Before we get started here, I just want to point out a few things. This is not an introduction to this piece, maybe more of a mini-prologue. This article is written with good intentions. As you can probably tell, I am not exactly going to praise the Batman Vs. Superman film, and I know for many, myself included, insulting a superhero is borderline sacrilegious. I'm not going to be kind to this movie and I am most certainly not going to have anything nice to say about at least one of the heroes. However, this is not meant to insult anybody or their feelings.
After the success of The Avengers, and other Marvel films, it was almost inevitable DC and Warner Brothers would come back with the Justice League. Though Chris Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy may go down as the greatest superhero genre film trilogy ever, once Marvel assembled Earth's Mightiest Heroes, however, DC and Warner Brothers had to come up with something bigger than the Dark Knight to compete at the box office. Warner Brothers decided to start with arguably the most iconic superhero, he does have "super" in his name after all, Superman. They introduced us to Man of Steel in 2013, and this was the beginning of Warner Brothers' answer to Disney's Avengers, The Justice League.
What Marvel and Disney have accomplished so far is unprecedented. In 2008, Iron Man started a film series which has lasted longer than any other superhero series, and still continues to excite fans nearly ten years later. The studio has movies planned for the foreseeable future. Characters, both brand new to the cinematic universe (Black Panther, Doctor Strange), and some characters who have already had their own films, separate from the current MCU (Spider-Man) will be brought in over the next few years. These new characters, Disney and Marvel personnel hope, will help keep the MCU fresh and exciting for fans as the long-time, original cinematic Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America potentially fade away.
The Justice League film series is in its infancy. The first team-up of DC superheroes in the new DC Extended Universe will happen this spring with Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. There is a ton of potential here for the DCEU to compete with and even surpass the MCU, but based on the information surrounding the films so far, this appears unlikely.
The Snyder Effect
Zack Snyder is Batman Vs. Superman's director, and it is probably because of his familiarity with DC and Warner Brothers. Arguably, Snyder's best work as a director came with 300 and Watchmen, both Warner Brothers with the latter a DC film adaptation.
Given his past success with the studio and the fan's appreciation for both movies, Snyder seemed like a perfect match to bring the DCEU to the forefront of the superhero film community. His other work for Warner Brothers and DC gives any fan second thoughts. Sucker Punch, Snyder's action flick about an institutionalized young girl and her hallucinations was, to put it politely, a disappointment. This was supposed to be a movie to change the way people thought about action movies with a primarily female cast, but because of poor writing, bad effect, and an absolutely horrendous soundtrack, this film never had a chance. It is a shame too, because the cast featured some pretty established names: Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn, and Jena Malone. This movie went overboard with almost everything Snyder attempted, and was maybe the worst way he could follow up his previous Warner Brothers success. Snyder would look to Warner Brother once again for redemption in 2013 with his adaptation of a beloved and classic superhero, Superman in Man of Steel.
The 2013 Superman film came in with a lot of hype. Chris Nolan was involved, and fans rejoiced. "He's the man behind Batman! This will be great!" Now, I am not sure how much Nolan was involved in the story, but I would guess not a whole lot. Man of Steel does not compare to any of Nolan's movies, let alone his most famous contribution to DC, the Dark Knight trilogy. This is by far the most disappointing movie David Goyer has worked on. I am personally not a fan of Superman for reasons I will get into later, but when Nolan and Goyer team up, it is usually great.
Man of Steel features Superman the world has never seen or heard before. In fact, the world STILL has not heard from the Superman in Man of Steel, Heny Cavill barely has any lines in the movie. How is an audience supposed to get excited about and support a character who barely speaks? He spends the movie with a pout on his face. This is a stark difference compared to the Bruce Wayne/Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy. The audience can see Wayne's struggle because the character has a lot of depth. Of course, Christian Bale is a phenomenal actor, but would a two-dimensional Superman be too much to ask for? The audience learned nothing about the character's psyche, which is the main reason a lot of fans relate to superheroes.
The sad/angry Superman combined with the dark shots in the film (I don't know if it was a dark lens or what, but the whole thing looked gray) appeared like an attempt to make this character who is all about "hope," dark, but instead, these things made the movie dull.
The cast is a disaster. Christopher Meloni as Nathan Hardy is the worst part of the movie. He is a cliche and made the film worse. Laurence Fishburn is poorly cast, and while Michael Shannon can pull of a villain, he has always been better in a role where the characters are subtle. Zod's yelling and screaming do not work with Shannon's style as an actor.
Snyder put something unique together for Warner Brothers and DC in 2009, and because of his success with Watchmen, Warner Brothers has penned him for another four DC movies. Batman may save him, as the character is darker and closer in style to the Watchmen characters, but Snyder will have to improve on several things if The Justice League film series will be successful.
His characters need more depth. This normally comes out in writing, but Nolan and Goyer were involved in Man of Steel, and their characters never lack depth, it could be the way the movie is shot. He is too heavy on action. This may not make sense because it is superhero genre after all, but why is Watchmen great? The story, the characters, the acting, and then the action. This movie is historical fiction and jumps back and forth between the end of the Cold War and Vietnam, and several other time periods. Snyder put it together beautifully, and has a great balance between story and action. Man of Steel has an uninspiring plot, but has enough action.
He cannot make the Justice League movies carbon copies of Watchmen, there is no originality in that, but he can use the same concepts and methods that made fans love his 2009 superhero film. Batman is inherently darker than Superman, so maybe that will save him, and if he can do something better with the villains, this will get better. If Snyder continues to make the same mistakes however, there will be little "hope" for this franchise, especially if the Man of Steel becomes the face of the project.
The Man of Steel
Keep in mind what is at the beginning of this article.
Superman himself, the hero whose movie kicked off the Justice League series, is an exhausted character. Although he is one of the first comic book heroes to ever exist, DC should have buried him. His origin, his powers, and even his villains lack what those same elements for other popular superheroes have: originality.
Just because he was the first does NOT make him the best. The reasons why are pretty easy to tell. He is a superhero whose name is "Superman." His worst villain, his arch nemesis is an evil genius (Lex Luthor). He can do anything, and his only weakness is a rock. He is from a foreign planet, and the only reason he came to earth is because the planet was blown up. He is also a boy scout, and it makes him tough to root for in films, especially when the director does not let the character speak.
There can be a Justice League without Superman, the films do not have to totally match the comics, and because the character Superman lacks solid villains, and a good story, it really limits what can be done with him in cinema. He should have been put to rest, and characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern (to name a few), who are more complex could have a bigger role.
Too many characters too fast
A mistake was made with Man of Steel, which is why it is crucial DC and Warner Brother get Dawn of Justice right. The has changed so much as new details were released, and now it is barely comparable to what viewers thought they were getting. It started out as Batman vs. Superman. Wonder Woman was announced, and based on the trailers, it appears she will have a prominent role. Aquaman is confirmed to appear in the movie, Lex Luthor, Zod (though it looks like his presence may be minor), and this list does not include any of the characters rumored to appear: Flash and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl).
Include as many characters as there needs to be, but the problem is this is the first time we are seeing all of these characters in the DCEU. While comic book fans and fans of superheroes are familiar with these characters, the general public may not be. There is also the risk of character overload: Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman vs. Lex Luthor vs. Aquaman vs. Doomsday. This is the second movie in the Warner Brothers and DC Justice League series, but the studio is introducing at least three new heroes. If any of the rumors are true, this film might actually feature most of the Justice League members, meaning there would be five or six new heroes.
Every hero does not need to be introduced and each of them do not have to have their own origin story, it s exactly what Disney did with The Avengers movies, but there has to be some semblance of organization. The upcoming movie in March might be relying to heavily on fans knowledge and fondness of its characters for success.
Cast and Characters
It is too soon to bring Doomsday in, and this is not a great rendition of the character. The Doomsday fans know is scary, he is intimidating. This character actually looks like hit would fit better in another movie...
Point is, this Doomsday looks like a turtle. He is not scary, and based on his looks, he will not be the epic villain fans want him to be. His presence in the movie is setting the film up to me a major disappointment.
The only other known villain in this film is easily criticized. Jessie Eisenberg may not have been the worst choice for Lex Luthor, but he is close to it. When Warner Brothers announced Eisenberg would portray Superman's iconic villain, I wasn't sure what to expect. He is certainly a talented actor, no one can dispute that, especially after watching The Social Network. This would go one of two ways: either Eisenberg would kill it, he would give us the Lex we wanted. The strong, confident, intelligent, intimidating worthy foe of Superman's would get an actor who is willing to be in the commitment to have an excellent performance, or... He would play a pretentious little smart ass, which he is very good at! Lex Luthor, however, is not one of those. Based on the latest teaser, it seems like Eisenberg is going to channel the smart ass.
The trailers have progressively gotten worse
When the studio publicly chose Ben Affleck as the latest incarnation of Batman, people were not thrilled. Any time there is an announcement like this, it always comes with a lot of scrutiny. After viewing every trailer, "Bat-Fleck" might be the best part of the film.
The first trailer gave fans the now famous "Do you bleed?" line, and it presumably changed a lot of opinions, it did change mine. It actually looked like fans would get the epic battle, the brutal showdown they have waited so long to see in live action.
The aforementioned trailer with Eisenberg where Kent and Wayne meet for the first time came out, and it gave fans their first look at Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, and of course, Doomsday. What Warner Brothers probably thought would excite fans came across to some as a disappointment (Doomsday brought on a lot of criticism).
What has really sort of gone unnoticed is maybe this trailer's biggest flaw. Everything about the movie which has been made public so far has been extremely dark. For fans of the superhero movie genre, this could be a refreshing break from Marvel's cheery, comedic, borderline happy-go-lucky universe (although, Marvel may be changing this itself. Civil War looks like it will show the grittier side of Captain America and Iron Man, the Netflix Series DareDevil and Jessica Jones are the exact opposite of happy-go-lucky. Age of Ultron and The Winter Soldier are also different from what Marvel and Disney have put out). Check out what happens towards the end of the trailer, right after Wonder Woman saves Batman from Doomsday:
"Is she with you?"
This technique, using a joke right after an extremely intense near death moment is straight out of The Avengers movies. In Captain America: The First Avenger, when Red Skull reveals his...red skull, Bucky asks Cap something like: "You don't have one of those do you?"
In The Avengers, after Loki stabs Coulson, Coulson's line is "So that's what it does." Marvel movies are littered with this technique, and it works because they exist in a much lighter universe than DC does. When all of these reasons are looked at collectively, it seems like Warner Brothers is hastily putting the Justice League together to compete with Disney.
The expectations for this movie are simply way too high. The notion that this movie will break the records set by the latest Star Wars episode is laughable. More people were excited for a new Star Wars movie, and its hard to imagine any non-Star Wars movie touching that record in the near future.
Some long-time fans are still threatening and planning on boycotting the movie (of course I have no actual data to back this up other than my own conversations with people). I have been a fan of Batman my entire life, and not just comics, but onscreen Batman. I would watch reruns of Adam West from the 60s as a child, and I was raised on the animated series, and I saw every one of the late 80s-90s Batman movies. I am not going to see Dawn of Justice. Friends who love the caped crusader will not pay to see the film for reasons like Bat-Fleck and Doomsday.
If the reviews are great, then I will eat my words and see the movie, but obviously, my expectations are low.
I want to thank everyone for sticking with me on this! Once again, I want to reiterate there is no ill-will in this post. I know we fans get extremely attached to heroes and movies, and some people may take my views personally. Honestly, I probably would too, and I apologize if I upset anyone.
If you would like to let me know how you feel, please check out the poll below: