If you hadn’t heard, news was announced shortly after Deadpool‘s release and subsequent success that WB was going to release an R-rated version of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a bonus feature on the Blu-Ray release. Some people were stoked, while others just laughed it off. Everything about this screams like a cash grab. And, according to Birth.Movies.Death., that film might now get released theatrically.
With Deadpool making bank, the dominoes are already starting to fall. R-rated superhero flicks are going to be the new thing (never mind that the Blade trilogy and Punisher: War Zone already were). First was the news that the new Wolverine flick would be for adults only (yeah right). Now we’re going to be treated to an extended cut of Batman v Superman that will have more violence and more angry stares.
Look, I get it. I made a comment on Facebook after the news broke asking who would want to see these characters become even more violent. Not surprisingly, a close friend who’s into MMA and professional wrestling commented that he would. There’s tons of people out there in the world who will eat this shit up. And that, my friends, saddens me.
Let me be clear, it’s not that I don’t want to see a version of the characters re-imagined for grown ups, it’s just that what Snyder has done to them is completely inappropriate to what these characters represent. Has anyone ever though that what Superman needs to make him compelling is have him be an irresponsible jerk?
With Batman, I’m a little more on the fence about. I grew up with the Burton films, and later the Nolan versions. All I’ve ever known is a dark portrayal of the character. No, I haven’t read the comics. I hear he has a no kill policy. That’s definitely not a part of the films.
So on some levels I get it. People want their stories dark. They want violence. Why else would WB come up with a film title so stupid it makes your head hurt? I’ve got a nine-year-old nephew who watches professional wrestling. He loves this stuff, and I can’t wait for the day he figures out it’s all fake.
So what’s the problem then? Aside from the fact this version of Superman is some sick and twisted joke, it’s a little embarrassing that silly stories about super alpha males in costumes aimed at children are now being consumed by adults. This started with Generation X, and it’s only gotten worse with my generation. People just don’t want to grow up.
Sadly, Superman and Batman haven’t grown up as well. This is a film where neither lead actually learns anything. Lip service is paid to Batman being a fascist. And Superman is definitely a bad guy. But as my previous article stated, neither grow as characters.
And now we get to see them kill more people. Yay? I guess. Violence can be fun, and can be shocking, but it’s only effective when it’s not presented in a vacuum. When a character dies in a Tarantino flick, there’s real consequence. It may be cartoonish, but it’s never played for cheap thrills. Yes, there’s been films such as Death Wish and Dirty Harry that thrilled audiences and were extremely violent. But let’s face it, those films were pretty fascist. They get a pass because parents don’t expect their children to want to be like them. As should be the case with this film. But it’s not the children that actually worry me. Ben Affleck even admits he would never take his kids to see it. No, the real troubling aspect is the adults that find this thrilling. And even worse, a smaller subset will want to be them.
I may have sounded a little harsh about grown-ups consuming comics. Let me be clarify: I have a Marvel ultimate subscription. I’m currently reading through Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-Men. And I definitely have seen every Marvel film. I won’t call myself a nerd, but I definitely dip my toes into these waters. It’s not a problem to like this stuff as an adult, but it does get a little silly when grown men defend these properties with their life, going so far as to insult and harass other people.
There is a solution to all of this. Keep making R-rated superhero flicks. But pick the right material. Wolverine, who has killed in the comics, seems appropriate enough. Superman does not. Imagine seeing an R-rated Looney Tunes films that claimed to be portraying complex representations of these characters. You think that sounds silly but that’s exactly what they’ve done with Kal-el. But this doesn’t have to be an ongoing issue.
I’d love to see an R-rated version of Miracleman. Hell, I think that might be more suited for Snyder’s talents. But that was written to be dark. It’s a violent comic, but one that also explores the complexity of what being a superhero in the real world would be. That would be awesome to see on the screen.
I feel like I’m fighting against the tide, but it’s definitely a fight worth having. Superman may be silly, but he represents a pure idealism that is at odds with his onscreen depiction. If WB gets it way, I may now be able to see him kill someone in theaters. Let that sink in.