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Batman v. Superman: Writing to Solve Problems

Fans were fairly divided about the 2016 DCEU film Batman v. Superman. Some loved it. Others hated. I fell somewhere in the middle. I thought it was okay. An enjoyable superhero movie that didn’t necessarily wow me like others had. And I think the reason for that was the story seemed very paint by numbers for me. As a writer, it’s often hard for me not to view something through my writer lens. And when it comes to Batman v. Superman, I immediately recognized the story as merely an answer to a problem rather than an organic narrative.

This often happens when the grand idea for a story comes before the plot itself. For instance, if you want to make a movie about a guy stuck on Mars, you have to solve the problem of how to get that guy to Mars. If you want to write a movie about a pregnant man, you have to solve the problem of how that guy got pregnant in the first place. And if you want to write a movie about Batman fighting Superman, you have to figure out a reason why they are fighting. Since this big fight came at the end of the movie, the whole story is essentially one big answer to this question, and everything else stemmed from there.

All it takes is a bit of reverse engineering to see exactly how the plot developed. (SPOILER ALERT) You start off with this problem. Batman and Superman need to fight each other. But neither is an antagonist. So you need a real villain of the film. Lex Luthor is an obvious choice because he’s a manipulator. Someone who could easily pit the two heroes against each other. But how? By playing off the skepticism each has for the other’s tactics. Batman views Superman as an all powerful threat and Superman is put off by Batman’s brutality. The bulk of the movie is spent having them come to these conclusions. But they can’t fight Lex Luthor. He’s not a big enough threat. So Lex makes Doomsday (pretty randomly, I might add) for the big finale battle. And of course, this movie is being used as a springboard for the DCEU, so we’ll sprinkle some Easter eggs and Wonder Woman cameos for good measure.

Having seen this clear line from “problem” to polished story soured the experienced a bit. It’s not that the film was necessarily bad. I just felt like I was on a train where I could see the tracks ahead of me. (In all fairness, I did buy a ticket ahead of time.) The writers pigeonholed themselves by building up the Batman vs. Superman fight so much that there was very little room for the plot to breath. Giving us a largely stiff narrative. At least, that’s just my opinion on it.

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