Blaming All the Wrong Problems

Business Insider has an article about why the latest “Batman vs. Superman” movie faltered. Beyond getting negative critical reviews, the movie has also lost much of its momentum. While fans rushed to see the movie when it first opened, few are going back to see it again or recommending that their friends go see it. Blockbusters like “Titanic” and “Star Wars” succeeded because people saw it multiple times and convinced others to go see it too. That’s not happening with “Batman vs. Superman” and Business Insider seems to have missed all the real reasons why.

First, Business Insider’s article seems to pin part of the blame “when Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes ousted Alan Horn as president in 2011.” Really? Losing a corporate leader is responsible for a poor movie?

Second, they’re blaming the director. While a good director can make a mediocre movie more visually interesting, he or she can do nothing to turn a mediocre movie into a great movie.

The real root of the problem behind “Batman vs. Superman” lies with the story and nothing else. Tell a great story and people will flock to see it over and over again. Tell a mediocre story (like “Batman vs. Superman”) and people will watch it once and forget about it. Tell a bad story and people won’t bother seeing it at all.

Let’s go through the huge glaring faults in “Batman vs. Superman” that a simple story rewrite could have fixed long before anyone even wrote it out in script format.

First, why is Batman fighting Superman in the first place? The motive is because Batman is upset because Superman helped wreck a city and kill so many innocent people. Yet Superman isn’t responsible for the destruction. Superman was actually fighting a villain and saving the city, and the villain’s actions caused all the problems. So the fundamental motive behind Batman wanting to fight Superman makes zero sense whatsoever. Batman is actually mad that Superman caused so much destruction but that’s placing the blame on the wrong source. The real problem is that Superman is trying to protect the world and bad guys are trying to destroy it.┬áBatman’s motivation for fighting Superman makes no sense whatsoever, and that’s the essence of the movie (as stated in its title).

Second, whatever promise your movie makes, it has to keep providing that promise at least once in each Act. In “Star Wars,” the promise is battles in space so Act I shows us Darth Vader boarding Princess Leia’s starship, Act IIa shows us Darth Vader blowing up Princess Leia’s planet and Luke escaping from stormtroopers, Act IIb shows Luke shooting at stormtroopers inside the Death Star and escaping TIE fighters when he escapes from the Death Star, and Act III shows the final climactic battle of multiple X-wing and Y-wing fighters battling TIE fighters to blow up the Death Star.

Now “Batman. vs Superman” promises a battle between Batman and Superman, so this is how that movie is structured. In Act I, there’s no battle between Batman and Superman. In Act IIa, there’s no battle between Batman and Superman. In Act IIb, there’s a battle between Batman and Superman, but it’s relatively weak, short, and boring. In Act III, Batman and Superman team up with Wonder Woman to defeat a villain named Doomsday.

Huh?

Notice that “Batman vs. Superman” promises a battle between Batman and Superman, but fails to deliver it throughout most of the movie? Suddenly in the end, Wonder Woman and Doomsday pop up for no reason. This would be like Darth Vader suddenly popping up at the end of “Star Wars” with the Death Star. If we never saw Darth Vader or the Death Star until the very end, how exciting would “Star Wars” have been? (Answer: Boring.)

Throughout “Star Wars,” the villain (Darth Vader) constantly threatens the heroes. Throughout “Batman vs. Superman,” Doomsday never threatens the heroes until the very end. By then, it’s too late because we don’t know who this guy is or what he wants or what he can do. So Doomsday is just another useless character to pop up at the end like Wonder Woman.

From a story structure perspective, “Batman vs. Superman” is so fundamentally flawed that it should have been easy to fix before even writing the screenplay. When you start with a seriously flawed story, you can’t help but create a seriously flawed movie regardless of the director, the actors, or the special effects.

The director was fine, the actors were great, and the special effects were believable. What wasn’t fine, great, or believable was the story behind “Batman vs. Superman.” When you promise a fight between two super heroes but never provide it until Act IIb, when the motivation for the two super heroes to fight each other is weak, and when Act III has nothing to do with the earlier part of the story, is it any wonder that “Batman vs. Superman” is such a mediocre movie at best?

Hollywood keeps searching for answers when they keep ignoring the basic reason people watch movies in the first place, which is to be entertained, and you can’t entertain people when you confuse them, promise them one thing but don’t give it to them, or introduce characters at the last minute for a climactic battle in the end that means nothing because it has no connection to the earlier part of the story.

“Batman vs. Superman” is a seriously flawed story that no director, actor, or special effects can hide. This should be a lesson to Hollywood but chances are they’ll miss it again and again as they wonder why they keep putting out movies that aren’t very good. The answer is simple. Start with a great story. That’s the foundation of every great movie.

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