Dillon(!)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Originally written for my review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - wanted to include here.
A smaller piece about Zack Snyder's Justice League lies below.
Clashing worldviews. Hell on Earth.
A time before. A funeral for the lost.
I can confidently say that I may not be here without Batman v Superman. The feeling of brokenness, both universal and personal, moved throughout the years - upon all the horrors of the world. There was a lack of a definitive step for establishing any sort of life values, beliefs, or morality, as I found myself wandering through the normality of everything that either surrounded me or was emphasized by my parents (who divorced when I was a child; not to mention my dad being a "Catholic" conservative). I was lost upon the confusion and trauma of everything that led to this point; something I knew most others had confronted - whether that means ignoring it, creating barriers, and thus potentially embracing hatred/ignorance... or being so aware of the deranged emotionality of brokenness that you can't handle it anymore. Of course, I had many friends and I always loved their presence, but none were motivated nor capable enough to tackle the internal dilemmas of other people, let alone their own. The world swirls around you toward a tangible abstraction of everything: friends, memories, perception, and so forth, leading to a singular psychological understanding of reality that I haven't truly (purely) felt ever since I found my answer (that of the world of film) - and with that understanding, through which its boundless remnants never leave you, comes the attempts to put the teacup back together. Everything falls into the place of the archetypal - a realm that, if not effectively and understandably confronted, will solidify grief and misery as a staple of an individual's future; from which broken dreams, broken relationships, and a broken family will tear apart everything. And yet, there's a tragic beauty to the understanding, to the empathy. Of beauty from horror. It's all scrambled - but singular. The geography. The understanding. Sometimes people experience a life of purposelessness and depression because they've never understood it - or never experienced it. I mean, if the world is going to retain one ultimate restriction on people, it's the feeling of being trapped within a sequencing of dreams that you can't wake up from. Nevertheless, I knew I had to help myself. I had begun to take a genuine interest in the exhilaration of film, of its worldview and exposure of reality - foremost its entertainment value and escapism, but eventually its unraveling and exploration of conflicts, experiences, beliefs, and morality via the endless fascinations of the silver screen (although I *obviously* must attribute this to growing up on 2002's Scooby-Doo). It was practically my awakening into beginning to discover the truth and become whole again; if at least to ignore the pressure of the world.
"Did the nightmares ever stop?"
This doesn't necessarily mean my vulnerable perception and worldview of what to believe began to piece itself together... but it worked to alleviate it for the time being. Until the void became grander and "mere" escapism couldn't hold it forever. For most people, their actuality would be bleeding with ignorance, hatred, and inhumanity. What I knew was that though people sometimes lose and haven't discovered their path, and consequently stumble along the way... that all those people truly need is a little help. Sometimes people are too far gone and sometimes they're within your reach more than you'd like to think. But in this case, I had to carry myself from the fall - something I couldn't do until I found the ultimate pathway within something of revolutionary significance. Then I discovered a little film called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. In hindsight, I understand why it was hated (no person or society wants to look at themself in the mirror; the ugliness, the complicitness, and so forth)... and I feel a great pity for those who attempt to detract its value from other people. But what BvS did for me... it began to put the pieces back together. To place everything into perspective; to establish a foundation of what to strive for. Everything simply appeared within the formality of simply understanding - which had, of course, grown over time. Here was a creation that featured two American icons and tragically deconstructed them to a series of thematic rise and falls, with a key emphasis on the ruminations of their actions and decisions, made by a visionary who sees the world the way he does (and the way it actually is - via morality ceasing to exist); by a man who only knows how to execute his singular vision & perspective. A bewildering post-human exploration of violence, terror, and a world without heroism... abstractions of stylized, notional vignettes and dream imagery that showcase the cyclical nature of trauma-infested savagery; an eternal Hell that culminates in the corruption of one boy, of one America. Of violent forces that are taken up by reactionaries - that few, let alone the inhabitants of the American psyche, could completely understand; of enduring an existence that plays out with a simultaneous constancy of fears, paranoia, and trauma - as perspectives shift between the barbaric nihilism of human individuals succumbing to the suffering (of violence)... and justice always being far behind. The nightmares of this world proceed to linger and follow you, however abstract, to the tangibility of specters and screams. Nightmares ensue. As does dehumanization.
"Every time we hit it, we make it more powerful. We can't attack."
To desperately attempt to acquire/learn rudimentary human morality within a callous world of hatred and abstract, blackened answers; the value of humanity remaining in significant question, for pure goodness and power could never go hand-in-hand. An expressionistic realm of human philosophies, emotions, and subjectivity that are worsened by (and also tackles) the fascist structures of American bureaucracy & privatization efforts; one of the most hideously repulsive worlds imaginable, one that can corrupt anyone with the slightest tap... and one that will continue to become more callous, to perpetuate itself, until an alternative path to confronting the very nature of trauma is established; to traversing the differences of justice and revenge. The public has been manipulated to believe in the beautiful lie of an ideal society, as they act against their best interests. Superman comes along to threaten all of those institutions and systems (building upon how defenseless the military-industrial complex is against him), yet he's only trying to do the right thing. He sees its repulsiveness, its hatred, its nihilism, its morally perverted impositions of retribution (portrayed as contemporary heroism), its corruption, its psychotic struggles for power, its deliberate attempts by the media to justify the most horrific of measures... until it breaks him to a point of believing that people don't stay good (the same perspective Bruce started to believe in when trauma and fear first entered his life; there are countless parallels and allusions between Bruce & Lex). The American mythology of two opposing "heroes" who suffer and attempt to find their way within the hellscape of our world, of the mythic figure of a flawed god. Literal obstructions (ex: the media), throughout the structure, reside between that of God and a mortal being; a horrifying satire of a world where nobody cares anymore - especially those who are aware of what's happening. Morality, emotions, and subjectivity become internalized without any outlet - thus do they burst into a manifestation of bodily influences - whether it's that of corruption or seeking death because it all seems worthless. Lies become the truth, destruction causes more destruction, and hope is lost. Hatred continues to fuel itself. The sadism becomes more than domineering. The desperation for a truth or simple solution... is gone. The American myth destroys itself.
"People hate what they don't understand."
None of it is worth fighting for anymore, so you either hide or take part in the ugliness - even within the oppressive veil of a beautiful lie. American power supports the non-existence of heroic ideals... its symbols serving as the final breath of classical pathos/mythology, of what could've been - within a sincerely tragic longing for that possibility. A dream of what lies beyond now - yet power yields control over such a society (as the film initially states: power obeys neither policy nor principles); thus it's telling and depressing that a non-commercial entity/film which extraordinarily confronts that reality, among unparalleled conceptual ambition & formality, was rejected by audiences - let alone even being allowed to have been made by the contemporary studio system in the first place (it's genuinely a miracle; I mean, you have Superman destroying a drone, fired by the CIA, that was about to murder innocent civilians in a foreign country), but I digress. Violence is a reactionary sickness to a broken society, to the swirling confusion of a world that utilizes fear and suffering to corrupt the youth - it's an inconsolable blurring of vision that manifests inside your head; the older you get, the harder it is to break free. The death of your parents: in such a world would lead to brokenness... for what falls is fallen. You disguise yourself under the beautiful lie of a symbol, fighting others who have been shattered by the establishment. Years later, hope disintegrates and the feeling of powerlessness corrupts you; so much so that you turn your hatred toward a savior figure. The orphan son of the billionaire class vs. the savior immigrant of both elitists and working-class Kansas farmers. A world without hope then ostracizes and rejects the savior figure for not being able to save everyone... a figure who is only trying to help; something he couldn't possibly do alone. Illusions of freedom, democracy, and justice have overridden the system. Democracy, foremost, has destroyed itself. Everything at every point is telling you to surrender; "Nobody stays good in this world," you inevitably begin to believe. Does hope still exist when you can't save everyone? When justice only protects the powerful? Everything becomes that of pure expressionism. Dreams and nightmares.
"Man made a world where standing together is impossible."
Then everything changes. Something that seemed forever impossible and unfathomable. A new mythology is created.
The fallen, the broken... find their path back toward the light of truth and humanism.
It took a reminder of our collective humanity... for everything else falters between the love and connectivity of human intimacy. He confronts his anguish, his hatred, his fear, his immorality, his rage, his life-long trauma... the death of his parents... when he's reminded that the seemingly evil immigrant he hated all along... is human, too. Man sees himself in a savior figure. Meaning resurges, for we all have mothers. Because our mothers have the same name. Hope becomes a possibility. Hope still exists. Mutual understanding strikes both individuals within the most profound way possible. Idealism becomes pure again.
An unimaginable revelation that occurs across every moment, all at once.
One single moment.
All of Lex's manipulations, all of Bruce's deep-rooted deceptions, and all of the media's lies are gone from this moment. He begins to believe again, as does Superman... and he dies for it; once again and now forever establishing our world as his world. A spear vs. bringing flowers to your mother's grave. It's all a dreamscape for the time that you're trapped (which is why it's so heartbreaking that so many people only realize the truth of brokenness when there's so little time left, or simply never break free at all).
"Bruce’s “beautiful lie” was that, and obviously it’s multilayered, the identity of Batman was his salvation. Becoming Batman was a way to rescue himself from the death of his parents. In the face of Superman, after 20 years of fighting crime without progress, Bruce believed that to be a lie. But now he’s given an opportunity to redeem his original sin: save Martha. It’s not a lie, it’s not a mistake. Being Batman is worth it, it’s a noble pursuit, because Martha won’t die tonight. At his most fundamental level, the very center of his existence, Bruce is able to redeem himself, and thus redeem the identity of Batman, as it is through Batman that he is able to save Martha." - Charles Bowyer (The Metaphysics of Batman v Superman)
The redemption of Superman emerged from seeing that the broken can always be saved, deep down... for the fallen can rise again. For embodying pure human goodness. A belief so powerful and extraordinarily existent that he sacrifices himself for a world that rejected & hated him every step of the way. Bruce/Batman shifts to the opposite spectrum of his inherent fascism and vows never to kill; Bruce's path becomes clear... and he vows to fight for the world. He begins to believe. After all, the world is becoming uglier - and those who can see the truth are going to need our help, as are the millions of individuals who have still fallen, who have been caught in the beautiful lie.
"Superman is the Gordian knot: a living contradiction for “Alexander.” Both good and powerful, he’s a puzzle, a “knot” to be untangled. He tried to solve this problem with Batman and Martha: if Superman doesn’t kill Batman, he allows his mother to die, thus proving he is not all good. For Superman to save his mother, he has to kill Batman, again proving he is not all good. And if Batman kills Superman, he was not powerful, because he was killed by a man (in Lex's view. Like Snyder said, Lex is in some way wrong to separate “Man” from “God"). By appealing to Bruce’s humanity – "A man like that, words don’t stop him. You know what does? A fist" – Clark defeats Batman without killing him, and saves Martha, proving he is both powerful and good. And so the Gordian knot remains tied. Lex says “I cannot let you win. I gave the Bat a fighting chance to do it, but he was not strong enough.” Lex created Doomsday, as a back-up plan. Doomsday is Alexander’s sword, a solution to the problem of Superman. He’ll just cut him. Lex describes Doomsday as the devil; as Jesse Eisenberg has said, Doomsday is almost his son. “If man won’t kill god, the devil will do it.” Doomsday is like Jormungand in Norse Mythology, the Midgard Serpent, the demonic creation of Loki, another trickster figure." (The Metaphysics of Batman v Superman)
"The American conscience died with Robert, Martin & John.”
Superman saves Lex Luthor from the fist of the devil - after no god intervened to save him from the abuse of his father. A revelation arises from the truth that power can be innocent, that someone can be all-powerful... and all-good. Lex remains trapped. And yet, at the end, a billionaire (Bruce) sees himself in Superman, a god & an immigrant. People mourn his death... and now they know. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does what nothing else has ever done. It's a film that fights for the hope in believing that people are still good, that fights for the idea that the American conscience/psyche (something that has been dead for a long, long time)... is still worth fighting for. It's a fight for the collective humanity of the universe. Democracies could never last in a world like ours, for injustice rules over when the law has failed itself, for when we (mistakenly) see other humans as a form of evil (ex: as the root causes of the violence)... when the true evil couldn't be closer to the viewing stand. But it only takes a moment to acquire a realization of compassion, empathy, and the ultimate truth. To annihilate the beautiful lie and embrace our humanity. To still fight for what's left... for what remains of idealism and humanism; to continue to hope and fight for the possibility of people coming to that realization. That's what this brought to my life. It imbued me with hope, compassion, and optimism that will forever guide me, my perception of reality, and most of all: my humanity. A creation that I could talk about for eternity; something I've struggled to articulate just how much it means to me for years. Since then, I've been the happiest anyone could possibly be (at least under the circumstances of still watching the ugliness of the world spread into the depths of hell). There have been many times I've contemplated giving up (in believing) as a result of believing that maybe, just maybe nothing will ever change.
"There is something about this film that really has an impact on people. I don’t think it’s [a] coincidence that BvS has quite seriously helped people with depression. The story of the redemption of the broken tragic hero, the god of Death, through the willing sacrifice of the god of Truth, Justice, and Hope, has affected people in a way that I don’t think is properly appreciated. I don’t mean to say the film is good because people like it a lot. I mean to say that the story and themes expressed in this film are of such archetypal significance, that if they are properly told, they are literally redemptive. BvS has been described as pessimistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. BvS is realistic, and it’s brutal, but at the end of it all we have a fundamentally optimistic message. Not just for the characters in the film, but for superheroes as a concept; it tends to be difficult to take seriously superhero stories that don’t take a cynical and pessimistic view of the concept after you read Watchmen. By going through the story of Watchmen, and giving us an entirely different but just as plausible ending, the point of Watchmen is no longer inevitable or inescapable. There’s another answer. The superhero is redeemed. And if superheroes are going to be such a prominent part of our pop culture as they are, they have to be redeemed. They have to mean something more than escapism. If nothing else, Batman v Superman makes superheroes mean something more." (The Metaphysics of Batman v Superman)
The consequences of mythical idealization. And a redemption...
"The world only makes sense if you force it to."
Thus, during those darkest and most hopeless of times, I always have this to come back to. And then my faith is restored. I'm so thankful that I have this every day of my life because there's no telling where I would be without it. The corruption of the past and of hatred has no hold over me anymore. And it never will. Having faith is equal to propelling hope toward the future... and never will my hope be corrupted (as trying as it gets) - all because of a film. And I wish nothing more than for someone else to be helped in the same way that I have by this. There's nothing more powerful than learning to help yourself, but there's nothing wrong with receiving help from both others and artistry. Film gave me all the answers I needed to understand that there’s more to seeing… that’s there more to making sense of reality, rather than by the stories we tell ourselves. It helped me reveal and reach the truth of restoring the belief in myself, in beginning to understand. Of every action having a reaction. Of believing that people are still good in this world. And after all of this, I still find myself thinking about those who have stumbled and proceed to fall out of reach... when they were so close to breaking free. They just need a little guidance. And a friend. Never underestimate the power of film, as it can not only change us but help us to revel within humanity's goodness. It can change the world, for maybe people aren't too far gone. To be redeemed. To realize what love and humanism truly mean. I've seen so many stories from people who have suffered, who are still suffering, who wouldn't otherwise be here today if it weren't for creations like this. And for as long as superhero films exist, the genre will always withhold the extraordinary power and archetypal significance to help people do just that - despite the disheartening ramifications of those scarce examples, those imbued with idiosyncrasy and meaningful thematics, receiving the high-end of hatred; and the overwhelming examples, results of corporate exploitation, and those which have plunged the genre into the worst of a rock bottom cinematic wasteland, receiving endless praise. But it doesn't have to be that way. This is a film that reveals the sociopolitical - and mainly cultural - repulsiveness that hides behind the *perfect* veil of heroic idealism, of a culture that only vehemently wishes to seek pure escapism (as exemplified by the growing horrors of the world). But gods and heroes are more than that. They can mean more. They have to. Perceptions, heroics, figures, and the contents of redemption can be transcended. And this is proof of it - which is further deepened when considering what happened to its successor. A creation ahead of its time.
If you seek his monument - look around you.
Thank you for this, Zack Snyder. From the bottom of my heart, thank you - and to all the fans who made Zack Snyder's Justice League possible, thank you as well. You don't know how much this universe and these characters mean to me. There being nothing to continue BvS resulted in only a grave and a remembrance of hope. Now the revelation can continue. I am now eighteen... and more alive than ever. This is the most necessary, progressive, understanding, and significant U.S. film ever conceived. I continue to strive toward a better world... because we don't have these superheroes today. No savior in the sky. No superhumans. Just each other. One life is saved, and so is the world. But in the end, justice will persevere. We can unite. Men are still good.
"There was a time above... a time before... there were perfect things... diamond absolutes. But things fall... things on earth. And what falls... is fallen. In the dream, it took me to the light. A beautiful lie."
Clashing worldviews. A funeral, through a rediscovery of humanity, becomes something else. A time after.
The Dawn of Justice.
There is Hope.
"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear... until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share — I'll never stop fighting. Ever."
- DC Action Comics #775
Five years later...
"They said the Age of Heroes would never come again."
"It will. It has to."
The grand opera of humanity expands to a universal stage - as chaos engulfs the public's memories of the savior figure that once was; of the icons and the projections of our images, perpetuated through the iconography of tragedy. The mythology of Superman lives on. The connection - of hope, of morality, of love, of commonality, of what's left of time - brings together a team of individuals to try to suppress the chaos and defeat an immediate, insurmountable threat to existence. An evil beyond the structural & systemic horrors of Batman v Superman's late-stage capitalist sadism. An evil bigger than all of us. A team of individuals whose faith in humanity has dissolved, whose loved ones have been lost. The fight there-in lies in coming together - through the confrontations, upon realizing your own worth, and by discovering your potential to fight that evil. All the failures, traumas, regrets, and wishes of the past come to a new culmination of contemplative actions. Of every member and individual. Their rises, their purpose, their legacy. Perseverance evolves. A world awakened, but fractured... so begins the end.
"The whole world is mourning, grieving over a symbol."
A lost film rises from the ashes. Zack Snyder's Justice League was everything. It's one of the greatest illustrations of the potential for not only the heroics and significance of the superhero genre, but for the cinematic medium in all of its entirety; in thematics, grandeur, exhilaration, exploration, ambition, repurposing, reconstruction, in the profoundness of mythologizing, in transcending the medium, and in elevating humanism. It's representative of all the director-driven idiosyncrasy, innovation, passion, and visionary artistry that people are constantly begging for from major studio films - but seldom support. It's everything I could've ever asked for.... and more. It's everything it could've been. And is. A perfect endeavor, built upon its own imperfections, and a wondrous continuation of what came before. It beholds the power of belief in every ounce of cathartics - of grief and of being uplifted. Of seamless, magnificent earnestness that utilizes the process of reconciliation to match the potency of emotional release, of struggling, and of fighting to rise above personal tragedies. Every piece of intimacy here, big and small, plays to the mythological weight, individuality-oriented conflicts, character relationships, histories, and feelings behind these figures; in all of their consequences, dynamics, and sacrifices (which Snyder impeccably understands). Children, parents, and the future; pushed through a kind of life-affirming sincerity that counteracts all the inauthentic garbage from so much of today's cinematic bullshit. A heart broken and a heart reformed, piece by piece. Then comes the awe of superheroics... and the moving inspiration of uniting. Concluding with a revelation of a life worth living.
"The now is you."
Those who refuse to engage with how seriously Snyder takes these characters, in all of their purpose & notions (ex: the gargantuan dissertations to be made around its various architectures), are the ones who misunderstand him the most. If anything were true, it's that he loves these characters way more than he "should." This is a creation that's emblematic of everything art should be. The many years of advocacy & campaigning were all more than infinitely worth it. And in the end (not only through major community-funded donations to AFSP; a true accomplishment), lives were saved. We've all come a long way. And yet, all it takes is the slightest support for an artist to create something potentially transformative... and for a life to be saved because of it. Powerful art can heal anyone. This film is for all those who struggle to believe in hope. Who struggle to believe in the righteousness of humanity. Of goodness - and of what can be. For all those who didn't make it. I hope you all love and cherish this as much as I did. I'm beyond grateful for having been able to experience this - within all of these films' unrelenting, impassioned devotion to understanding & elevating the purpose of being human, even within a world such as ours. Justice has been restored. This is a triumph against the corporate system, against the commercialization of mythmaking, against all those who were opposed to a creator finally being able to release their vision, against those who never believed or cared at all. At every opportunity, countless people advocated on behalf of that artistry-sucking corporatization, denied the existence of this film, and rallied against a movement whose central purpose was to raise money for suicide prevention. Today, those people have lost; and ironically, the myth became true. As I always knew it would. As I always believed it would, for years. And it's that belief, in the power of the collective, that brought us our justice. These superhero films are likely some of the last to be directed by a genuine human individual. This deserves the world. Zack deserves the world. I hope him and Deborah have now found peace. Value and treasure these films (and every film alike) while they still matter... while they can still make a difference. It's never too late to come together. The anguish of losing families. The joyfulness and solace of making new ones. "It's time you stand... fight, discover, heal, love... win. The time is now." A dream come true. Make your own future.
Beyond Good and Evil. The Age of Heroes.
Of returning Hope to a broken world.
The Art of Unity.
"My broken boy... You don't have to be alone anymore. We'll be together again. We can put it back... make you whole again."
"I'm not broken. And I'm not alone."