The Hero’s Code.
It apparently means nothing to Batman (Ben Affleck).
It apparently means nothing to Superman (Henry Cavill).
And that’s troubling, because as a child, they were two of the characters I grew up with that taught me what it was.
But even worse, the creative forces behind the scenes of the latest DC/Warner Bros mis-step seem to have no idea what it is either, as they still struggle to play catch-up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They seem to think that instead of something engaging , smart and fun, they’ll throw a bunch of undeniably solid actors, a few slow-mo shots, way too much CGI and a heavy handed dose of the ole ultra-violence will, a super-hero extravaganza will make.
I knew from the moment during the opening sequence flashback when we get yet another retelling of the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents that the filmmakers didn’t get it. Why? Because instead of trying to keep the thief calm and under control, Thomas Wayne (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tries to throw a punch instead.
From that moment, the film seemed to go completely down hill. There are some nice moments to be sure; Affleck makes the character of Bruce Wayne his own, playing it as an older, jaded Dark Knight, one that has been on the job for 20 years, and lost allies along the way; Gal Gadot should have no problem in her feature length Wonder Woman film, because she brings the character to life in a nice enigmatic, and even playful way (something every other character sadly lacks in this film).
Bruce Wayne has been fostering a worry about Superman since the events of Man of Steel, which we get to see through his eyes, and wants to find a way to keep the alien in check. Lex Luthor, a terrible non-performance by Jesse Eisenberg, though whether that’s the way the character was written or his interpretation of it is hard to tell, wants the same thing, and begins manipulating events and people around him to take the Kryptonian off the board once and for all.
Luthor, as played by Eisenberg doesn’t feel like a threat, and wouldn’t even be in the same room as Clark and Bruce if he didn’t have money. He doesn’t exude confidence, smarts, charm, or anything you would think a rich and powerful man in the DC universe would have.
And Superman… well, looks like neither the character, nor the forces behind the camera driving him, learned anything from the first film. We’re told throughout the film that he brings hope to the world, but you don’t feel that, you certainly don’t see it. The only reason you know he brings hope to the world is because we’re told. Over and over.
But Superman SHOULD inspire hope, in fact, he should be someone we ASPIRE to be, not worship, not put on a pedestal, but as a person we should strive to be as good, as noble, as forthright as Superman has always been.
Superman is the light in the DC Universe, as opposed to Batman who is its darkness. They are supposed to be opposite sides of the same thing, but in this film, they’re both the same side of the coin. Superman should smile, should stand tall, his suit is bright for a reason. He’s an icon, a symbol for hope. Cavill’s Superman seems to slouch in the shadows, hiding in dark colors, you can’t help but draw comparisons to other actors who have played the role cinematically, and his performance makes me miss Christoper Reeve all the more.
And we know that the DC Universe can work with different tones, and lights and darks, their television work right now is a prime example. Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow. They all feel different, and yet crossovers work, because they share an established universe, and those individual tones still come across as these heroes battle across living room screens.
And that brings me back to the Hero’s Code.
Even if you work outside the law, there is still the guiding force of right and wrong, and a hero does what’s right, even if it puts him out there alone. And they don’t descend to the criminal’s level, they don’t kill. And yet, in this one, both Supes, and Bats up their body count in this film, and they’re supposed to be the good guys.
They both kill, and in one (dream) sequence, Bats even uses a gun – not to mention the body count he wracks up with the Batmobile (which I love the design of). By film’s end the body count must be once again in the thousands, as both Metropolis and Gotham get trashed this time.
But hey, it’s ok, thousands of people were dying, and the fight goes on, but oh! Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is in danger, better rescue her, the citizens of Gotham and Metropolis are expendable if they aren’t female journalists.
So while I would be interested in seeing a Ben Affleck solo Batman film, and I’ll no doubt see Gadot’s Wonder Woman, I think the folks at Warner and DC need to find someone else to come up with the vision of the DC cinematic universe – Zack Snyder does not work. I can think of a couple of people who would though… Bruce Timm and Paul Dini would be perfect for this. Please Warner, these films should be fun, adventure, and younger and older viewers should want to come out wanting to be the heroes they just saw on the screen, not wondering how many people died this time.
I keep hoping… and looking to the sky.