With the excitement for Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice stacking in anticipation for next month’s release, Snyder has been subjected to copious amounts of attention, ranging from his artistic choices, to his future with DC films, to just how much “battier” the new batman will be (yes, he actually said this). But can we really expect much from Dawn of Justice? I really, really, don’t think so.
The thing is, Snyder’s films are completely and utterly unoriginal, and sickeningly so. We can expect from Dawn of Justice the same as his other films – notably, almost all of them flops both at the box office and with critics – a mishmash of slow motion violence and unnecessary action-gore. Cheap shots giving each of the big-budget films the pretense of being some kind of statement, some kind of notable work. And that is exactly the problem with Snyder: he pretends to be some award-winning, notable director when it seems all he is and could ever be capable of is the exploitation of superfluous, arbitrary violence.
Snyder hides behind the reputation he has achieved by the immediate attraction of action and violence in teenagers and young adults. Such sickening shots of spears piercing human flesh in 300 and the utterly nonsensical and seemingly interminable fight sequences in Sucker Punch can offer the immediate satisfaction of adrenaline pumped, wide eyed excitement, but is this not the true mark of a cheap, thoughtless director? Is this not a complete cop-out for the sake of a few shallow gasps, a couple stomach flips as the hero inevitably saves the day again at the expense of a few meaningless murders? After all, who cares about the blood of others when it’s splattered on the real hero, the real-deal; slightly scratched, slightly torn but surviving and victorious? It’s the real world, after all.
Yet Snyder, despite his repeated claims that his films, particularly Man of Steel, contain a very “awesome” (as he painfully refers to nearly every element of his films like a continuous loop of default answers) and “relatable” sense of realism, he continues to only alienate his audience through his infantile use of pointless action and stilted dialogue (indeed, he often writes his own films including Sucker Punch and 300). In fact I, personally, have never sat through even one of his films without grimacing in confusion at not only what could actually be the point of this eighth fight sequence, not just in wonder that this is only the second act and we have another hour to sit through, but simply in the literal sense that I just don’t know where we are in the narrative.
Such a reliance on violence and cheap action-sequences comes at a fatal cost to the plot. I would have thought there would be some kind of exam or test for all major directors which culled all those who believed such overuse of these techniques could really drive the plot of a film, some kind of compulsory class called ‘Filmmaking 101: Why Not to Place Violence and Action and Gore at the Centre of Every Single Film You Make’, but apparently not because Snyder is still making films and doing so in exactly the same, exhausting, formulaic way.
Yes, Snyder is attractive in the sense that apparently what the film-consuming public wants is meaningless violence and the struggling success of some heroic figure and a final act open just about enough to allow a somewhat pointless sequel to be commissioned. But a good majority of the public also want characters that mean something to them, a plot driven by real struggles, and at least a less than laughable use of CGI.
Snyder’s over-reliance on action results in simple, tacky and garish glorifications of pointless violence, his ideas half formed, his resulting efforts all over the place. We end up with a mess of abstract narratives, lazy voiceovers and a complete and utter distracting use of blood and violence which consume every shot, every gesture, every stilted line of every one of his “awesome” films.
Dawn of Justice, I can only hope for you.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), directed by Zack Snyder, is due to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures on 25th March. Certificate TBC.