Thoughts On: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
I've already covered this film, my first set of thoughts can be found here...
But, I'm not much of a reviewer. I don't want to be. I try not to review films, rather talk about their ideas and what they mean to an audience. That said....
I've already covered this film, my first set of thoughts can be found here...
Fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes. When we think of these things we think of the impossible, we think of alien planets, space travel, monsters, inhuman ability, spectacle, imagination. Through cinema we get to experience the alien, we get to have our crazy imaginings realised so we can experience them with others--or for more selfish reasons (I'm not going to delve into porn here--another time). But what do we get? The everyday, just heightened. The world we know, painted a different shade for a while. Our perception, diluted. What are the best fantasy films of all time? For me, I turn directly to Lord Of The Rings, to Disney, Studio Ghibli, films like Pans Labyrinth, 2001, E.T, The Wizard of Oz and... uh... you run out of titles and names quick. For an art form enwreathed, imbued, with this idea of fantasy, of heightened reality, cinema is not so good at it. What popularised cinema that keeps it relevant? It's capacity to present the fantastical for all to understand. I speak for myself here, and I know some may disagree, but, no matter how well a book is written, no matter how good of a writer you are, a picture is always going to portray fantasy just that little bit better than you. I say this as a writer. I've always wanted to write, to read, but cinema is where my heart is at. I love words, I love the idea my voice being under my finger tips, under my control (yeah, I'm no public speaker). But, humans are visual creatures. This is why cinema is the best art form. We are irrevocably bound to this idea of images. Images are what we construct reality from. Cinema is best at communicating with our core of perception. I mean, we've all heard it: a picture paints a thousand words, a film, a thousand words 24 time a second.
If humans are bound to their primary sense of sight, forming our perception of reality, and cinema is supposed to be an escape... why are we not that good at fantasy? Take the list of the 100 best films ever made from Rotten Tomatoes. I count approximately 19 fantasies. The genre is a little hard to define with films like Dr. Strangelove, but it's clear that in a general sense people love the fantasy genre. But, let's be real. All films are fantasy. Everything from the realist films like I Vitellioni or Bicycle Thieves to the not so realistic Once Upon A Time In America or Oldboy are fantasy. Even documentaries and reality T.V shows are fantasy. This is because events are contorted by a camera, lighting, editing, bad acting, obvious writing--especially with 'reality' T.V. I further the point with Keeping With The Kardashians. I've never watched it (no lie) but I can tell you that even if we are watching their real lives play out, from where we sit, their million dollar homes, cars, clothes, pets, their perspective, their way of living, persona, actual physique, is all a fantasy. Make no mistake, reality cannot exist on the big or small screen.
What has this got to do with Batman V Superman? Well, fantasy in cinema is becoming more and more obsolete, yet more and more relevant. What is the current movement in we're going through? Realism. We see it through our gritty and grounded sci-fi, our found footage, our demand for human drama. We're living in a world of me, me, me. I don't think this is a bad thing. It's just what happens when we all get the internet, it's how we want to be. But we're in a stilted revelation within cinema and we're kind of ignoring it. CGI. When was the last time you heard or saw the acronym before someone complained or said meh? CGI is the future of cinema and, yes, bad CGI is really bad, but good CGI goes unnoticed. We're becoming more acclimatised to this idea as CGI becomes less of a selling point for a film, but an inevitability. CGI is what has given us Batman V Superman and virtually every blockbuster of the past 5 years. There's such a movement against it and I don't fully understand why. If cinema is fantasy why must we suppress it with the realism found in Batman V Superman? Why did it have to be so PC just because some people complained that Superman inadvertently killed people in Man Of Steel? Why do we look down on mindless destruction? I think there's an obvious difference between continuity or sensical errors and heightened reality. No one else seems to think so. The realist movement is such a contradiction because where does it hit hardest? Sci-fi and horror.
Now, the horror talk is for another time, my views on fantasy and horror are a little different from sci-fi. But, people want to see themselves presented in art. This links back to the 'me, me, me' aspect of society and why BVS is so PC. I say this is a tragic blunder. Cinema right now should be an explosion of creativity. I mean, we should have been drowning in mindbogglingly other worldly films since T2 and Jurassic Park. That was a quarter of a century ago! Cinema is about 115 years old. Talkies have been around for around 90. Colour pictures about 75, but only did they fully take over in the 60s leaving us with about half a century of modern cinema. From the early 60s to the late 70s cinema changed radically. From Some Like It Hot to Mean Streets to Star Wars cinema became more and more sexualised, violent and special effects driven. Jaws gave us the blockbuster. From the 80s until now cinema has been taken over by teens and families. Cinema has not changed much in this time. Yes, we've got CGI really settling in and 3D standing on the side--still in the picture though--but everyone's against it. We are fighting some amazing cinema by demanding realism. Moreover, we could be dooming cinema, destroying its future by doing this.
Studios are getting a clear message that we want gritty realism and its reflected through he films we're getting. The majority of fantasy films are aimed for kids, I think they always have been, but CGI should have changed that. Look at what it opened with! Terminator 2! No it wasn't the first film with CGI but it was the first real good one. The movement against fantasy in this sense stems back to silent animated films, and later on, Disney. Animation is an amazing thing. Who are our key animators? Disney Pixar and DreamWorks. What do they make? Kids films. Why are our tools for creating whatever we want only used for children. From the 30s we've looked down animation as nothing better than a kids play thing (yes, Toy Story reference). Why!? I'll say it again, cinema is fantasy. Why are our world creating tools (animation and CGI) looked down on by cinema. Look at T.V and the massive cultural impact of anime. I'm sorry to those who I offend here, but these are inferior to cinema, yet we're letting them utilise what cinema should have a monopoly on. From Keaton's cinema of questionable physics to Griffith's spectacle, cinema has it's roots in fantasy. Look at romance and tell me realism has any place there. Yes, realism is imperative to cinema. I don't suggest we lose it in all genres merely give it a rest in sci-fi.
Linking back to BVS, I want to come back to the idea that sense and fantasy can coexist. The reason why realism is so important to people and rife in cinema is because the audience thinks they're making a CinemaSins video. I love the channel by the way, but people misconstrue what it's really doing. CinemaSins makes errors in writing and directing obvious and punishes the film for it. We all love doing this, to spot where we can prove we're smarter than a film. Plot holes are gold mines. This drives a huge misconception in fantasy. You don't have to follow the rules of reality, but the rules you set down. You can have 100 foot chicken roam the Earth if that's your premise and you justify it. Whom do we reserve such ideas for? Children. Superheroes are our generation's cowboys. Iron Man and Batman are our John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. They are those who we look up to and idealise in the fantasy realm of cinema. We are fast destroying their worlds with the demand for realism. In Superman, how many times have we gone to Kripton? I remember reading something from David S. Goyer, (the screenwriter of Man Of Steel) he said something along the lines of him writing EXT. KRIPTON and just not being comfortable. Instead he moved onto EXT. SMALLVILLE or some other place he was familiar with. I mean...where are your guts!? Why must cinema be so human, so familiar!?
Here's the crux of my point. Humans have invaded cinema and settled. This happened almost immediately because of money, ability and technology. Milies gave us our first special effects films - A Trip to The Moon being most notable. It took a magician to show us the wonders cinema could provide and our infatuation with such an idea has always been reduced to a friend zoney, grey area. Cinema is fantasy, but we don't want to be reminded of that fact. With BVS the neglect of fantasy is not only with its needless use of realism, but humanity. WHY IS A FILM CALLED BATMAN V SUPERMAN ABOUT HUMANS!?!?!?!?!?!? Sorry for shouting. But, this is a major issue in cinema in my opinion. Films are always going to be about people, I don't care if there's a 20 foot gorilla or thousand green people. Humans are rooted in cinema because we make it. This doesn't mean we have to sully fantasy with our on-screen presence. If you've read my other post on BVS you may or may not have noticed something. At what point did I talk about Lois or any of the other humans? Not much, probably not much more than once. This was intentional as I was both saving them for now and wanted to prove how insignificant and pointless they are in the film. Get them out! There's a shot in almost all sci-fi films when something is destroyed where I just want to be sick. It's the one of the crowd of faces we don't care about. This is never a poignant shot! We know our reaction! Unless it pushes the plot forward, such as the crowd deciding to then riot, then get it out. I don't want to see the creatures on those nameless planets in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Look at the original, all we needed was Lea's reaction. Get humans out! Especially of sci-fi!
This is so relevant to Batman V Superman because this stupid idea of overly human cinema is where the film has its foundations. It's because people didn't like the fact that people die when Gods fight that this film has come to be. People need to pipe down and find something humbling. What they essentially are abhorred over is their fantasy representations being killed whilst Superman is fighting for their life! This is shown in the film with everyone taking Superman for granted. They assume he's their saviour, that he owes them something, that he belongs in court, that we can judge him. Superman in court!? Fuck off. Sorry, I'm just passionate. Forgive me. What happened when Batman was put under the same strain in The Dark Night trilogy? He didn't show up. Bruce Wayne knew he served the people, he didn't need their validation, their permission. To reduce Superman to a cowering figure literally, literally, on his knees before Lex Luthor is absurd. If I wrote that film I would have had him punch him in the dick and do something amazing, something improbable, something only Superman could do which is to go save his mother. The fact that Superman is so overpowered should only excite screenwriters. This is their chance to show us their imaginative capacity. Superman is a script you should be able to show off, you should be able to brag, with. What we get is boring and grounded. This is how I try to write: I try to have the fantastical primary and the conflict retaliatory. It's the screenwriters job to battle Superman's overpowered nature with conflict, not to suppress him. Enhance him and then squash him. This is what I meant with the realism in Batman, that which he's tied to, battling the fantasy of Superman in my last post.
What this all cycles back to is us and fantasy. If children can learn lessons from kung fu fighting pandas, talking animals, cartoons, why can't adults at least tell proper stories with them. I'm not saying adults can't enjoy well made kid's films (Cinderella is one of my favourite films of all time) or that we should be using talking animals, but why not? Look at Family Guy, The Simpsons, the new Seth Rogen film with the talking food that swears, is murdered by humans and represents genitalia. We can do more, we can do better, with the idea of fantasy, with the idea that cinema can be whatever you want, than what we are doing now. Cinema's future is in CG, cinema's future is in imagination, cinema's future is in fantasy. Please, don't hold it back. Take the humans out, write something that sounds like the concept came from a crack den, something from the free mind of a mellowed and chilled pot head. We don't need drugs to do this people! Don't try it, we're not all Seth Rogan and I don't want to recommend drugs to anyone. Forget BVS and free cinema.
This is what I urge, this is what we as consumers, what Hollywood as a business, what cinema, needs. Freedom. Avengers should not be about Black Widow and Hawkeye. BVS should not be about Lois Lane and the goddamn morons the Planet newspaper place. Give us the inhuman and we will find humanity in it. Why do you think so many people love their cats so much!? Don't reduce cinema to an evil, scummy, pet like a cat (sorry, I just don't like them) just free it. Free cinema.
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