Film · Reflection · Reviews

Batman vs. Superman vs. The Witch vs. Anxiety

We have trudged our way through March (or as I like to call it, Smarch), and emerged victorious – and slightly soggy – from its blustery depths. Hooray! As it’s spring and fresh winds are blowing, I thought I’d try something new here at ye olde blogge. I’m a fairly big film buff, and always wanted to write my thoughts on films I’ve seen recently. And why not start with the blown-up hype-storm that is Batman vs Superman?

It came out last weekend here in the UK, and I saw it with my chap for his birthday. He’s a huge Batman fan, and was really looking forward to seeing it. I was keeping my expectations somewhat lower. I’m not a huge fan of Zack Snyder, and while I liked Man of Steel, I didn’t want to get my hopes up for his newest explosion-riddled bro-fest.

Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman gif
Except for Wonder Woman of course

My chap really enjoyed B vs S, and I admit I was surprised by his positive reaction. He’s usually very particular about what films he likes. I am too, but for different reasons. (He likes psychological/mystery films about lone genius-dudes, I like smart action-adventure films or period pieces or sci-fi/fantasy). And I didn’t hate the Bats vs Supes, but it was a bit of a mess. It felt very much like three (or more) films smashed together – the editing was choppy, and the pacing was strange. I also didn’t REALLY care what happened to either Batman or Superman, because Justice League has already been squawked about so much, so you know nothing too bad can happen to them in this film. That and the trailers revealed WAY too much I think. Why show all the funniest/most stunning parts in the trailer? Or the third act twist?? Then the film feels underwhelming. (I think this is happening with a lot of films lately…)

Luthor/Eisenberg/Zuckerberg was obnoxious – I’m sorry, but his twitchy performance really drew me out of the film, and his dialogue (and he did most of the talking in the film) was painful. Some scenes in the film were replayed or slowed down, or lines were emphasised, that really didn’t need to be, and it felt like the film-makers were trying to hold the audience’s hand and drag us along. I was yelling in my head ‘Ok, we get it! Stop punching us in the face with this.’ (Or, whenever the two heroes were within snogging-distance from each other I’d yell in my head “JUST KISS ALREADY!”)

Batman vs Superman

The film was also a half hour too long (*cue cane shaking here*). I think the dragged-out and repeated scenes or the interminable slow-mo scenes that for some reason made the cut, should have been cut – and if they had been, it wouldn’t have detracted from the story.

Last critique: I hoped this film was going to FINALLY address the disaster-porn that happened in the last third of Man of Steel (which, again, could have been trimmed with no detriment to the film – in fact it may have improved it!). But not so much. There was almost the same amount of ‘smashy-smashy’ in this film, with one throwaway line from either Supes or Bats (can’t remember which) about how the location where they were fighting and ‘sploding everything was “uninhabited”…..So I still can’t help but feel more empathy for the clean-up crew or the insurance guy forced to, well, clean up the mess afterwards. Come to think of it, DC/WB/Snyder could have taken a page out of Marvel’s book and done a post-credits scene of some poor bloke sweeping up all the broken glass and masonry and muttering ‘Not again!’ or something to that effect.

Instead, it seems that Snyder was just enjoying smashing his toys together and exploding things a little too much, and it weakened the story.

Hank Scorpio

It had some funny moments, some of the visuals were striking, and the plot did keep you guessing (because it was so all over the place…). Mr Affleck did well as Batman I think, so he’s not what everyone should have been worried about. Mr Cavill was good, but Gal Gadot stole the show as Wonder Woman. Long-story short, B vs S = mostly meh, but the Wonder Woman movie = TAKE MY MONEY!

I haven’t waded too deeply into the angry muck of reviews and criticism on the film, but the general sense I got was that the critics hated it (with a few exceptions who were confused by why they liked it exactly), and that the “regular folk” whose butts filled the seats on opening weekend loved it (but what do we know anyway). I’m not sure I agree with that black-and-white conclusion. I also remember seeing some reviews who mentioned that B vs S was drawing on some very contemporary fears and making parallels to current events. This is hard to ascertain given that the movie was actually filmed almost two years ago, but in a wider sense, I guess I would agree. There is definitely some of the growing fear of technological change outpacing our ability to control it and use it for good, the unease over who precisely the good guys and bad guys are, and the world-wide fear of terrorism.

I also saw a similar review of the film The Witch (“Could a horror movie set in the 17th century explain America’s current insanity?“), and it said almost the same thing, but in a more U.S.-specific context. The spooky, ambiguously-concluded and really rather good film asks more questions than it answers, but I think its atmosphere and its resurrection of the deep, instinctual fear of the forest is more interesting than contemporary socio-political parallels. The article’s clickbaity title promises a deeper analysis than is actually provided, but the fact that two COMPLETELY different films are being examined as reflections of a general anxiety is intriguing (and unsettling).

The Witch 2015

Full disclosure: I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, so this issue is close to my heart, but one does not have to have an anxiety disorder to be afraid of where the human race is heading. Between Trump Drumpf and his racism/misogyny, to the serious doubts about national (or even local) security, to the newest reports on climate change (it’s worse than we thought), I am not surprised that even our superheroes are a bit anxious these days.

It’s also no wonder that the Millennials are fast becoming the most anxious generation, and while we are not the first to encounter economic hardship or whiplash-inducing technological advances, I would argue we are the first to endure all of that on top of the other societal and global changes happening so quickly (some for the better, others not). Our anxieties are thankfully not being brought on by a repressive and self-destructive Calvinist belief in pre-determined salvation or damnation, nor are we anxious about whether the dashing Kryptonian alien is here to save us or to destroy Metropolis yet again. And yes, we have many privileges other generations did not have, but that doesn’t mean our anxieties today are unfounded.

I for one like to watch films to escape my anxiety, but it seems anxiety is seeping into everything these days, from blockbuster films to indie period-pieces. (And non-Millenials wonder why we’re still obsessed with classic Disney!)

To end on a lighter note, I did also recently see the film Song of the Sea by the Irish film-maker Tomm Moore, who also made The Secret of Kells. If gorgeous, hand-drawn animated films about Irish history and mythology are your thing, then please watch these two films. Each individual frame could be paused and called art, and when combined with lovely music and heart-felt stories these are truly magical films. Here’s the main song from Song of the Sea. I find it soothing – and I hope you do too.

 

~M

PS – *spoiler alert* For anyone who has seen B vs S, when Doomsday appeared, did you also think: ‘They have a cave troll’ ….Because I did….(and then I saw Weta Digital in the credits. NICE.)

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