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How two shots told me Batman V Superman was awful

BvS Shot One

A gun sits a little left of center with a pearl necklace being pulled around the hammer until it’s taught.

Now let’s think about that shot for a moment. There is some solid imagery here, and as a standalone shot, one might think that its a particularly good one. It’s just plain handsome. That being said, let’s think about what the shot is telling us. First and foremost, we know that the gun is being pointed at someone at a very close distance; this is a kill-shot. We also know that whoever is about to be murdered is opulent, or at least dressed well. We also know that the necklace has been pull taught, and a basic understanding of how guns work will tell us that when the trigger is pulled and the hammer pulls back, it is going to snap this necklace. Some amount of care, or at least focus, went into pulling that necklace to the distance at which it won’t snap until the hammer is pulled.

This gives us the last piece of the puzzle; the man holding the gun. We haven’t seen him yet, but we know that he is about to pull off a kill-shot that will simultaneously snap this symbol of wealth. It’s stunning, and it paints the picture of a psychopath, or a revenge kill, or any number of passionate killings.

BvS Shot Two

Batman’s mother falls, the necklace shatters into a million pieces, and we get a glimpse of the killer reeling from his own actions.

Let’s apply the same technique and break down this image as a standalone. We know from this shot that this woman has just been murdered, that her necklace has broken, and that the man who did the killing is immediately regretful of his actions. There isn’t much information we need from off-screen, its all right here.

A keen reader might have already noticed the issue, but lets spell it out. The murderer in Shot One is not the murderer in Shot Two. And I mean that as though these are two different shots telling two different stories, not given in the sequence in the film. Shot One’s murderer is passionate, aggressive, really in the act of killing, and maybe even psychopathic. Shot Two’s murderer is a street thug with sticky fingers and a conscience.

Shots analysis and how Batman V Superman was awful

Knowing that these are subsequent shots, lets think about Shot One again, but from this new light. In this light, knowing that these two shots are incongruent, we are told something about how Shot One was designed. It was designed to be, first and foremost, a spectacle shot. A shot that makes the viewer go, “Wow, what a cool shot.”

There’s nothing wrong with the odd spectacle shot, especially in a popcorn blockbuster. In fact, a lot of movies are designed around the spectacle shot (like every Fast and Furious movie). For some movies, the spectacle shot is the reason you paid the price of admission. BvS‘s director, Zach Snyder, is even known for his spectacle shot (think 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch). The problem, at its core, is that this should not have been a spectacle shot, or at least it should not have been so incongruent within the sequence itself.

What this tells us, is that decisions were made with a high priority on the spectacle. The film didn’t earn the right to be a spectacle like the Avengers, by having five films to introduce characters and get us used to the universe before going for the big money shots. It came right out of the gate with one poorly received Superman flick, and then this two hour mess of spectacle shots and character introductions.

In case nobody’s noticed, the trend lately has been to make a good movie first and foremost, and make it a blockbuster second, i.e. Mad Max, Deadpool, and the like.

4 thoughts on “How two shots told me Batman V Superman was awful

  1. You seem to completely forget that the opening sequence is a dream sequence, and perhaps the two vantage points you’re nitpicking so painstakingly are intended to be amplifications of what happened from the the mind of young Bruce Wayne, who is trying to process what happened. I don’t get why we’re not allowed to simply enjoy movies anymore. Let go of your critical nature and just enjoy the movie for where it takes you. Stop all the nitpicking. You’re going to give yourself an ulcer. I suppose next you’ll whine about the way young Bruce was elevated by the bats, even though he plainly said, “But this isn’t the way it happened.” —- It wasn’t the way it happened, man. It was how he perceived it from varying angles throughout his life, and over–inflated certain things. Just like you are.

    1. Bud, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, but allow me to explain:
      Your’e right, it very clearly was a dream sequence, the value of such is not something I’d really care to get into, but I wrote this with the intention of explaining how shots, or more directly, a sequence of shots, communicate things to a viewer. Yes, these shots are supposed to be interpreted as though Bruce Wayne is seeing them as a part of a nightmare, but that just confounds the problem. Bruce Wayne is viewing this murder in two ways, or as my article puts it, is looking at the two moments as having two different killers, one being violent and remorseless and one in a state of regret. True, we can get deeper and talk about what this means for Batman as a character, to see a killer as both violent and someone who shows regret and therefore should be pitied, but again, this is not something communicated to the viewer. It is a spectacle shot followed up by an incongruent reaction.

      As to the point of why the nit picking. As Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living”. We should all be critical of the things we consume, be it food, music, film, etc. To be an engaged viewer is to be an active viewer, and sure, there are movies that we should go to and turn our minds off for a while, that can be one of the powers of cinema. But let’s not allow ourselves to be relegated to dribble when we should expect to be given greatness. BvS should have been a brain turn off, but it should have been better than it was.

      BvS could have been better, and that’s why I wrote this article. I wanted it to be better. And we all deserved for it to be better, but it wasn’t.

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