Monday, March 28, 2016

Jesus fucking Christ, Zack Snyder.

In 1989, I saw Tim Burton's Batman, and it helped me fall in love with the comics medium that birthed such colorful characters. I just got back from seeing Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and it made me hate the film medium that Zack Snyder worked in to create such such a dark, punishing, illogical, nauseous fever dream of a narrative.

12 comments:

Stephen said...

Exactly why I refuse to be an audience member for this gloomy bastardization of my favorite superheroes and supporting cast and the horrible mischaracterization/miscasting of Luthor. I know I loath everything I've seen and read and heard of it, and there are enough clips, trailers, reviews to know what's in it, so why torture myself at the theater? I refuse to contribute to it's box office success, since the more $$$ it makes the more of the Snyder gloom and doom with the cynical, jaded, angst tone will be made, instead of uplifting, colorful and fun Superman movies, none-Xena Wonder Woman movies and Justice League of America movies, etc. for all ages, including kids.

David said...

Ugh, Zack Snyder. I think the only movie of his I have enjoyed (and damned if I haven't watched most or all of his movies) was his remake of Dawn of the Dead. Not that it held a patch on the Romero original, but at least it was entertaining and fun and fast-moving. BvS looks awful - I imagine I'll watch it on HBO some bored afternoon out of morbid curiosity, but I'm certainly not paying to see it.

Unknown said...

Different strokes for different folks. I loved it.

Eyz said...

Yeah, personally I'll skip it. I'll catch it some years later, like I did with Man of Steel last year.

@unknown: Exactly what i expected from someone who prefers to stay anonymous!

Unknown said...

Didn't try to stay anonymous. Blogger wouldn't let me post a name. Either way, I stand by what I wrote. I loved the film, probably because I accepted the film on its own terms and didn't evaluate it based on preconceived notions of what I thought it *should* have been (which has largely been what most of the criticism I've read is doing, and that's just an unfair standard to hold any film to).

This is a different but still entirely valid interpretation of these characters. And according to the rules of this universe set up in "Man of Steel" (what would happen if these characters suddenly appeared in the "real" world) I think it succeeds beautifully. Some people may not like that approach. And that's fine. But I do and (judging from the box office) so do a lot of other people. For those who don't like it you have a perfectly viable alternative in the Marvel films (which I also enjoy but not nearly as much).

Daniel

Saint Godard said...

Disenfranchised as I feel toward DC, it was actually weirdly pleasurable to see this version of Batman: Frank Miller's pathologically angry aging man, the defeatist with an insane, unwinnable crusade. I had zero interest in seeing panels from TDKR onscreen, yet for once in my life I actually enjoyed the moments in the trophy room or the "I believe you"... And I personally think Zack Snyder is a humorless hack, all wax and no wick. But there's a 1/3 of a truly enjoyable popcorn movie there, and in its way it's perfect because of how shamelessly the film embodies the DCU grimderp brand. This is the Nu52 onscreen, a Geoff Johns / Jim Lee joint with figures lurching stiffly in the ashes of the WTC w/ The Dark Knight Returns panels copypasted in. It's kind of amazing.

Lex Luthor is the worst villain, so I don't give a damn if they throw my least favorite young actor in the role. He's there to be a human plothammer: emphasis on the ham. Which would annoy me if I cared, but since I came in with no expectations to fulfill, it breezed past because my love for demented old Jeremy Irons is irrational & requires no justification.

In short, I love it for the disaster it is. I'm actually kind of more in tune with this weird, pointless, meandering franchise-builder than anything Nolan did.

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

I thought the narrative was the only part of the movie that was alright. I had a fairly easy time figuring out what was going on and seeing how one event progressed to another.

Where the movie failed horribly was its opaque characterization. I had no idea what motivated anyone or what any character was thinking. It's okay to have superheroes not talk much in comics because we can see their thought bubbles/caption boxes, in a movie it's inexcusable. The best character was Wonder Woman because she was actually supposed to be inscrutable and mysterious. The other characters just ended up that way because of bad writing.

Equally problematic was Snyder's tendency to shoot everything in dreary portentous slo-mo like an emo music video.

Caleb said...

I wrote this "review" right after seeing the movie, when I felt destroyed by it ("I actually saw your soul die at one point," my friend said afterwards; she laughed hysterically throughout the murder of the Waynes, and then described the feeling of leaving the theater as that of having survived "a shared trauma."

A few days later I wrote a more review-like review, which will run in the next installment of "Everything Else," so, um, it may be a few days or a few weeks yet.


Stephen,

While this Luthor bore almost no resemblance to any I can think of in the comics, I can kinda see where the "cool" tech firm kid version came from and made some amount of sense (even if it's dated). As for Luthor's evil, it was basically put down to "he was abused as a child by his dad, also named Lex Luthor." And while he's technically kinda/sorta maybe smart, he spends most of the film gibbering like a madman, until he's pretty much the Joker at the end. All that said, Jesse Eisenberg appeared to be the only actor in the entire film to have any fun at all.

Unknown/Daniel,

Even taken on it's own terms, there are interior problems with the film, such as why anyone does anything. None of the motivations make any sense at all. The plot is basically one big "idiot plot," in which the audience has to take it on faith that the characters are all idiots, or otherwise they wouldn't do the things they do (The bit at the climax leading to the surprising ending being one; all of Luthor's and Batman's plans being others). The plot was pretty clearly start with the set-pieces, and then make a movie to connect them in its creation.

And I've little sympathy for the argument that the reason nobody who likes Batman or Superman likes Batman V. Superman has something to do with the fact that we're all just projecting what we think should happen in a film with those characters. Large passages of that movie are "Easter Eggs" that demand you know, say, who the fuck Darkseid is to make heads or tails of.

I don't really buy the "this is what would happen if superheroes appeared in the real world all of a sudden" idea, because, as the film clearly establishes, Batman has been around for 20 years.

I've no sympathy for the "it made money so it's good" argument, which is just silly. The damn thing better have had a gigantic opening, given that it was a movie with Batman and Superman and was marketed the bejeezus out of.


Saint Godard,

i didn't think any of the Nolan flicks were that great either, although there are large parts of the second and third films I liked (and I could listen to Tom Hardy's weird Bane voice forever and never get sick of it.) I wouldn't have minded a Dark Knight adaptation, particularly if Snyder was as "faithful" to it as he was with Watchmen, and could somehow de-1987-ify it. I think Dark Knight Returns Batman vs. a "Year One" Era Superman was a really weird-ass movie to make, though; it was like Batman wasn't coming from "across the bay," but an alternate dimension, some Days of Futures Bats timeline.





Unknown said...

I keep hearing people complain about not understanding Luthor's plan or Luthor's motivations. To me it was very clear. Luthor had a crippling fear of authoritarians (because of his father's background growing up under an authoritarian regime in East Germany, and then because of his father's abuse of the younger Luthor when he came to the U.S.). Unlike most people, though, who would seek to topple authoritarians by fighting for a more egalitarian, democratic society, Luthor (and Luthor Sr., for that matter) fought authoritarianism by becoming authoritarians themselves. As the richest man in Metropolis, Luthor was able to be a benign authoritarian (since he had no real threats to his dominance), but once Superman showed up he felt legitimately threatened by someone who was clearly more powerful than he was and who could wipe out his entire empire if he so chose (he was also fearful because, as the files on his computer showed, Superman wasn't the only meta-human out there with the potential to take over the world).

And so, to avoid that possibility, he devised a three-part plan to destroy Superman (find Kryptonite; manipulate Bruce Wayne's fears of the Superman; create Doomsday). All three parts of the plan were designed to work on their own but also acted as fail safes if any one part didn't work OR could work in concert with each other (e.g., Luthor probably intended to use the Kryptonite himself but when Batman stole it it actually made the second part of the plan stronger; if Doomsday monster had to be used, Kryptonite reserves could be used to neutralize Doomsday once it killed Superman (it was never explicitly revealed that Batman stole ALL of the Kryptonite from LexCorp--there could have been hidden reserves that Luthor kept as a fail safe to be used against Doomsday if necessary)).

Unlike a lot of people online, I don't think Luthor was being manipulated by Darkseid. I think his enigmatic ramblings at the end of the film were the result of him having been exposed to who Darkseid is via the Kryptonian archives in the ship (containing entries on 100,000 worlds as the film states) and/or having been visited by an emissary of Apokolips just prior to being apprehended by the police (as the recently released deleted scene suggests). Either one of these things likely caused his mind to snap at the end (he was already clearly suffering from some mental illness earlier on in the film).

Daniel

Unknown said...

I also think the film was a pretty explicit political commentary on our country's reaction to the Obama presidency. In this film (as well as "Man of Steel" to a lesser extent), Superman is a proxy for Barack Obama. Just as half of the country in real life admire the president for doing what they see as genuinely heroic acts (saving the economy from total collapse; providing life saving health care to millions of people), others see these same acts as a dangerous betrayal of what they deem the defining values of the country (rugged individualism). If Barack Obama can be demonized as the anti-Christ and burned in effigy by his detractors for what are essentially bureaucratic reforms, it doesn't take a leap of faith to imagine (as "BvS" does) that if an alien with god-like powers were to actually show up in the real world, some people would celebrate him as a savior while others would be literally calling for his head. The central point of this film is to explore how that would play out. Using science fiction to probe and comment upon the issues of the day is as old as the genre itself.

All of this is admittedly very complex, but I don't think it's unnecessarily complicated or difficult to understand. If you're paying attention to the movie it's all very clearly spelled out. You just need to keep track of all the moving pieces. One may not LIKE it, but that doesn't delegitimize it as valid approach to take with these characters, nor does it mean that it was poorly done. Because, like I said, it's all very clearly spelled out on the screen. And again, I personally find this approach much more interesting than your typical Marvel film which, despite their charms (I actually enjoy most of Marvel's movies), are really more about spectacle and glib one-liners (which also is an entirely valid approach to this material).

I also take issue with the assertion that the film demands that you know who Darkseid is or who the Flash is. In reality, you don't need to know who those characters are. In fact you're not supposed to know. It's called foreshadowing. This is not a standalone film. WB has been very clear in that this is chapter two of an 11 chapter story. And just like in a novel where not every plot point raised in chapter two will be resolved or made clear by the end of chapter two, this film is setting up plot points that will play out in more detail and clarity in later chapters. So when all 11 chapters are completed five years from now, it will play much better as a unified whole when the series is binge-watched in its entirety over a long holiday weekend. This is the future of long-form serialized storytelling. I think these filmmakers are modeling a lot of their storytelling choices more on "Game of Thrones" than they are on a typical traditional sequel (like James Bond or Indiana Jones) which used to be essentially standalone films in their own right. Again, you may not LIKE this, but it's still a valid approach to take. And my guess is that when this entire series is binge-watched in the future, it will play as a much better viewer experience than binge-watching the interconnected MCU films (which, while fun to watch in the moment, is kind of mess to re-watch as a series).

Daniel

Caleb said...

Daniel,

Not to get to spoiler-y (Look away, anyone who cares!), BUT.

1.) If Luthor wanted to blame the deaths at the African prison camp on Superman, why did he have his guys use guns with special bullets that only his company manufactured? Why not, like, laser-beams that look like heat-vision rays?

2.) Why bomb the hearing in a way that was so easily traced back to the protester (and himself), instead of making it look like Superman blew up the hearing somehow? (Also, how does THAT motivate Batman? "Oh snap, a terrorist is targeting Superman! I better murder Superman!" That would be like trying to prevent the collateral damage attendant in an assassination attempt by assassinating the target yourself).

3.) If Luthor WANTED Batman to have the Kryptonite, why did his men fight to the death with military ordinance to keep it from him? And why did Luthor lose his shit when he saw that Batman later broke into his building and stole the Kryptonite? (And why did BATMAN murder all those guys to get the Kryptonite, AFTER he had already placed a hidden tracker on it, which allowed him to find it in Luthor's building and steal it without all the murder and mayhem?)

4.) How did Luthor know that Batman decided to fight Superman on the very day he kidnapped Lois and Martha?

5.) Why did Luthor make a Doomsday if he thought Batman had a chance of killing Superman? And what exactly did he plan to do about Doomsday if Superman and Wonder Woman weren't around to kill it for him?

I don't think a five minute insane dream sequence within a dream sequence counts as foreshadowing so much as, "Jesus, what is all this shit?" It wasn't a cryptic teaser in the middle of the credits like most of the Marvel movies have (I can't think of anything comparable in a Mavel movie to those Batman prophecy dreams), it was a significant portion of a very, very long movie.

Saint Godard said...

@Caleb:

I've been pondering the success of TDKR a bit now, and have come to the conclusion b/c it's in part a post-apocalyptic rendition of Batman. Post-apocalyptic fiction suffused a large part of my 80s psyche, growing up. Miller keyed into the nuclear fears we were all living with. So, in a way, the batshit insane fight sequence with military wearing S-shields & demonic-looking drones embodies a bit of what I'm still hungry for. Adding the double dream TV hero cameo was a touch too cute, but whatevs... It fills a weird need I have for elseworldy use of Bruce.

Yeah. Days later, I'm actually really into this weird thing. Superman sculpted like a living Totleben drawing, complete with lenticular streamlined costume, and certain of the visual styling suggests he wants to pull off Miracleman and he knows this is the closest he'll get-- as anyone's likely to get --to adapting TDKR and (god help us) The Death of Superman. SHoehoring all these elements into the same flick is ambitious as hell, even if it's unsuccessful sixty percent of the time. Snyder's actually impressed me for the first time.