Sage's Stray Thoughts Episode 15: Batman vs. Superman

Welp. Last time I did one of these it was to shit over that dreadful "gritty" Power Rangers reboot. Am I going to be more optimistic this go-around?

Abso-fucking-lutely not.   This trailer makes me want to throw all of the things.  Like, I don't even know where to start.  So I just made a list of problems, threw an imaginary dart at it and we'll start from there and see if I can finish this think without having some sort of nerdish rage stroke.

Warner Bros.' absolute refusal to stop riding Batman's jock is killing their properties.  I mostly enjoyed Nolan's Bat-Trilogy.   They were made by a guy who clearly wanted absolutely nothing to do with DC Comics as a whole and the third part has so many plot problems it's hard to believe they were all made by the same person, but on the whole they were a good set of films.  In hindsight Batman Begins might be my favorite Bat-film of all time.

But not everything needs to be like Batman.   I know how we got to this point, but it doesn't make me happy.   Everything about Batman translates well to mainstream audiences.   He's far easier to accept than other heroes created during the Golden or Silver Age.  In a world where so many people are over-thinking and cynical about everything, other superheroes have to undergo massive changes so the mainstream audience doesn't call them "corny", but Batman's basically ready-made for film and TV audiences.    He's got a cool enough outfit that even without major changes to his costume few people laugh when he's on-screen, he's got some of the most iconic villains in fiction, and his lack of powers make the SFX involved both cheap compared to other heroes and believable.

Why did you think this would work to begin with?
Meanwhile, the other superheroes they've tried in the modern film era have had films that were critical failures.  But instead of simply realizing those films were just bad or poorly done, someone at Warner's connected the dots that if these other films didn't sell and Batman did, if they just made the other films more like Batman, maybe they would make money.   Unfortunately, there's nothing the public loves more than a gritty reboot--it's why the late 80's and early 90's were a thing in the comics industry, so Man of Steel was a huge success, and now I've got to deal with the endless list of tools trying to argue that this is a viable way of making superhero films.

The trouble's not.  When you stare a little too closely at the superhero idea, you don't get more brooding versions of what already exists.  That comes from a weird sort of functional fixation--where you just assume that things would work largely the same because that's what you're used to.  Instead, you'd get things like Watchmen, Miracleman, the Authority, or even things like Wildcats 3.0.  Things like secret identities or even costumes are absolutely absurd when you've got the powers of a god--and you certainly don't waste your time pounding the streets taking down crime "one bad guy at a time".   These are stunted, half-measure ideas that don't fully extrapolate what happens when you introduce super-powered beings into the real world.
Be honest: Remove the Trident and you have no idea who this is.
So I'm stuck with all these awful metaphors and costumes that have been stabbed by the fun police and had all the color and creative energy drained out of them, so worn-out husks of their former selves can be offered up on the sacrificial mantle of the big screen. 

More importantly, I'm fed up with the idea that DC (my favorite fictional world) has to be stuck being the serious universe.  Sure, DC's has some dark stories told in its universe...but so's Marvel, and yet their universe has people capable of cracking a joke.  The recent Daredevil series on Netflix is how you do a serious super-hero: his costume is different, but there are reasons for it.  Not only are the changes meant to make the suit more practical, but it's also a work in progress.  As for the show itself, it manages to use complex characterization and never seems to shy away from how violent the criminal underworld is...but doesn't forget that at heart, it's a superhero show.  Matt's out there beating up bad guys in order to make the city safer--more often than not, he's stopping crimes in progress.  Man of Steel--and even this new trailer--seem more about being generic action films, reveling in the destruction superhero fights can cause. 

Lastly, what I find most irking about this is how hard they're leaning on Dark Knight Returns. The last scene has Batman wearing a hefty suit of armor and asking if Superman can bleed.  This, to me, is part of DC's problem: they don't wanna earn their cool moments.  Iron Man didn't skip straight to doing an Extremis storyline.  Captain America 1 gave us the set-up for Winter Soldier, and on and on.   Marvel's spent nearly seven years setting things up, and by the time they've built to the Infinity War in 2018, it'll have been a whole decade.

Meanwhile, DC just wants to skip ahead to cool moments regardless of whether they make sense.   Batman hasn't been best bros with Superman since Frank Miller's run on the character in the late 80's, but he never tried to throw down with the guy until DKR--a future version of DC in which Superman had become an outright crony of the conservative Reagan administration.  The battle made sense--at least, as much sense as any superhero clash can ever make.  Here, they're throwing down after Supes saved Metropolis and the world at large, presumably for no other reason than "it looks cool".

It's the same reason Superman 2 isn't actually Superman 2, or a Wonder Woman or Flash film, but instead basically a Justice League prologue film.  Because Warner's just wants to be able to skip ahead to the part where they can make Avengers money, regardless of whether or not they've put in Avengers-level work.

Having said all this: Could the film still be good?  Maybe.  Anything's possible.  But as it stands I've got zero faith in the way things are being done, and their last movie isn't helping their case. So instead of the near media blackout I've gone on for Avengers 2, I'll basically be consuming any teaser they throw at me for this in the vague hope that I'll actually see something deserving of my $10. 


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