While there were a few annoyances with Man of Steel, it all seemed to go downhill for the DCEU with Batman v Superman. So much hope and excitement for a film was met with nothing but negative reviews from critics and split down the middle with fans. Nothing DC tried seemed to win over the crowd. However, it’s safe to say that some of their negativity was a bit misguided. Sure you can argue that Doomsday wasn’t portrayed accurately to his look in the comics. Maybe they took a little too much artistic freedom with Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. But to bash the entire storyline is a bit extreme.
When you strip back all the negativity surrounding Batman v Superman, at its core, the plot is the same as Captain America: Civil War. Both movies surround the concept of doing what is right for the greater good versus a system of checks and balances so no one has absolute power. There’s the Captain America/Superman side where our hero needs to act quickly to neutralize a threat so villains can never gain the upper hand. On the other side of the coin, there’s Tony Stark/Batman who each try to make sure everyone answers to someone. Their main goal is to minimize casualties and follow through with a well thought out plan. The battle between the two sides comes down to acting upon instinct or strategy.
The difference between BvS and Civil War is clear. For every witty interaction between Captain America and Spider-man in the Marvel film, DC has their “Martha” moments. Again, Marvel and DC are telling their stories in two totally different ways. While Marvel has had success with their happy-go-lucky style, DC is taking a darker, grittier, true world approach. By having a darker tone, they’re building the characters struggles on a grander scale. While the more pessimistic tone is prevalent throughout the movies so far, when the payoff comes the victories will seem grander. Where Marvel has had the rise, fall and rises again approach in their cinematic universe, DC has taken the fall of heroes approach and spread it out through their first few movies. It doesn’t sit well with some critics and fans alike because most superheroes have the sense of overcoming while so far in the DCEU they have not.
DC so far isn’t using their “gee-golly” fun filled humor that typically surrounds superhero films and that’s where they’re losing fans. Unfortunately for them, it throws off the storytelling devices they’ve been portraying. To this day, any time you see a new superhero film a Martha meme almost certainly follows. In itself, that’s a sad reflection on the film because that scene carries more weight on the film than people choose to see. The most important scene in the film is the opening act.
In it, we flashback to Superman fighting Zod where they’re absolutely destroying the city around them. Bruce Wayne runs up to a now orphaned child to protect her from destruction unraveling the central plot for the whole film. In that moment Bruce sees Clark as careless with no regard for anyone or anything. He sees him carelessly cast everyone else aside for his own moral compass. Flash forward to everyone’s least favorite, scene Batman is letting his blind rage lead his charge. His passion for his city and the people in it drives him towards putting an end to its latest threat, Superman. The only part that snaps him out of his blind rage is hearing his mother’s name. In Superman begging to save his mother, Bruce realizes maybe there’s more than meets the eye to his foe. The fact that they share parental namesakes doesn’t make them best buddies, it is simply a means of waking Bruce up from his thoughtlessness.
This is the world DC has painted. The world where our heroes are beaten down by the world we’ve created that it tests the limits of their heroism. What viewers are seeing so far isn’t the heroes they’ve come to love. Coincidentally it makes it seem like they’ve been holding back as if the films have been missing something. Their stories have been overshadowed by the dragging out of the struggles each hero faces distracting from the most crucial of moments. Luckily for the DCEU, there’s hope on the horizon. When Justice League premiers in November, the shape of their films will finally come together.
Stay tuned for Pt 3 Wonder Woman: Hope on the Horizon.