It’s Saturday night and you just woke up from a nap at 6:30 pm. Do you get dressed and head for the bar/party/club? Or, maybe you’re about as messed up from the late day nap as anyone can get without drugs or drink so you sit there and you sit there some more and all of the sudden you’ve logged into your roommate’s HBO account and you’ve already clicked on a movie you’d promised never to watch. But you decided to add a new qualifier. You’d only ever promised not to pay to see it.
And so Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice begins.
“Just ignore the dialogue,” you’re already whispering under your breath like someone who’s afraid of flying right before a 9 hour flight except this is a two and a half hour movie directed by a man who has a synergistic deficiencies in both dialogue writing and actor direction. I’d already suffered through Man of Steel. What new horror would Mr. Snyder subject me to?
And to my delight I find a Movie, capital ‘M’, not an episode in a series. This is a movie. What kind of elitist comment am I trying/succeeding at making? Of course BvS is a Movie. Well, whatever, I’m just like you know poking fun at Marvel movies, because they don’t ever really feel that much like movies.
BvS (pronounced Beavis? Nah, I’m just kiddonononing) is splendid from a visual standpoint. It had a richness that’s kind of rare in this genre. It goes off the rails a lot too. Some scenes are bonkers. Zach Snyder himself might be bonkers. This is not a vanilla DC universe. This is some dark Flashpoint paradox, Frank Miller-esque DC Universe where everything is terrible, but not in a qualitative sense, in an emotional sense.
Watching this Dark DDDaark version of the caped crusaders brought to mind the last time I attempted (big emphasis on ATTEMPTED) to buy a batman comic. I waltzed into some tiny shop on Passyunk Ave believing with some foolhardiness that I ought to get caught up on what ol’ Bats was up to. Unfortunately, for some unknown reason speaking with comic shop peddlers fills me with an indescribable dread. I guess I remember too easily the owners of every comic boutique I ever went to as a kid who maintained their nerdom with a noxious superiority. If I asked the wrong question I might receive some dreaded scoff or roll of the eyes. So here I was a full grown man poking around this comic shop in South Philly hoping against hope that I could just get in and out sans any awkward interchange with the devil behind the counter.
But where’s ol’ Bats? Surely they still make Batman comics. Isn’t Batman the metric against which the entire industry measures sales? Have things changed that much? My consternation must have been evident from a distance because a sales associate closed in like a shark smelling blood.
“Just looking for Batman,” I say politely while screaming silently from every pore.
“Oh, well they don’t make Batman serials quite like they used to. The only batman comics they make now are more serious and mature,” the clerk tells me in a tone of voice that belies the coolness of serious Batman. He pointed me towards a shelf with some Bat comics. Flipping through the most recent issue I found Bats beating up a frogman who’s selling Meth to kids. I left without purchasing it.
But my distaste was all hot air. Hadn’t I spent my teenage years devouring Frank Miller’s dark Batman? Hadn’t gobbled up the Watchmen by Allen Moore? Hadn’t I relished how Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight had drawn inspiration from The Long Halloween? Was it too late to ask where that path lead?
It lead here: a Saturday night at home on the couch watching a version of Batman who’s Batmobile spews bullets like a WWII machine gun nest, a Superman who’s easily driven to homicidal rage, a Lex Luthor who sends jars of his own pee as a threat to his enemies and an Alfred who’s almost darker and creepier than Batman himself.
Truth be told I enjoyed most of it. The dialogue left a lot to be desired but at this point I’ve given up on Mr. Snyder ever improving his game in that respect. Ben Affleck was pretty good as an oldish cynical Batman. Jesse Eissenberg was fine too, even if I think he went off the rails a lot. I guess everyone was going off the rails all the time. Maybe that’s what Zach Snyder kept telling them, “Guys in this scene just go off the rails. In fact don’t worry about whether there’s rails or not. We’ll CGI the rails in later.”
Turns out it wasn’t bad advice. I’m just not sure it was super good either.