Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice clearly divided fans and critics alike right in the middle. The movie was controversial, polarizing and raised more questions rather than answer the ones that the public already had before the movie opened in theaters.
If there is something we can agree on it's that that the movie kept everyone in the conversation regarding its quality and opened numerous discussions that ranged from its narrative to its direction style.
Bold move, but I believe Warner Bros. and the DC Cinematic Universe in a way was counting on it to remain relevant during a season still heavy with Marvel's presence. They knew they were going to make money and I think they were prepared for such negative feedback. After all, the movie felt like a test screening to see how to move forward with its cinematic universe. Don't get me wrong, I for one, am in the camp that defends and liked the movie but there's one glaring issue that cannot be ignored: it never finds its identity.
I have read many reviews, thoughts and analysis from fellow Creators about this movie and I believe everything has been said regarding this topic. So instead, I want to touch upon the fact that sometimes we forget that these movies draw from the styles and point of views with which comic books and graphic novels are written and told.
After watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a second time, I noticed something that I have seen before but I couldn't put my finger on it at the time and then, no pun intended, it dawned on me.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is the equivalent of Final Crisis, a DC event published back in 2008.
Final Crisis was penned by Grant Morrison and his writing style is known to be controversial and polarizing so it was interesting to see what he would be able to do with a Crisis event that normally signals big changes within DC's structure. There is no doubt that he is a man capable of telling a compelling story but he was asked to alter the future of DC when he was given the green light to tell the story the way he wanted and at the same time, he was in charge of giving us (apparently) the last Crisis event that started with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Be careful what you wish for, right?
Let us start with their presentation. Final Crisis is gorgeous to look at, thanks to the talents of artists like J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy and Doug Mahnke who gave us a sense of danger and despair throughout the whole event. On the other side, Zack Snyder gave us his trademark visual style.
In both instances, the visual spectacle was actually well done. Final Crisis provides panel after panel of striking visuals and Zack Snyder gave us memorable scenes that looked at times as if they were pulled straight from a comic book page:
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made it clear that most of the DC Cinematic Universe will revolve around the New Gods and Darkseid just like Final Crisis did. It is not a bad idea, since Darkseid is one of the best comic book characters out there, but the concept of the New Gods is too deep and it is almost a universe on its own. There are too many stories, too many characters and it has its own lore full of stories that date all the way back to 1971. Final Crisis and Dawn of Justice asked us to understand this in a matter of hours (Dawn) and in a number of issues (Crisis).
Final Crisis was full of obscure characters and non-linear narratives which work really well on Grant Morrison's stand alone stories, but when you are talking about a massive event that even the most casual of readers will be interested in, it doesn't necessarily works out.
The story touches upon the New Gods, Darkseid and the Anti-Life Equation but these topics were explored as high concept by Grant Morrison and the event followed a narrative that at times made no sense. It also didn't help that the main character that was used as the vehicle to move the event forward was a not so popular character: Libra.
The same thing we can say about about the movie. After the opening weekend, Warner Bros. released a deleted scene where apparently either the New God Steppenwolf (Darkseid's uncle who leads Apokolips' military) or Darkseid's father, Yuga Khan appears inside the wreckage of the Kryptonian vessel. This character was meant to answer some questions but the decision to keep him out makes you wonder why WB hesitated.
And this is exactly the main point I want to make. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice never decides to go full-on comic book film. Instead, it stays between that and a mix of genres (action, drama). It never fully commits and the pace of the movie suffered because of it. Just as Final Crisis, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has its main characters playing second fiddle to a story that tries to convince us that there's more depth than what it presented.
At the conclusion of Final Crisis, DC's future remained dull with incomplete story lines and ramifications of an event that introduced unnecessary elements to an already established lore. People were up in arms, criticizing Grant Morrison calling the event a self-serving, vanity driven project. Others defended the story for its weird style and crazy experience. Three years later, DC rebooted its universe with the New 52. Coincidence? Well, that's another topic of discussion.
At the conclusion of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, people in general wanted Zack Snyder's head. Calling him a hack, one-trick pony and a style-over-substance fan boy. Others, defended the fact that Zack Snyder wasn't in charge of the story and he had to do what he could with what was given. Weeks later, rumors of Suicide Squad re-shooting some scenes to change a little bit the style of the movie and thinking the approach to the rest of the movies that will follow Dawn of Justice.
To further illustrate my point, here's a quote from io9 blogger Graeme McMillan of his 2009 review from Final Crisis:
Final Crisis is frustrating, flawed and arguably worth it all. It's a bold book about the end of the world, full of big ideas, epic events and beautiful art, and starring some of pop culture's biggest icons. So why does it disappoint?
Sound familiar? That's exactly how most people felt about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Final Crisis and Dawn of Justice share a lot of similarities and maybe that's why WB and DC went for it with the movie. Maybe they thought that using the most recent event in memory would help people follow the pace of the movie but the best example of how to do that will be revealed in a couple of weeks with Captain America: Civil War. I want to use Civil War as a comparison for the following reason: fans were mad because they don't feel this should be Civil War just because there aren't a lot of characters and I think they are missing the point. Marvel have the key players of the event (they even got Spider-Man!) and they are using the concept without deviating from their established vision.
We, as fans, will never be satisfied for the reason that we hold these characters and stories dear and anything that stains that image is unacceptable. We have to understand that these characters are no longer limited to a certain group of fans. DC still has the luxury of time to make adjustments. Yes, the first impression was a little bit shaky but the quality of material is there and I will hold my judgement until that that day comes. One thing is clear, DC has a vision entirely different from Marvel's and that is, in a way, very commendable and a first step in the right direction.
Well, there you have it. Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed the read.