So Let's Talk About That Batman v. Superman Trailer
It's been a crazy few days for movie trailer releases. First, we got the nostalgic ecstasy of the new Star Wars trailer and then that was followed up by the super-dark (pun totally intended) first trailer for next year's Mad Libs-titled Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. As a non-accredited Supermanologist, I figured I would walk us through some thoughts on the upcoming cinematic showdown between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.
1. You should always take trailers with a grain of salt. Better yet, just unscrew the lid and dump all of the salt out onto the plate. Bad movies can have great trailers. Great movies can have trailers that make you say "Meh." Pertinent to our discussion: if Man of Steel had been anywhere near as good as its trailer, then I would watch that sucker five times a week while bemoaning what a crime it was for the Academy to snub the Greatest Suprehero Film of All Time. As it was, I found Man of Steel to be a flawed (mainly in editing and the back half) albeit still quite enjoyable film. In other words, who knows what kind of movie we got on our hands here?
2. Dark is not often a word that I think should describe Superman. The character is supposed to embody hope and what is good about humanity (as I have previously noted). Yet I have to give the filmmakers some credit for organically following the story that they set up in Man of Steel. You cannot have the utter destruction of Metropolis at the hands of Kryptonians and then have everything be sunshine and rainbows in the sequel. Of course people are going to be wary of Kal-El. If that's the starting point then Superman must have a hard-fought journey to become the ideal that we associate with Superman. In other words, it's always darkest before the dawn (and I would bet $1 million that phrase appears in some form in this movie's dialogue).
2a. If such an obvious line as "It's always darkest before the dawn" appears in a movie subtitled Dawn of Justice, I should point out that one of the screenwriters for BvS won an Oscar for Argo. If this happens, the award should either be rescinded or shared with all writers. Perhaps we would each get a day with it like hockey players do with the Stanley Cup.
3. The shadow side of the messianic themes overlaid on Superman are often not explored. This omission is partly because the Jesus imagery surrounding the Man of Steel is half-baked seeing as Jesus preached turning the other cheek and Superman (and this is coming from someone who absolutely loves Superman) mainly solves problems by super-punching things. So the effectively creepy "False God" reveal in the trailer piques my interest since it implies the movie will touch on the potentials dangers of a nearly unstoppable figure flying around the earth.
3a. What the heck is up with that scene where some of the people reaching towards Superman are wearing skeleton makeup? Is it the Day of the Dead? A cult surrounding Superman? Did he rescue someone at an Oakland Raiders game?
4. Say this for Zach Snyder, he knows how to make a visually interesting film. The aforementioned shot of the graffitied statue, the from below shot of a flying Superman silhouetted by the sun, and the Nolan-esque image of Batman atop a skyscraper immediately jump to mind. If we could convince Snyder to broaden his color palette a bit, this would probably be an incredible film to look at.
5. Of course, all of these points about theme and cinematography mean squat if it's a terrible movie.
6. Let's talk about Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, since this trailer could not be more of a love letter to that graphic novel. I'm in the minority here, but I find TDKR to be vastly overrated (I do have friends who agree with me; TJ, I may need back up). I have two problems with TDKR being a major influence on BvS. Firstly, I find the characterizations of Bats (angry, misanthropic bully) and Supes (government stooge) to be weak takes on classic figures and thus find their conflict not very compelling. Secondly, TDKR is a movie about endings whereas this movie is supposed to be the beginning of the DC Cinematic Universe. Our two protagonists have to build from this experience to build the Justice League.
6a. Lest Batfans think I am a heretic for hating on one of their most revered stories, I will say that Miller's Alpha to TDKR's Omega, Year One, is fantastic and deservedly considered one of the best Batman stories of all times.
6b. I am okay with there being conflict between Batman and Superman if it is organically dispensed with by the time the movie is over. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are incredibly different characters but their relationship is interesting not because of animosity but because of they implicitly trust one another despite immense philosophical/personal differences.
6c. It is going to be pretty awesome to see the two greatest superheroes on the screen together.
7. Batman saying he is going to make Superman bleed is a very un-Batman thing to say. Don't get me wrong, he's a guy who loves punching people, but crosses some sort of line of making his opponent want to suffer. It's personal. Batman didn't even say that to The Joker in Nolan's The Dark Knight and if there was ever a dude that deserved that line, it was Joker. Why the intense hatred? Did Clark say that Matt Damon easily has the better overall movie career?
8. There needs to be more hope in this movie than this initial trailer is indicating. Superman and Batman also both need to be protagonists that we can root for (which is not so much the case here). If these guys are the entry point for the rest of the Justice League, we've got to be onboard with them. A little brooding is fine, but we need to see the aspirational qualities that make Superman and Batman the heroes that they are.
9. No offense to Jeremy Irons, but it's going to take time getting used to anyone other than Michael Caine being Alfred. And if Bruce turns out to be a sadistic sociopath in this movie then I probably will blame Iron Alfred. Just a head's up.
10. Further reason why this trailer is only telling part of the story: no Lois Lane (and Amy Adams is arguably the best Lois Lane we've had on film), no Perry White, no Wonder Woman (however she's going to fit in there), no Ma Kent, or various others that we know to be in the cast. I suspect we'll have another trailer in the fall or Christmas (if not one at Comic-Con this summer).
So in conclusion: there are things about this trailer that seem cool to me and there are things that worry me, but it's all too early to make heads or tails of anything. The trailer doesn't excite me but it does intrigue me. That controversy is better than "Meh."