Big and dark. DC Comics is about making their movie adaptations big and dark. Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice is very big for a variety of reasons. The budget to make it and the budget to advertise it can both be described as very big. The opening weekend box office numbers for the movie can be described as very big. One movie featuring two of the very biggest American pop culture icons in history which had very big expectations.
In 2005 director Christopher Nolan continued a tradition started by Frank Miller in the 1980s of putting forth a darker vision and version of iconic Batman character and franchise. A vision that got even darker with the phenomenally successful and pop culture crossover hit The Dark Knight.
In 2013 the sixth feature film in the historic Superman franchise followed in the footsteps of the darker vision and version of the character that started the golden age of comic books in 1942. Man of Steel took the Frank Miller/ Christopher Nolan archetype and applied to the comic book superhero who is the undisputed champion of squeaky clean, good guy. Change can be painful and is often met with resistance. Many people resisted the new vision/version of Superman that was presented on the big screen in Man of Steel.
After Nolan wrapped up his Dark Knight trilogy director Zack Snyder decided to follow in the footsteps of Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan by presenting a darker, grittier, more violent version of Batman on the big screen. Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice is both a direct sequel to Man of Steel and a reboot of the Batman film franchise, BOTH in the archetype of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns character archetype.
Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice is a very big film and a very dark film. On the big screen it felt like more of a pop art multimedia piece than a summer blockbuster released in early spring. But it had far too many explosions to not be a blockbuster movie. But it still had more than enough metaphoric uses of cultural and religious iconography to make alternative, artsy types happy.
The film has multiple homages paid to The Dark Knight Returns series/ graphic novel. It has many homages to the comic book history of both characters. Something that many people criticize non Marvel Studies comic book films are prone to failing to do. It also officially launched the DC film universe following in the footsteps of Marvel.
I think because DC is following in Marvel’s footsteps, that DC should be making all of their movies using the Marvel model. DC is doing quite the opposite. They are being different. And many people don’t like different.
The DC Universe is more dark, dramatic, and edgy than the Marvel Universe (up to this point). If all Marvel movies were made like the first two Blade movies with Wesley Snipes, both cinematic universes would be more similar than different.
DC is trying to make films, Marvel is making blockbusters. There is a difference.
I would consider Batman/Superman a success. I think it succeeded on many levels. It certainly appealed to me on many levels. Many others would disagree. I found the movie to be a great combination of pop art and popcorn cinema. I thought the cinematography and especially the writing to be exceptional. I find Zack Snyder’s use of mise on scène to be on par with most of the contemporary great filmmakers.
Batman/Superman is NOT made as a product made for mass consumption. It is not trying to compete with Captain America Civil War for box office supremacy, it is trying to compete with Mad Max Fury Road and The Revenant for Oscar consideration(s).
Whether it succeeds at that is another thing. Many who have seen the movie can’t get their own cynicism or entitlement of having their personal imagination manifested on screen, out of the way to try and enjoy Batman Superman Dawn of Justice for what it literally is. Not for what it could have been or should be in the What If Ward of Imagination Land.