Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice broke me. I attempt to do the same back.
Batman v Superman really, really wants you to know that it has something to say; the problem is that it has almost nothing to say. When attending a film whose title is perforated by a ‘v’ for ‘versus’, you expect it’ll be a movie concerned with gargantuan opposition, and possibly even the reconciliation of the forces causing it. Much of Lex Luthor’s dialogue comes in the form of spouting ‘day versus knight’ catchphrases, moments not only included in the trailer, but littered throughout the film to further sell the epic, warring duality swirling at the semantic centre of this superhero movie.
It’s soon enormously obvious, however, that at the core of Batman v Superman, is a big fat nothing.
Seeing the many, many posters of the world’s best-known superheroes face-to-face pasted in every nook and crevice of the Western world, we’re sold an epic worthy of the audience picking sides. But there are no sides, not really – and it’s all down to confused, and sometimes downright lack of, ideologies. Essentially, this is what a film is truly about – in the same way that Batman Begins, at its core, is about fear and overcoming that fear (you’ll hear me bring up Nolan’s trilogy many times in this series, so buckle in).
Frustratingly, there is such a clear line of a possible exploration in theme that BvS never bothers to grapple with. It’s all there in the character’s (poorly defined) actions: Superman saves people, and tries desperately to not kill – and as much as you and I hate Man of Steel‘s massive collateral damage, he doesn’t mean to cause those deaths. On the other hand, Batman saves people, but doesn’t care if he kills; in fact, killing is his MO. You could boil Batman and Superman’s opposing ideologies down to two absolutes: Choosing to Kill, versus Choosing Not to Kill. You know, a topic still being grappled by all of us supposedly conscious beings? Imagine the profundity behind such a battle of ideas; there would be meaning behind every punch, throw, kick, and eye-laser-beam in this movie. Not only the action, but the character’s actions, would have immediate weight. What a duality that would be, eh?
But no. There’s nothing; confused speechifying blurts all over the place from many angles, but at the centre is a void. There’s no attempt at earning that ‘versus’ in the film’s title. I believe the very fact that the Bat of Gotham and the Son of Krypton spend so little time actually fighting is because the movie doesn’t know what the hell it’s about; it reminds me of a small rock being zapped by a thunderbolt and suddenly becoming self-aware, but not knowing what the hell is going on. Another telling aspect is that the title ‘Batman v Superman’, despite its clunkiness, has the potential to be decent: it denotes a proper monster-movie level clash, like Godzilla vs King Kong or some such. On that scale, it would also mean a clash of those ideologies that the two superheroes hold, and raise the stakes of their physical fighting tenfold.
If that were the case, however, you’d fully expect the title card to appear in the cut-to-black that immediately follows Wayne looking furiously skyward, as the Man of Steel wreaks havoc on Metropolis and his employees during the opening sequence; the towering words ‘BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE’ appearing at that moment would absolutely solidify the crux of the story we are about to witness, and what type of film we’re getting for the next two-plus hours. However, the title is sneaked in even earlier, during the sequence where young Bruce’s parents are about to meet their ill end, in the bottom-right of the screen with zero fanfare. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, despite its blandness on paper, is a movie title that at the very least demands to be announced with a loudness and confidence that rivals the eruption of Krakatoa. But we get squat. Was it an oversight on the filmmaker’s part? Or did they feel that the title, after all, actually would mislead us? Because the film doesn’t really have any substance when it comes to what it’s actually about beneath surface level?
Unless Batman v Superman‘s subtext is about the condescending way in which Hollywood sometimes treats its audiences like idiots, then I’m fresh out of ideas.
Keep your eyes peeled on Flickreel for the next instalment of Everything Wrong With Batman v Superman. Man, I hate this movie.