Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I'm a day older today and maybe that's primed me to seek signs and wonders in a story, but this is a pretty good superhero movie, and a pretty good Zack Snyder movie.

I went into it resigned to something bad, but craving, like I suspect many movie audiences crave, the thrill of spectacle. Stories are everywhere, but real spectacle requires the muscle of capital. But I wasn't expecting a spectacle that so thoroughly interrogated itself. Superhero films rarely embrace what I think of as their true function: a form of psychically-driven contemporary mythology, a pantheon of contemporary gods.

Power will tell you everything it values if you can parse its myths, but here I expected power to be talking in its sleep, not searching its soul in the bathroom mirror. And while iffy plot contrivances abound ("Martha, Martha, Martha!"), they are smoothed together into a pretty lucid flow of story that pulses slowly, rather than rushes.

DC Comics made a tactically interesting decision in handing their superstructural franchise to Zack Snyder. He can do spectacle and he has a strong, if blearily obvious, visual signature. Since 300 he has been slowly, agonizingly working towards a hint of self-awareness about the fantasies of power he feels so compelled to conjure.

If there were lessons learned during Watchmen that didn't quite manifest in that film, they may be coming to bear here. This isn't the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its brisk and obsequious style. Batman v Superman is the kind of superhero film that attempts, sometimes with a numb tongue, to speak meaning and myth in the language of spectacle.

I think that might be a power that Zack Snyder is slowly waking up to, ponderous though his omen-craft can be. 300 is still racist, misogynist, masculine-fragility agitprop, but the fact that he's just attempted to make a superhero film that's about something compels me to pay attention to what he does next. Justice League will probably not share these ambitions, but who knows? I give the nod to this very beautiful mess (and then play myself out to that boss Wonder Woman theme).

Dara K. liked these reviews