Thanks to a recent leak, folks have been getting an early look at the new trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice which is slated to release in just under a year in March of 2016. Though subtitled in Portuguese, the trailer is in English and we get to hear some of the cast like Ben Affleck's Daredevil, er... I mean Batman and Alfred as portrayed by Jeremy Irons. Of course, everyone can see (or hear) that for themselves along with the trailer. I'm here to talk about what the trailer tells us. And why it isn't good news.
Ever since I heard the announcement of this movie in Hall H of San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 (yup, I was there) all I could do was groan. Batman v Superman? Really? That should really be all you need to know to realize that this movie isn't going to be particularly good. Or particularly enjoyable. And why? It isn't made to be enjoyable. The trailer is a mess of blacks and grays. Every image from DC properties from Warner Bros. is pretty much the same. Black and gray. Gray and black. You have Superman, an American icon that ranks as the most recognizable fictional character in the world, and you mute him with dark colors and somber tones. Why? Honestly, it's because Warner Bros. and the makers of these movies, like pubescent teen boys, are embarrassed by Superman. They're embarrassed by the simple message of hope he conveys. They're embarrassed by the bright colors and symbolism he brings to the table and the simplicity of his appeal. The fantasy of it all seems to drive them bananas.
So, instead, we have a continued focus on the dark, gritty, ultra-realistic BATMAN! Yes, the unbelievably realistic character of a rich guy that travels the world, becomes an expert in everything ever then comes back to Gotham and fights crime while never being fatally injured and no one ever putting 2 and 2 together to realize who he is. Yup, goddamn super-believable. That's way more credible than an alien being that is far more powerful than us. I mean, shit, NO ONE believes in an otherworldly being with powers far beyond humans. That's just silly! No one could ever buy that! Especially if he's dressed in bright primary colors and has a simple charm to him!
Now we're stuck with the gritty, dark Batman beating on the gritty, dark Superman to take Superman down a peg. Huh? Okay, so we're being served up a Metropolis (or really an entire movie-Earth) that is ultra-critical of Superman. Wow, what a thrilling "real world" look at Superman! It's hyper-cynical and pessimistic! Just like the real world! People totally go to superhero movies to see a reflection of the real world, right? This certainly doesn't miss the core of the characters at all!
And now, this movie immediately hits a roadblock. See, we have to get Superman and Batman to fight. Ignoring how logistically idiotic it is to have a man that can bench press a moon against Richard Branson in some SWAT gear, we need a conflict that gets Supes to fight Bats or vice versa. Inevitably, there's only a couple ways to do this. Either Superman has to do something wrong or Batman does. Or they both have to be tricked. In other words, either one of the heroes has to look bad, or both have to look stupid. Awesome! Ineffectual, non-heroes!
I guess having Batman and Superman see the core nobility of each other shine through, leading to them teaming up against some greater threat, we instead have top billing as a fight between the two. Is WB just that cynical? Or do they just think that their viewers are that cynical? Regardless of the reasoning, it seems obvious that WB is literally draining the color out of the last son of Krypton. After all, this used to be Superman.
Then this was Superman.
Now this is Superman.
Note the darkening of the colors. Hell, take a look at the darkening of the backgrounds and visuals. We go from Superman in front of a bright city to Superman in an art-deco place to Superman brooding in the rain like, dare I say it, Batman. We go from the city of tomorrow all the way to urban blight complete with smoke stacks. Look at that third image and try to tell me that it isn't just a Batman shot using Superman in his place. Warner Bros. and DC's bat-boner has driven them crazy. Since 2000, DC has struck out with Catwoman, Superman Returns, Jonah Hex and Green Lantern, failing to connect with audiences on any of those properties. In some cases, they only managed to produce movies considered by many to be some of the worst in the genre or, in some cases, in the goddamn medium (looking at you Catwoman). In the last decade and a half, they've had success ONLY with Batman. A gritty, colorless, villain-driven Batman.
That's right. I said villain-driven. And it's the truth. The Dark Knight trilogies Batman character sucks. He's boring, lifeless, unlikeable and dull. It's the strength of his villains through the three movies that carry the films. Bats just has nothing on the cinematic likes of Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man (take your pick of the 2) or fellow-billionaire playboy Tony Stark. Those characters drive their own films. People quote them. People want to see them in movies. They're fun. On the flip side, Batman is quoted only to make fun of his goofy Bat-voice. It's his villains that have all the quotable quotes in his films. It's the villains with all the charm and, dare I say, joy in their movies. The formula repeats in the Man of Steel. Instead of having a likeable Superman, we're given a movie where a non-entity Superman only reacts to the actions of others and barely has any screen presence, instead being dominated by the actual hero of the film, his father Jor-El played by Russell Crowe, and, the actual star, General Zod as portrayed by Michael Shannon.
For some reason, DC refuses to have comic book heroes that look and act like comic book heroes. Now, ironically, DC comics has the strongest history of dyed-in-the-wool heroes while Marvel has a history of flawed heroes. Their proverbial "feet of clay" character library. Yet, in the cinematic world, Marvel has chosen to embrace a movie style using more black & white morality and enjoyable "good guys" while DC, in what seems like an act of epic overcompensation, is only able to portray their cinematic heroes as dark and even joyless. They want to make their heroes for "adults" while Marvel rakes in the cash by giving the public heroes that seem to offer something for everyone.
What DC is missing time & time again, is that these characters AREN'T for adults. They just aren't. An alien hero from another world. A man dressing up as a Bat to beat up criminals. These are the things of childhood and the best part of them is that, when portrayed properly, they can appeal to people of all ages because, while no child is an adult, all adults have been children at one time or another. This is the formula Marvel has been using to beat DC's head in and, until they figure that out, DC is going to continue to get beat in the theaters as the now jump to the shallowest, stupidest, least imaginative choice ever of "Duuuude! But what if Batman like... fought Superman! Whooooa!" because, obviously, the only thing these two have to offer is the spectacle of them punching each other in the face.
Maybe Aquaman will be more colorful and fun.