Hot vs Mess: Dawn of the DCEU… Isn’t Off to a Good Start
As a young boy my dad introduced me to billiards, specifically pool. Later my family made the investment and bought a table. In college ‘Beginning Billiards’, and later ‘Intermediate Billiards’ filled the need for some extra credits. There is a saying in billiards that has been adopted in general life, a saying about being in a tough place, that saying is: “stuck behind the 8 ball”. Depending on the rules you are playing, official rules or bar/house rules, you may have two choices when stuck behind the 8 ball: 1 – you play a technical game trying to get out with a trick shot, or 2 – you barrel through the 8 ball hoping for the best. Recently DC Comics, and parent company Warner Brothers, was stuck behind the 8 ball when it came to the movie game played against Marvel Entertainment and its parent company The Walt Disney Company. Instead of playing the technical game DC barreled through the proverbial 8 ball with the release of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Fan boys and girls love to fight over top tier… well, anything. Everything from Ford vs Chevy, Republican vs Democrats, Mac vs PC, and of course DC vs Marvel. Regardless of which side you might take in the Marvel vs DC battle, or even if you are dead critical, you have to admit that Marvel has been kicking butt in the movie business. Marvel has released consistent hits one after the other even turning properties like Ant Man into hits. Digging still deeper Marvel is releasing Doctor Strange in November of 2016 and its shaping up to be yet another hit. Considering that the only other DC movie officially in their “cinematic universe” is 2013’s Man of Steel, which garnished only lukewarm reception by even die-hard fans, you would have to be daft to not at least acknowledge that DC is in a hard place if not firmly locked behind the 8 ball.
2016 Counldn’t be More Important for DC
Because of its position relative to the 8 ball, 2016 is kind of an important year for DC and its young cinematic universe. Kicking off the year in March with its first release, without question the most important release, and loaded with three of its heavy hitter characters Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, the so called ‘Trinity’ in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Later in August DC’s second release titled Suicide Squad comes out, more on that later. Here is where the critical decision was made, the decision to play the technical game or draw the cue back, take steady aim, and slam the white ball right through the 8 ball. After watching Batman vs Superman this past weekend with my son, its clear DC chose to throw the weight of the Trinity around and barrel through the 8 ball but doing so without even taking aim… and with both eyes closed.
So far Marvel has successfully played a technical game. Taking careful and calculated strikes at the felt covered playing surface. Strategic moves with character selection, casting, directing talent, and most importantly stories. Marvel is not perfect, do not misinterpret my position as pro-Marvel and anti-DC, there are plenty of issues along the way and plenty of naysayers both professionally and privately. Conversely DC’s character selection seemed almost default rather than and deliberate conscious decision. Casting has either been room temperature, like with Henry Cavill, to down right boiling as in the case of Ben Affleck as Batman. Directing talent at DC is hard to grade at this point because there is only Zack Snyder, he having done the only two movies in the DC movie universe.
Here’s where things get side ways: the story.
I want to include this SPOILER WARNING if you haven’t seen the movie yet.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice lacks a cohesive story.. or even a real story at all. Man of Steel was a clear story about a man trying to find his place in the world, struggling with who he is, find out, and then rising that potential all of which makes for a clean and respectable origin story. Marvel has done really well taking story arcs from the comic books and translating them rather well to film, not necessarily a direction translation albeit. On this go around DC stuffed three (3) MAJOR story arcs into one film while hinting, at or spending valuable screen time directly showing scenes from, a half dozen others. And here’s the worst part about stuffing three major story arcs into one film, these particular stories are completely different than one another! Injustice: Gods Among Us is a story line that is so far removed from The Dark Knight Returns that it can only be rivaled in its distance by The Death of Superman. Literally none of these three stories shares a single thing with one another. Wonder Woman doesn’t even have a roll in two out of three of the story arcs, not even one scene. Throw in the not so subtle scenes depicting Death in the Family, where Jason Todd/Robin dies at the hands of the Joker, The New Gods, and Darksied and you have a hot mess.
Why are Batman and Superman Fighting?
Frankly they really aren’t. Superman shows up to talk and Batman kicks his ass with a bunch of scenes lifted from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. Then at the clutch moment Batman completely abandons his whole reason for being in this movie simply because Superman’s mom has the same name as his dead mom. Really? The whole thing happened because Lex manipulated both parties into fighting which raises two more questions: 1, why did Lex think Batman was the only one to take on Superman? (Keep in mind he has a file on his computer with actually super powered people he knows of, see the cameos section below) and 2….
Why Exactly Does Lex Hate Superman?
The closest reason we are ever given in the film is that… Lex’s dad beat him as a kid and that left Lex… bitter? What does any of that have to do with Superman? Lex has daddy issues? The entire time I didn’t side with Lex at all, I couldn’t share is position and hatred for the Man of Steel because I quite simply couldn’t understand it. I felt the security guard from Wayne Financial would have made a better villain because he had a clear reason to hate Superman.
What Exactly is Doomsday There For?
Doomsday was included in the film for precisely two reasons and they are booth idiotic. The first reason Doomsday was there is so that Lex could say one line to Superman, some crap about introducing Superman to his doomsday; second, Doomsday provides the super powered bad guy. That is it. Quite simply Doomsday is there because after the non-event of the title fight, see above, Doomsday provided a super powered bad guy that required both Wonder Woman and Superman to work together while batman… ran away. If Doomsday hadn’t been included you could have written Wonder Woman out of the movie completely and it wouldn’t have impacted the story at all, actually you could have written her out of the story anyway with no change.
Wonder Woman was Irrelevant
Wonder Woman was the equivalent of Indian Jones in Indian Jones And the Last Crusade in that her presence meant absolutely zero and literally everything that happened would have not changed one iota with or without her. Her roll at the party at Lex’s house was without lines and not important. Meeting Bruce at the museum where she told him the drive was in his glove box was completely useless without the first. Bruce would have gotten to the cameo video clips earlier without her interfering thus deleting a whole section of the film. And even in the fight with Doomsday Wonder Woman’s contributions did almost nothing save in the few minutes when Superman had to save Lois, again, and get the spear all of which would have been irrelevant had Batman just not left something as important as a KRYPTONITE SPEAR laying around.
What about those “cameos”?
Wow, could you get any more lazy with the so called cameos by Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg? Wonder Woman watching a video clip of Barry Allen stopping a convenience store robbery is not a cameo, its a slap in the face. And apparently Aquaman just hangs out in the bow of the Titanic and likes to examine remote control subs at length before destroying it and fleeing; make sure you pose for awhile for the camera before leaving Arthur. My absolute favorite part of the cameos, beyond that they are all video clips sent to Diana from Bruce, is that that they came from Lex Luthor, or the guy with long hair of the same name, AND THEY HAD LOGOS! That means that Lex and his team sat down and took the time to brand each one of the heroes BEFORE THEY DID IT THEMSELVES or even before they were heroes! It also implies, like in Injustice that Lex knows the secret identity of the entire league before they even know each other!
Fans Deserve Better, Movie Goers Deserve Better
There is a reason that the movie lost major steam by its second week plunging 69%. The movie was a hot mess wrapped in a CGI buffet. Basically the movie played on fans, from rabid to casual to adults with fond memories of childhood, dreams. We as fan have waited since 1938 for this film to be made. We collectively crap ourselves when we saw the Batman and Superman logos on the same billboard in the background of Will Smith’s I Am Legend. We all lost our minds when George Miller was given a green lanter… light and cast a full Justice League film then we all shed a tear when it was canned. Fans have to keep in mind that comic book movies must be made for general movie goers as well and this movie showed why. The film was stuffed with so much comic book stuff it was kind of insulting to fan and general movie goers couldn’t possibly keep up; see the Flash time travel cameo or the Darkseid Omega on the ground in one of the dream sequences that most people probably didn’t even see. We all deserve better.
The future of the DCEU
After the major dive Batman vs Superman took in its second week there were rumors that Warner Brothers was stepping in, scaling back the ambitious long term universe plans. That turns out to be false because the next day they instead doubled down by not only leaving everything in place but adding two more movie release dates to the schedule. What they have done, apparently, though is decided to pull the reigns in on Zack Snyder for the Justice League movie, giving him a little less leeway and freedom. We’ll see if that plus the doubling down will help save the universe. At the time of this post’s writing the stand-alone Wonder Woman movie is still in filming and Henry Cavill is deep in training for Justice League, movement on the Aquaman movie and the upcoming release of Suicide Squad staring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and directed by David Ayer. The release of Suicide Squad in August will be interesting being as it is the first movie not directed by Zack Snyder and will be filled with lesser known chracters, outside of the Joker and Harley Quinn of course. If the trailers have anything to say about the film, this author is infinitely more excited for that film than I ever was for Batman vs Superman.