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2016 is shaping up to be yet another huge year for superhero themed films. Deadpool hit theaters with a smash just last month, and in a couple months time we will see Captain America: Civil War kick things up, followed by X-Men: Apocalypse, then Suicide Squad a couple months after that. To say nothing of Doctor Strange later in the fall. Needless to say, it is going to be a packed year, even without Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is poised to hit theaters this week.
Obviously, the level of excitement is supremely high for the first big-screen pairing of the DC comic book universe’s two titans, and if you have been following along at all since this film’s announcement shortly following the 2013 release of Man of Steel, you might have noticed several big pieces of news including the “small”, nearly year-long delay of the film’s release date. Fans eager to catch the flick are no doubt even more rabid thanks to the wait, which when thought about more deeply, feels like a marketing ploy by Warner Bros. to increase the desire to see the film. Yes, we were told that the extra time was needed to get certain aspects of the film right, but it also could be that in order to avoid direct competition from Marvel’s Civil War release, providing a space all to themselves for audiences, and also to increase interest, the delay seems a bit like a calculated chess move.
The extra time to get things right also means, extra time to add more meat to the skeleton if you will. Case in point, the Wonder Woman factor, the Doomsday element, the Aquaman appearance, just to name a few pieces. Now, it’s clear at this point that the inclusion of some of these pieces, namely the other heroes, is tying in to an upcoming Justice League film. But in a film titled Batman v. Superman, shouldn’t the focus be on, you know, Batman and Superman? The film has not officially opened yet and already there is a sense of exhaustion, a feeling that there is too much going on for the film to be enjoyable as a whole. Sure, the action promises to be thrilling, but outside of the action piece, some of us may be left wanting more.
This argument isn’t new. Wonder Woman’s inclusion alone is enough to take away from the thunder of this film, which has a great deal to do with Batman and Superman going head to head. And if we’re being honest, Wonder Woman’s own thunder is being taken away a bit too. The idea that she, an equal member of the DC Trinity, needs to be introduced in a film that deals almost exclusively with her male counterparts feels as if the she needs them to generate audience interest in her own story, which is not true at all. By including her, the opportunity to tell a tightly woven story between the two men is a little lost. Not to mention the inclusion of Cyborg and Aquaman, on top of the Big Three, this film might as well be called Justice League already. There is a feeling that substance will be sacrificed as can be the case with Zack Snyder.
And let us not forget about good ‘ol Doomsday. If you know that name in relation to the character of Superman in the comic books, you know just how important a character he is. If for some reason you are reading this and you don’t know who Doomsday is, all you need to know is that Superman can be killed in other ways that do not include kryptonite or magic and Doomsday is the character singlehandedly responsible for proving this fact to the world. Yes, Doomsday killed Superman with his bare hands. Now, knowing this, one of the most immediate questions is, does this mean that Supes will meet his “end” at the close of this film and perhaps he will be brought back for the Justice League movie? The possibility of this actually happening seems unlikely, given the liberties that filmmakers take with source material. This film will ultimately be its own thing, but do you see the issue with the notion of Superman’s death in this film? The fact that Doomsday is in this film opens the door for questions about Superman’s fate that frankly, at least in this writer’s opinion, should not be an issue. Why? Because again, this film at the core of it, should be about Batman and Superman’s dynamic. Doomsday’s inclusion also takes away from the electricity of the film’s other commodities, particularly Batman. The concern is that Doomsday will be a third act, eleventh hour pop-up for the Trinity to manage, without any real weight in relation to the movie. The film could make the mistake of setting the audience up to bring their preexisting knowledge of Doomsday’s pedigree to the film so they could use that to fill in the blanks of what he actually means to Superman, which isn’t fair to the audience, especially when you already have big players involved.
Since its announcement, this film seemed to have a history of adding elements. If you recall, Batman v. Superman was tentatively titled Man of Steel 2 before it was then announced that Batman would join in the proceedings, making the title Batman v. Superman, presumably a response to Marvel’s success, post-Avengers. Then Wonder Woman was announced to join the group. Are you seeing the pattern here? ‘More is more’ seems to be the route that Warner Bros. and DC are going. This doesn’t always feel like a good thing, especially when you consider that a movie is about two hours long. You can only cram in so much in a way to make it work before it falls apart under itself. If you need examples, you can look at Spider-Man 3 on the lower end, or even more recently, Avengers: Age of Ultron. In some cases, more does not always mean more in a good way. Thankfully, the mystery character that Jenna Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) was rumored to be playing has been cut and will show up in an extended ultimate edition director’s cut (which surprisingly will be R-rated) when it comes time for home video release. Good to know that some restraint seems to be exercised.
Bottom line, people will still see the movie, no question. Why? Purely because this is Batman and Superman together in the same flipping movie. That is reason enough. Who knows, there might be a way to have all the aforementioned elements in the film in a way that does not minimize the impact of this film; it just might be a good one. We will find out soon enough.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opens Friday, March 25, 2016.