24/04/2016

Batman V Superman

Thoughts On: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

To introduce, I didn't like this film much. It represents a lot of what I don't like about cinema as a whole. Over two essays I explore both its specific faults and the surrounding problems concerning the approach to sci-fi/fantasy. Here we go...

What Is A Scene?

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 laughable 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 wit 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. Monatge 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 si 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 partly 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 say 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. The 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 its 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, 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 it 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.

Human Cinema

Films are about people, they are for people, but that shouldn't constrain cinema...


Fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes. When we think of these things we think of the impossible, we think of alien planets, space travel, monsters, inhuman ability, spectacle, imagination. Through cinema we get to experience the alien, we get to have our crazy imaginings realised so we can experience them with others--or for more selfish reasons (I'm not going to delve into porn here--another time). But what do we get? The everyday, just heightened. The world we know, painted a different shade for a while. Our perception, diluted. What are the best fantasy films of all time? For me, I turn directly to Lord Of The Rings, to Disney, Studio Ghibli, films like Pans Labyrinth, 2001, E.T, The Wizard of Oz and... uh... you run out of titles and names quick. For an art form enwreathed, imbued, with this idea of fantasy, of heightened reality, cinema is not so good at it. What popularised cinema that keeps it relevant? It's capacity to present the fantastical for all to understand. I speak for myself here, and I know some may disagree, but, no matter how well a book is written, no matter how good of a writer you are, a picture is always going to portray fantasy just that little bit better than you. I say this as a writer. I've always wanted to write, to read, but cinema is where my heart is at. I love words, I love the idea my voice being under my finger tips, under my control (yeah, I'm no public speaker). But, humans are visual creatures. This is why cinema is the best art form. We are irrevocably bound to this idea of images. Images are what we construct reality from. Cinema is best at communicating with our core of perception. I mean, we've all heard it: a picture paints a thousand words, a film, a thousand words 24 time a second.

If humans are bound to their primary sense of sight, forming our perception of reality, and cinema is supposed to be an escape... why are we not that good at fantasy? Take the list of the 100 best films ever made from Rotten Tomatoes. I count approximately 19 fantasies. The genre is a little hard to define with films like Dr. Strangelove, but it's clear that in a general sense people love the fantasy genre. But, let's be real. All films are fantasy. Everything from the realist films like I Vitellioni or Bicycle Thieves to the not so realistic Once Upon A Time In America or Oldboy are fantasy. Even documentaries and reality T.V shows are fantasy. This is because events are contorted by a camera, lighting, editing, bad acting, obvious writing--especially with 'reality' T.V. I further the point with Keeping With The Kardashians. I've never watched it (no lie) but I can tell you that even if we are watching their real lives play out, from where we sit, their million dollar homes, cars, clothes, pets, their perspective, their way of living, persona, actual physique, is all a fantasy. Make no mistake, reality cannot exist on the big or small screen.

What has this got to do with Batman V Superman? Well, fantasy in cinema is becoming more and more obsolete, yet more and more relevant. What is the current movement in we're going through? Realism. We see it through our gritty and grounded sci-fi, our found footage, our demand for human drama. We're living in a world of me, me, me. I don't think this is a bad thing. It's just what happens when we all get the internet, it's how we want to be. But we're in a stilted revelation within cinema and we're kind of ignoring it. CGI. When was the last time you heard or saw the acronym before someone complained or said meh? CGI is the future of cinema and, yes, bad CGI is really bad, but good CGI goes unnoticed. We're becoming more acclimatised to this idea as CGI becomes less of a selling point for a film, but an inevitability. CGI is what has given us Batman V Superman and virtually every blockbuster of the past 5 years. There's such a movement against it and I don't fully understand why. If cinema is fantasy why must we suppress it with the realism found in Batman V Superman? Why did it have to be so PC just because some people complained that Superman inadvertently killed people in Man Of Steel? Why do we look down on mindless destruction? I think there's an obvious difference between continuity or sensical errors and heightened reality. No one else seems to think so. The realist movement is such a contradiction because where does it hit hardest? Sci-fi and horror.

Now, the horror talk is for another time, my views on fantasy and horror are a little different from sci-fi. But, people want to see themselves presented in art. This links back to the 'me, me, me' aspect of society and why BVS is so PC. I say this is a tragic blunder. Cinema right now should be an explosion of creativity. I mean, we should have been drowning in mindbogglingly other worldly films since T2 and Jurassic Park. That was a quarter of a century ago! Cinema is about 115 years old. Talkies have been around for around 90. Colour pictures about 75, but only did they fully take over in the 60s leaving us with about half a century of modern cinema. From the early 60s to the late 70s cinema changed radically. From Some Like It Hot to Mean Streets to Star Wars cinema became more and more sexualised, violent and special effects driven. Jaws gave us the blockbuster. From the 80s until now cinema has been taken over by teens and families. Cinema has not changed much in this time. Yes, we've got CGI really settling in and 3D standing on the side--still in the picture though--but everyone's against it. We are fighting some amazing cinema by demanding realism. Moreover, we could be dooming cinema, destroying its future by doing this.

Studios are getting a clear message that we want gritty realism and its reflected through he films we're getting. The majority of fantasy films are aimed for kids, I think they always have been, but CGI should have changed that. Look at what it opened with! Terminator 2! No it wasn't the first film with CGI but it was the first real good one. The movement against fantasy in this sense stems back to silent animated films, and later on, Disney. Animation is an amazing thing. Who are our key animators? Disney Pixar and DreamWorks. What do they make? Kids films. Why are our tools for creating whatever we want only used for children. From the 30s we've looked down animation as nothing better than a kids play thing (yes, Toy Story reference). Why!? I'll say it again, cinema is fantasy. Why are our world creating tools (animation and CGI) looked down on by cinema. Look at T.V and the massive cultural impact of anime. I'm sorry to those who I offend here, but these are inferior to cinema, yet we're letting them utilise what cinema should have a monopoly on. From Keaton's cinema of questionable physics to Griffith's spectacle, cinema has it's roots in fantasy. Look at romance and tell me realism has any place there. Yes, realism is imperative to cinema. I don't suggest we lose it in all genres merely give it a rest in sci-fi.

Linking back to BVS, I want to come back to the idea that sense and fantasy can coexist. The reason why realism is so important to people and rife in cinema is because the audience thinks they're making a CinemaSins video. I love the channel by the way, but people misconstrue what it's really doing. CinemaSins makes errors in writing and directing obvious and punishes the film for it. We all love doing this, to spot where we can prove we're smarter than a film. Plot holes are gold mines. This drives a huge misconception in fantasy. You don't have to follow the rules of reality, but the rules you set down. You can have 100 foot chicken roam the Earth if that's your premise and you justify it. Whom do we reserve such ideas for? Children. Superheroes are our generation's cowboys. Iron Man and Batman are our John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. They are those who we look up to and idealise in the fantasy realm of cinema. We are fast destroying their worlds with the demand for realism. In Superman, how many times have we gone to Kripton? I remember reading something from David S. Goyer, (the screenwriter of Man Of Steel) he said something along the lines of him writing EXT. KRIPTON and just not being comfortable. Instead he moved onto EXT. SMALLVILLE or some other place he was familiar with. I mean...where are your guts!? Why must cinema be so human, so familiar!?

Here's the crux of my point. Humans have invaded cinema and settled. This happened almost immediately because of money, ability and technology. Milies gave us our first special effects films - A Trip to The Moon being most notable. It took a magician to show us the wonders cinema could provide and our infatuation with such an idea has always been reduced to a friend zoney, grey area. Cinema is fantasy, but we don't want to be reminded of that fact. With BVS the neglect of fantasy is not only with its needless use of realism, but humanity. WHY IS A FILM CALLED BATMAN V SUPERMAN ABOUT HUMANS!?!?!?!?!?!? Sorry for shouting. But, this is a major issue in cinema in my opinion. Films are always going to be about people, I don't care if there's a 20 foot gorilla or thousand green people. Humans are rooted in cinema because we make it. This doesn't mean we have to sully fantasy with our on-screen presence. If you've read my other post on BVS you may or may not have noticed something. At what point did I talk about Lois or any of the other humans? Not much, probably not much more than once. This was intentional as I was both saving them for now and wanted to prove how insignificant and pointless they are in the film. Get them out! There's a shot in almost all sci-fi films when something is destroyed where I just want to be sick. It's the one of the crowd of faces we don't care about. This is never a poignant shot! We know our reaction! Unless it pushes the plot forward, such as the crowd deciding to then riot, then get it out. I don't want to see the creatures on those nameless planets in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Look at the original, all we needed was Lea's reaction. Get humans out! Especially of sci-fi!

This is so relevant to Batman V Superman because this stupid idea of overly human cinema is where the film has its foundations. It's because people didn't like the fact that people die when Gods fight that this film has come to be. People need to pipe down and find something humbling. What they essentially are abhorred over is their fantasy representations being killed whilst Superman is fighting for their life! This is shown in the film with everyone taking Superman for granted. They assume he's their saviour, that he owes them something, that he belongs in court, that we can judge him. Superman in court!? Fuck off. Sorry, I'm just passionate. Forgive me. What happened when Batman was put under the same strain in The Dark Night trilogy? He didn't show up. Bruce Wayne knew he served the people, he didn't need their validation, their permission. To reduce Superman to a cowering figure literally, literally, on his knees before Lex Luthor is absurd. If I wrote that film I would have had him punch him in the dick and do something amazing, something improbable, something only Superman could do which is to go save his mother. The fact that Superman is so overpowered should only excite screenwriters. This is their chance to show us their imaginative capacity. Superman is a script you should be able to show off, you should be able to brag, with. What we get is boring and grounded. This is how I try to write: I try to have the fantastical primary and the conflict retaliatory. It's the screenwriters job to battle Superman's overpowered nature with conflict, not to suppress him. Enhance him and then squash him. This is what I meant with the realism in Batman, that which he's tied to, battling the fantasy of Superman in my last post.

What this all cycles back to is us and fantasy. If children can learn lessons from kung fu fighting pandas, talking animals, cartoons, why can't adults at least tell proper stories with them. I'm not saying adults can't enjoy well made kid's films (Cinderella is one of my favourite films of all time) or that we should be using talking animals, but why not? Look at Family Guy, The Simpsons, the new Seth Rogen film with the talking food that swears, is murdered by humans and represents genitalia. We can do more, we can do better, with the idea of fantasy, with the idea that cinema can be whatever you want, than what we are doing now. Cinema's future is in CG, cinema's future is in imagination, cinema's future is in fantasy. Please, don't hold it back. Take the humans out, write something that sounds like the concept came from a crack den, something from the free mind of a mellowed and chilled pot head. We don't need drugs to do this people! Don't try it, we're not all Seth Rogan and I don't want to recommend drugs to anyone. Forget BVS and free cinema.

This is what I urge, this is what we as consumers, what Hollywood as a business, what cinema, needs. Freedom. Avengers should not be about Black Widow and Hawkeye. BVS should not be about Lois Lane and the goddamn morons the Planet newspaper place. Give us the inhuman and we will find humanity in it. Why do you think so many people love their cats so much!? Don't reduce cinema to an evil, scummy, pet like a cat (sorry, I just don't like them) just free it. Free cinema.

Free cinema.



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