Now first things first, I have not seen Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, I have not sampled leaked footage or read review containing spoilers and I fully intend on seeing this movie in the near, if not immediate, future. I have, however, read several highly critical reviews of the new DC epic and have been astounded at how poorly it has been received. Now, critics are not normally fans of superhero movies, they do tend to water down the art of cinema to quite a rudimentary sense of brutish satisfaction and idealistic notions of right and wrong, but this has been quite startling. It is, in fact, best summed up by the shameful 30% critics rating it has received on the Rotten Tomatoes website, a very much go-to site to know a bit more about a movie and seek reviews from many experienced critics, both professional and moviegoers alike. My opinion of the movie, and even the movie content itself, aside; I had/have many concerns with the proposed DC Extended Universe from the word go and I just want to discuss some of them because I, as a DC fanboy all be it who loves Marvel too, desperately want the franchise to succeed and see some of my favourite characters realise their potential on the big screen…and stumble upon a glimmer of hope, whether it comes in the form of an S symbol or otherwise.
My first concern regards the chronology of the movie DC/Warner have pencilled in, starting with Dawn of Justice through to the ‘Green Lantern: Corps’ in 2020. My problem here is that they have tied their hands in regards to developing the characters and undermining their own franchise. This is due to the placement of the two parts to the Justice League movie, in amongst the stand-alone movies each individual character is scheduled to appear in. Never mind the fact the the ‘Cyborg’ and ‘Green Lantern Corps’ movies are set for release after Part 2 of Justice League, which is just baffling but presumably points to a future strategy for the DC Extended Universe the more profound issue is that after Dawn of Justice we are scheduled to receive a Wonder Woman picture in 2017 and then we go straight into the first Justice League Part 1. Now apparently, many members of the JL make an appearance in Dawn of Justice but surely they have no backstory at this point, unless the story is an even bigger mess than I thought, and we are either going to be stuck with a team of superheroes who nobody either knows or knows how they got there; or we are going to be spending another movie trying to establish these characters in a convoluted script, just before they go into battle…or there really will be nothing happening in this movie i.e. no big bad and its just about a recruitment drive or setting the scene and this will be a waste of time. I would like to think it won’t be a waste of time but in between the two parts of the Justice League, there are the Flash and Aquaman features which are both asserted to not be origin stories. This is important for several reasons, firstly it means that if their origin is going to be explained it will have to be done earlier, therefore in Justice League Part 1, and secondly that if these two big names just go running off in between this cataclysmic event that no singular superhero can withstand, hence the need for the Justice League, then it really cannot be that big an issue or not a lot is going wrong at this point. This chronology means that there are going to be inherent issues in developing the characters and calls into question the nature of a potential limitations of the content of future movies, an unwanted position DC/Warner would find themselves in.
My second query largely regards the movies themselves such as the future ‘Green Lantern Corps’. Initially this title suggests that there will not be just a single green lantern in the DC Extended Universe, which I am honestly not a fan of, I never really liked the idea of Earth having more than one Green Lantern at any one time as my liking of the premise of the character, or the Corps itself, is the original question of; are humans worthy to be responsible on a universal level? I enjoyed the fulfilment of that being proven so but to then have so many at once pushes that fulfilment too far and diminishes it as an achievement which I think is a hallmark of the character. This could however, be a set up for future Green Lantern movies, as it is notable that Hal Jordan does become a super-villain and to introduce more than one Green Lantern could allow for DC to set up one to take out the other…which would be cool but the point still stands. With this in mind there are also rumours circling that John Stewart could be the Justice League’s Green Lantern member, which would be absolutely brilliant, I am a huge fan, however, rumours are also circling that Tyrese Gibson could be in line to play the role. I am not convinced of Tyrese Gibson’s ability to play the proposed role of John Stewart, at least not how I know him, and could represent another questionable casting choice by DC/Warner. Tyrese Gibson may have been type cast into many of his roles as an excitable, hot-head, all action brother in arms but I do not see him being able to portray the leadership, strategy and authority that John Stewart brings to the Justice League. He is arguably more of a natural leader than any of the other members and I cannot see Tyrese Gibson portraying these qualities convincingly, he is more of a soldier than a veteran marine.
I also point to the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice movie itself…what is it supposed to be? Well it was never really pitched as Man of Steel 2 or a Batman movie, and yet it also introduces Wonder Woman…so what is it? By reading the reviews this seems to be a common theme for the critics too. We know it wants to set up the Justice League, but it seems to have lost its way in how to do that. Firstly, I hate the title…anything with a V just lacks imagination, secondly we know how it ends…with the Justice League so everyone is on the same side, which is even shown in the trailer so what’s the point? Why undermine your own movie marketing through your own movie marketing…an impressive fail. There is also plenty of criticism of the story being too convoluted and it not being clear what we are meant to be following, which suggests there are too many stories going on at once.
What I wanted to see from the movie, before they officially announced the title; was a Man of Steel 2: Batman. I wanted the focus to be on Superman, for two reasons, to start with, a franchise such as the Justice League can be built upon the character of Superman, I for one actually really liked Man of Steel as an opener to the franchise, introducing not just the character but the tone of the franchise, which was well done, praise Zack Snyder for that. I felt the Man of Steel movie was about Superman finding his identity and knowing who he is and when and how to introduce himself to the world, which was constantly being repeated to him throughout the film. A ‘Man of Steel 2: Batman’ should have been about him finding his role in society, how people react to him after they know what he is and this individual struggle now that people are coming after him and questioning what he stands for, personified no better than by Batman. This would give the character some grounding for development and a personal struggle, because he can do anything physically but he cannot change the minds of others to which he is relatively powerless, that is a genuine struggle Superman can have because he can beat anyone in a fight. This adds layers to the story as well as the character himself, whilst giving the plot a focus to revolve around so it doesn’t get lost.
My second reason for this focus is because we all know Batman’s origin story, we don’t need it again and we can be drip fed his motivations and methods because we know him so well, he can be made to be a mysterious opponent but not necessarily a bad guy. What Batman could represent to Superman could be the embodiment of human mistrust of Superman, and their willingness to take back control, who is Superman to stop him? So the climax of this fight would not be the fight itself but instead of what does Superman do? If he stops Batman he shows the world they cannot stop him and he can and will stop their free will to rise against him? Its not about whether he can beat Batman, its about whether he should? This layer to such a story would haul the movie above just a slug-fest and instead give Superman a different aim, because winning the fight may not actually be winning the fight, he may have to lose to prove he is not the enemy?
I would also have loved to see, and there may be an element of it in the movie itself, for a lot of the movie to be played out, at least from Superman and Wonder Woman’s perspective, as their alter egos outside of their costumes. I would like to see Clark Kent investigating Batman, turning up at crime scenes and potential places he could appear, confronting him, as a ‘human’, trying to dissuade him from continuing; almost showing a reluctance to be Superman. Bruce Wayne could then be led to discover Clark Kent is Superman, sending a message to his home that he knows who he is. We could see Bruce Wayne publicly opposing or questioning Superman, because we know who Batman is and so we can learn his motivations through Bruce Wayne rather than Batman. Additionally, if Wonder Woman must be in this movie I would only really want to see her as Diana Prince the diplomat, joining with world leaders to discuss Superman. She could have a perspective unlike any other, she could criticise man for cowering in fear when confronted with a greater power especially when it means there could be more on the way, and mistrusting a warrior who clearly fought for them, she could hold him up as the one to lead them, echoing Jor-El in MoS. She could appear as Wonder Woman right at the end to prevent Batman from truly defeating Superman, she could be the voice of reason, she could point out they are both fighting for the same things and they should be fighting together as warriors, she could be many things but she does not need to be all action. The use of alter egos could be/have been exceptional in this movie and could have brought the characters into the real world, developed the heroes deeper and given weight to the plot a lot better than a fist fight ever could.
So in summary, I would like to repeat I have not seen the movie but I shall be soon. This is my two cents on what I would have liked to see come from this movie, all be it, it was never going to really happen given the title and nature of the movie plus the action-orientated approach of the director. A more grounded focus on the arc of the Superman character, the discreet use of Batman to help us bring Superman into the real world of public perception whilst introducing some famous characters and the use of alter ego’s to remind people there are other issues apart from those in spandex, that there is a real world that these guys have to fit in which would have incalculable benefits to the plot and character storylines. Hope you enjoyed the read, I know it was a bit long-winded, what did you think of the movie? What would you have liked changed or indeed done differently altogether? Are you looking forward to the future DC movies and the Justice League? Let me know your perception of these heroes.