Zack Snyder’s Batman Broods in New Picture
In typical Zac Snyder fashion, the unveiling of the new Batman costume was histrionic. Snyder Tweeted this picture, which features a brooding, monochrome Batman and an industrial, monochrome Batmobile, and fans immediately noticed the resemblance to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, the 1986 four-part series depicting an older, borderline fascist Batman coming out of retirement to save Gotham.
Snyder helming a Batman movie is alarming, since his Man of Steel was awful and seemed to possess no knowledge whatsoever of the iconic superhero’s history. Riddled with plot holes and dumber than dumb, the film is like a muscle car being driven by a meat head with no interest in the scenic route. It just goes — with its motor engine heart pumping and its mind soaked in motor oil — and it doesn’t alter its gaze at all. It’s the cinematic equivalent to being beaten up by a schoolyard bully whose daddy has a better lawyer than your daddy, so he always wins.
This picture does nothing to erase doubts.
Snyder began his career with the almost clever Dawn of the Dead remake, which remains his best film (probably because it in no way resembles his other films.) For all its flaws, 300 altered the landscape of the modern action movie, for better and worse, but mostly for worse. The fast-slow-fast shots and reliance on fists punching flesh has seeped into seemingly every summer action film. Since 300, Snyder has shown no sense of self-awareness as he churns out more manufactured films that are still steaming, fresh off the assembly line.
He was overly loyal to the source material for Watchmen, copying Dave Gibbons panels onto the screen, thus stripping them of their purposeful layouts. He didn’t translate or adapt — he transcribed. His Man of Steel took liberties that were just silly, though a lot of that falls on David S. Goyer, who flat out acknowledges that he doesn’t care what the comics say. That attitude isn’t itself a problem, really. The problem is the hypocrisy of saying you don’t want to rely on “a crutch” (meaning Superman’s no-kill policy) to tell a story, but instead write up a scenario so ludicrous to make the character do what you want.
This lack of self-awareness is what’s troubling about the new Superman/Batman movie. The picture obviously channels Frank Miller’s graphic novel, and Snyder has said he plans on depicting an older Batman. That’s fine. But Miller’s story is a brazen, lacerating story of societal disrepair, ubiquitous media coverage, and a Superman who has become a living emblem of propaganda for the United States.
Like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns is a comment on the then-current state of comics, as well as modern political affairs. Miller’s Batman is a Neo-Conservative who hates the government. His enemies are young brats in gangs who are easily susceptible to new looks and trends. But the story has a satirical air to it — again, like Watchmen. It’s doubtful, really very doubtful, that Snyder will be able to give his film any kind of satirical edge. You can almost picture his Batman vs Superman fight, which is depicted as being absurd in Miller’s comic, because it is absurd. Batman rides a horse into battle at one point, then later he dons a giant mech suit and pummels Superman before retreating underground with a ragtag band of rebels.
Miller’s squalid, gritty art style and cluttered page layouts work in tandem with his hard-boiled writing and utterly ridiculous story. There are mutants, a gang of Neo-Nazis, a giant tank of a Batmobile, and a quietly flamboyant Joker who uses creepy flying dolls to poison a talk show audience. He then sits on one of these dolls and flies away.
The dark and brooding Batman has been done — and rather well. We don’t need another angry Batman. As with The Amazing Spider-Man reboot, retracing the same ideas doesn’t make for an interesting movie.