DC’s new movie wants to be more, but falls far from the mark in China

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-27 19:08:01

A scene from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Photo: IC

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the new DC comic adaptation hit theaters in the Chinese mainland on Friday. While the film's director Zac Snyder may have hoped to bring more than just action to the film by focusing on themes concerning justice and the use of power, Chinese audiences most likely will have a hard time caring about the discussion.

Same old routine

The film has been highly anticipated by fans because it marks the first time in live-action film history that these two iconic characters will be seen on the screen together. It also sets itself apart in that Batman and Superman stand in opposition to each other due to their different beliefs instead of just being a straight up story of good versus evil. Though Marvel has a similar "major characters at odds" story on the way, by coming in first DC gets a few extra points.

However, the film is unable to avoid some extremely typical clichés, such as having a crazed maniac playing the leads from behind the scenes. This setup is so obvious, the first time the cackling Lex Luthor shows up any suspense the film may have had goes right out the window. 

I'll admit that I'm not much of a fan of superheroes. As such my opinion probably doesn't represent diehard fans of the characters. However, considering that the vast majority of moviegoers in China know about as much as I do about the two, I feel this review will be rather representative of a large number of moviegoers in China.

The popularity of Superman and Batman is sure to attract an initial large number of audiences over the weekend, especially since there won't be much else they can watch - according to the movie research organization Entgroup, the film had a 54.93 percent screen share on its opening day - but this number is sure to drop once word begins to spread that the film is altogether a lackluster bore.

I did not attend one of the many midnight showings on Thursday night, but instead caught a matinee showing Friday morning. Still a work day, there were only a handful of people, but I think their reaction to the film, and mine, will be shared by many.

There were no shouts, screams or applause from the audience from beginning to end; everyone watched the film in complete silence. The quiet nearly put me to sleep during the middle stretch of the film, when it was still trying to set the mood for the upcoming fight between the main characters. However, this fight, which is supposed to be something of a mini-climax, comes a little late. Like myself, most audiences will probably have already lost track of what is going on as numerous characters make reference to past exploits that no one but a hard core fan will probably get.

Weak foundation

A good script is often the foundation that makes for a convincing story, but Batman v Superman has more than a few setups that make the characters seem stupid sometimes.

"The two men sitting behind me whispered: 'Either of them must be blind,'" netizen Youdelin Luosi, posted on her Sina Weibo after watching the film with her friend Saturday.

It's true that neither Batman nor Superman, especially Superman, looks very different when in civilian clothes, as such it comes across as being downright strange that it takes everyone so long to figure out their real identities.

"I don't know why Superman didn't take 10 seconds to tell Batman why he was looking for him before they fought, instead of waiting until after they were done fighting," Youdelin Luosi added.

She wasn't the only one who was left a little confused by the characters' behavior.

Misi Kaite, a netizen in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, gave the an overall positive review, yet she also pointed out that the highlight of the film, the fight between Batman and Superman, seems strange considering they end up inexplicably becoming friends in the end.

"Actually, if the two had just communicated better, whole unnecessary parts of the film could have been cut," she wrote on Sina Weibo.

The bigger picture

In an attempt to make this more than just a common superhero film, Snyder tries to get the audience to think about the philosophy of power, religious saviors and the true meaning of justice, but in reality these are topics that many other films have done a far better job of discussing.

This approach may find success with US audiences, as these are topics that are often talked about in everyday life. Yet, considering that these are things most Chinese people barely spend any time thinking about day to day, this approach is unlikely to resonate in China. As such what is supposed to be one of the highlights of the film, loses its magic here.

In the end, most audiences in China are probably going to walk away from the film with the impression that it is just another Hollywood blockbuster that provides exciting fighting scenes and visual experiences.

Newspaper headline: BvS: Dawn of boredom

Posted in: Film

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