Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is upon us. I’ve been reading over a lot of the reviews, with a sinking heart; I’ve really wanted to be happy about Wonder Woman’s first major cinematic appearance, but all signs indicate that she’s been shoehorned into a plot that the kinder reviews are still calling incoherent and overstuffed, and the less kind reviews are calling “an unholy mess”, which “feels like Zack Snyder hobbling the entire upcoming DC Movieverse before it gets started”.
All of which makes me sad. Most of all I’m seeing a lot of reviews that are calling the movie a “joyless slog” and that it’s just not fun. And I have to boggle. Because the DC I see delivering us The Flash and Supergirl on TV is getting the fun part right. I enjoy watching both of those shows, and while they’ve gotten serious in some episodes I’ve seen, they still wholeheartedly embrace the fact that they’re telling freggin’ comic book stories, and don’t seem to feel compelled to make everything colorless and dark and grim and OH SO VERY SERIOUS.
But y’know what’s really making me facepalm?
How a bunch of reviews are also calling this film out for its response to what a lot of people complained about with Man of Steel: i.e., that Supes and Zod ripped up Metropolis without Superman giving the slightest hint of a shit that he might be endangering innocent bystanders in the battle. To all reports, BvS’s way of addressing this problem is to wedge in little bits of dialogue here and there to try to reassure the viewer that oh my no, bystanders aren’t getting harmed! Like, say, a newscaster who reports that it’s after business hours so downtown is practically deserted! As opposed to, oh, I dunno, having the heroes spend camera time making a point of getting civilians out of the goddamned way. Like heroes should be doing.
And while I am indeed making inevitable comparisons to the Avengers–I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Age of Ultron was a mess in many ways, but by gods, the Avengers spent camera time in it acting to save civilians–my actual main reaction here is, “Really, movie? You’re pulling a 7-Zark-7 here?!”
Context, for those of you who aren’t in my age bracket and/or don’t have any familiarity with 70’s-era anime: go look up Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Gatchaman was one of the formative animes of the 70’s, really raising the bar for what anime could do. And a guy named Sandy Frank looked at that and went, “Hey, y’know what would be cool? If I translated this thing and brought it over for the US market!”
All very well and good, except for one thing: Gatchaman pulls no punches whatsoever when it comes to violence in its plots. Watch Gatchaman, and you can expect to see a lot of trains exploding, planes crashing, ships sinking, and in general, civilians being killed right and left because of the evil rampages of Galactor. Mr. Frank looked at this and apparently decided that he couldn’t POSSIBLY show such violence to children. So he took 85 of the 110 Gatchaman episodes, and in a lot of those, cut out all the most violent parts. To fill the storylines back out to half an hour, he created a bunch of new footage starring a character called 7-Zark-7, a robot intended to serve as a communications hub and overseer for G-Force, what the English version of the story called the Gatchaman team.
Zark spends a lot of his time telling the viewer about how all those planes we’re seeing are “remote controlled robot planes” and such–thereby handily skirting the entire question of whether any innocent lives might have just been lost in all those explosions.
Don’t get me wrong. I grew up loving Battle of the Planets. But once I discovered Gatchaman, and especially once I started watching BotP episodes back to back with the Gatchaman originals, it very quickly became evident how much of a hack job Sandy Frank did on the storyline.
And pro tip: if your new superhero movie is going to make me think of the hack job version of a storyline rather than the infinitely superior original, maybe, just maybe, you’re doing your movie wrong.
Oh well. I’ll be skipping seeing BvS in the theaters, I think. I’ll hold out a tiny crumb of hope that maybe Wonder Woman’s solo movie next year won’t suck. But that crumb of hope is pretty small. And with all due respect to Condor Joe, I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved with Bird Missiles.