With the recent release of the Wonder Woman trailer, I starting thinking about what I thought of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice when it came out.
I have to be honest, I didn’t hate the movie. I could see what the creators were trying to achieve, which was the bringing together the “big three” of the JLA. That said, the creators made two main flaws that guaranteed that the movie wouldn’t fly with the audience. One, was that they failed to set up a solid story on the relationship between Superman and Batman. Two, they just tried to fit too many big ideas into one movie. When it comes right down to it, a movie is a story with really big pictures. If you can’t created the right story and characters, special effects won’t save you.
I call it the “Dune” Effect.
Have you ever heard of the 1984’s Dune, the David Lynch movie based on the Frank Herbert novel? It’s a perfect example of how you can take too large a subject matter (in this case a 1966 Hugo award-winning novel based on two feuding royal houses) and chop out so many elements that all you have left is a shallow story-line and characters that you really can’t connect to. There have been other versions, including a mini-series, that came closer to doing the book justice.
Marvel had the right idea when they made the individual character movies leading up to The Avengers. By the time that movie arrived, we knew everyone. Details about the characters and why they were together had been setup for us. We had the backstory that fit the flow of the series. We connected with them immediately and could focus our attention on the story itself.
Dawn of Justice went under the assumption that since Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy were out, that there was already enough of a backstory on the characters. The problem was, there was nothing that we could relate to in this movie. Affleck’s Batman is not Bale’s Batman and making Cavill’s Superman, well, just unlikable after Man of Steel, came across as a cop-out. Even though it began with Bruce’s reaction to the aftermath of Man of Steel, the movie didn’t give enough time to bring the two characters from adversaries to allies.
I was surprised that DC faltered as much as it did. Their animated movies (I don’t think there is one that I haven’t seen) are fantastic. Well-written and engaging, they provided solid stories and characters using less screen time than Dawn. Yes, there were some assumptions made about the characters presented, but it was treated very differently from the live action version. It was as if DC was in a rush to tell the story without taking the time to look at it from the audience’s point of view to see if it all made sense.
Even the villain Doomsday and his impact felt rushed and awkward, as if he had to be squeezed in because the movie was running out of time. I wonder how much of the movie ended up on the cutting room floor and if it would have made a difference.
I am hoping that the creators of Wonder Woman will take a look at what didn’t work for Dawn of Justice and learn from it. This live action part of an incredible franchise has solid stories and amazing characters to work with. Let’s just hope they can figure it out.
After all the hoopla about the movie settled, it was interesting that the original concern was the casting of actress Gal Godat as Wonder Woman. Funny how things turn out. I think that her Wonder Woman just may be the saving grace for the franchise. I always saw Diana as the balance between Clark and Bruce. Maybe for the franchise, it may just turn out that way.
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