If you’d told me a year ago that a movie featuring Superman and Batman would be one of least fun blockbusters in years, I would not have believed you.
But here we are. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a confusing, morose and frankly depressing film.
And yet I’ve seen a good number of people sing its praises. The usual reason is that it’s a serious movie about superheroes, a more mature take than the Marvel films that star alien Norse gods and talking raccoons.
I’d heard this many times from friends before walking into the theater. And when the movie ended and I walked out, I realized something: I had no clue what they were talking about.
Batman v Superman is many things, but mature? Hardly. And I’m starting to fear that the morose, ugly events that make up that movie are being mistaken for maturity. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In the comics, Batman is a superhero who fights crime because his parents were killed by a criminal, and he doesn’t want to see anyone die ever again. Superman is a superhero who saves people because he has extraordinary powers and because his adoptive parents taught him it’s the right thing to do. Neither of them kill anyone because killing is wrong. It’s pretty simple.
In the movie, Batman is a worn-out recluse who fights crime by torturing, branding and often killing criminals. Superman is a conflicted hero being protested by a mistrusting public. Batman wants to kill Superman because he doesn’t trust him.
At one point, Superman has a vision where his dead adoptive father warns him of the consequences of heroic actions by telling him how he once built a dam to protect his animals from a flood. The dam worked, but the flood was diverted to a neighbor’s farm and killed all of the animals within. Superman’s dad ends the story by talking about how he still hears the screams of the dying horses in his nightmares.
This is all terrible.
It’s an ugly, bizarre depiction of DC’s best superheroes and one that I can’t imagine kids enjoy watching. Why do we want our classic characters becoming mean, tortured figures?
The fans are having insecurities about growing up. I’ll always believe Superman and Batman can be deep, nuanced characters. But at their core, they’re characters who dress up in costumes to punch people. They’re made for children. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But sometimes fans have trouble remembering that. As they grow older, they still want to enjoy their superheroes, but they don’t want to be embarrassed by the black-and-white morality and the bright colors.
The solution? A movie starring frowning, glaring heroes that torture criminals and have visions about dying horses.
That’s misguided. Having your heroes act terribly doesn’t make your movie adult, it just makes your movie have terrible heroes. Nothing in the movie feels adult — it feels like what an angry teenager thinks is adult.
Batman v Superman isn’t mature. It’s miserable. I’d recommend you go see Zootopia instead; there’s probably far fewer drowning horses.
Harry Sayer is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.