Batman vs. Superman: Who Won?

It helps going into the theater with low expectations, especially when the concessions worker handing you popcorn has only the phrase “it could have been better” to offer when you realize the next 2 1/2 hours and $8.74 of your life might have been better spent elsewhere.

Perhaps diehard DC Comics fans, or just average moviegoers anticipated Zack Snyder’s latest film to hit theaters. With all of the negative attention surrounding this film (Sad Affleck, that Rotten Tomatoes score, and who could forget DC surrendering its original set theater release date to Civil War?), I couldn’t possibly rev myself up enough to even fake excitement to see this film. I anticipated some mild entertainment at best, but I think what made me really want to see the movie was curiosity.

Curious about how 32-year-old Jesse Eisenberg would fare as Lex Luthor. Or how Wonder Woman would be making her first live appearance in film in the form of Gal Gadot. Or if Amy Adams might actually step up to the plate and give us a performance worthy of the character she’s portraying (spoiler alert: she didn’t).

The best way to judge this Batman vs. Superman is to determine the winners and losers, like the format MSN presents those of the GOP debates. Shall we begin?

Winners

Hans Zimmer

Music Composition may not be the hottest topic discussed among friends, even in major film nerd circles. But Hans Zimmer has established himself as a household name. And while he lent his talents to Christopher Nolan’s batman films that were suits those films, he creates a score for Batman vs. Superman that transcends the film, making some wonder why he would agree to a project so unworthy of his talents.

Wonder Woman / Gal Gadot

In some respects, Ms. Gadot could pose as a loser. It’s not her performance that’s lacking as much as her limited screen time. Batman vs. Superman was in desperate need for a strong female character, and we get way too little of her. She brings the only element of mystery to the screen, and gets placed in scenes only when the script demands her presence.

Joker from The Dark Knight

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t play the typical Lex Luthor many filmgoers aren used to seeing. And that’s OK. Technically, he doesn’t make this list, and it’s not for giving us a bad performance. In many respects, he made the movie slightly more bearable to sit through. Apparently Zack Snyder likes to borrow from preceding Batman films. And while this isn’t a sin committed on screen, it reveals a lack of originality. Presenting the villain as maniacal, interesting, “thinks 10 steps ahead of heroes,” character, what we’re getting is a tiny version of the Joker character in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The main difference is that in this adaptation, Jesse Eisenberg is playing the only intelligent primary character in the film.

Marvel

Marvel’s reasons for winning are twofold. One, DC Comics lacks a foundation, for all of the Superman and Batman movies made over the past two decades. The people at Marvel thought things through before laying out their foundation, bringing their ideas to screen, and showing moviegoers that superhero movies didn’t have to be boring. They could be funny, interesting, compelling, and completely ridiculous, all at the same time. And in the end, we care about the characters because we’ve gotten to know them after seeing them in multiple successful films, both with critics and viewers. Two, Batman vs. Superman’s lackluster performance at the box office has proven that if it attempted to compete with Captain America: Civil War, well, you already know the end of this sentence.

Iron Man

If there’s something Batman vs. Superman prevailed at, it was borrowing from its predecessors as well as its enemies. And this isn’t a bad move when making a movie. It’s arguably smarter. So how does Iron Man benefit overall? If you compare the dynamics of Tony Stark coming into leadership with Batman vs. Superman’s Bruce Wayne helming the ship of the Justice League, you’ll notice similarities. Earlier adaptations of Iron Man don’t always portray the snarky billionaire as the original leader of the Avengers, but the first Iron Man film and Robert Downy Jr changed all of that. RDJ might be the oldest of the gang, but he fits that leadership model, even if Captain America was the more common leader in both the comics and cartoons of the past. And then you have Ben Affleck playing Grandpa Batman, posing as a leader for the Justice League, a group that doesn’t really play by the same rules Batman does. So for this Superman “sequel,” we get Ben Affleck handed top billing, attempts to recreate the beginning scenes in Batman Begins, and an aged, washed-up version of Batman claiming the leadership position for the next gang of crime-fighting superheroes. Tony Stark 1, Bruce Wayne 0.

Harry Lennix

Because he has to make this list. Any other person who’s a fan of his (he’s rocking on The Blacklist right now) would be happy to see him hit the big screen again.

Batman and Superman’s grandparents

Thank God they both named their daughters “Martha.” Imagine Batman needing an additional reason to not hear out Superman!

Richard Roeper, the film critic

OK, I know what you’re thinking . . . he wrote some awesome review for the film, right? Actually, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t checked it out yet. But if you ever make it the theater before the previews, you get to see those other previews about upcoming TV shows, or interviews with actors. And there’s this neat miniseries to preview on AMC featuring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, one of whom plays a character named “Richard Roper.” You can’t pay for that good of marketing, am I right?

Sad Affleck

Because it’s Sad Affleck.

Losers

Ben Affleck

This was a given, right? I’ll save you some reading time and just ask one question: what happened to the guy who gave us Argo?

Lois Lane

What happened to this great female character? I think Amy Adams is a great actress, but she really doesn’t play the strong character Lois Lane was written as. In this film adaptation, we get a weak, helpless woman who resorts to relying on Superman to rescue her every time she makes a thoughtless mistake. Is there a petition to hire Erica Durance? Or maybe just some new writers?

Batman and Superman

Where’s a hero to root for when you have two guys whining over the other making him look bad? Oh right, there’s Grant Gustin from The Flash (tsk, tsk, Zack).

Final Thoughts

There are actually some positive things to say about this film. It really wasn’t all bad. I thought the special effects were great. Visually, it’s a powerful film. And it brings up some very thoughtful ideas about how the world views a higher being, a god, and how it affects their worldview. I wish Batman vs. Superman would have dug deeper into this idea, because we might have gotten a superhero film that was more than subpar.

Who do you declare the winner and loser for Batman vs. Superman? What did you think of the movie?

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Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

While the past decade has boasted higher ticket prices at the theaters, the art of film, or plainly stated, the box office records, have show some major trends in movies over the past five years. While this list can easily exceed five trends, these are ones I have noticed and researched.

5) Dystopian book-to-film adaptations on the rise

Recently, I published a post on a comparison of The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014) films. Those two movies are part of only two of the major book-turned-film franchises to hit the box office over the past five years. Most film fans are no stranger to the dystopian film genre. The Matrix (1999) series started in the late ’90s. Tom Cruise’s film The Minority Report (2002) was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) are only three offerings of the genre we were offered in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the past five years (2010-2014), I have noticed many dystopian books get a movie deal.

Never-Let-Me-Go-30929_5

The first one in the past five years I thought of was Never Let Me Go (2010), a British sci-fi drama that focused on the lives of three clones who exist for the purpose of donating their organs to others. Another popular, although unsuccessful film, is Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2010), a dystopian film based on the controversial novel by Ayn Rand. One book that, while may not be considered dystopian in nature, nevertheless has its film adaptation fit well enough into the dystopian genre is World War Z (2013), starring Brad Pitt. Two other noteworthy films to include in this category are Dredd (2012) and Oblivion (2013), each based off graphic novels, the latter inspired by Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished manuscript of the same name.

Of course, the most well-known dystopian book-to-film adaptations include the box-smashing The Hunger Games series, with the final two movies getting released this year and 2015; Divergent, the movie based on the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth; The Giver, an unsuccessful film adaptation that didn’t sit well with critics, yet was inspired by a prominent book written in the early ’90s (you can see my review of the movie here); and The Maze Runner, the the first of three popular James Dashner novels that will be released next month in theaters.

4) Female protagonist films lead the box office

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were women-centered films and female protagonists. They were marketed in a much more sexist way then, but the times have changed, and more films have starred women. But in the last five years, films with female-protagonists have led the box office. According to Time‘s article “5 Things We’ve Learned in 5 Years of Box Office Reports,” published just this past April, the year 2012 included three movies in the top eight that starred women: The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence; Breaking Dawn Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart; and Brave, starring the talented voice work of Kelly Macdonald. The same article notes that last year, three of the top six films had female protagonists (Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Indina Menzel in Frozen).

Perhaps the most notable fact that supports the idea that female protagonist films are leading the box office is that 2013’s highest-grossing film was the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the first movie since 1965’s The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) to fill that top spot.

Of course, The Hunger Games franchise are not the only female-starring movies to make a splash at the box office over the past five years. Salt (2010), Hanna (2011), and Haywire (2012) were all female-led movies that obtained positive scores with both critics and viewers alike, with Angelina Jolie’s action film leading the box office with over $100 million.

3) Comic book movies no longer niche genre

When Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman (2002), I thought it was a special case. Personally, I loved that movie. My family regularly rented it from Blockbuster. It was the first superhero movie I had seen that wasn’t about Batman or Superman. The first Batman movie was released in theaters in 1966. I was amazed how odd it was that in 2002, it wasn’t considered a usual thing for a movie to be based on a comic book character, unless it was Superman or Batman. Blade 2 (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003),  Hellboy (2004), and Catwoman (2004) were all released in the next three years following Raimi’s first Spiderman, just a few of the comic-based movies to get released in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in theaters in 2000.

In the early 2000s, there’s a sense that many film critics didn’t take the comic book based film as seriously as other film genres, such as dramas, biopics, and comedies. But times have changed, and there has been a new acceptance of comic-based films as Marvel has mapped out its future in movies for at least the next six years. (This is a fun article worth checking out, Marvel fans.) DC seems to take note of Marvel, now working on its own agenda for a Batman vs. Superman movie along with a Justice League film franchise in the works.

While it isn’t perfect, I found a list that compiles every superhero movie released, both on TV and in theaters, including both animated and live-action films. A quick view of the list would prove that comic book movies are no longer niche, but far more commonplace as they have found a place at the movies, considerably expanding its audience. I would personally credit Christopher Nolans’s The Dark Knight trilogy for giving audiences and critics a darker, more serious adaptation of comic based films, proving that just because the movie is based off a comic book character, doesn’t mean it can’t be a stylistic, entertaining, and bold film worthy of praise.

2) Sequels and remakes lead the way

Perhaps this trend has existed more than just in the past five years, but I imagine most anyone can agree that few original screenplays make it to the big screen today, and if they do, they usually do not sell the most tickets or perform as successfully. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, such as 2010’s Inception, the original screenplay penned by Christopher Nolan, but let’s get back to the point.

Fan art that just makes you laugh 🙂

Here is a non-exclusive, incomplete list over the past five years of major sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots that premiered each year:

2010: Clash of the Titans (sequel), Why Did I Get Married Too? (sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake), Iron Man 2 (sequel), Shrek Forever After (sequel), Sex and the City 2 (sequel), The A-Team (remake), The Karate Kid (remake), Toy Story 3 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (sequel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (sequel), True Grit (remake)

2011: Scream 4 (sequel), Paranormal Activity 3 (sequel), Fright Night (remake), The Hangover Part 2 (sequel), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (reboot), Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (sequel), Fast Five (sequel), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel), Cars 2 (sequel), Happy Feet 2 (sequel), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (sequel)

2012: The Dark Knight Rises (reboot, sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot), The Expendables 2 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (sequel), Men in Black 3 (sequel), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (sequel), Prometheus (prequel), Wrath of the Titans (sequel), Total Recall (remake), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel), The Bourne Legacy (sequel)

2013: Iron Man 3 (sequel), Carrie (remake), Despicable Me 2 (sequel), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (sequel), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel), Kick-Ass 2 (sequel), Man of Steel (reboot), Monsters University (sequel), Red 2 (sequel), Evil Dead (remake), Scary Movie 5 (sequel), The Great Gatsby (remake), Star Trek Into Darkness (reboot, sequel), The Hangover 3 (sequel)

2014: Annie (remake), 300: Rise of an Empire (sequel), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (reboot, sequel), Godzilla (remake), X-Men: Days of Future Past (prequel, sequel), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (sequel), Transformers: Age of Extinction (sequel), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (reboot, sequel), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (sequel)

What’s even funnier about it is that if you google “remakes and sequels for the year [fill in year],” every year for the past five years contains articles similarly titled to “[insert year]” is the year of remakes and sequels!

1) A billion dollars isn’t a billion dollars anymore

A quick check at recent box office records, or the same Time‘s article I’ve been citing throughout this post shows that the billion dollar list, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) becoming its first entry, has now grown to a whopping 19 movies, including both last year’s Iron Man 3 and Frozen.

List of Highest Grossing Films

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.” Green indicates the film is still playing in theaters around the world.

Looking at that list, you’ll notice that only three of those movies were released in the 1990s. Twelve of those films entered the list during the 2010s. But what’s most interesting about the list is that it isn’t adjusted for inflation, which changes everything, especially the list of highest-grossing films:

Highest Grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.”

Now it’s your turn, folks. What trends have you noticed in film in the past five years? Which trends do you find to be most dominant? Have some trends lasted longer than others? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!