(And it frustrates the shit out of me.)
A while back, I decided to live tweet my way through BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO: Ultimate Edition. As regular readers will know, I did NOT like the original theatrical cut either as a movie, or in its depiction of perhaps my favourite* fictional character: Superman. I had heard much tell of how the UE would provide some narrative clarity, and make for a better movie, and while it is certainly superior to the theatrical cut, I think BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO remains pretty bad.
But bad movies can have good moments or elements! I direct you to STAR TREK V’s “I NEED my pain” sequence, which is among the best Kirk moments in all Trek, or John Powell’s magnificent score in X3. BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO has one such caveat. And it’s in an area Snyder has truly excelled before. I adore it. I can’t stop watching it:
Right? I think it’s beautiful. I give Snyder a lot of shit because his treatment of Superman really does offend me, but putting aside that bias, the man knows how to put together short, cascading, emotional sequences which deliver both exposition and tone. Think of WATCHMEN’s elegant and evocative opening sequence to Bob Dylan’s “Times they are a changing”. A visceral cinematic induction into Moore’s world and a celluloid dream.
It is surely no accident that his movies have generated some of the best trailers – that first WATCHMEN trailer is wonderful, and his MAN OF STEEL trailers are some of the best filmed Superman work out there. And then there is the birth of Dr. Manhattan. One of my favourite sequences in cinema, and proof that Snyder does indeed know how to tell a story:
He selects and composes truly iconic moments – which feel ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. The montage in BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO gives us a glimpse of the kind of movie I would have much preferred. On the one hand, super-feats! The bread and butter of a super hero movie and yet we are oddly starved of them. But more than that, the serious consideration of Superman’s power and influence as both frightening and inspiring to people? I LIKE that discussion. A man who could be the invulnerable dictator or the supernatural saviour. There are GREAT questions, tackled wonderfully over the years in titles like “Red Son”, “All Star Superman” and of course, Dr. Manhattan in WATCHMEN.
I love the notion that the desperate would paint the Superman “S” on their roof in the hope he would save them. That the kid from Smallville would smile when returning a kid to her family, but look uncomfortable when he’s clawed at as if a deity (standard acknowledgement here that Henry Cavill adds value to this role whenever he can. God bless him)
Zimmer’s score is so beautifully balanced and better yet, the narration by pundits is some of the best writing in the movie. The themes of those questions laid bare. What is this man? What does he mean for us? For religion, for morality and even for our existence? Snyder is an under rated director when it comes to the performance of actors, but I will go one step further and say that here he provokes the best cinematic contribution from media figures in recent times – with Neil Degrasse Tyson, a man who already has associations with Superman – an absolute standout.
What makes this sequence so frustrating for me is that these themes are left to fester. Later, a large proportion of the world will come to believe Superman is complicit in the bombing of the US Senate. Those introduction interviews with Lois Lane, as found in SUPERMAN THE MOVIE and John Byrne’s seminal “Man of Steel”, show how crucial it is that a man who finds himself the subject of so much fear and fascination, would be troubled enough to reach out to us ease those fears. To have the leadership skills coupled with humility to reveal himself as a friend. That unlike Dr. Manhattan, he will ALWAYS have a stake in this world.
I wonder if Snyder thinks that Superman’s ultimate sacrifice at the end of the movie is enough. Enough to answer all the pundits in this sequence. Enough to justify the outpouring of emotion following his death. Not for me. For me this sequence promises a Superman we never got. One who wouldn’t go absent in times of panic, but would instead stand as a proud and comforting presence for all of us. Imagine the impact the shots of those empty streets after his death would have had if we’d seen such a Superman. This montage represents the only time that Superman ever truly connects tot he world around him. It’s too little.
Snyder is currently finishing up JUSTICE LEAGUE. If the WB spin machine is to be believed, Superman will return from the grave as a more hopeful figure. Until then, I might just watch this sequence a few more times…
*Rivals found in Spock, Picard, Willow Rosenberg, Larry David, and more recently, Sherlock Holmes.
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