DC fans got a huge treat when Zack Snyder revealed Batman's new Tactical Suit, which is set to debut in the upcoming Justice League. Batman's new armor clearly took notes from the one seen in the popular Arkham games, but those familiar with superhero movies were reminded of Snyder's earlier superhero movie, Watchmen.
Whether it was intentional or not, Batman's new look bears a close resemblance to Nite-Owl's costume in Watchmen. It may be a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but the nuts and bolts of the suit help reinforce some people's theory that Snyder just wants to make a longer Watchmen movie.
BvS: Dawn of Manhattan
The similarities between Watchmen and Snyder's DC movies go beyond costumes and color palette. They go as deep as the ways in which Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are shaped on a thematic level.
Watchmen put costumed heroes under a microscope to see how they would operate in the real world. Chief among its ideas was Dr. Manhattan's impact on society as the world's first super-powered being. The central conflict in Batman v Superman mirrors this, as Batman's hatred for Superman is fueled by the Gotham native's paranoia that the DCEU's first known super-powered being could end the world in a heartbeat. It's very similar to the way in which Rorschach mistrusted Dr. Manhattan.
Other parallels include a literal god questioning his worth, the heroes' ineptitude against a bigger threat, a regular human being who manipulates everyone through a convoluted plan, parental issues, exploring the political ramifications of superheroes, the general public's fear towards superheroes, and the supposed heroes callously killing their enemies en masse. All Batman v Superman needed was a sweet '80s-themed soundtrack and the Watchmen parallels would be complete.
If not for some flourishes and connections to the larger DCEU, the connected story of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman would just be a big budget Watchmen make-over with DC characters standing in for the Watchmen cast. (Ironically, Watchmen was originally Alan Moore creating new parallels for the Charlton Comics character set after those characters were bought by DC.) This is given credence by Snyder, who said that Batman v Superman is basically his follow-up to Watchmen.
The End Result
Emulating Watchmen helped Snyder's superhero movies stand out from the pack. Like them or not, Snyder's vision has a distinct, gritty edge rarely seen in mainstream superhero movies. By applying the best and most memorable elements of Watchmen to his take on Superman, Snyder gave audiences a new superhero experience even if it starred familiar characters.
This also limited his creativity, since he essentially remade a movie he already directed in 2009. Batman v Superman could be viewed as a watered-down Watchmen, imitating the latter's dark themes without a hint of self-awareness or irony. Snyder also concentrated on the ramifications of superpowers and navel-gazing, instead of the humanity of the titular heroes, making Batman v Superman feel like it was constantly apologizing for being a superhero movie.
Snyder's take on DC's mythos falls between the two extremes. It's not as horrid as vocal critics claim, nor is it as great as fans say. Man of Steel and Batman v Superman could have been better movies if Snyder didn't let his preference for grit for grit's sake get in the way of everything else. It also doesn't help when interviews with the director imply that while he may love Watchmen because of its dark tone, he does so without understanding its context.
I had a buddy who tried getting me into "normal" comic books, but I was all like, "No one is having sex or killing each other. This isn’t really doing it for me." I was a little broken, that way. So when Watchmen came along, I was, "This is more my scene."
Watching The DCEU's Future
That's not to say Snyder's Watchmen-influenced superhero movies are a bad idea. On the contrary, using one of the most iconic graphic novels ever made as reference for DC's shared universe is a good way to start. The problem is Snyder's seemingly juvenile understanding of it. There's a lot more to Watchmen than just deconstructing superheroes, but Snyder only saw it as an avenue to humiliate heroic altruism in favor of super-powered entitlement - an interpretation that would make Frank Miller proud.
Snyder needs to tell his own story instead of paraphrasing (and misinterpreting) what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons said through Watchmen. So far, Snyder's DC movies have more in common with edgy fan-fictions written by a teenager than they do with a respectable loose adaptation of a graphic novel. He may think that Superman wallowing in self-pity for two hours is "grown-up," but fans of the character beg to differ. It says something when the animated Superman meant for kids is more mature than the live-action one marketed to an older crowd.
DC addressed these criticisms by getting legendary comics scribe Geoff Johns to steer the DCEU back on track and rein in Snyder's Watchmen induced pessimism. Keeping the darker and more grounded approach to the superhero story is fine, but problems arise when the deconstruction gives way to mean-spirited attacks without any meaning to them. Case in point, the most recent Superman movies audiences saw in cinemas.
How exactly Geoff Johns' involvement will change things has yet to be seen, but given the sudden optimistic vibe of the Justice League trailer, it looks like the DCEU is about to learn how to lighten up and stop taking itself too seriously.
Check out the trailer for Justice League below.