I saw Ant Man the other day, and, while waiting for yet another superior Marvel film to play, I saw the trailer for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
What was that crap? It's the only trailer I've ever seen that I felt an innate need to flip off. Well, until I saw this one:
Dark, boring, brooding... yuck.
Now, anyone who's been in any RPG campaign with me knows I don't shy away from dark. Hell, I dive in head first with a gusto that alienates people from time to time. Because who wants to play in a game where the main villain is an aborted god who wants to rape his half (non god) sister so he can take over the baby's body so he can have another shot at the life he was so unjustly denied? Amiright? So what's so different here?
Part of it has to do with the inability of the producers to get what the characters are about. Superman is about God among us. Pure and simple. He's a man who has the powers of a god who believes in us more than we know how to believe in ourselves. He doesn't feel loneliness from being an outsider, because to him all people have a common good that needs protecting, himself included. He doesn't see the differences so much as he sees the similarities, even in the face of overwhelming evil.
Where was any of that in the Man of Steel? Where was Superman?
Sure, he saved people, because it was the right thing to do. But there's a basic satisfaction in doing good for it's own sake that's simply ignored by Snyder and co. Don't get me wrong, some people do respond to being saved by being untrusting and bitter, but that's only one part of the picture. There's a basic commonality we all have that Snyder, in his infinite wisdom, ignored for the "gritty for it's own sake" feel. If you're going to be dark actually be friggin' dark! Do something that requires the darkness be felt! Threaten things and people the characters care about, not this "I'm brooding for it's own sake" crap we got in Man of Steel.
Guess what we got more of in that bloody trailer?
"It's man versus god, night versus day."
Who talks like that? Someone in the theatre asked if that character (Lex Luthor) was the Joker. I almost told her it was. I mean, Luthor may as well have been the Joker. All DC movies apparently think heroes and villains are the same. It's just a mess of gray. And don't even get me started on the Suicide Squad. Monsters doing monstrous work is such a spirit of the age thing it isn't even funny. I guess I could go all Valley Girl and say "That's so 20th Century guys!" because it really is. Yes, I get it, producers: World Wars I and II sucked and we found out that progress for it's own sake creates monsters, and that it takes monstrous acts to sustain our civilization. Thank you for the revelation, the blood of millions of aborted children is heard already, let's move on.
I guess when I think of dark things I think of something like Children of Men or, more aptly, the Nolan Batman films. Now those are dark films that deserve the title! Their protagonists actually have interior and exterior problems. Theo is living in a world where all the women have become infertile and lost one of his babies to illness. That's not brooding for it's own sake, that's plain old depressing. Bruce Wayne lost his parents as a child due to his fear and now refuses to do the same thing with Gotham. He's got a guilt and inferiority complex miles long and the movie reflects his failings as he attempts to be a hero. He accomplishes the impossible, interiorly and exteriorly, and that makes him mighty. He actually does stuff that makes us wonder, whether it be fight ninjas or shut the lights off in Gotham or face down the League of Assassins not once but twice!
That segues pretty nicely into my review of Ant Man. Boy, DC, if you want us to root for your movies don't put your trailers in front of a superior product, particularly Ant Man. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a modern day Robin Hood who got caught, chosen to be the Ant Man by Hank Pym, a hero of WW II. The whole film asks "why this dude?" and then answers the question. Scott Lang is a man who acts because he must, not because he wants to. Everyone in the movie keeps asking the Scott the same question: "What makes you worthy of being the Ant Man?"
The fact is that it's love. Scott wants to be with his daughter who has been separated from him because of his failed Robin Hood antics and he just wants to be near her again. Scott is extremely human in his motivations and is nothing if not rootable. He actually gets something out of his heroism, it's something he actually needs. Being a hero makes Scott a better person, thus completing the heroic cycle that all the Marvel movies have set up.
And I guess that's the thing that Marvel gets right that DC still hasn't figured out: being a hero can actually make you happy. Is it easy? Is the burden light? Will things go smoothly? No. But, in the end, there is happiness. It's what they were meant to do. And, in DC's just randomly awful universe, power has no good use. It's just something you're burdened with until it either drives you insane or you die from it or you run away from it, giving it to the next poor sap. And yes, that can be true. But someone as powerful as Superman has a reason for saving the human race instead of destroying it, and I'll be darned if Snyder and Co. know what it is. I'm fairly certain they don't, and never will. That would require them knowing what a hero's about.