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‘Batman v Superman’ is too smart for Marvel fans

The verdict is in on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”: The critics say it’s worse than leprosy. In fact, it’s even worse than last year’s “Entourage” (33 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes against an appalling 29 percent for “BvS”).

Let’s step back a bit. “Batman v Superman” is not that bad. In fact, though flawed, it’s pretty good. I can prove the film is worthwhile with one word: “the.”

Calling Superman “the Superman,” as the film does in an aside, opens up a whole new dimension for superheroes. “The Superman” — not that friendly neighbor we all felt we knew so well we could casually call him “Superman” — has a complicated relationship with ordinary mortals, such as Batman.

This dimension lends the film a gravity and level of interest that places it at the opposite end of the spectrum from such sophomoric Marvel movies as “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Deadpool.” All three feature brainless, low-stakes action that’s as interesting as watching a waiter fall down the stairs while carrying a tray of dishes; juvenile, self-referential jokes that are neither clever nor funny; and an imaginative perspective whose boundaries are marked by other movies and comic books.

At no point do these movies intersect with reality, much less muse about heavy political or philosophical points. These films are about themselves, which gives them a dismally onanistic tone that, along with their wit-free sense of humor, makes them ideally suited for the teen mentality that rules popular culture.

“Batman v Superman” may be pretentious, but it’s far more mature and ambitious than these other films, and it’s even occasionally interesting. A hauntingly painted tableau in which Superman is surrounded by worshippers on Mexico’s Day of the Dead underlines how eerie and alien it would be to have a superbeing among us. Moreover, the film considers the ramifications of superbeings to a depth rarely attempted in the 78-year history of these characters.

Is Batman right to point out that someone who wields ultimate power is likely to turn bad in the end — that if there’s even a 1 percent chance Superman will wander off the right path, he should be stopped now? It’s worth thinking about.

A senator portrayed by Holly Hunter chimes in that Superman is operating “without oversight,” an argument that might appeal to some on its face: Given that lots of collateral damage, including the deaths of innocents, may occur when Superman leaps into action, shouldn’t he get some kind of permission from the people before he does anything?

Yet, when a bomb is ticking, there isn’t time to hold subcommittee hearings, which is what gives the senator a satiric component. She’s a reminder that, even if a god should land among us with purely benevolent intentions, Washington will oppose him because government can never countenance a reduction in its own power. You can defeat General Zod, but you can’t fight City Hall.

On another level, the film considers the perpetually uneasy relationship between the government and religion: Is the First Amendment meant to protect the government from religion, as liberals think, or to protect religion from the government, as conservatives say? It’s not an accident that the film was released on Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar. An image of the stricken Superman juxtaposed against crosses places him strongly in a Christian context. The truly great ones, the film suggests, are too often destroyed by mob fears, and mobs in turn are often stoked by elites.

The leftist intellectual Andrew Sullivan (whose website the Dish once ran a piece asking, “Is Superman a fascist?”) appears in the film suggesting the people reject their miraculous benefactor — evidently a joke at Sullivan’s own expense. (In the film, Sullivan says, “Are there any moral constraints on this person? We have international law! On this Earth, every act is a political act.”)

A scene of destruction at the US Capitol is a perfect illustration of how TV and other media platforms fan hysteria and create an image that’s more or less the opposite of the truth: Superman is blamed for something he had nothing to do with simply because he happened to be standing there when it happened. It’s a deft way to work in the idea that leaders (presidents, notably) can reach such a level of prominence that they find themselves vilified for events beyond their control.

I wouldn’t call “Batman v Superman” the most coherent film of the year, but it’s pretty much the opposite of mindless entertainment, and some of the critical complaints sound a lot like, “Thinking makes my head hurt.”

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe a wisecracking raccoon and Deadpool’s masturbation jokes are just a lot more interesting.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: nypost.com

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