Ian Harris: Batman v Superman v Marvel v My Patience
There’s a scene in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in which Wonder Woman sits at a computer and proceeds to click through folders of other superheroes waiting to appear in other movies. When watching this, one feels as though they have suddenly been dropped into a Warner Bros. production meeting, and you can almost see the dates and dollar signs of these future films dancing in front of you. This is what it has come to. Two hundred million dollar movies starring BATMAN and SUPERMAN have become nothing more than trailers for future movies. The budding DC film universe has had three misses and one critical hit in this past summer’s “Wonder Woman” and now we are at last faced with what this has all supposedly been for: “The Justice League.”
I wanted to like “Batman v. Superman.” Some things in it were really good. Ben Affleck kills it as Batman. Wonder Woman was cool for the 5 seconds she was in. But that movie was, for the most part, a complete mess, an idea in search of a reason for its existence. Now we’re faced with that reason in “Justice League,” and if the result is lackluster, does “Justice League” just become the stepping-stone to “Justice Universe” or some other future product that will make all this nonsense worthwhile? It’s hard to say. Marvel fans would likely point to the ever expansive Marvel movie-verse as evidence that this can work “if you just do it right,” but the real question is if it’s time to stop doing it at all.
I would rather see another “Batman v. Superman” than another “Ant-Man” or “Thor.” Frankly, these DC movies try and they fail. Sometimes they fail in extremely epic fashion, but they do try. So we’ve reached a crossroads of garbage. We now have a choice. DC movies that try and fail or Marvel movies that barely try at all. Does it even matter what we choose? Both are going to make ungodly sums of money anyways. Superheroes are dominating the multiplexes. Super villains are plotting more and more intricate schemes to try to defeat our increasingly contract bound heroes. The greatest scheme of all though is that of the movie studios that have somehow tricked mainstream audiences into accepting the same exact thing on repeat, with sequels and spinoffs and sequels to the spinoffs and spinoffs to the sequels, forever. DC and Marvel aficionados fill the film internet subculture with their endless bickering over which franchise is superior. When both franchises feature paper-thin storytelling and no end in sight, what does it matter?
And that’s just the thing. Marvel studios have spent so much time building themselves up their “Cinematic Universe” that they’ve really lost sight of what this is all about. Will both “Justice League” and whatever the next Avengers movie is make tons of money? Yes. Does that mean that they are successful motion pictures? No. It’s true that filmmaking is a business but it’s also an art. Disney and Marvel fundamentally changed the way film series are structured with their buildup to “The Avengers,” yet I can’t help but feel that with each new film in their universe all they accomplish is that they dilute the entire enterprise. The true strength of a movie is shown not when it is released, but how it fares given time. Great films, true classics, are passed down from generation to generation. When a film resonates with someone born 30 years after it was released, that is the mark of classic. The generation before us had Star Wars, we had Harry Potter. Those are the types of stories that are told and retold, shared and discovered by new children year after year. They are stories that resonated enough with people that they show them to their kids. I do not claim to be a seer; the future may indeed prove me wrong, but I find it hard to believe that 20 or 30 years from now we will be sitting down with our children and saying, “Here’s a real classic, kids: It’s 'Avengers: Age of Ultron.' Sure you have to see the previous seven movies exactly like it ('Iron Man,' 'The Incredible Hulk,' 'Iron Man 2,' 'Thor,' 'Captain America: The First Avenger,' 'The Avengers,' 'Iron Man 3,' 'Thor: The Dark World,' 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy' for those counting) to understand what’s going on, but I’m sure you’ll like it. Oh, and it’s got great special effects!”` The number of superhero films being released these days is just astounding. With the oversaturation of these films we can only hope and pray that sooner rather then later audiences will just say “enough” to superhero movies altogether. The alternative is a world in which men and women in capes destroy cities and save the planet from destruction every other week, and moviegoers keep paying eight dollars each time to see them do it. In a world where every hero is super, no one is.