Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★½

A nightmare...in the good way. Punishing darkness throughout, punishing those who found glee in the violence or financial gain in the nihilism of this film's predecessors. This is trying to tell us it isn't a game anymore. This is a cycle of terror and frustration that culminates in international grief (doing American Sniper's ending in a far more complex fashion). Whenever that score was throbbing I was terrified. This is like a repressed Dionysian horror (showing itself in that score; the deep, screen eating blacks of an extreme close-up on a dark figure; and the genre play Snyder is by the grace of DC and, to be less charitable, its Universe's infancy allowed to attempt) trying to hide itself from the wrath of Apollo.

And while this ends with a requisite Glimmer of Hope™, the dourness of the rest of the film mutes it to the point that the desperation of positivity for positivity's sake is exposed. Hope is hollow, but it's how people are built. It's how fascism arises, but since it's also how it falls, it's all we know to do. Raising this point but ending on another punch of nihilism (and a more desperate climax than the just-introduced Wonder Woman saving the day with a few sword strokes) would have made this truly great.


Addendum: Something tentpole films do a lot that they don't seem to get credit for is respond to cultural criticism handed their source material. Two recent examples are Transformers: Age of Extinction's appreciably tenacious fuck-you I-yam-what-I-yam stance and the masterful Fifty Shades of Grey's saving grace: how its agency and framing shifts change a book coyly romanticizing victimhood into a movie about trying to avoid it despite the pleasures a victimizer can promise and managing the sacrifices you make for love. Most of this film's worth is in its rebuke of excused superhero depravity, and yet people have prehyped it so that it will now go down as "the one so bad people realized the flaw in the trend" rather than the avenging harbinger of the end of this nonsense. Either way it's probably over, but this film, effective as it secretly was, will get blame rather than credit. Sad!

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