Monday, March 21, 2016

Batman v Superman: A Non-Review

I am given to understand that 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice' comes out this weekend. I hope it is enjoyable for the people who go and see it, and I hope you understand that I won't be in that number.

I've tried to be pretty low-key about not having any desire to see it, because I really don't want to be That Guy on the Internet. You know, the one who decides to inflict his personal tastes on everyone by insisting that anything that looks bad to him must be empirically awful and if you liked it, you're a bad person with bad taste? Yeah, That Guy is a jerk. Let's go egg his house.

...it has been brought to my attention that That Guy is hypothetical. Also? That's not his house. Put the rest of the eggs away.

Seriously, I don't want to get into an argument about the merits of the movie. I'm not even saying it's bad. It may be a perfectly good superhero movie--it's just that it looks like it's taking a number of aesthetic elements I really don't like and using them in conjunction. I don't like Zack Snyder's libertarian, hyper-conservative ethos when it's applied to...well, a lot of things, but especially Superman. A person who works on an adaptation of 'The Fountainhead' in their spare time is not going to fundamentally get a hero who operates on principles of pure altruism. That's actually the point of Luthor, in Grant Morrison's view--he literally can't trust Superman because the concept of true altruism is so alien to him that he imputes motives to the character that aren't there because otherwise Superman makes no sense to him.

(Not that I'm saying Snyder is like Luthor, but I'm saying a libertarian Objectivist doesn't have enough of a grasp on altruism to write Superman in a manner that's true to the character.)

I don't like any take on Batman that focuses primarily on his emotional damage, and I don't like any take on the Batman/Superman relationship that focuses primarily on Batman's egotistical need to prove himself superior to Superman. I'm pretty much over Frank Miller's take on the character; I find it reductionist to the point of being one-dimensional, and I think it limits the number of stories you can do about Batman. And further, I think most of the stories you can produce with the Miller Batman tend to show the character as unsympathetic and selfish, fighting crime primarily because it makes him feel strong and powerful rather than because he genuinely wants to help others.

I'm not interested in a story where Batman and Superman hate each other; I feel that it's a view of both characters that's tremendously disrespectful to decades of their histories, and that it really misunderstands what John Byrne was trying to do when he wrote the original 'Man of Steel' mini-series. Byrne was trying to show how two men of very different backgrounds could come to respect each other's commitment to their shared ideals, but everyone took it as, "Batman sees Superman as a wimpy boy scout and Superman sees Batman as a thug," and that characterization got locked in by Frank Miller (who unsurprisingly loves vigilantes and hates altruists).

And very little of the stuff around the edges that I've seen so far appeals to me, although I'm willing to credit the idea that Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman will be great if she's given something to do. I don't think Doomsday is necessary, I like the idea of Facebook Luthor but not enough to see a movie for it, and the cameos by the rest of the Justice League seem forced and desperate, like Warner Brothers is trying too hard to jumpstart a mega-franchise.

Now, I could be wrong about all this stuff. If I start hearing reviews that say, "Wow, this movie is nothing like what you saw in the trailers," I may decide to see it and I may like it. But I ultimately feel like this is not a Batman/Superman movie for me. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm not saying you shouldn't see it, I'm not saying you should feel bad for liking it. I'm just saying that it's rooted in a vision of the characters that's never appealed to me, and I've got better things to do with my time and money.

But if you're wondering what I think...well, now you know.

1 comment:

Eric Teall said...

This post expresses 90% of my feelings about this movie. Thank you.

The other 10% is that, at this point in my life, I pretty strongly object to a Superman who kills. It really didn't bother me too much when I was twelve and it was the Pocket Universe Phantom Zone villains, but to make THIS the mass-appeal version of Superman? Not for me. I walked out of Man of Steel.

But other than that tidbit, you've hit the nail on the head for me, sir. (That includes, BTW, being willing to see it if the reviews are right... but I kind of hope they aren't. I'd like to see this style of "superhero" go the way of the dodo.)