Grandiose, Mythological Storytelling
For proof of this, you need only watch the first chunks of both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In MOS, every aspect of that sequence on Krypton was treated with great weight, thought, and care. The way that beast lets out a primal roar that startles the bird-like creatures and sends them flying into the horizon, signaling the arrival of Krypton's last son; The beautiful, poetic words spoken by Lara and Jor-El about their son and his future; Hans Zimmer's sumptuous score.
The same can be said for Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman. The opening moments of that film take us back to that seminal moment in the DC Comics lore- the moment when a Dark Knight is born in the blood of his murdered parents. We see Bruce at their funeral, we flash back to that fateful night, we feel his terror and disbelief, and we see him reborn amidst the swarm of bats in that underground cave.
The careful attention to detail in that sequence set the stage for an incredible new Batman. The words and actions of his parents during their tragic final moments were powerful, and the impact they have on young Bruce tells us so much about what drives this man.
Diana's first villain, Ares, is a mythological figure that transcends comic books! He's the God of War, spoken of in ancient texts for centuries. In the film's third act, Diana is fighting the very idea of war itself. It's Love vs Hate. The film, based on a story by Snyder, managed to be both lighter in tone yet heavier in its ideological pursuits.
Wonder Woman accomplished something rather remarkable. It had way more humor, fun, and innuendo than previous DC efforts, yet- when it mattered- it was iconic and majestic.
"Wouldn't the world be a better place if these heroes existed?"
Some may not realize it, but that question- on a subconscious level- is something that attracts us to these characters when we first lay eyes on them as children. They give us hope and an ideal to strive toward.
In its finest moments, the first wave of DC Films accomplished this. Whether it was Clark saving those kids on the bus, despite the potential consequences; Bruce darting around on the streets of Metropolis getting people to safety as Zod and Superman battle in the sky above; or Diana conquering No Man's Land, these heroes were treated like the mythic, heroic figures that have endured in pop culture since their creation.
While Justice League was, admittedly, a step in the wrong direction, there's still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about DC's future. The WB brass, and the folks now running DC Entertainment, have known for months that Wonder Woman was going to be the template moving forward. Unfortunately, by the time that became clear to them, JL was already mostly in-the-can. They were unhappy with where Snyder had taken things, but they couldn't dump the movie at that point, so as the old saying goes, "They put lipstick on a pig."
We can debate the quality of what we ended up with from now into eternity, but it doesn't change the fact that Warner Bros. is not using Justice League as its proof-of-concept; That's what Wonder Woman is for.
And what does that mean? It means stories that strive to find that unique balance between mythology, humor, heart, and heroics; And movies that celebrate these characters, rather than deconstruct them.
For now, while we wait 13 agonizing months for Aquaman, let's just remember what DC has gotten right so far:
They treated our heroes like the Gods among us that they are.
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