superman, and what he would do to protect people.

Rushing this arc, setting the battle in a lifeless area with no one to threaten or save, didn't give Superman the time to shine as a hero up against Doomsday the way the comic arc did. He smartly takes Doomsday into space, before artificial acceleration of nuclear proportions overtakes him. He returns to the fight briefly, in time to hear Lois trapped beneath the rubble and bail mid-fight on his allies to rescue her and accidentally retrieve the Kryptonite weapon. It comes across as haphazard, slipshod, rushed... and as a result Superman's final act of self-sacrifice has a lesser effect.

The movie's haste hurt the hero of Superman the most, without question.

The problem with the game of armchair scriptwriter is that once you begin to reach back into the fabric of a movie to unravel it, the further back you tinker the more you are rewriting and the less you are adjusting. I don't want to unmake Batman V Superman completely in this analysis, deconstructing the deconstruction so completely that I have a blank slate again. I'm not looking for that at all, and if I haven't made my point clear: I liked what I saw in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I liked it so much I wanted more of it. I wanted to see all the great and brave in efforts this movie—thoughtful examinations and real-world implications that Marvel Studios has never even attempted—given their proper due. And since no one anywhere can stand the idea of a four hour super-hero movie epic, that means two movies...

A better DCEU 2016 from an alternate universe.
...which is too massive an undertaking to write up for you, right here in this article. What would stay? What would go, and wait until the next film? At the risk of once again giving my impromptu fanfic the euphemism of "armchair screenwriting," I am more than aware that throwing out alternate plot ideas is merely the very kernel of a creative process where execution is key. So rather than weaving a full alternate narrative, let me sketch a quick macramé of what else might have worked if added to what was already done, to fill out the first movie while pushing the Doomsday arc into the proposed second:
  • Lex Luthor's youthful character seems to have intentionally merged comic book inspirations with youthful tech-company bravado, invoking some of Eisenburg's celebrated performance as Mark Zuckerburg, founder and CEO of Facebook, in The Social Network. If young Luthor had developed skills beyond criminal manipulation, say computer programming and hacking skills developed during a tortured youth spent isolated in his bedroom, it would have dovetailed nicely into his "hacking" the Kryptonian ship, plus....
  • At the dinner party, Lex hacks Bruce when Bruce hacks Lex, planting an invasive virus on Bruce's surveillance device—his whole motivation behind inviting Bruce to the party (besides playing him off Clark for laughs). He gains backdoor access to the Batcave, the Batmobile, the Batwing, the Armored Batsuit...
Maybe if Luthor were more "Zuckerberg-like," people wouldn't have freaked out
that he made little logos for the Meta-Humans. They're cover images!
  • After "Martha" and the additional dialogue I propose clarifying the revelation that Lex has manipulated the conflict, after Bruce's change-motion, Lex's voice cuts in filtered through Batman's vocal modulator, but still distinctly his. He announces that he doesn't know how to lose, so he won't let Bruce lose, and won't let Bruce fail humanity. He takes control of the armored Batsuit and retrieves the Kryptonite weapon. Clark desperately struggles to recover and escape from the Kryptonite, and fight the (upgraded) Batmobile and the Batwing added to the battle, and fight off Bruce in the suit without hurting him. Bruce struggles and screams directions to Alfred, his weapons alive with a life of their own, betraying him. Alfred struggles with the computer in the Batcave, desperately fighting to isolate the control from Luthor...
  • At this point, you could go one of two ways. If your slant is to faithfulness to The Dark Knight Returns inspiration, you make the Batsuit depend on Bruce's vital signs. The fight in Frank Miller's original ends when Batman fakes his own death, to take the government off his trail. To evoke this, you have Bruce tell Superman that if his vitals go into critical, the suit goes into a protective mode and tries to resuscitate him. Bruce apologizes, and tells Superman that in order for them to save Martha, he has to kill him. Clark punches the suit in the heart (invoking the Knightmare vision), and, like the Frank Miller inspiration, we see the heartbeat line on Alfred's monitor as Bruce dies. Alfred freaks out and responds by killing the power to the entire batcave. As the suits defibrilator revives Bruces, the lights come back on around Alfred standing near the power switch, staring at the Batcomputer screen loading up and reporting "Malicious Code Isolated." Proceed with the rescue of Martha and the power surges at the Kryptonian ship...
  • ...if you couldn't imagine this movie with Wonder Woman's first appearance completely postponed into the next movie, you have her arrive to prevent a killing blow from Luthor-controlled Batman to Superman, in physical force representing the female intervention the way Lois did previously with words. But the uniting of the classic DC trinity really does call for a stepped up menace. Why, however, reinvent the wheel by dealing out a whole new origin story, a whole new protagonist? After all, if you're busting out tech-savvy mad scientist Lex Luthor... Batman's not the only formidable DC character with no powers other than his intellect and his propensity for powerful battle armor and weapons. Lex could arrive to fight, powered by his own armor, and his own Kryptonite. Doomsday could be a big red button for his "Doomsday Contingency" should he fail...
Any self-respecting Lex Luthor would have kept a chunk of that rock for backup as soon as he had it.
Bruce would have no way to know he hadn't nabbed the whole sample.
  • To push Doomsday into the next movie, an honest-to-god-Superman movie that might even let him have his usual active role in helping to form the Justice League, you have the chrysalis of Doomsday sink into the crust of the Earth after creation. The crash sites erupts with seismic activity, his dedicated statue in "Heroe's Park" swallowed up by the Earth, and our Big Blue hero is tasked nothing more than saving people at super-speed, perhaps debuting his freeze breath in stopping a flow of lava. Lex, never so careless as to be physically present but rather controlling the process through a remote hack, sets the Kryptonian ship to overload and detonate. Superman flies it into space, where it explodes invoking the scene of his nuking the The Dark Knight Returns.
  • Superman Doomsday: Dawn of Justice contains several scenes of Superman saving people in full scenes complete with dialogue, giving people plenty of reasons to mourn him when he dies fighting Doomsday. It also provides a clear and present threat to give Batman a reason to scare up the other members of the Justice League as opposed to "just a feeling."
It's fanfic, you don't have to tell me, we're at fanfic alert level MAUVE. I've unraveled the tapestry in trying to weave something of my own. And what I have here can be poked full of holes with little effort, I know it. But again, I have only been drawn to this process because I wanted more of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I wanted all the arcs and character beats it called upon to have room to breathe, instead of being delivered in its current rushed and hasty form. I have a lot of respect for scriptwriters, it's not an easy task. I'm sure the ones who worked on the movie we got could have done quite a bit more with the initial concept stage allowing for the creation of two movies, certainly giving us something better than what I have here... but also better than the movie we got.

Hindsight is Always X-Ray Vision

Writing this was hard. I didn't hate Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I liked it. I knew, objectively, that it wasn't as good as a movie—as successful at what it set out to do—as Captain America: Civil War when I saw the "twin movie" later in the summer. Marvel's offering was just as long but way breezier, was just as epic in a more established and grandiose universe, was just as (at times implausibly) intricate but more grounded in character.

But I've been thinking about Batman V Superman, with it shades of grey, it's aspirations to high-minded visual allegory, and it's effort to evoke the real-world implications of its narrative long after Civil War faded into memory as an enjoyable spectacle full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I can't really take the latter's moral debate seriously when the oversight of General Ross in conveying the "new rules" wants to blame Steve Rogers for the wreck of their own recent murder-heli-carrier fleet... or the collateral damage in fighting off an alien invasion to which they themselves had responded with a nuke aimed straight at Manhattan. The anti-superhero sentiment settles any ambiguity later in Civil War by disappearing heroes into a submerged Stygian super-prison. The right-and-wrong in the tale is about as black-and-white as it gets.

For those who didn't like the shades of grey in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, it appears these audiences can look forward to getting what they want. Vanity Fair did a write-up in June 2016 after a press visit to the set of the upcoming Justice League, indicating the studio was once again seeming to adjust it's direction in response to its harshest critics:
But what about the DC comics fans who liked Batman v Superman (they exist!) and don’t want to see the franchise become more like the sunnier world of Marvel? Well, they might not enjoy what comes next. [Producer] Deborah Snyder told Buchanan that “every film is a learning experience.” Asked for her takeaways from Batman v Superman, Snyder replied, “The main thing we learned, I think: people don’t like to see their heroes deconstructed.” Snyder went as far as to promise Justice League would be a “totally different movie.”
It's not easy to blame strategic studio decisions for less-than-optimum outcomes of movies upon which a lot of fans' hopes and even identities seemingly depend. It appears to be a lot easier (based on the internet's response) to blame the director, the top-named individual at the head of the credits, regardless of whether or not the key decisions that formed the outcome originated with them. Zack Snyder has always had a controversial relationship with comic book fans, crafting distinctive and bold films from comic source material in both 300 and Watchmen, that despite solid earnings nonetheless drew criticism from some circles.

For some fans, this previous reaction to his works became a self-fulfilling philosophy of disappointment, and certain circles of the internet erupted in denigration well before the movie's release as lamented in an early March 2016 post on moviepilot.com by Steven Belknap called Why the Hate: Zack Snyder. Hating on the director seems to have become a pastime for fans especially susceptible to the polarizing effects of this new, digital ability to band together in binary, extreme reaction.

Forgoing scriptwriters, producers, studio executives, stockholders...
irate fans on the internet had found their favorite scapegoat.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice drew significant box office revenues, earning $40 million more in U.S. box office than Man of Steel, and just $30 million less than Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy... but just over half of what was pulled in by The Avengers. Pundits with the movie's performance in their crosshairs have quoted the marketing spend on the film a bit disingenuously... ignoring the fact that part of the spend is an investment in a series of future movies as well. Yet arguably WB can't escape the fact that the film made almost $80 million less than its "twin film," Captain America: Civil War, on less marketing.

In the epic battle of this long-term studio war (that will no doubt itself be adapted to its own epic insider film one day), Marvel/Disney had won. Later that same year, Suicide Squad would release to a reception similarly marked by critical derision and heated debate. Still later, Disney would release Doctor Strange to critical reception that was positive but muted, revealing the Marvel film that might best have been challenged by a WB/DC release that year.

As it is, critical reception of a movie and its story beats cannot erase the story beats themselves, and if it was more crucial to Warner Bros. that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice establish the "Meta-Human Thesis" and introduce the various Justice League hero concepts (if not characters), then the movie certainly did... include those story beats. To many DC fans, seeing these arcs brought to life for the first time ever is enough. These are certainly the viewpoints for which the critics have the least amount of sympathy or understanding, and rightfully so, according to their purpose.

I find no merit in the various internet conspiracy theories that paint movie critics as having a pro-Marvel bias for any reason other than accumulated good will. I find it more likely that WB execs may have been so focused on the long-term DCEU goals that their rumored ovation at the initial screening of Batman V Superman stands as genuine to this day despite the critical response. The Washington Post perhaps best captured this perspective in Batman v Superman: The fanboy deep-dive into dreams, parademons, King Kirby — and that ending! care of David Betancourt:
Look, I really enjoyed “B v S,” but two things stuck out to me. One, I knew it wasn’t made for a “general audience.” The minute the last credit rolled, I said to myself: “Ugh. Oh, lots of folks aren’t going to get this.” But I really think you’re onto something with this “new frontier” of movie creativity. This hasn’t been done before. 
The second thing that stuck out to me was that this movie is overwhelmed by the feeling that they are looking so far ahead. They had so much to set up, and it makes the movie suffer a little bit. I still enjoyed it, but it almost feels like “B v S” was a visually stunning sacrificial lamb [emphasis added] to get us as quickly as possible to the rest of the DCU on film.
Did it feel a little rushed with all that they tried to stuff in here? Yes. But I really think the prize WB and DC have their eyes on is multi-connected cinematic success. And if “B v S” is the polarizing bridge to a healthy helping of many successful superhero franchises, then so be it.
Warner Bros. have continued to place their faith in the directing talent of Zack Snyder for the upcoming Justice League adaptation, and this more than anything speak to his and the studio's alignment in their goals. If anything, I would speculate Mr. Snyder has done nothing but win more favor at Warner Bros. management, hampering his stated career goal of adapting The Dark Knight Returns and letting his film "take one for the team" of the accelerated Justice League. As the DC Extended Universe marches forward, shortly after publication of this article, we will finally have the release of the first individual hero movie since 2013's Man of Steel, and I among many others are eager to see how they will handle a proper movie adaptation of Wonder Woman.

It's about time she had a proper movie adaptation. She'll be the first major female hero to get one.
The critics were right that Wonder Woman became the bright spot of Batman V Superman, but I hope I have also shown that her introduction helped compress and muddle a movie that might have been better with her introduction postponed until the next one, shortly thereafter. Would my proposed Batman Vs Superman: Knightmare movie have been a dour, grim spectacle without her presence, yet faithful in spirit to the Miller original (in the one opportunity it seems we'll get)? Would that one-more-Superman movie I propose, Superman Doomsday: Dawn of Justice, have proved a better way to introduce the Justice League members in giving Superman along with Batman his traditional comic role in helping to organize the League, and the grueling gauntlet that won everyone to his side before his comic book death?

Encouragingly, my very same comic-book-fan-concerns have been expressed by Zack Snyder himself, quoted in an article on movieweb.com from an original interview with USA Today: Zack Snyder Teases Superman's Return in Justice League:
[Wonder Woman will] flesh out and realize (her island home) Themyscira and embrace canon with her and get all the elements to mash up that I love from the original stories. But also we'll see that dovetail into not only the why of BvS, but even now the why of Justice League and who she is finally realized. We know now where she comes from... 
It's hard to have a Justice League without Superman. That's how I feel about it. It was always a super-intriguing concept to me to have this opportunity to have him make that sacrifice but also have him be this, in a weird sort of way, the why of Justice League: What do you do now with him? What does the team think? What does the world need? All that comes into play. It's fun for us but it'll be interesting for audiences what we do with him.
I hope my perception of the Wonder Woman's introduction will be deepened and evolved by the story it presents, even ruling out my suggested revisions with a storyline that crowds it out for something better. Later this year I will happily turn out for Justice League, and I will hope again to have my alternate hopes for how the foundations could have been laid rendered obsolete and replaced with something more clever, more real.

Seeing the upcoming DC team-up realized will be enough for some fans. For critics and
other fans, the scrutiny on the upcoming film will be HUGE.
That's my favorite thing to have a movie do to me: take how I imagined it all turning out realized, and do it at least one better. I liked Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, even as I have to admit the final result was not a great movie. It was like the radio edit of a great movie, a DJ-mashed mix-tape of Batman and Superman's greatest hits, featuring Doomsday and the Trinity. While General Audiences continue to rack up views on the "singles" of the action scenes on YouTube, and dilettantes extoll the virtues of the Ultimate Edition of the album, I hope to someday get confirmation of my true-fan purist suspicion that there is a "lost album" somewhere in there that was killed before it was born.

I hope the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League will both be free of the burden of multiple purposes, and provide me with the more satisfying (and less binary) experience of both enjoying the movie, and having the "conversation at large" recognize it merits.

As long as they don't spoil it in the trailer!!!

Addendum: Suddenly, Actual Real Life


As I was finishing this article, the news broke that Zack Snyder would be stepping away from the final stages of post-production of Justice League to deal with a horrible family tragedy: the loss of his daughter. The Avengers director Joss Whedon will be stepping in to film final additional scenes and help complete the film. Long kept private, the Snyder family decided to release this painful information publicly to prevent the negative PR of his departure from affecting the film.

I hope this will erase a bit of the binary divide and acrimony towards the man and I hope the effect will endure, and remind us all to measure our expressions of criticism against the yardstick of decency. As fans of these modern myths and their oft-tellings, we may have disagreements on how the stories should be told. In the future, I hope it won't take such a tragedy to remind us that the storyteller deserves not only respect for the bravery to take the stage, but the same basic human respect you would give your neighbor. I can't imagine this loss. My heart goes out to the Snyders and all affected.

No comments:

Post a Comment