by Joe Scott
During press interviews for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the film’s director Zack Snyder has stated that he hopes to make a film based on the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead.
As a person who endured both of Snyder’s big screen outings with DC Comics’ Superman, learning that the filmmaker holds the grandmother of moral objectivism so close to his heart is a reveal that caused the many issues I had with his adaptations to make sense.
After all, Snyder is the filmmaker who was content to give audiences a Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel who did nothing to help anyone while thousands of people were killed. Additionally, in the final act, the Last Son of Krypton did something that many fans of the character were unable to forgive — he straight up killed a dude with his bare hands.
Never mind that a Superman who kills bad guys instantly ceases to be the ideal he should always be. Never mind that an omnipotent Superman who kills bad guys is a threat to both society as well as our planet. Killing another person was the easiest way for Superman to address his conflict, and according to heroic standard Snyder created, that was all the justification that the character needed.
Indeed, the film could have been retitled Superman Shrugged.
In Batman v. Superman, Snyder’s latest follow-up, we find that Superman is not the only hero who’s shrugging in a war to save and protect humanity. Batman (played this time by Ben Affleck) has joined the objectivist act, too.
While there are many iterations of the Caped Crusader over the 76 years since Batman was first created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the prevailing dogma surrounding the Dark Knight is that because his parents were so famously murdered by a random criminal with a gun, Batman never uses a gun nor allows his crusade against crime to push him to kill another human being.
Batman’s unwillingness to kill or use guns is a trait that typically defines him, making him an agent for justice instead of revenge, but Snyder tosses these ideals aside to give us a Batman who does shoot guns and kills people frequently. Even worse, his Batman has apparently allowed his xenophobic anti-Superman rage to push him to the point where he now brands a bat symbol on the criminals he fights like cattle — a move which serves as a death mark for these crooks when they go to jail. When Batman learns that the branding results in these criminals being brutally slain by their fellow inmates in prison, he reacts apathetically, essentially making him no better than the man who murdered his parents.
Snyder’s 15-year-old boy rendition of these iconic superheroes is so wrong, so misguided, I can’t help but wonder why he devoted the time and energy it took to create these movies in the first place. If my enjoyment of Batman v. Superman is any indication of how much fun Snyder had while making it, this production must have been hell to endure. The result is a shambling, droll mess of a film, devoid of both the pathos and joy these characters could easily give an audience. The harsh editing mows down any beauty or humanity that the impressive roster of actors might have tried to bring to their performances.
Sitting in a preview screening, surrounded by fans of these characters, it was painful to see how seldom they reacted to anything on screen. These were people who grew up loving the characters, and who wanted nothing more than to see them shine. Alas, there was no cheering or laughter. I also sensed that no one really felt anything when a major character died in the end. In all fairness, there was sparse cheering when Wonder Woman arrived, but even that burst of excitement was short-lived as nearly all of her scenes have already been unspooled via the movie’s trailers and commercials. But maybe this is a mercy, since if Snyder spent more time with Wonder Woman, he would have likely made grave alterations to this character, too.
Before the movie began, Snyder had the gall to present a video introduction to the film, asking audiences not to spoil plot details, saying that to do so would ruin the film for others. I only wish that fans had recorded a video before Snyder made the film, asking him not to ruin it either.