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I can still recall when the Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Comic-Con trailer dropped and how exhilarated I was to watch it in its pristine glory. Quite frankly, I was breathless—seriously! I let what I watched stew in me for a moment as I reflected on it. Mentally, I told myself not to watch it again, otherwise it could ruin the effect the full-length film would have on me when I was to finally see it. I did not listen to my own advice and quickly re-watched the trailer. On my second viewing I kept my breath but tears dropped down my cheeks because of how happy I was to see something like this exist. What is amazing is how the film would deliver on these feelings for me, as well as change film for me forever.
Prior to this, movies, to me, where nothing more than cathartic pieces of entertainment, not meant for much more than to be sat upon, watched and enjoyed in the most basest sense of the term. It never occurred to me that film should or can be analyzed, dissected and can actually mean something. All films were blockbusters, dramas or something else. Movie A is meant to excite, Movie B is meant to elicit laughter and so on. Each film had a particular cookie-cutter genre it plopped so nicely in. It seems most people just want to plop Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice into the basic action, superhero, and comic book movie/summer blockbuster genre. This is grossly distorted and a disservice. Batman v. Superman did something to me I don't think any movie has ever done before, it made me feel.
Granted that may sound corny but I do not mind as I am being honest. I found myself crying at numerous points in the film—the murder of the Waynes, Clark's lament over the media when they discuss if the world needs a Superman, the ending of the match between Batman and Superman, and then finally the death of Superman. Usually in movies there is just that one scene, normally around the end, like in Titanic or Schindler's List, where the director finally reels it in and we get that sad, tragic moment. Snyder jam packs it everywhere, noting there can be loss anywhere and anytime, otherwise it is not much of a journey if there is little to no loss or sacrifice. The murder of the Waynes is filmed and edited in such a beautiful manner, while aided by Hans Zimmer's lamenting score that underscores the lost and trauma, which is then amplified with cuts of a young Bruce Wayne literally running away from the acceptance of this event. It also helped to finally see the mother try and do something rather than just cry out in panic. Watching the world respond cynically to our cherished hero was very upsetting. They saw a talking point whereas I saw a person, a grand, mythical and upright person. I was crying at the realization that this is what society had fallen to. The infamous Martha moment did make me crack as well, given how it showed how far Bruce had fallen and then finally the moment Superman says those words to Lois, "This is my world, you are my world." Right on queue with Lois, I said no and had to hold back tears. Regardless of what we say and try to convey, we are selfish creatures who want Superman for ourselves.
The film also triggered other emotions, such as fear, which even a horror movie cannot always elicit—even when that is its stated purpose. Truthfully speaking, I was never a big Superman fan growing up and that goes for all of his supporting characters as well. This started to change with Man of Steel. However, the moment I saw his mother Marta Kent get abducted I was concerned. Then it is revealed by Lex with his pictures of her as the "witch" he construes her as. With every terrible thing up to this point that Lex has done, it occurred to me Martha could possibly die. Much like Superman, I too could not help but feel powerless to this knowledge. Superman's horrific reaction with his crimson eyes was truly mortifying. The angel turned demon, or at least to Lex. Seeing this side of Clark was something I do not wish to see again. No, not because I only want to see a certain side of Clark. No, it did not disturb me because I think Superman should be above such a reaction as this. You do not want to see your friend, spouse or loved one in any form of pain. In Batman v. Superman, Superman had become that loved one. To top this off, Superman tells Lois "no one stays good forever." The sheer idea that the beacon of hope would be entertaining such a nihilist notion was heartbreaking. On the other side, up until this moment, Bruce is wholly committed to his mission in slaying Superman. It was never so much the acts themselves that brought fear, but what they meant and symbolized - a loss of innocence, a loss of faith and mankind giving in to nothing and accepting the abyss. My paragons of truth, justice and hope have been compromised. They share the same morally gray world as I, and like me, they too are very human.
Now this may all sound extremely dreary, yet the film delivered much excitement as well. The Batmobile chase had me jumping up and down in my seat like a child. I was smiling so much my face began to hurt. This is one of the few cases Batman is not being pursued in a film. Instead he has the criminals in pursuit, as he dishes out merciless, swift justice from his Batmobile. After the film, someone I saw the film with even told me I had gotten almost too excited and probably disturbed some viewers, but luckily they understood where I was coming from. Honestly, I am usually pretty tame in my seat. Snyder's one-shot around Knightmare Batman had me fixated. That one shot of Batman overlooking the desert with the omega symbol made me cry out in a deep but preferably quiet voice, "It's Apokolips!" The comic book/Frank Miller fan-boy in me surged seeing Batman in his armor getting the drop on the Man of Steel. Wonder Woman arriving on the scene and almost stealing the show made me forget about everything going on in the film and in life generally. Her arrival by saving Batman with the awesome cello riff from Tina Guo had me so pumped. In moments like these I truly felt like a child with my eyes stuck to the screen in awe and amazement. Time had almost stopped it seemed. Imagery of all of these moments stuck with me, weighing down an emotional impact unlike other action film scenes where it may be entertaining but feels like a filler.
The Inner Conflict
One final thing Batman v. Superman stirred in me was conflict, inner conflict to be exact... This is similar to what I mentioned earlier, in how I wanted Superman to save the day, but I could not accept his death simultaneously. I was glad he saved the world and gave the people of Earth an example, but I did not want his sacrifice. Growing up I always felt to punish the person who actually committed the deed. If person A hires person B to commit a murder, one should seek vengeance for person B for they are the one who decided to commit the act. Generally, that is how I always felt. It was amazing to have a film challenge that and to come into conflict with oneself on something deeper and personal within the film. The conflict is not about a piece of dialogue or superficial matter within the film, but more about what the film may be about or is trying to convey. Once Lex was imprisoned and Batman confronts him—part of me wanted vengeance on the man who technically did not kill Superman. Yes, he did not deliver that final blow but he was still responsible for it to some degree. Honestly, I enjoyed this Lex very much and want to see more of him. Nonetheless, I eagerly wanted the Batman to murder him. I know about Batman's code but I did not care! Superman was dead and Lex Luthor has to pay! Simultaneously, committing murder shows that Bruce never turned over a new leaf , meaning that to some degree Superman died for nothing. For once, it truly made sense to me that killing Lex would gain nothing and would serve no one but petty self-interests, which should be below the character of a hero like Batman. In the end, people may not stay good but they do not necessarily have to stay bad either. People can change and sometimes they can change for the best.
In conclusion, I strangely feel that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how Batman v. Superman affected me, but since then I have seen many movies that did nothing for me. That is not to say they were bad movies but it was tantamount to just watching visual noise, a simple point A to point B destination, less story and more events in a simplistic narrative.
Whenever a film elicits no emotional response for me it is hard to even rate the film. I cannot say the film is bad, but I prefer to care about these characters rather than feeling a sense of technicality: where I am sad because said character died but just because death itself is a tragic event, not because I felt anything for or to this character. I realized I wanted human beings on screen not just action pieces. I want a story teller who crafts a lovely narrative with something to say rather than just a pre-assembled film given to a director with marching orders to fill quotas for one-liners and action scenes. I want an experience not just a show.