Why is there a Superman statue in the new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teaser? More than anything else, that’s what I keep coming back to.
Not the fact that the Batwing appears to be mowing people down, causing everyone to instantly assume it must be controlled by someone else because surely they wouldn’t turn Batman into a murderer.
Not that Superman is worshiped as a god. Not that we hear Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, and Jesse Eisenberg provide voice-over. And not that Ben Affleck’s digitally altered voice promises to make Superman bleed.
It’s that freakin’ statue I can’t get past:
Why has Metropolis erected a statue to honor Superman after the events of Man of Steel? Isn’t that money which would have been better spent on addressing the $700 billion worth of physical damage suffered by the city during Superman’s game of rock-em, sock-em Kryptonians with Zod (to put that in context, 9/11 only caused $55 billion worth of physical damage)? Which government in the world would really authorize such a statue to honor an extraterrestrial alien who’d been living among us in secret for three decades, and then inadvertently invited near planet-wide destruction by attracting the attention of his nomadic people and their doomsday machine? Superman didn’t so much save Metropolis; he more cleaned up a mess of his own making. The entire dang planet would know that because prior to activating his doomsday device Zod broke into all known airwaves and advertized the fact that his people were only there to retrieve a member of their own race. Yes, his intentions were more lethal than he let on, but his presence in Earth’s atmosphere was a direct result of Superman and everyone would know that. Their ensuing fight in Metropolis resulted in 129,000 known fatalities, nearly a million injuries, and over 250,000 missing and assumed dead, according to Watson Technical Consulting and Buzzfeed. That is an impact comparable to the Nagasaki nuclear bomb.
So, I ask again: why is there now a statue to honor Superman? Probably just because Zack Snyder thought it would look really cool (or lifted it directly from a comic book I’ve never read) to have a statue with red graffiti labeling it “False God”!
From Dawn of the Dead to 300 to Watchmen to Sucker Punch to Man of Steel, Snyder has proved he’s “great at creating arresting visuals, and he has a deep appreciation for the grammar of comic-book storytelling, creating splash pages [a comic book page mostly or entirely taken up by a single image] on the screen. But he has a problem with capturing real emotions, as opposed to surfaces.” His films look like the most gorgeous storyboards brought to life, and Batman v Superman already looks more distinctly Zack Snyder than Man of Steel since it marks his reunion with longtime cinematographer Larry Fong after the two briefly parted, Man of Steel’s cinematographer Amir Mokri now pushed aside for Fong. Opening the teaser on that shot of the Superman statue is certainly arresting, but it already signals to me that Snyder and I are operating on different wavelengths. I simply do not believe that such a statue would ever be built (either by the government or some private investor or religious community or whatever) given the way things played out in Man of Steel, and because of that I don’t care how cool it looks or how economically it is deployed, visually communicating the notion of Superman being worshiped by some, feared and hated by others. It is a great idea to turn Superman into a political lightning rod, the Pro-Superman/Anti-Superman talking points via the voice-overs mirroring the way the destructive final act of Man of Steel polarized fans. But, to me, it just looks so thoroughly like a Zack Snyder movie.
All of this makes it seem like I am singling out that stupid statue as reason to completely dismiss this movie, or that I’m really, really nitpicking here. That’s not my intention. I am singling it out as something which I find to be emblematic of the Zack Snyder style of filmmaking, which seems to be more driven toward achieving that one cool shot instead of anything emotional, logical or character-based. That makes for amazing trailers and individual sequences, such as the entire opening credits of The Watchmen, but relatively hollow films. For as much as we are given to optimism about anything related to The Avengers because we gleefully trust in Joss Whedon we can have the opposite reaction to Batman v Superman because we rightly doubt Zack Snyder.
However, I already knew that Zack Snyder films simply aren’t for me, much as I deluded myself otherwise prior to Man of Steel, focusing more on the Christopher Nolan part than Zack Snyder part beforehand. That’s why I the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teaser has left me neither excited nor angry – it’s pretty much what I expected, deeply indebted to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and as dark and gloomy as the Marvel movies are light and fun. Some people whose opinions I really trust are unapologetically gitty over the teaser (like GirlOnComicBookWorld), others are cautiously optimistic (like SeroWord), and the granddaddy of all comic book movie news and opinions, Devin Faraci of BadAssDigest, seems pretty down on it, lamenting, “The tone of the trailer is so unrelentingly dour and unhappy that when it gets to the confrontation in the rain at the end the whole thing simply seems silly.” The AV Club had a similar and characteristically snarky reaction, Forbes’ Scott Mendelson was a bit more on the fence, wishing we could have seen a glimpse of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman (me too), and The Hollywood Reporter’s Graham McMillan thinks the biggest problem with Batman v Superman is Man of Steel:
Trailers, ultimately, are tricks; they’re something that exists to convince the audience that, hey, this movie is exactly what you want to see! Unfortunately, such tricks only work on audiences that are willing to be convinced, or at least open to persuasion. In Batman v Superman‘s case, that battle might have already been lost because of fan reaction to Man of Steel — or, at least, the battle is hard enough to fight that one trailer isn’t going to do it for a vocal chunk of the online market.
Of course, that line of reasoning would have you believe that there will be people who will not see Batman v Superman because they didn’t like Man of Steel. That might be true. After all, there is a lot of hate thrown Man of Steel’s way. Not just by fans though. It angered many who actually work in comics and film, like Superman comic book writer Mark Waid (who described the film as breaking his heart) and Chronicle screenwriter Max Landis (who ranted via YouTube that Man of Steel forgot the ‘hero’ part of superhero). I personally found it to be a movie which frustrated more than it delighted, but I did not take it as personally as some because Superman is a character I like but do not actually love.
I love Batman, though. I will see Batman v Superman opening day, if not at a midnight screening. That’s going to happen. I can take comfort in the fact that an Oscar winning screenwriter (Chris Terrio) performed significant rewrites of David Goyer’s original script. I can be delighted to see how awesome Ben Affleck looks at Batman. I can clutch my copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and rejoice that its iconic climactic Batman vs. Superman fight is finally going to make it to live-action film. I can justify why it’s actually better that this movie be of the “Darkness! No Parents!” variety of superhero so as to really stand out more from the Marvel movies. I can praise the teaser for not really giving much of the plot away. But, at the end of the day, this is going to be a Zack Snyder movie, and there’s no use pretending that’s going to be something I’ll love. That might seem small-minded, but right now for me the definition of insanity is trying to talk myself into liking a Zack Snyder movie just because it stars Batman.