I was talking to my kid about the death of Antonin Scalia the other day, about the political implications of the Supreme Court and the liklihood of watching her first, protracted political fight about the future of the courts and she asked me this:
“Will the Green Lantern have to step in and appoint someone?”
My kid is 12 but I’m her dad and I tend to rant and when Warner Brothers put out the TV ad for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” recently, I gave the kid an earful. If you watch the trailer you’ll see Bruce Wayne/Batman/The World’s Greatest Detective spout the One Percent Doctrine, word for word.
Aside from how the One Percent Doctrine turned out for our foriegn policy (and that’s not a huge, liberal thing to say. Even those of the neoconservative stripe admit the doctrine might have been a bit overzealous), I have two main reasons hearing Dick Cheney’s words come out of Batman’s mouth caused me to rage a little bit in front of my kid.
- The current events co-opted for the film are still part of the public discussion. That is not to say films cannot be overtly political or deal with important and current issues but is a big, stupid, rain filled bombastic Zack Snyder movie with rock monsters and exploding buildings really the place to do it? You could argue it is, I suppose, but you want something very different out of your superhero movie than I do.
- Putting the hyper-militaristic language in the mouth of Batman, even if it is for the sake of his motivation to fight Superman, makes him less sympathetic. If Batman is ready to pull out the Batwing and mow someone down because there’s a one percent chance they might commit murder in the future, that’s not a hero, that’s an asshat. Or the Punisher. Take your pic. The point is we can argue whether the One Percent Doctrine works in real foreign policy, but in the superhero genre it gets real stupid real fast (and this is from a guy who read The Punisher for years).
- Were you invested in the world Zack Snyder and David Goyer spent considerable time, effort and money to create? Bet’cha aren’t after Ben Afleck throws modern, controversial political theory at you in the middle of his superhero movie!
- There are SO MANY OTHER WAYS TO GO! There are, literally, dozens of stories where the World’s Greatest do battle, for any variety of reasons, and none of them bring modern and much argued about political thought overtly into the picture.
- Ben Afleck is loud and proud Democrat to the point where he’s considered running for office, so you KNOW he knows what he’s saying. From his perspective, which he’s stated publicly, the Cheney Doctrine was a mistake. He’s handed a script where Batman suddenly tosses out this thing that bascially means “The Intellectual Justification For The Iraq War” and doesn’t blink. Correct me if I’m wrong, but under those circumstances, doesn’t that mean he thinks Batman is not only wrong, but dangerously so?
But overall, the whole thing just seems cheap. I’m a fan of making the audience feel like they’re smart. Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon and many others get your brain firing and don’t make it seem cheap. This seems tossed off (which we won’t know until we see the movie, I suppose) and a lousy short cut to give Batman some “real world motivation” whatever that means.
And, if there’s a good script in place that gives clear conflict to the characters, it’s unnecessary. Again, we won’t know until the movie (all two and a half damn hours of it) comes out, but…hoofta. It seems like a misstep in concept and execution. I’d have a lot more faith in the use of the real world political idea had I not already seen Man of Steel, which was a big fat mish mash of tones, at one moment brilliant and the next completely lost on what it wanted to say about Superman.
Maybe I should go a little lighter on the trailer, but you know what they say. If there’s only a one percent chance this could be a massively stupid idea…