Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I've read lots of Zack Snyder appraisals that emphasize perceived strengths in either his visual form or his emotional aptitude... but these are not areas where I see his primary skills. While I do see impressive formal intuition here, I don't think Snyder's a very good director of emotion at all. This isn't simply my way of pointing out a "fault" in Batman v Superman, but rather my way of trying to figure out the film's own particular modus operandi. I consider Zack Snyder primarily a strong director of ideas, meaning I admire his knack for constructing such huge-scale genre pictures around sets of philosophical premises/inquiries and allowing those concerns to take central focus (granted, this aspect of BvS can and should also be attributed to the source material, and the team of screenwriters).

One of BvS's smartest maneuvers is its sidestepping of customary "character development" techniques, aiming to study ciphers and archetypes instead. If you want lots of banal bickering, "human conflict," or clinically charted portraits of camaraderie, go watch just about any post-Disney sale Marvel film. I don't think you'll find any of that here, really... and I'm grateful for the fact.

In terms of archetypal roles, Matthew McCracken has already nicely unpacked the ideological registers on which Batman, Superman, and Luthor are operating. I've read arguments that the God vs. Man conflict is too bluntly handled, but to me this misses the point of Snyder's approach. This film aims to invoke the moral severity of religious dogma, the unadorned allegory of myth. And in doing so, it actually calls us to consider these characters as representatives of our own contemporary pop culture mythologies... hauntingly and fittingly, Batman v Superman argues that we can now trust more in God than in man... but even God appears to be tearing at the seams.

Considering this thematic center, I find myself wishing that the film had bracketed its own project of archetype over character when depicting Luthor. He is our main conduit for understanding outrage at God, but the fact that the film never really attributes him with motivation is to its disservice. With a work of this scope and magnitude, this is not a grievous oversight, but I can't go without mentioning it.

And yes, like I mentioned above, Snyder also happens to be a skilled director of aesthetic form (although I argue that he demonstrates this best when visualizing thematics, not when orchestrating action sequences). To his advantage, he seems to take seriously the advances made by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. This plays out in a number of ways, but maybe most fundamentally in the foregrounding of imagination, images, and spectacle.

I was puzzled by this on a first viewing. Second time around, I'm left hoping to see more movies like this in the future.

Recommended reading: pieces by Max Coombes, Neil Bahadur, Höddi, K Austin Collins, Willow Catelyn

Mike liked these reviews

All