Friday, 26 February 2016

Some Thoughts on the R-Rated Cut of Batman v. Superman and Pre-release Backlash

I don't know if there's ever been a film with more pre-release backlash than Zack Snyder's upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (henceforth abbreviated as BvS). The film is the follow-up to Snyder's 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel, a film I believe to be the most controversial and polarizing superhero/comic book based film ever made. The divided reaction to Man of Steel accounts for plenty of the scepticism surrounding BvS, as well as bias towards Marvel Studios' light-hearted output- as opposed to DC and Warner Bros.' more serious fare. Man of Steel struck many as too heavy, visually colourless and violent for a character like Superman. Even with the inclusion of the more acknowledged-as-dark character of Batman, similar criticisms have been directed at BvS; though I feel the film looks brighter in colour and much more "comic-booky."

This week the film became even more controversial with the announcement that there would be an R-rated cut of the film once it hits Blu-ray/DVD. This announcement sent the internet in to a fury. People criticized the announcement of this R-rated cut as a desperate attempt to capitalize on the success of Fox's Deadpool starring Ryan Reynolds, which has become the highest grossing X-Men related film in the franchise's history. Personally I think it's a stretch to suggest that the people behind the film featuring three of the most iconic superheroes- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman- would feel a desire to chase the coattails of a Deadpool movie, particularly since the R-rated cut is not going to be in theatres.

Moreover Deadpool is financially successful but it's success is relative to it's budget, which is estimated at 58 million. BvS is 200 million. BvS has no reason to look to that film's success; and-again- this R-rated cut is going to be an optional extra on home video.

I think it all comes down to certain peoples' perception of WB and DC being desperate and incompetent, even though they appeared to have finally worked out the kinks in mapping out a plan for cinematic universe. Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman is already filming with BvS' Gal Gadot and David Ayer's Suicide Squad- featuring the first big screen appearance of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as well as several other notable DC villains- is coming out this August. 

I understand why many people don't like the idea of Superman and Batman being in a movie that even had an R-rated cut in the first place. These characters were made for children and children today still love these   characters. There's a fine line between being a little more adult and being unnecessarily violent. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (henceforth abbreviated as TDKR) is clearly an influence for Snyder- around the time of The Dark Knight's release back in 2008, Snyder had discussed wanting to film an adaptation of Miller's seminal graphic novel. 

Film critic Bob "MovieBob" Chipman believes TDKR to be an outdated story and that 90s comics, which TDKR anticipated, were a horrible time for the comic book medium- it was a time where stories became darker and grittier, essentially going for a more mature audience. I find that Chipman is against more serious comic-book based films, preferring the tone of Marvel Studios' films. He has labelled BvS "90s Comics: The Movie." I don't personally feel BvS is going to- or attempting to- reflect the 90s era of comic book writing. As with all adaptations of comic book characters, there's a mixing and matching of different eras and influences. TDKR is an influence but BvS is also likely to be it's own entity. And while some feel the entire enterprise is going to be grim and joyless, as evidenced in the trailers, there's going to be humour from Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor and even Batman himself ("I thought she was with you.") Even the subtitle, "Dawn of Justice" implies a sense of hope and heroics. 

I see people on-line jumping to conclusions and believe Superman is going to be brutally murdering people in this film; they even that the whole movie is going to be a gory bloodbath. Snyder has directed a hard R-rated superhero film before- 2009's Watchmen- but since BvS is being released as PG-13, whatever R-rated content may be minimal. There's been speculation the R-rating may involve a flashback involving Jared Leto's the Joker (who's set to appear in Suicide Squad) murdering Jason Todd, the second Robin- similar to how Joker killed him in the comics. I do believe any R-rated footage will most likely involve Batman. This isn't to say Batman is going to be straight-up murdering people- but there may be a little more blood in the R-rated cut involving his scenes with criminals. And we have to remember this is a Batman who's been at it for 20 some years. He's become more brutal towards criminals. Superman may be the one who ultimately brings him back from and the edge. 

BvS may not be aimed directly at children but I sincerely believe it's characters will still be heroes, still be people kids can look up. The R-rated cut will be for older audiences who want to see a different version. Whether the R-rated cut becomes the "definitive" version as with the longer cuts of Watchmen or other films, won't be answered for quite some time.