The new Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice: I Can’t Believe They Went with that Title trailer has been “leaked”. And, boy, is it a stinker. After the Adventure in Grimdark that was Man of Steel, I was hoping for a course correction at this point. It’s common for sequels to address (and even over correct) on the perceived flaws of their predecessors. Man of Steel itself was an over correction of the criticisms of Superman Returns, a movie where fans complained that Superman didn’t throw a single punch so in Steel he throws lots of punches. The James Bond series is loaded with adjustments, each actor bringing with them a “fix” based on ideas of the previous actor’s failings. The new series of Daniel Craig “I feel sad and am not very good at my job” films are a direct response to the Brosnan “let’s crack one liners and have grandiose villains” series. Whether these corrections work or not is always up in the air, but it’s a standard thing.
So people complained that Man of Steel was too grim, and Warner Bros. response is to stick with that idea. This is a trailer that ends on the line: “Do you bleed? You will.” which sounds great coming from the lips of Dirty Harry, but completely out of place in a Batman and Superman film. Yes, I know. Batman is a tragic anti-hero. Although, really, he’s not. He’s a guy who dresses up as a bat and fights a guy who dresses up like a clown. In BvS: Dawn of Justice: All the Good Titles were Already Takenhe’s a rich guy who dresses like a bat fighting an alien from outer space who shoots heat rays from his eyes.
Goyer and Snyder are not the problem here. Let’s get that out of the way. They are, to be sure, one note artists who are unsuited for this kind of material. That’s a criticism, of sorts, but not much of one. I consider myself a fairly inventive writer, but there are certain themes and ideas that recur throughout my own body of work. All artists have a certain point of view and personal philosophy that pops up in their work, and it’s usually obvious once you know what it is. The problem isn’t that the artists working behind the scenes aren’t good at what they do (whether I like what they do or not is another question). It’s that they shouldn’t be allowed to do it in the first place.
I’ve noted before how this new shared, ongoing universe in films isn’t a new idea. It’s been part of comics, especially superhero comics, for decades, and, despite what you might believe, it isn’t the writers and artists who have the power in these situations. It’s the editors and producers. These are the folks who own the toys that the artists are merely borrowing (strangely, even when the artists created those very toys, but that’s a whole big thing we just can’t get into right now).
Basically, someone needs at Warner Bros. needs to tell Goyer and Snyder to knock it off.
It might seem weird, as an artist, that I would ask for editorial intervention from the production company, but there is something different about writing a story with your own characters versus writing a story with somebody else’s characters. And that difference should be loss of control and limitations in place. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has a history of losing directors, of dissatisfied, talented people working behind the camera. But that hasn’t prevented them from creating a coherent universe that is both a cash cow and an interesting experiment in a shared movie universe. It’s actually probably the exact opposite.