SDCC 2015: The Apologist Blockbuster: ‘Batman v Superman’ v Fans

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Zack Snyder would like you to know that everything is under control. Whatever your criticisms of his directorial interpretation of Superman may be, it’s all intentional. Any ambivalence you may be harboring about Man of Steel’s ending, characterization or overall tone, is all part of the plan. Snyder is your buddy, and he is shocked because you, me, none of us get it. It’s not that Man of Steel presented an unrecognizable interpretation of Superman muddied by blunt political allegory and blatant disregard for property damage. It was supposed to be like that. And so here is the trailer for the mandated sequel, proving just how planned out this franchise was from the beginning. Here is nearly four minutes of civilian casualties and 9/11 imagery, answering every lingering criticism as Zack Snyder and David Goyer present Batman v. Superman: We Meant to Do That.

Zack recently told Entrainment Weekly, “You can’t just have superheroes knock each other around and have there be no consequences.” Because this is REAL, man. Unlike that other comic book movie universe, Zack assured us this one would provide superheroes by way of real life consequences. Now, in the dust of collapsed skyscrapers, congressional hearings and xenophobia for literal aliens, here are those consequences by way of sequel. We get to see what would happen if a middle-aged billionaire in a robot suit got in a fight with space Apollo. Which, realism invoked, would probably involve said interstellar god vaporizing his enemy from space, but hey, shut up, it’s Batman. Everybody loves Batman, right? And this time he’s the “audience proxy”. He’s going to make Superman pay for all those people he killed. It’s all going to be very grounded. And, if we believe the creators, it’s going to be a direct answer to any doubts you may have had about Man of Steel’s relationship with its own “consequences.”

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But let’s not forget that Man of Steel was already a response to something. And if Goyer and Zack’s film answered one thing, it wasn’t the deafening demand for neorealist super-heroics. It was that they knew how you felt about the admittedly messy but unfairly maligned Superman Returns. They knew you wanted to see Superman punch something. A guy, a robot, a Bigfoot, whatever, just have him punch something! They were just giving you what you wanted and then you had to go and start whining about property damage and disregard for civilian slaughter and on and on. So you better not complain about this new movie, because this is the one you’ve been waiting for. For real this time.

Which leads us into the swamp of intentional fallacy, in which we seek fruitlessly to identify the presence of some authorial plan. Was Man of Steel’s finale supposed to make us feel the weight of titanic combat, or was it all so much digital Sturm und Drang? Synder and Goyer would probably never donate to a right-wing super pac, but Man of Steel’s message remains positively Cheney-ian. In this universe, the only way to prevent direct human casualties is the immediate employment of the death penalty by way of neck snap. It’s the “us or them” fantasy that drove a decade of CIA torture and unlawful detention, a scenario in which a finger rests against a proverbial button and the only way to stop it is with “enhanced methods”. A scenario that has never happened in the real world that these films supposedly want to mirror, but whatever, punching. Was this political message intentional? If enough fans had complained about due process, would we be eagerly anticipating Superman v The 8th Amendment?

Batman V Superman

There exist countless fan made dissertations on why Man of Steel’s “kiss amidst the corpses” ending “works”. And now it seems the sequel will be arguing as such, tentpole blockbuster as apologist road show. Driving this excessive analysis of a moderately successful blockbuster from two years ago is likely some need for the same sense of agency that Zack and Goyer claim has been in place from the beginning. They need us to believe that nothing was accidental. A lot of people need to believe that as well. Because if you’re Warner Brothers and the competition has been cranking out hits for nigh on a decade and all you have in the can is a single, mildly successful and largely divisive movie, the last thing you can appear to be is directionless.

–  Adam Hofbauer

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