By Michael Dellapi, a Highlighter staff columnist
It is safe to say that the recent superhero film “Batman v. Superman” was a critical flop in most accounts. A failure it certainly was, but not for the reasons that many would assume it to be. There are many that argue that the failure in the film lies in the fact that it does not properly adhere to the DC Comics canon. This is not the case. Zack Snyder so badly wants to make a movie that accurately reflects the formal qualities of a comic book that I’m pretty sure his next film will give you paper cuts and have coffee spills covering part of the frame. Likewise, I refuse to believe that canonical accuracy was what made the “Batman v. Superman” tank so harshly that it’s in danger of colliding with the Earth’s core. However, my mission is not to look explicitly at why the movie performed so poorly amongst critics. Rather, it is to look at why the trend of superhero films is allowed to persist despite its often cataclysmic results.
One would be quick to assume that the production of “Batman v. Superman” is somehow inherently linked to the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” franchise.“The Dark Knight” had pacing, a disturbingly likable and memorable antagonist, a color palette, clever dialogue, impactful sound design, and a largely coherent narrative. Therefore, there is little that would legitimately bring the two aforementioned films together. To believe that one could make a successful film by ignoring all the basic formal qualities of the medium in favor of pure, unadulterated grit is rather foolish to say the least. Clearly there is a greater scheme at work here, inclusive of other superhero catastrophes like the recent “Fantastic Four” reboot. Maybe there is a reason that by the end of this year there will be not one but three different iterations of Spiderman that have existed in the last fifteen years. Perhaps both Marvel and D.C. comics are distributing their respective intellectual properties as haphazardly as one would distribute gum in a high school gym class because deep down they desperately want to start fresh. “Batman v. Superman” might very well be a cry for help.
Critical responses towards “Batman v. Superman” aside, the movie is turning out to be decidedly profitable based on its recent release alone. However, what if D.C. Comics truly wishes to start anew with regards to their characters? This feat will never be possible if fans are willing to shell out money each time that a new property graces the silver screen. In this regard, the D.C. Comic film universe acts as the proverbial hydra whose heads keep growing back no matter how hard critics may hack at it. Therefore, they must take measures that are increasingly more drastic to truly start on a fresh slate. The trend of notoriously unsuccessful re-imaginings will continue until a singularity is made, locking superhero properties inside until they are ready to be released once again when the time is right. When superhero films are treated as but distant memories, they may reemerge as something decidedly unique that are judged on its own merits rather than canonical merits. Until this singularity unfolds, superhero movies are doomed to repeat their mistakes until there is actually consequence for them.