26/03/2016

Batman V Superman - What Is A Scene?

Thoughts On: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Old Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor do stuff with kryptonite, guns, explosions, a bit of Wonder Woman, ending in more guns, explosions and Doomsday...


If you've not seen the film, don't read this, probably spoilers. Or do, I don't care. What I want to say is this film sucks. The truth? This is not a film. Or at least, I'm not accepting it as one. There is so much that is just so bad about this film and... I'm not going to talk about its myriad of flaws with specificity--we'd be here all day. Obviously, it's too long, but vacuously empty. There is no plot, just things happening. Lex Luthor is laughably bad. The film doesn't even look good. I'll bet you'll hear people praise Zack Snyder and his direction of action and the way the film looks. All lies. No, the film doesn't look particularly bad--except when Superman is revived by the sun after being hit with the nuke--I honestly thought there was something wrong with my eyes or the screen seeing the utter mushy CGI... bluh. This is definitely one of those films we'll look back on in a few years and be embarrassed to have been swept away by its visuals. The direction around the action scenes is piss-poor. The fight choreography is pretty crap apart from a few seconds within one of Batman's last fights with multiple men. But each action set-piece was directed with too much camera movement, too many cuts and way too close to the stuff happening--I say stuff because you just can't tell half the time. The film is designed to hide its flaws. This is painfully clear in the action scenes--with the direction as a whole. The only character motivations in this story come from the fact that there is a camera following them. This film leans on the fourth wall so hard, but hasn't the courtesy to turn to us like Deadpool does. The indifferent tone of this film is a detriment to the whole concept of sci-fi/action. The film talks at you with its back turned for 2 hours and then fights around you whilst a camera desperately searches for a good place to have stuff rush by, implying action.

The main flaws in this film come directly from its script. You'd have to be a complete idiot to have written this. I understand around 30 mins of this film were cut away, but that's no excuse for how bad the films is and how terribly the script manifested itself. Ask yourself this simple question: would you want to read the script? No! This is the core issue of the film as it was released, as I saw it. The film has no concept of a scene. A movie is a conglomeration of smaller narratives to build up a whole, an amalgamation of scenes into a story. How I suppose this film was written was someone decided to cut up a comic book, jumble a few pieces around, drop them on a few cards and hand it in. The director then shot a whole load of movie trailers and T.V with that as guide--T.V!? Why is there so much news and T.V in this film!? Look at a film like E.T. In this film Spielberg decided against having adults and the outside world invading the narrative as much as possible, especially the news. He done this to imbue the film with fantasy, to keep you in the film's world, with its characters. And what does this achieve? Grown men reduced to tears by the end of the film. 'E.T go home'? 'Be... good... Eliot'? Never in a million years could you hear or see those lines and think they could make someone cry, but, that's the power of cinema--fantasy--the improbable, the impossible, brought to life via a screen. The movement toward realism with the superhero genre was at first a great thing--we all loved Nolan's Batman trilogy. And those films are Nolan's, in no way do I think of the trilogy as DC's. As far as I'm concerned they don't know how to make films yet. We all loved the Dark Night trilogy because of how stupid, over the top and camp Batman, how all superhero films, were beforehand. The movement towards realism cut out all that was crap about the previous attempts. As we all know, Nolan took a comic book movie and made a film. But, the use of realism in Batman V Superman is mind-numbingly boring.

This plays back into the action and the concept of a scene. I sat in a cinema bored for 2 1/2 hours with Batman V Superman on a massive screen before me. BATMAN V SUPERMAN!? How is this possible!? The 'narrative' and 'plot' centred parts were empty. The action scenes were slow and lifeless. Batman fought Superman for all of 30 seconds (yes, it was more than that). And it was so slow! The film tried to build up and to have the fight gritty and real with gruelling, painful nonsense stuff happening, but all I saw was them slowly walking toward one another, punching at half speed and groaning a lot. I knew the Batman V Superman parts of the film were going to be minimal, but to this extent is just insulting. All the film's problems come from poor, poor, scene contruction. As we all know and saw, the film is basically split apart by its two characters. What the screenwriter tried to do was to break scenes into two and juxtapose Batman with Superman, showing how they are similar and different. A commendable attempt, but, God awful execution. There are no scenes, just stuff happening. Things happen in the dessert somewhere (I don't care to remember where) oceans, cities, this, that, blah, b-blah. But that's it, there is no narrative flow within the scenes let alone through the film. There is no plot, no flow, nothing. Just static and spliced montage. Montage is supposed to be used to show narrative flow over time, but quickly. Look at Rocky. Rocky! I need say no more. This film goes for a Rocky montage with Batman and... yeah... no. Don't do that. Affleck's no Sly and Snyder doesn't know how to cut together montage--he tries to make a film off the idea, but no. All this film manages to do is leap frog between moments with no arc, no depth, no scenes within the slithers of fractured narrative.

When you write you, know what needs to happen in scenes. You need to introduce Batman or you need to introduce the Bruce Wayne and his disdain (rhyme) for Superman. This is the film's opener and in no way is character motivated. Bruce flying into whatever city to cannon through streets in his car and run into dust plumes was not for the sake of plot, for story telling, but for visuals. Save these scenes for action! There is no character motivated action. This means there are no characters. This film wants to be a political thriller, it wants to be dramatic, action packed, poignant, but it's none of that because it cannot construct scenes. The closest iteration to a scene we get is when Clark and Bruce meet at the party with Lex. What happens here is all the characters converge, forcing the editor and screenwriter to spend sometime doing one thing and oh my God... bliss. I actually sat back in my chair and felt the movie move for all of three minutes. Here is the first aspect of a narrative flow, not segmented blocks on a page shot with a camera. A scene is like a sentence within a paragraph. If I wrote like the film plays, we'd get something like this:

Film. Bad. Boring. Realism. Scene. Set-piece. Rocky! E.T! Montage. Cut. Leap frog. Mush.

Yes, these are my ideas, but they aren't cohesive. Without compounding scenes like you do sentences you can only imply you cannot explore.

Now, I'd like to talk about a film here you just may not know about, its called Man With A Movie Camera. It's a true classic, an absolute masterpiece. This is an experimental film in montage and... wow... its breathtaking. Find it. Watch it. I don't want to say any more about it. But to talk around the film, everything is in montage, it has no story, it merely explores a location. This film teaches that visuals can captivate, that pure cinema is a powerful thing. This movie works because of pacing, direction and absolute splendour. This is one of the best directed and edited film of all time. It takes the Eisensteinian concept of montage--that which I'm sure you know, but maybe just indirectly--and builds a narrative flow like a piece of music takes a beat and lets it grow into a song, an album, concerto, movement or set-piece. A film in montage can work. But, it takes pure cinema, it takes images, it takes giving us everything with a camera. This film doesn't do this. This throws back to leaning on the fourth wall. Deadpool worked for two obvious reasons: it was its own film and it knew what it was. In being its own film it didn't have to be a trailer like I'm sure you noticed Batman V Superman was. In knowing what it was, Deadpool could turn to us and comment on what's going on, why and throw some great writing in. This film has Deadpool's mouth, just censored and talking into his chest. Exposition! Oh, it hurts! And no style. This is why Deadpool had to be R-rated. But, exposition doesn't have to be painful. We all saw Inception, almost no dialogue, just exposition, but it worked. Why? Because the film was so complex and was explaining mind-blowing ideas. This film drivels on at us about boring moral ethics. A superhero film tries to tell us violence is bad, yet sold us our tickets with the promise of a hyped-up superhuman fighting a God-like alien! Credit where credit is due though: we didn't get much.

Here, we come right back to realism. Batman needed it because of the past it was trying to quash--Batnipples is all I need to say, right? Superman does not need realism. Superman is never, not for one second, 'super' in this film. In every Superman film he's allowed to do one mind-blowing, impossible thing like reverse time, stop an aeroplane/rocket thing form crashing, such and so on. Tell me this: what did Superman do that impressed you? At what point did you say 'wow...'. When were you in awe? This film with intelligent writing could have been the greatest superhero film of all time. DC would have blown Marvel out the water with a clever screenwriter. The film's main conflict is unbalanced. We have the realism Batman needs and the fantasy Superman requires. How can the two characters, the two concepts exist in one film? They can't! Guess what that is... CONFLICT!!!! The film should have been Batman's realism trying to force Superman's fantasy into the realm of the everyday whilst Superman's fantastical elements demand Batman step up. What should have happened in the writer's room is session after session of trump card games. Two writers should sit opposite each other and say Superman has laser eyes, the other then says Batman has... I don't know... a shield thing (I'm not going to rewrite the film here--sorry I can't be bothered). This should have outlined exactly what their fight should have been, leaving the run up to it a quest to collect those materials, abilities, such and so on. Now, you could say that this is what the film did, and I'd have to agree with you, but only to a certain degree. Yes, we all knew Batman needed the kriptonite and that's how the fight would have been possible. But a gun!? Lazy. Boring. Was I the only one repulsed to see a gun in Batman's hand? I'm not even a comic book fan and I know that goes against Batman's morals. I do know enough about the whole thing to know that he had a change of heart though, but... ugh... don't need it. They didn't even explain it anyway.

The film's issues are simply that it cannot construct scenes, cannot balance realism with fantasy and that it's a trailer. With real scenes a plot could have surfaced, characters could exist (of which there were none), and a narrative flow could actually engage. The film bombards you, it doesn't entertain, it bombards--and not even in a good way like Mad Max: Fury Road (didn't even like it, but I can't deny) or The Raid. By balancing realism with fantasy, by making that the core conflict the film, it could have blown us away. It could have given us the most original, awe inspiring action scenes and set-pieces ever, not given us everything we've either seen before or don't want to. If the film wasn't a trailer for everything up and coming in the DC universe then the writer and director would be free to create something worthwhile. I, in short, am just fed up of this self-abuse coming from the blockbusters. Just stop hurting yourself. It's like Hollywood is holding a knife to its own throat and threatening to slice with us all standing, screaming, shouting, begging for them to just please stop! We love you! We give you so much! But, no. The knife stays to the throat and it's starting to pierce the skin. Eventually we're all going to get bored of negotiating and just leave them to it. When T.V and the internet decimate Hollywood it'll only be of its own doing. I don't want to see this day and, frankly, I'm never going to abandon cinema. A lot of us won't. But when the world for the most part turns its back on the suicidal idiot with the knife to its throat, it's going to be left with a choice. It'll either have to cut its throat like it promised or feel stupid and put down the knife. Maybe then the likes of Deadpool won't be rare. Maybe we won't have to turn to the indie market to get something new and exciting. Maybe then what little money the suicidal idiot that is Hollywood has left will use it to do something daring and spectacular. With a bit of guts and a lot of money Hollywood could change the world if they wanted. We all secretly know this. Look at Star Wars. Crazy idea, but it changed cinema forever. No, not every crazy idea will take, but this kind of thing takes practice. You can't be original, you can't create the next Star Wars, the way we are going. For the sake of money and the audience, why aren't we trying!?

All in all, this film.. yeah.. thanks for wasting my time. But, to Hollywood, maybe stop treating cinema as the business it inherently is and pretend to care. Pretend like cinema matters and put a little more effort into thinking. I'll stop here, but I think a part II is imminent. I'm not done with this film yet.



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