Since arriving in New Zealand, I have only seen two new films at the local cinema, both of which are based in the superhero genre: Deadpool and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was initially never planning on seeing either of these films, as I had some prejudices against Deadpool’s character for personal reasons and Man of Steel set the bar pretty low for Batman v. Superman… plus #Batfleck. But thanks to the coaxing of pretty much everyone I knew, I saw Deadpool only a few days upon arriving in Auckland, and last night out of sheer boredom, I went to the only IMAX theatre in New Zealand and stood in a decades-long line to see what Zack Snyder had cooked up.
…needless to say, between these two films, there’s a very clear winner, and I think you already know who I’m referring to.
Okay, let’s get one thing straight from the start: TEAM MARVEL. And I swear, this is not just because I am fixated on Disney, as now Disney owns the movie rights to all but the X-Men characters. But, it is important to note that while I might swear allegiance to the Marvel side of things, Batman, a DC character, is my favorite superhero.
With this in mind, let’s break down what elements I believe made one film work so spectacularly and what elements made the other crumble into a steaming pile of garbage. My analysis is spoiler free, as advertised, so you’ll have to go see the films for yourself to get the full scope of what I am referring to. Let’s begin!
- Comedy vs. Drama
Both films tried (allow me to emphasize the word TRIED) to allow for a blend of comedy and drama. Clearly, Batman v. Superman (which, for the sake of my fingers, will henceforth be abbreviated to BvS) leaned towards drama, while Deadpool was a comedy in every sense of the word. In BvS, the drama was tangible, even at times overbearing. I couldn’t help but giggle at the overwhelming amounts of dramatic stares off into the distance from both Affleck and Cavill. When there were breif glimmers of comedy, the jokes fell very, very flat. Oh so flat. Like…crepe flat. To call it a pancake would be generous.
Meanwhile, Deadpool left no question in any audience’s mind that it was a raunchy, over-the-top comedy, but what amazed me upon viewing it was that it could do serious moments when it needed to. One scene that particularly stands out to me (and once again, this isn’t ruining anything) is when Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s love interest, Vanessa awakens to find him quietly in tears over a major decision he has to make. Sure, the scene ends in a hilarious joke about having “Liam Neeson dreams,” but the scene itself felt very genuine and emotional nonetheless, creating a nice blend of humor and drama.
- Showing vs. Telling
The writing seemed incredibly forced on BvS, and what particularly frustrated me was the clear emphasis on allusions to other comic book characters, future plot points, and symbolism. The movie felt like it was feeding the audience information and then proceeding to make certain that it made its way down our throats, as if to say, “See what we did there? Get it? Let’s show that to you again just in case you missed it…”
Deadpool did more showing rather than telling. The movie is full of Easter eggs, inside jokes, and “blink and you miss it” references, and I think that works to its benefit. It keeps a conversation going about the film, and makes audiences want to go back again and again to find more things they might not have noticed the first time.
- Setting Up Sequels
I hate the subtitle of BvS. Just sayin’. “Dawn of Justice.” Yeah I know, it’s setting up the Justice League movie, but (and I’m about to loop Deadpool into the Disney-helmed Marvel Cinematic Universe here for a moment) the X-Men characters and the Avengers series don’t sacrifice individual plot lines of the heroes in their solo films to make room for the larger group origin story. We often see the set up either cleverly looped in, such as Black Widow’s introduction in Iron Man 2, or these moments are banished to the after-credits sequences, which can be seen in every single MCU film, as well as Deadpool.
- Characters: Leads, Villains, and Ladies
I won’t lie, the advertised “most exciting gladiator match in the history of the world,” was actually the strongest part of the film. Batman and Superman felt very evenly matched, even despite Batfleck’s baffling, bulky bat(cat)suit with lights in the eyes for absolutely no reason at all other than it doesn’t look like any of the former Batmen.
…my apologies for the rant. I am very passionate about who is the best Batman (cough-Keaton-cough cough).
Getting back to the point, Superman was written as bland as ever and Batman was no better. For being the titular characters, they seemed pushed out of their own film by totally unnecessary scenes, random plot points, and more Justice League advertising. Just silly. Deadpool’s character, on the other hand, is not only central to the plot, but is so unique and charismatic, and despite being an “antihero” in every sense of the word, audiences can’t help but love him.
As far as villains are concerned, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor played him as a slightly more neurotic Mark Zuckerberg. …and that’s really all I have to say about that.
Finally, MY favorite topic: the ladies. In BvS, we got Wonder Woman and Lois Lane…more like Lois Lame, amiright? Lois seems to be always the damsel. Certainly her character is nowhere near as annoying as other Lois Lanes have been in the past, but she is constantly in danger and always needs Superman’s help to not die. She was also disgustingly over-sexualized, particularly in a bathtub scene right at the start of the movie. Check it out and get back to me. It’s as ridiculous and unnecessary as it sounds! I would talk about Wonder Woman, but once again, she is so bland and given so little screen time that it’s not even worth it.
Deadpool‘s treatment of female characters wasn’t exactly much better, but seeing as we had two super-lady badasses that didn’t say much but packed a punch (no pun intended), I have much less of a problem with the representation. Vanessa, Wade’s love interest makes for an interesting debate: she doesn’t possess any powers and is a damsel for the movie’s climax, but the writing team succeeded in making a strong female character with a unique personality and a strong counter to Wilson’s wild humor and antics.
Deadpool is one hour and forty eight minutes long. BvS is two hours and thirty three minutes long, but feels more like five hours. It also failed my most basic test when analyzing how successful the movie was: I actively started thinking about things outside the theatre while watching it, meaning that I was fully unengaged and that the plot was not strong enough to make me lose myself in the world of the narrative.
Finally, let’s look at tone. Deadpool did not take itself seriously in the slightest. It had filmmakers at the helm who had been turned down and restricted by producers for years and hence cared very passionately about it. The resulting product gave a very fresh take on the superhero genre with its own unique style of meta-comedy.
BvS, however, felt bloated and regurgitated. Between all of the aforementioned shortcomings, the tone of the film was as though it were setting up this larger-than-life story with massive consequences for these characters that we’re supposed to care about despite getting little to no insight about their fears, desires, wants, needs, and flaws.
Upon leaving, I heard one theater patron put it well: “I’d say slightly above average. Deadpool was better.”
And you know what? He’s right. Deadpool WAS better.
The sad part is, despite my love for Batman, I don’t want DC ruining superhero movies. Not every superhero moviegoer knows the Marvel/DC difference, and often loop the two together when each company has their own distinct flavor and way of distributing content. Marvel has made magic happen with the efforts they have put into their filmmaking even before the days of the Disney influence, and certainly after. They have made us laugh, cry, stress out for MONTHS, speculate wildly, and be driven into hysteria at conventions! They are highly selective with their casts, writers and directors and (insofar as the Disney-helmed MCU is concerned) has yet to truly make a godawful film. I don’t want DC butting its head in, trying to compete, but generally just rushing things and making the genre feel sloppy and inauthentic.
Now, because I’m still angry, please enjoy a trailer for Captain America: Civil War, which hopefully will blow BvS out of the water in a little over a month. (…#TeamCap).