Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ½

"‘You are indeed a genius, lieber Ernst. You have already established this place as a shrine to death for evermore. People read about such fantasies in the works of Poe, Lautréamont, de Sade, but no one has ever created such a fantasy in real life. It is as if one of the great fairy tales has come to life. A sort of Disneyland of Death. But of course,’ she hastened to add, ‘on an altogether grander, more poetic scale.’"
-- Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice

"So you and Batman nixed the Toyman's plan to turn Gotham City into his personal Disneyland of Death? How is he?"
"Batman? Great. You know Batman."
-- Lois Lane and Superman, All-Star Superman (Morrison)

"My feeling is that all I can do is love it and do the best I can, so if the off chance he was at home on some Saturday night and it happened to fall into his DVD player, he might think, 'Oh, that doesn’t suck.' That’s really what motivates me, and also, I don’t want it to be crap, so there’s that."
-- Zack Snyder, on Alan Moore's theoretical response to his adaptation of Watchmen

"I'm never going to watch this fucking thing."
-- Alan Moore, responding to Zack Snyder

No doubt that I've read them before, but this is the first time these words have stuck with me past the credits: "A Zack Snyder film," made with the two most iconic figures of our modern culture; a grandiose, overarching work that means to explore them both, together, against one another, in their entirety; a shrine to pure concept. And I understand that completely. I aspire to that. Something with the thematic heft of a Watchmen--a proposal that only feels weird when you realize that Snyder has made his own Watchmen. But he litters Batman v Superman with references to the graphic novel--a glimpse at the sword that cut the Gordian Knot, a "Quis custodiet" graffito--and it feels less like a connection to Moore's Watchmen, or even his own, than an affirmation. An affirmation that he has, at last, created the grand epic that will rival Watchmen. An epic that Alan Moore cannot dismiss, that he'll have to consult if he wants to keep playing the game. Certainly Frank Miller is Snyder's comrade-in-arms--a fellow maniac whom he can quote and honor without much thought as to why. But Moore is his looming father figure, the père terrible who begets a twitchy and schizophrenic Lex Luthor. And, like Snyder's Watchmen, like Luthor's final act of madness, there is no concern for humanity. No moral complexity to the simple masterstroke, no serious consideration of the vigilante. There is only Superman, standing in a ball of flame, promising that you deserve to be broken, threatening you with mercy; Batman, regaling you with memories of his mother being shot in the face, promising to bleed you, shooting as many guns as he wants and you can eat a bullet, asshole. They are the main attractions in the Disneyland of Death.

But it's hardly a surprise that Snyder curves so suddenly into something dreary and hostile--it reaps from the same insularity that creates a GamerGate, along with the countless other stripes of nerd indignation: they can rattle off whole tapestries of mindless ephemera from their fictions of choice, but they know fuck-all about any other media, or anything else that informs the complexities of their oh-so-beloved popular culture. It's from that perspective that Snyder wants to create his overarching work. He knows well enough to exploit the image of a sparkling green rock or a deadly green cloud, but the implications of Superman's mythology--beyond the particulars of his own mythology--completely elude him. (What the fuck's a Gordium?) Superman is equated with God and the Devil, Batman and Luthor both with Man and the Devil, and however that's supposed to add up, it comes across as an unrehearsed jumble: "You know, good guys and bad... and bad guys. Powerful... guys. God is... powerful." They are mythology, noun, and that's all they need to be, before they scream and rage their ugliness to the world.

But here's the thing: Snyder has succeeded, and Batman v Superman cannot be ignored. These images, the ones that Snyder wields so irresponsibly, will eventually form their own place in "the canon," with their own influence on a generation we haven't clocked yet. I'll probably study this film like I study Spectre and Whedon's Avengers films and all the other franchise artworks that don't know their own iconic strength. If there is an R-rated cut, I'm already terrified of it. Snyder succeeded there, too.