Batman Vs Superman Review (No Spoilers!)

Batman v Superman

Okay, so (like Star Wars: The Force Awakens), I wanted to wait and take a moment before posting my (non-spoiler) review for Batman vs. Superman (BvS).  Unlike, Star Wars:FA, it wasn’t so much because of spoilers, but for other reasons which will become clear in a moment.

I LIKED IT

First, this blog post is not going to be one of my more popular ones–I already know that even as I’m typing these words because I’m going to go against “popular opinion.”  I actually LIKED the movie (quite a bit, actually).  I don’t use the “A” movie (Exceptional)/”B” movie (everything else) paradigm that you seem to hear (aka A-List talent vs B-List talent, or triple A movie vs a B movie).  When I rate things, I’m doing so using the scale that universities use for their semester grade reports:

  • A (Superior/Exceptional)–You’ve gone above and beyond in order to create something few could achieve.
  • B (Above Average)–This is a good product with some minor flaws that detract slightly from the overall experience, but is still better than many would achieve.
  • C (Average)–This is “good enough.”  You’ve done just enough to meet the requirements, but haven’t done enough, but have too many flaws to be better than others like it.
  • D (Below Average)–Not up to “standards.”  This has too many flaws, isn’t crafted well, or ignores requirements.  It is well below what most can achieve.
  • F (Failure)–Simply put, unable to succeed.  A product that is lacking in nearly every respect.

After seeing it, BvS for me is a B (Above Average).  It better than a “typical” action movie (I’ll get into why I think so in a moment).  It is competently made (i.e., it holds to the western philosophy of BME–Beginning, Middle, and End.  It has a Protagonist & Antagonist.  It has rising action, it has a climax, it has falling action, and it resolves.)  It follows Fryetag’s Triangle perfectly.  For that reason alone, it should not be rated lower than a C.

However, the critics would have you believe that the movie is a D/F and that it fails on many different levels.  And the justification just isn’t there for me.

OPERA IN MOVIE FORM

I liken the movie to an Opera.  It is a long movie (over 2 hours and 30 mins) and much of the first part is setting up the Batman/Superman, Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent dynamic.  But this a movie that is larger than JUST a comic book movie.  It touches on contemporary real world elements such police brutality, the nature of God and man, what it is to be a hero, what it is to be a above the law, discourse vs unilateral action, what it means to be a democracy, and what it means to be good/bad in today’s “modern” society.

All of this is in a “comic book” movie.  Critics slam this as being too much, having too many plot threads, “a mess,” as I heard one reviewer put it.  No, its not a Marvel movie, but then DC isn’t Marvel.  They have always done things differently than Marvel.  Many critics seem to be slamming the movie NOT because it is a bad movie, but because it is not a MARVEL movie and doesn’t use’s Marvel’s “template” for movies.

BvS isn’t as good as my current favorite Marvel movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it WAS more satisfying to me than Avengers: Age of Ultron.  It wants to have a conversation that the critics don’t seem to want to have in their “comic book” movies.

DC MYTHOLOGY

If you like graphic novels, see the movie.  If you like comic books and are up on your DC mythology, see the movie.  This movie includes a LOT of knowing nods and scenes to those who like comics (DC comics and graphic novels and properties) and does NOT try to explain to those who don’t.  I caught several striking scenes from various DC media: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller, various BvS Graphic Novels, The Flash (TV show, current version), and others.

The iconography is striking, but there too, the critics want to complain.  Zack Snyder (the director) is “style over substance,” I heard in more than one review.  But that is what Snyder is KNOWN for.  300 was NOT a “great” movie when you get right down to it, but it was a visually striking movie.  Why is that not good enough now?  Because it’s a KNOWN quality about him now.  Only if you’re NEW and FRESH do the critics seem to take any notice.

WHY THE DISCONNECT?

I’m linking to a YouTube video to help explain what’s going on with the review scores.  Basically, the Youtuber is correct: there is a contingent who want to use social media to FORCE Warner Brothers to cater to them (fans) or those who want to punish the movie in some way (critics).  I’ve seen this before in other mediums: MASS EFFECT 3 for video games comes quickly to mind.  Many fans hated the ending of ME3 and social media outcry FORCED Bioware to go back and “redo” the ending of the game.  This is what I feel is happing here.  However, this has been building since World War Z, Man of Steel, Jupiter Ascending, and most recently, Gods of Egypt.  The Youtuber ‘s (Grace Randolph) channel “Beyond the Trailer” is one that I’ve recently found) and she does a great job of quickly of explaining a lot of my problems with the critics for BvS, in particular.  It’s short–only 13 minutes long and very informative:

Beyond the Trailer (Special Report BvS)–Grace Randolph

There is nothing inherently wrong with the movie.  It should be getting B’s and C’s.  Not the D’s and F’s that it is currently getting.  This is a good movie, with some flaws that keep it from being exceptional, but not one that should be denigrated as a failure.

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Heroism, Not Hooliganism

So, as usual, this blog entry is REALLY late.  Apologies.  This has been a rough few weeks for me.  School has been “challenging” for me  these past three weeks, I’ve been ill, and I’ve had zero motivation to write since turning in “Ship of Shadows,” over a month ago.  What finally compelled me to write is the fact that I received a rewrite request for “Ship of Shadows” from the anthology where I sent it.  The editor gave me a week (7 days!) to rewrite the story and send it back.  Now, under normal circumstances, I would have gotten to work immediately and sent it back to her ASAP.  I mean, a publication is a publication, right?

However, after reading through some of the comments, I realize that the editor wants me to change my main character from a “hero” into a “hooligan.”  I’m NOT okay with that.  In  “Ship of Shadows,” I have my protagonist go back and save another character.  The editor believes that is out of character for her as I’ve mentioned that the protagonist is an orphan  and will do what it takes to survive.  This puts me into a situation is which I have to turn my hero into an anti-hero who is only out for herself and cannot be counted on when the chips are down–EXACTLY the same as Vin Diesel’s character in PITCH BLACK, a movie that I categorically DESPISE for its treatment of the Heroism vs. Anti-Heroism.

WHY A HERO?

hero1

I’m (currently) a 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher.  On my door is a sign that reads, “HELP OTHERS.”  Of course, no one really follows that advice (although to be fair, sometimes I see those who get the mini-lesson help out others in the class who are struggling when I’m helping someone else) as these are sixth graders.  They still believe that the world revolves around them and their needs are more important than everyone else’s in the entire world.

In the past two or three years, I’ve come to understand that my core values are (in the words of Captain America from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS) “Old Fashioned.”  In a time where BREAKING BAD, THE WALKING DEAD, and GAME OF THRONES are held up as the epitome of “good writing,” I can’t help but shake my head.

What would our world look like if we ALL were out for number one?  Would strangers take the time to pull people out of burning cars and houses?  Of course not.  Would you take the time to call the police if you saw burglars in your neighbor’s house while they were away?  Not my house, you’d say.  What about calling 911 if you witnessed an accident with injuries and neither party was responsive enough to phone on their own?  Not my problem.

So, then, whose problem is it?

WHY NOT A HOOLIGAN?

thug2

Being a hooligan (anti-hero) is SO COOL.  You get to do what you want to, without anyone telling you it is wrong.  You get to be Mr./Ms. Bad Person without consequences.  You get to be “Number One” and no one can touch you, ever.  And if someone complains, you’re bad enough to BEAT THEM DOWN so they can’t ever complain again.  Right?

This is a fantasy that we have as kids, but it seems (to me) that more and more people are not growing out of this phase, but carry this type of attitude with them into adolescence and then into adulthood.

I see it both in the real world and in various mediums: various school fights being posted online (Facebook/YouTube), in video games (Grand Theft Auto series), TV (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), movies (Pitch Black, Looper, Jumper).

I’m constantly having to reread books in my collection because I can’t count how many times over the past couple of years that I’ve checked out a book from the library only to find that the main characters are jerks, or are detestable jerks, or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb (even though it is a Fantasy story), or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists, or who are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists who run around slitting throats because they aspire to be the next “Great Assassin” of whatever generic fantasy world the author has created.  I don’t think I’ve managed to get past the first three chapters of any book I’ve read in the past two years unless the author was named Brandon Sanderson, Diane Duane, or Elizabeth Moon.  All the other authors that I’ve tried in that time have had characters so UNLIKEABLE that I’ve abandoned them ASAP.

NOW WHAT?

So, back to the topic at hand–what to do with “Ship of Shadows?”  I’m going to implement many of the changes that the editor asked, but I will NOT have the main character kill the other character.  When I send it to her, I will politely let her know my reasoning and politely inform her that it is okay to reject the story if it doesn’t meet her needs (which is what I expect to happen).

I will then take this as a learning experience and realize that I’m either writing 10 years TOO LATE or 10-15 years TOO EARLY and dial back my expectations for my writing career.  I am not and will not be the “flavor of the month” or the “hot new writer,” because of my insistence on heroism and my disdain for hooliganism–at least, not until the pendulum swings AWAY from the anti-hero and BACK to the hero.