With three movies in, the DCCU can’t seem to decide what it’s trying to be. The idea of watching Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together on the big screen is the dream of any superhero fan. Today the MCU rules whereas the DCCU, with the three most iconic superheroes, can’t seem to get off its feet.
A Decade Ago…
A decade ago superhero movies were hits and misses. Back then the idea of a ‘superhero cinematic universe’ was only wishful thinking. By far the three most successful ones began with X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002) and Batman Begins (2005). These three movies were followed by more impressive sequels and a less-than-perfect third instalment. So far X-Men United (2003), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and The Dark Knight (2008) are easily the three best superhero movies of the decade.
An argument could made for other superhero movies, such as Hellboy (2004) and V For Vendetta (2006), the former with Ron Perlman in the titular role and the latter arguably being the best stand-alone superhero film to date. Hellboy has a spectacular sequel with no third instalment in sight which is a great shame since Ron Perlman easily owns the role.
As for the other movies that did not get past their first instalment, film-goers today only remember those as disappointing, albeit honest, attempt to establish the superhero genre. DareDevil (2003), with Ben Affleck narrating the titular role a la Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man movies, also attempted to become the night-shift, angsty Spider-Man that the later installments of Spider-Man, with Andrew Garfield, tries to be and fails quiet obviously. But since it was a quasi- box-office success, DareDevil received a sequel/spin-off of its fatal heroin, Elektra (2005), which was so dismal that is easily ended its faint attempt at any hint of a ‘cinematic universe.’ Ang Lee’s attempt at Hulk (2003), Marvel’s most powerful superhero, also fails to capture the audience and fans as noteworthy and thus received no sequel until another spin-off as an addition in the MCU with The Incredible Hulk (2008), the same year of Iron Man and The Dark Knight. The movie did not receive a sequel but the character was included in The Avengers (2012) with a change in the main cast from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo who easily embodies the role.
Before 2005, only the Spider-Man-esque installments seem to be the only way to make superhero movies. Everything from the colourful special-effect to spectacular fight scenes to neat little morality quote at the end to tie the whole thing together. Then along came another superhero whom everyone thought was dead in the water and easily blew away all notions of what a superhero movie could be (mostly due to it’s own previous instalment). Batman Begins (2005) was such a success that people forget that it was not the first DC superhero movie of the decade. That title goes to Catwoman (2004) with Halle Berry in the titular role and the iconic Sharon Stone as the antagonist. Needless to say only one of those got a sequel and went on to become a complete trilogy.
Before Begins, the idea of there being another Batman movie would ring the sound of Arnie breaking the ice pun. For obvious reasons, until it was released, the film flew under the radar even though it boasts popular stars as Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. The film also brought in relative unknowns such as Christian Bale, who has a cult breakthrough in American Psycho (2000), and Cillian Murphy, who was so impressive to director Christopher Nolan as Bruce Wayne that he handed Murphy the villainous role of Dr Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow and reprised him in all three instalments of the trilogy.
Where superhero movies were thought be lighthearted, colourfully shot and characteristically fantastic, the one critical consensus about Begins was how realistic it was, something unanticipated for the genre in beta-stage. The term ‘dark and gritty take on’ became synonymous with the movie itself and would see it’s mark in other superhero movies attempting to be just as ‘dark and gritty’ and completely missing the point of what actually made Begins a stand-out – that being realism.
Being both realistic, dark and gritty, studios and filmmakers naturally thought that for a film to be just as realistic, it had to be dark and gritty. Obviously not. What makes for realism isn’t the dark tone of the film or the generally grim mood of the character’s inner struggle but the very plot of the film itself. Begins, by all accounts, is the Bruce Wayne story given a modern and psychological spin with the classic hero’s journey as the backdrop. Hardly rocket science! Yet, to date, no movie, superhero or otherwise, could seem to remotely replicate this method. Perhaps because this sheer simplicity could only be conjured up by no other genius than Nolan himself, or was this successful formula simply a one-off and that Nolan was simply lucky?
Successful story-telling is never an accident. Case in point, the following year of Begins would see two more DC superhero movies. Having succeeded at bringing the X-Men to the big screen twice, the WB studios handed Bryan Singer the reins to a new Superman movie. At the same time the Wachowski brothers, who made The Matrix (1999) and its dismal sequels were handed the producing role of V for Vendetta with an unknown James McTeigue at the director’s helm. Singer’s Superman Returns (2006), which was more of a love-letter to the Donna-Reeve movies than an origin or a reboot with similar lightheartedness and fantastic characters vis-a-vis Spider-Man, failed to grasp the audience of what it’s trying to actually be, leaving all possible sequels dead in the water. V for Vendetta (2005), on the other hand, although started off slow with a bizarre Shakespeare-quoting masked-anarchist using violence and terrorist tactics to bring down a fascist totalitarian regime, became one of the most iconic image of rebellion, resistance and revolution a decade later.
What made Vendetta a success, albeit slow, was its social relevance in regard to America’s global ‘War on Terror’ and the very principal-compromising Patriot Act which turned the so-called ‘greatest nation in the world’ into an ever-watching and listening Big Brother. The fascist state in Vendetta, the Norsefire regime is, not only credible as a worst-case-scenario, but historical relevant during the rise of fascism in the 30’s and 40’s. The idea of a well-read anti-hero with no other name, race or ethnicity (or gender in the graphic novel) to refer to besides ‘V’ taking down such a regime was not only awe-inspiring, but a true reminder of what a single individual can do in such an uncompromising world, thus making it the very epitome of a superhero movie.
Of course, what filmmakers, especially WB studios, took from the respective success and failure of V for Vendetta and Superman Returns was that the lightheartedness of the latter was pale in comparison to the dark and gritty seriousness of the former. This exact mistake would be starkly shown in their attempt to catch up to the success of MCU.
The concept of a cinematic universe is older than it sounds. Perhaps the most successful franchise is the James Bond series with over 20 movies. The James Bond series is by no means a chronological series until the Daniel Craig era to which most fans would argue to be a mistake. With the dashing secret agent, the fancy gadgets, the beautiful ladies, the fancy cars and the typical villains, the James Bond series is simply more style than substance – a successful formula in its own right. Up until the Craig-era, the idea of James Bond being dark and gritty was unattractive since the series has always been lighthearted in its characters. Before the Craig-era, just about the most serious Bond movies could be counted with a single hand. What prompted this change in theme is possibly the emergence of another espionage series with darker, more violent and more psychological Jason Bourne series. The Bourne series replaced cool cars with violent car chases, cliche villains and beautiful girls with complex, multi-dimensional villains, fancy gadgets with fight choreography and a patriotic hero with a licence to kill with an amnesiac anti-hero with a murderous past.
In terms of spy-thrillers, the other two noteworthy are those of the Jack Ryan movies and the Mission Impossible movies, the former being more politically-motivated and the latter being closer to heist films. The Jack Ryan series has also seen it’s hits and misses with only Harrison Ford reprising the role one other time while the likes of Ben Affleck, Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin taking the helm once each whereas Tom Cruise is just about the only actor to play the role of one Ethan Hunt, the main protagonist of the M:I series, four times now. Ironically, the latest instalment in all four film series has been dismally disappointing – from Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit to James Bond’s Spectre to Jason Bourne to M:I Rogue Nation – their respective series seems only motivated to replicating the MCU in its attempt to establish a cinematic universe.
Of course by far the two most recognisable cinematic universe that have spanned the decades are the space adventures Star Wars and Star Trek. Trek started off as a television series later immersed onto the big screen with mostly disappointments, the most notable one being the second instalment, Wrath of Khan (1982). The film series would develop a cult of followers who, not only would learn the entire history of the cinematic universe, but master the fictional alien languages. Star Wars, easily, came out of left-field. Being the sole stand-alone movie when released, its imaginative brilliance and bold approach paid-off with the fan base even though, by modern standards, appears both cliche in terms of it’s hero’s journey plot points and shallow good versus evil themes. Even the most die-hard fans forget that Star Wars was meant to be a stand-alone film. Like Star Trek, the second instalment to Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back (1980), (the one that Lucas himself was least involved with) happened to be the standout not just as a Star Wars movie, but the sequel that all other sequels compares to. The only other sequel that surpassed it’s original is from the other cinematic universe – The Godfather series. The success of Star Wars, however, would forever be darkened by its less-than-stellar prequel trilogies with Revenge of the Sith being marginally acceptable.
But lets jump back to the 21st century and focus on two of the most popular cinematic universe outside of the superhero genre. The Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series are directly adapted from their novels. Arguably, having been successful novels prior, they were much safer gambles to be developed into full-out cinematic universes. Unfortunately, like Star Wars, these two cinematic universes would be force-resurrected into developing unnecessary prequels with the sole of purpose of cash-grabbing and adding tedious details to their lore. The Hobbit trilogy, based on a single book, is nothing more than a CGI extravaganza and uninteresting plots and not memorable characters whereas the Fantastic Beasts series (rumoured to be stretch into five movies), at least, explores the further reaches of the magical world through the eyes or a relative outsider than those of original trio. Star Wars also received the exact same treatment with it’s Rogue One spin-off movie, with much added grit and plot point leading up the the very first movie while continuing on the saga with newer episodes.
A Force to be Reckoned With
In the midst of all this is J. J. Abrams. Having added a decent dose of grit and realism into the third instalment of the M:I series to contend with Bond and Bourne, Abrams was handed the reins to reboot the sci-fi space adventure series, Star Trek (2009). Abrams not only modernised the series, he took the creative liberty of adding an alternative reality plot point into the reboot, thus acknowledging the existence of previous movies all the while re-creating a new one as he went on. Star Trek (2009) proved to be an immense success while mostly disappointing the die-hard fans claiming that Abrams ruined the series by turning it into an action-adventure rather than cerebral science fiction it was known for. What these fanboys seem to ignore is the fact that the old Star Trek movies were also action series – bad ones! and that left no real room for improvements or reaching out for newer fans. It wasn’t long before Abrams was tasked with bringing a sequel to Star Trek and this was where his brilliance took a dive. Star Trek Into Darkness turned out to be a rather disappointing sequel to its predecessor with its added ‘dark and gritty’ tone. Where Star Trek seems bold and colourful with the younger casts and intriguing plots, Into Darkness vainly attempted to up the ante by referring to its most well known villain, Khan, played by the rising-star Benedict Cumberbatch, adapted to be a cliche Bond-villain with a modern terrorist motive. Fortunately for the series, Star Trek Beyond (without Abrams) turned out to be a surprise hit with simpler plot, a smaller setting, exotic locations, a magnificent Yorktown city which outshines all the worlds of Star Wars and an honest motive for the lead characters. Beyond also removed the ‘dark and gritty’ scenes with a darkly motivated villain who deserved much more screen-time to fully comprehend.
By the time Beyond was released, Abrams was tapped to ignite the seventh instalment of the Star Wars series. The Force Awakens (2015) proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Although, like the Trek fanboys, the Star Wars fanboys complained the TFA was too much alike the original film. Although this may be true on the face of the plot and narrative, the characters’ motive, especially those of the villain, Kylo Ren, easily surpasses the original in every way. Like his innovation with Star Trek, he filled the best roles in TFA with younger, unknown actors for both heroes and villains thus adding a clear note to the audience that not only are the new fans the younger generations, but the future of our very world stands on the very hands of the younger generations. The two standout in the movie are Kylo Ren and Rey, two young characters, each with rather mysterious past, each with unknown destinies awaiting them, thus adding paradigms to their motives and the consequences of their actions.
Being set in a fantasy universe, Abrams was able to set certain recognisable symbolism in his movies. By far the two most recognisable symbols are the First Order military force, which strongly resembles the German Third Reich, and Kylo Ren’s lightsaber with its cross-guard, resembling those of Medieval crusaders. A Star of David was also clearly visible in one murderous and pivotal point to contrast those of the two religions, adding to the fact of Ren’s parental linage.
This is Snyder!
In regard to well-established fan-base, Abrams did the exact opposite of what Zack Snyder would do with his instalments of the DCCU. With his first movie, Dawn of the Dead, Snyder would go on to make graphic-novel adaptations one after another. His sole original film, Sucker Punch, is just about one of the worst in his belt. Dawn of the Dead is an action-packed, anti-Islam remake of the original classic. Although it received a cult following and placed Snyder on the map, he would never rise above this standard.
By far his breakout film is the Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 (2006). Loosely based on actual historical events with no actual first-hand source (because all the 300 Spartans died in battle) and was retold by Delios to inspire the army, Miller took creative liberty with embellishing the battle for obvious reasons. Needless to say, such an idea was pitch perfect for a cinematic experience. The story of 300 borderlines on being stupid simple – an war-mongering Middle-Eastern army invaded the free people outmatched in every way except the very human spirit and yearn for eternal freedom. In comes entertaining dumb-action movie, out goes any historical accuracy but, as mentioned, this story is a purposeful embellished. For one, 300 never mentioned that, aside their yearnings for freedom, the Spartans held slaves. Another major, and rather obvious, embellishment is the shiny chrome abs sported by the Spartan hoplites in battle when, in real life, they wore full armour. From that on, no other plot point or historical reference mattered, thus leaving a fairly well executed film purposely embellished.
300 would go on to receive a sequel set before, during and after the Battle of Thermopylae to add the western scope for their struggle against the encroaching Middle-Eastern army and barbaric ideology. Of course what none of these films care to add is the fact the Persia is far older than Greece and the Greeks would go on a war-mongering crusade, let by Alexander (a Macedonian) to conquer the known world. Of course a movie was made about that in all its pro-western glory.
With the success of 300, adapted image for image, Snyder was tapped to adapt a classic graphic novel – Watchmen (2009). A truly daring move given that the graphic novel was shelved to adapt into a movie for decades. When it was released, the result was clearly polarising, as would be the rest of Snyder’s DCCU movies. Both the fanboys of the graphic novel and casual moviegoer were disappointed with the movie whereas casual superhero fans praised the film for what it was. Two glaring alternation was made for the graphic novel onto the screen – one being the so-called ‘alien invasion’ orchestrated to unite the USA and the USSR to avoid nuclear war replaced with Doctor Manhattan being framed for the mass-genocide on both sides – a smarter and more obvious move than those of the graphic novel. The other being the motive of the main antagonists – in the graphic novel, he filled his actions with doubt, uncertain of the future he orchestrated whereas in the movie said antagonist expressed next-to-no remorse or mere consideration of his action.
A Symbol of Hopelessness
With the success of 300 and the significance of Watchmen, Snyder would go on to be known as a great visual-action director and he would go on to show this in his take on the DCCU. Unfortunately, what the WB heads never seem to grasp was how lousy he was when it came to plot, character, dialogue or even scenes. With Watchmen and 300, he almost scripted each scenes page for page and dialogues word for word. With the DCCU, especially with Man of Steel (2013), all his flaws were plainly laid out.
Man of Steel is a failure by all accounts. The movie has no idea of what it wants to be. It doesn’t want to be the Superman known in the comic books and graphic novels or the Donna-Singer Superman or the animated series Superman. Right of the bat, anyone could tell what Snyder was trying to replicate – Batman Begins, quiet insultingly too. Just about the only people who liked the movie were comic book fanboys, a stark contrast to Nolan and Abrams, both of whom favoured cinema-goers.
In replicating Begins, Snyder attempted to modernise Superman by adding a dull blue-grey tint rather than improving the plot. The film lacks colour or even any real emotions which would add dimensions to the the characters. Although Bruce Wayne (in Begins) is tormented by his past and is refereed to in a series of flashbacks, the movie, shot on celluloid film, although shot mostly at night, still has much more light and tone to the scenes. In MoS we go from a CGI extravagant alien world to an angsty-ridden soul lost in our world to a sci-fi action hero in all its destructive glory.
In Begins, we get a sense of what this world is, what Gotham is like, what Wayne manor and Wayne tower is like from inside and outside. We get a very good sense of what Gotham is as a city, how its criminals operate, how the corporate world works, how depression hits a big city and how a boy raised in privilege experience all these. In MoS, places such as Smallville consists of a single street where a battle takes place and Metropolis only exists for destructive purposes. The alien planet of Krypton is shown in all CGI extravagance, a rather missed opportunity for any creative ideas where the League of Shadows hideout are shown in the icy caps of Iceland rather than boring CGI. Just about the only thing we learn about the world in MoS is that the USA has a supreme army but are unable to withstand an alien invasion, thus making Superman necessary and relevant, a plot point visible in every alien-invasion movie.
As for the two symbols, MoS clearly states that the ‘S’ logo on Superman’s costume means hope – a vain attempt to insert a theme where in Begins, fear as the theme is apparent throughout the movie. We learn that Bruce Wayne has a fear of bats, that criminal use fear against the population, that a mad doctor in the Arkham Asylum uses the patients to test his fear toxin, that the antagonists uses fear toxins to destroy the Gotham, that Bruce Wayne intends to ‘turn fear against those who prey on the fearful’ thus emboldening the Batman into the symbol of fear. The bat-logo does not represent fear, it represents, as stated in the movie, Bruce Wayne’s and Batman’s incorruptibility. The symbol of ‘hope’ in MoS remains where it is – on an ‘S.’
Now let’s jump to the elephant in the room. The final scene in MoS shows Superman breaking Zod’s neck in order to stop his destruction of Metropolis (and of the Earth). This is shown in stark contrast to Batman refusing to save Ra’s al Ghul from certain death after his attempt to poison Gotham with fear toxin. MoS apologists would argue little to no difference between the two actions and would often call out hypocrisy on those who calls Superman (to be more precise, Snyder) on this sheer act of stupidity to save the world.
In truth, Superman killing Zod could have easily been worked into the plot if there was any reference to Superman’s stance on killing or no-killing. In Begins, Bruce Wayne refuses to kill when he was handed the sword by the League of Shadows to prove his loyalty to their cause. He refuses to be an executioner plain-out thus escaping and destroying the League of Shadows home-base. As he did so, he saves Henri Ducard with great risk to his own life on the side of a mountain. As it turns out, Ducard is turned out to be the real Ra’s al Ghul and Bruce Wayne saving his life turned out to be a mistake. So when the time came to rescue Ducard again, Bruce, having leaned the lesson, refuses to make that mistake again. This simple action draws a stark contrast between killing and refusing to save – a concept way beyond Zack Snyder’s comprehension.
Adding insult to injury, just about the worst scene in the entire MoS was the church scene. Here’s the Superman provided with a problem with Zod announcing his presence on Earth. The obvious thing that should have been done was to go to his father’s hologram in the ice-spacecraft-thing he discovered in the Arctic and consult on the next move. Instead, he goes to church (mostly to pander to the Judeo-Christian audience) and ask for insight on humanity. And his solution to dealing with Zod, rather being a brilliant technological checkmate or an out-smarting tactic, Superman breaks Zod’s neck. Put that into perspective for a moment – he goes to church for a problem and his solution is to kill!
Another contrast Snyder apologist would draw out was that, in killing Zod, Superman saved the entire world. As obvious as that sounds, killing one to save billions is hardly justification, let alone make for an interesting story. On the other hand, on the meta level, we the audience know that Zod would fail to destroy the entire world no matter what he does because MoS is the first instalment in a major cinematic universe and sequels are inevitable. At this point, destroy-the-world plot is cheap, stupid, old and obviously doomed to fail. The fact that we got this in a ‘modern’ Superman movie goes to show how backwards Snyder really is and how DCCU has no real chance of ever catching up to MCU.
Now, in the following sequels, Batman also commits murder on one Harvey Dent. Snyder apologists would again refer to that as a sign or shear hypocrisy on Nolan-verse part. What Snyder apologists failed to notice was that, having killed Dent, Batman is forever compromised and abandons his cape crusading for as long as he could, thus adding complexity and flaw to the character and complicates the very ending and theme of Batman.
Naturally, with the less-than-lukewarm response from MoS, WB thought the best way to improve Superman was have him fight Batman. Now, on the face of it, Batman versus Superman was already a mega-blockbuster in concept – what could go wrong?
Batfleck is a killer, no doubt about it. Snyder has tried his reason for this on several interviews, none of which explains, let alone justify, Batfleck’s actions. Snyder has stated that in order to render his Batman darker, rather than via intriguing plot or complicating the character’s motive, he would prefer Batman having been raped in prison (if he could). Now, albeit a dark concept, it’s nothing more than being dark for the sake of being dark. It adds nothing to the plot, the character or anything else whatsoever.
In the movie, displayed among Bruce Wayne’s displays is a visible Robin costume holding a weapon or sorts. Batfleck apologists have pointed out that, in this take on the Batman, he has already witnessed the death of Robin, thus driving Batman to murder and their evidence for this is nothing more than that Robin costume on display. To a Batman fanboy, that connection might just be clear enough, to a casual fan or a moviegoer, that two-and-two might never happen but that’s as much effort as Snyder is going to make.
In addition to his killing spree, Bruce Wayne is heard saying in passing to Alfred that they were both criminals. On the one hand, that’s obvious; Bruce Wayne’s nightly escapades is outside the limits of the Geneva convention, on the other hand, if that’s all Bruce Wayne need to justify all his actions, then all it does is equate him to a common Gothamite criminal in a rather ugly bat costume with way may more than means and opportunity.
Now, to the main point of this travesty of a film – Batman’s ‘reason’ for wanting Superman dead. Bruce Wayne, having witnessed the destruction of Metropolis at the end of MoS, comes to a conclusion that Superman is too dangerous to exist. At one point, he clearly says that “if there’s a one percent chance then we must take it as an absolute certainty” thus forever failing Batflect on the subject of logic and he’s supposed to be the DC’s ‘world’s greatest detective.’ And speaking of deductions…
If there was one word that could sum up everything that was wrong with BvS, it’s ‘Martha.’As any casual fan of these two iconic superheroes would know, Bruce and Clarke’s mother happened to have the exact same name. A casual reference of this coincidence would have been enough to satisfy anybody which could offer a glimpse of similarity and humanity between the two icons. But unless you’re Zack Snyder, you have to ram it down our throats at the quintessential point of of the film filled with flashbacks, slow-motion and angry shouts.
But ‘Martha’ isn’t the root cause of this problem, merely a symptom. Snyder had one idea in mind – have the two superheroes fight one another. The rest of the film is used for set up of the convoluted reasons for them to fight if not expand the cinematic universe with countless dream sequences and a series of teaser scenes sent from one superhero to another. Needless to say, WB, DC and Snyder were only counting on the two iconic superheroes carrying the film to be a fast cash-grab and a tedious set-up in order to compete and eventually catch up to the MCU.
In contrast, the only tease of a cinematic universe in MoS consisted of nothing more than a possible Wayne building being destroyed (and confirmed) during the battle of Metropolis, the other being a satellite being thrown with a visible Wayne logo on it and another truck from Lexcorp exploding. Of course MoS spent more time on product placements of iconic American brands in its best attempt to imply realism.
Back to ‘Martha,’ the fact that this mere coincidence became the quintessential point where Batman humanises Superman as an ally and an equal seem to suggest that Snyder and co has nothing else to go on making these two characters work on the big screen. In the small screen, however, particularly the Justice League animated series, Bruce and Clarke have been placed odds but never without reason and never a full punch-out. The idea that these two would become adversaries only existed in the mind of none other than Frank Miller in his highly overrated graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. The only other time when these two were at odds was in the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us which clearly places Superman as the main antagonist of the entire Justice League and the rest of the world.
It’s hardly coincidental that the exact same yeat Batman and Superman would face each other also feature Captain America being at odds with Iron Man in Civil War. It took the MCU 13 movies to get to this point and DCCU only its second installment. Civil War proved to be both commercial and critical success whereas BvS failed with everyone except the fanboys.
What has the MCU, and various other cinematic universe with heroes at odds, done right that DCCU, with two of the most iconic superheroes, failed to have done? What did Tony and Steve, Kirk and Spock, Charles and Erik, Han and Luke, Holmes and Watson, Frodo and Sam, Harry and Ron have that was severely lacking between Bruce and Clarke in BvS? The answer is simple – it’s the bantering! Bantering is just about the best way to add dimensions between heroes in their respective films. It shows contrast in how their minds work, the motives behind their actions and, most important factor of them all, how they compliments one another.
In the rebooted X-Men series, the bantering between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr draws a stark contrast between how they both wants to help and support their mutant kins but in very different methods in mind. In the rebooted Star Trek series, the banter between Kirk and Spock (and often Bones, too) imply how they would approach a particular problem – one being logical and calculating and the other being impulsive. In the original Star Wars trilogy, the banter between Han, Luke and Leia often state where they stand against the Galactic Empire – one is a farmboy hoping to prove himself, one is a princess practically born into this conflct and one is an opportunist dragged into this whole conflict against his will. Between Holmes and Dr Watson (and, on occassion, Mycroft), one is there to solve your crime in a cold and calculating manner while the other is ready to save your life, adding humanity to the duo. In their quest to destroy the one ring, Frodo’s standout moment is none other than when he openly admists that he woulndn’t have gotten far without Sam even though the two would find themselves at odds when it came to Gollum. In solving mysteries in magical school, Hermione is obviously the bookish and fact-driven whereas Ron is the more impulsive while Harry is hot-tempered but driven to solutions at the same time, often adding rifts between the trio. Between Steve Rogers’ boy-scout stands in his fight in contrast to Tony Stark’s more self-righteous approach to facing (often causing) problems would drive a wedge between the two in film after film until finally paid-off in the ending fight scene of Civil War.
And Bruce and Clarke? Their bantering consists of merely two scenes, both of which were released in the trailers months before the movie was released. It would have been interesting if the scenes were actually longer in the theatrical cut. The first scene shows Clarke as a reporter interviewing Bruce in a party about the Bat vigilante active in Gotham in which Bruce responds by implying that a super-powered alien in a bigger threat (because we the audience need reminding that they’re being set up to be enemies). The other time they would banter is when Superman stops Batman in his chase of Luther’s cargo. In this most-awaited, most anticpated, awe-inspiring scene of the two most popular and iconic symbols of superheroism finally coming toegether lasts less than a minute and consists of nothing more than the two measuring their egos and threatening murder. EPIC FAIL!
In Civil War, the main wedge driving apart Steve and Tony is the Sokovia Accords. After the incident in Averngers: Age of Ultron (2015), in which in his attempt to forever protect the world from alien invasion, Tony invents an artificial intelligence using Loki’s scepter without telling any other members of his team. The result, Ultron, proved to be too intelligent for his own good and is unable to tell the difference between saving the wold for good and destroying it altogether. In stopping Ultron, most of Sokovia and its citizen were killed. After another mission-gone-wrong in Lagos (during Civil War), killing several Wakandans, the UN decides that The Avengers, despite their scarifice, are too dangerous to operate on their own terms and thus penned the Sokovia Accords, handing all Averngers operations under the supervision of the UN. Guilt-ridden with Ultron and Sokovia, Stark agrees with the accord right off the bat whereas Rogers, having recently unearthed Hydra’s infilitration and its hidden agenda in SHIELD right under his very nose (in The Winter Soldier (2014)), is suspicious of powerful committes with agendas thus unable to sign the accord. When an explosion at the UN singing of the accord is blamed on Steve Rogers brainwashed assassin-turned childhood friend, Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, Steve is forced into action between protecting his friend and risking his criminality by acting against the Sokovia-accorded Tony Stark and the power of the UN.
In Dawn of Justice, the wedge drawn between Bruce and Clarke swings from the devastating battle of Metropolis in Man of Steel, Batman’s murderous methods in fighting crime in Gotham and Lex Luthor’s convaluted motive against god-like beings. Rather than having one central agenda to give each heroes (and villains) a certain angle towards the conflict, Snyder throws in constant reminders that Batman and Superman are enemies. He does this by inserting side-stories after side-stories to add this reminder, from Supeman’s saving Lois Lane from the hands of militias in Africa to Batman’s vengeful brooding to Lex Luthor’s comical speeches about god and devil. Aside from that, we get another side story about a woman in search of a photograph and videos in order to set up future installments. In addition, Snyder/Luthor decided to add the super-villain Doomsday so that Wonder Woman could have a screentime and kill-off Superman a la The Death of Superman graphic novel.
Civil War ends with Iron Man’s armor being disabled, the Winter Soldier’s metal arm blown off and Captain America abandoning his shield, the symbolic gesture that nobody won this civil war. Dawn of Justice ends with the christlike death of Superman to drive the point home that Superman is christlike because how else could they portray a modern Superman?
From its own title, Batman v Superman boasts to be th end-all of the superhero genre. What the genral audience got instead was a movie that seemed to have forgotten how far the genre has come since X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman Begins and their unamtched sequels. Civil War, on the other hand, from the cinematic universe that ought to be playing it safe, proved to be the bolder, more creative and vastly more entertaining film, earning its right among pantheon of the genre. It’s worth noting the The Lego Movie (2014) featured Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in much better light than BvS could have held a melted candle to.
Civil War has proven to be a firm installment to its ever-expanding cinematic universe whereas Dawn of Justice heavily relied on The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman (and even The Flashpoint Paradox), two of the most overrated graphic novels in their series, to expand the universe which only ended up serving the fanboys.
Bur not to worry. Snyder will be releasing his third installment of the DCCU this year. The Justice League trailer has shown better lighting in its scenes and some levity from the most brooding Wayne – as if they meant anything. Until then, the general audience have seen Suicide Squad, DCCU another pitiless attempt to cash-grab and expand its cinematic universe through the eyes of some of their iconic villains (and The Joker as a McGuffin, a deus ex machina and a red herring in one movie) all the while comparing it’s musical choice to Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy (2014) and added gore to the R-Rated Deadpool (2016). The upcoming Wonder Woman (2017), set during WWI a la Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), might be DCCU’s last chance at proving anything aside from being a promising cash-grab.