Saturday, April 2, 2016

Do All the DC Comics Movies Suck Now?

Alright, I said I wasn't going to review Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice...but then I got over 30 messages either asking me why I'm not or demanding that I do it. Really? I can only assume that it's either because some of you want me to shit on the movie while the others want me to defend it. You want me to argue either for or against it, to become another voice in this ever more vocal argument about superhero movies, especially in regards to the DC Comics properties.

"I'm gonna need you to take a step back and calm down. You're stepping on my balls here."

I stand by what I said: I don't want to review the movie. I'm sorry, I just don't. I don't fall far enough on either side to give you the review that any of you are looking for. But I will talk about the real issue here that gets brought up constantly when people talk about this movie. I will talk about the DC Comics cinematic universe being built and the movies we've seen so far and seen bits of via pictures and previews. Spoilers ahead, folks, so tread carefully. So, to start off, the DC films suffer a massive amount of backlash for a few major reasons. First being the tone, which is generally seen as being quite dark as opposed to the more popular Marvel Studios films, which do have dark bits but still feel lighter. Why? Is it because people are tired of dark movies? Well, clearly not. Just because a movie has a lighter tone doesn't mean it's going to appeal to more people. There have been some really terrible films with lighter tones in recent times and there are certainly going to be some more on the way.

"Wait, is he talking about us? Because I feel like he's talking about us."
Tone isn't the problem, it's an excuse. What is the problem? Expectations, maybe. Or rather, a desire for something different than what is actually being done. You see, as i mentioned in my Man of Steel review, people have an image in their heads of what certain characters are supposed to be. Whether in comics, cartoons, games, or movies, they want that mental image to match what they're looking at. When it doesn't, they either adapt and try to look at it without bias or they let that bias take over. It could be claimed that I let my bias for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles influence my review, but that would be false. That movie was bad, regardless of what it was called. Bad acting, bad writing, characters devoid of unique personality, and too much reliance on Megan fucking Fox. You don't depend on an actress more wooden than Groot to carry your movie's already thin plot.

I tried to contact her but she was busy getting a trim.
The point is, some people didn't want Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, or a more true to the John Byrne version of Superman. They wanted Christopher Reeve, Richard Donner, and a Superman who smiled in relief after killing his enemies. Yeah, back again to remind you that in Superman II, General Zod and his cronies die. Deleted scenes do not count. The original film, as seen and loved in theaters, the one that many people grew up on, features them all falling down holes and never returning. Dead, dead, dead. And, again, Superman himself is not killing people in Man of Steel. he's an untrained superhero who was taught his entire life not to use his powers, meaning he had very little control of them and no clear gauge on what he could do and couldn't do. The expectation was to have Superman who magically knows everything he can do but that doesn't make sense. Yes, superhero movies, no matter how fantastic they get, still need to make sense. Cause and effect still need to be in play. We don't blame people who try to stop terrorists from blowing when they get blown up trying to stop it, but we blame Superman for alien militants breaking lots of shit while he tried to stop them.

"But...but...justice?"
Now, before everyone who loved MOS and BvS starts thanking me for my defense, hold your horses. I already talked a lot of MOS, so I'm not going to go over its issues again, because it did have some. But I will talk about BvS and what it did really wrong...and what it did right too. That's related directly to my second point, in fact. Going into something with your mind already made up. You can try not to, but most people really do fall into this trap. It's hard, especially as a critic who is used to seeing recycled concepts trotted out like they're hot shit. But for BvS, it was even harder. That title itself leads you to have an expectation, colouring your opinion in some way. I know it did for me because I kind of dreaded this movie. I hate superheroes fighting each other. It's such an old comic cliche and it's a constant source of argument among fans. Who could beat who? Why? Well, you're stupid and I hope you die! It really brings out the "best" in fans, truly.

A dramatic recreation of an average group of fans reacting to an older fan with opinions.
But that's the thing, the movie's title is kind of a lie. Oh, they fight. It lasts for maybe...8 or 9 minutes max? Hell, it felt shorter than that, really. No, the big reveal of what this story actually is something that almost no one talked about or mentioned leading up to it...and I saw it coming. The movie is actually a loose adaptation of The Death of Superman story arc. For you non-comic fans, back in the 90s DC Comics shocked everyone by killing off Superman as he battled a new monstrous enemy, Doomsday. He beat the big bad but he died in the act, leaving an entire world to mourn. It was actually a great story and served as a reminder of what the man was willing to sacrifice to protect people. The biggest thing missing from the film in regards to the story is the existing Justice League. See, at that time the League was made up of characters who aren't mainstream icons like the Holy Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. It was composed of Guy Gardner (former Green Lantern), Maxima (alien princess), Bloodwynd (mystical guy who is empowered by dead slaves), Booster Gold (guy from the future with future tech), Blue Beetle (he's like Batman but with a sense of humour), Fire, and Ice (self explanatory names). They took on Doomsday first...and almost all died.

Not a great time for the team.
In the movie he's got the other biggest two heroes in the DCU backing him up as he takes on the threat, but it was so much worse and more devastating in the comics. There was far more death and destruction in the books than was present in the film. in the aftermath, we got to see how the world grieved for Superman and it was all pretty good stuff. It was compelling, interesting, and thought provoking. In the movie, while it is powerful seeing him sacrifice himself, it also feels like a very depressing end after the entire movie was spent with people treating him like the worst peice of shit imaginable. He was blamed for what his people did, what he didn't do, and for Bruce Wayne's employees being too stupid to evacuate the building when a giant alien death machine landed in Metropolis.

"My employees not evacuating during an alien invasion is totes all that guy's fault. they guy getting beaten up by that other guy in black."
That's actually one of my major problems with the movie: Batman's frankly paper-thin reasoning behind hating Superman. Again, Clark didn't invite the aliens to invade. He literally stopped a machine from tearing apart the entire planet and killing everyone. And he did that on the other side of the world, while military and scientists worked to stop them over Metropolis. Notice how the military isn't getting blamed? Weird, huh? But yeah, even though Superman wasn't even there except to show up and get beat up on by Zod until Zod forced him to kill him (i.e. "suicide by cop"), which is something a lot of witnesses and footage recovered of the entire thing should be able to show off. But the problem is that, for too much of the movie Batman is not treated like a detective with a rational calculating mind. No, he's treated like a xenophobic paranoid conspiracy theorist with rage issues. In other words, he's the Frank Miller Batman. Yikes. Now, Affleck didn't do a bad job, he really didn't. He gets to play a great Batman...at the end of the movie.

He also gets to play Mad Max Batman. Either that or Fallout 5 is looking amazing.
Yeah, the movie really does suffer a lot from the xenophobia thing. I get it, it's meant to reflect how Americans are so paranoid about terrorism and stuff, but it's so damn heavy-handed that I just kept rolling my eyes. Basically, this movie is "Superman Gets Bullied By Literally Everyone: The Movie" and I'm not really happy about that. Sure, it's all a big Lex Luthor plot to take out the heroes because he's being controlled by Darkseid or Desaad or someone, but it just makes Americans in general look like idiots and assholes. I don't want that in my superhero movie, dammit.

There's enough of that in real life.
The final act of the film plays out very well and it serves as good build-up. The final major problem is that the movie seems to depend on a lot of suspension of disbelief and the audience already knowing something about comics. That giant omega symbol in the post-apocalyptic future vision? Yeah, that's clearly them building towards Justice League where Darkseid is rumoured to be the big bad. He's one of a group of beings called the New Gods and they are essentially just that. They're gods. He rules over a planet full pain and despair called Apokolips and has a long history of fucking with Earth. He's also controlled Superman before, which makes that whole evil Superman in the vision make a lot more sense. Those flying things? Parademons, his basic soldiers/cannon fodder. It's all fairly easy to recognize if you're a fan, but it's daunting for newbies. Not only that, they toss silly things at us and expect us not to be bothered when we think about it. Like how Lex Luthor Jr. had symbols for each of the future superheroes done up even when they don't actually have costumed identities yet. That was a head scratcher. Kind of like he was.

"I'm totally Lex Luthor. Honest. Be afraid."
It's an easy target, I will admit, but here's the thing: I think I get sorta what they were doing. It's two-fold thing. They wanted to throw a Heath Ledger Joker type character in here, in that he's a radical departure from the normal depiction from a really great actor. But the other thing is mostly just a theory on my part, so hear me out. Remember the Death of Superman story? Yeah, well Lex Luthor was dead at the time...kind of. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, he'd cloned himself a younger body and his mind was put in that body. He claimed to be his own son, Lex Luthor Jr., and tried playing at being a philanthropist and great boon to humanity. He even dated Supergirl. Now, I don't know if that's where this is going...but I won't be surprised if it is. I mean, clearly Supergirl isn't present, but other stuff does line up. Almost.

He was a teensy bit beefier in the comics. Also beardier.
My final point regarding our topic though is this: does this movie mean the movies after it will be the same or worse? That's an easy answer too. No. Really, the idea that MOS and BvS should give you an accurate idea of what all of the films will be like is downright dumb. MOS, while dark in parts, is still the story of a man overcoming the odds and saving the day. BvS is mostly a very dark film where paranoia runs rampant and the central message is a bout sacrifice. Thomas Wayne's sacrifice to save Bruce and Martha, Jon Kent's stupid tornado sacrifice to protect Clark, Clark's sacrifice to save everyone from a monster created by a madman, and Bruce sacrificing his paranoia to let others in when he sees how he's been acting. Oh, and it's about Wonder Woman literally stealing the movie. Because yeah, she was bloody cool as hell.

"But her arms were so thin! Waaaaahhhhhhhh!"
Gal Godot doesn't get a major focus in the film, but she does fine in her limited screen time. And, seeing she's a former soldier, I have no issue with her physique nor do I think it's all right o body shame her for being thin. Wonder Woman has been depicted as being thinner, shorter, taller, bulkier, and thicker by various artist over the years. My personal vision as fan of her was always the George Perez version, which she pulls off body-wise. Now, this movie wasn't perfect. It's honestly not as good as MOS was and I think dropping the "v" from the title could've helped a lot. Building up a fight that honestly doesn't last long is not a great idea. But this movie isn't the worst superhero film to ever come out and it is not a sign that all DC films will be awful. Not all Marvel Studios films are the same and not even all the Fox superhero films are the same. judging an entire line-up of films prematurely is short-sighted and only limits you. Am I dread TMNT: Out of the Shadows? Yes. But I want it to be good. I want it to prove me wrong just like I wanted Fant4stic to prove me wrong. Going into a movie hating it or with the idea that it's going to be something you don't like is a bad way to handle things.

That still doesn't mean Michael Bay gets a pass though. Fuck that guy.
To answer the titular question, no, not all DC Comics movies suck now. There are only two of these movies out and that's not enough to even begin making a judgement on the entire line of them. Judging them now is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction that helps no one. BvS wasn't perfect but, in the end, I still enjoyed it as a moviegoer. If it had less of the problems I mentioned I would've probably enjoyed it more, but it is what it is. I will not sit here and call it the worst movie or add insults upon it to be stacked on what my fellow critics have already tossed into the pile. It's just not a bad enough movie to tear down that badly, honestly. That's my final word regarding it. You can call this whole thing a review despite me calling it a rant, but either way we're done here. You got my take on it, so now I'm gonna go relax and maybe I'll reread The Death of Superman later. Just remember, everyone gets to have an opinion and there is no such thing as a wrong opinion. Later days, bleeders.

I'll probably also be sobbing because I'll never get to see this fight on film.

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