DC versus Marvel – The Critics
Jerry Lucky Commentary July 2016
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2016 All Rights Reserved
So what are the “critics” saying about the movie Batman v Superman? Last month’s commentary dealt with the philosophical differences between the DC world and the Marvel world and how that has translated onto the silver-screen. Let’s take a look at a few of the critic’s comments but it’s worth pointing out how there was little consensus on what was supposedly “wrong” with the movie, almost as if they were simply reaching for anything. In the end virtually all of their complaints revolved around preferences. I’m always a little suspect when you can simply transpose any film into the critic’s comments. It’s like they dig into their pocket of “good-one-liners” to disparage something they don’t fully understand or don’t like.
Many have pointed to the Rotten Tomatoes website as a kind-of arbiter of the collective thought towards the film. The problem here is that anyone can write a review and skew the percentages so the percent doesn’t really tell us anything. The Rotten Tomatoes Critics Aggregate score of 27% puts Batman v Superman on the same level as Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost or Superman III. Seriously! Just for comparisons sake, let’s see what critics said of another Zach Snyder film, The Watchmen. The critics consensus starts with “Gritty and visually striking, Watchmen is a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel” which is a line that could just as easily describe Batman v Superman given the characters current setting within the comic book mythology. Here again the critics seemed to struggle with the complex narrative of The Watchmen just as they did with Batman v Superman. This struggle with complex narratives is troubling. I wonder if this has anything to do with shortened attention spans, less book reading, short media soundbites and texting thoughts in 140 characters. Interestingly the Batman v Superman audience score of 67% is quite close to The Watchmen’s 70%.
Within the comic community there is a small faction who seem to harbour some specific vitriol towards the Batman v Superman director Zach Snyder. Much of this particular criticism within the comics community has suggested it is Snyder who “doesn’t seem to get it” and doesn’t fully understand the comic characters. On the whole I disagree. I would agree he may have a different, even controversial take on some aspects of the characters, but Snyder has a very clear modern, mythic comic book vision that is prepared to take these characters and place them in a real world setting.
So then, let’s get to some specifics…Here’s a few of the things the critics have said…
Some were surprised at the dark tone of the Batman v Superman film…it was dark…yes it was…so? Your point is? Again, the DC approach here is to convey a far more tangible world than the one being portrayed in the bright and sunny Marvel world. Seems to me Batman v Superman accomplished exactly what it set out to do. This was done in order to present a present a more “grown-up” take on the superhero genre movie.
Some said the script was all over the place…they complained there were too many plot-lines, poorly linked together. Well for those with short attention spans I guess that could be true…but whenever I hear this type of complaint I’m reminded of Emperor Joseph’s comment after listening to one of Mozart’s latest musical creations when he complained that it had “too many notes.” I would ask these critics, how many plot lines are there “supposed” to be in any movie and why that number? I realize that many of these critics live their “thought-lives” in less than 150 characters, but att the end of the day it all becomes clear if we just pay attention.
Some said the cinematography was bad. Really? I’m always amazed when technical issues like cinematography, editing or CGI are trotted out as if there is a specific manual about the “correct” way to edit or light a movie shot. On top of that I hadn’t realized that so many people had become so accomplished in the cinematic craft of cinematography. So much so that they could identify the failings of the professionals making the movie they’re watching.
Some said the characters were not true to form…well have you read the comics lately? In the case of Batman v Superman you do realize this is the first time they’ve met, right? This is kind of like World’s Finest Comic #0…not World’s Finest Comic #25 where they’re all good buddies. Oh, and another thing…have you not read The Dark Knight Returns? Have you not read any of the recent Batman New 52 comics? That’s the world of Batman v Superman!
Some say it was very violent…once again I have to ask, have you been hiding under a rock…violence is what these characters are all about. It’s good versus evil. You know what I dislike is when there is a big fight in a superhero movie with all the crunching sound effects and yet people just keep getting up…no broken bones…nothing. It’s obvious it’s not real and we’re just trying to artificially pro-long the action sequence. In Batman v Superman Ben Affleck has perhaps one of the best fights ever and you realize people get hurt when they fight like this.
Some objected to the idea that Batman (or Superman for that matter) is responsible for people dying. Well with this version of these characters that does happen. But then Batman has been responsible for criminal deaths in comic stories going back to the early forties. This is not his first fight-rodeo, if you know what I mean. Oh and by the way, even in the new movie it’s not him bringing a gun to the fight…other than the one on the Batwing…but in fighting others with their guns…yeah he’s probably going to swing that piece in the other direction and if the bad guys are in the way, that’s their choice. To my mind with this reboot of the Batman world, that’s how that world works.