kunzelman

It’s important to consider the kind of game that Dungeons & Dragons is to see why Stranger Things leans into it so heavily. It is the type of game where there can be two optimal strategies (throwing fireballs vs. casting protection spells), where people can do heroic things beyond mere human capability, and where players are constantly coming into contact with circumstances beyond their control. The ability for the player to think about, react to, or work around a problem in a freeform way is what makes tabletop roleplaying a fundamentally different experience from video games.
—  This Vice piece by Cameron Kunzelman neatly captures why the presence of D&D in Stranger Things isn’t just there as window dressing to let us know we’re in the 1980s. There’s a lot more to it.

The opening of BvS painstakingly shows the impact of superhero violence with very particular 9/11-style image of Bruce Wayne running into the dust produced by a collapsed building, but the film also glorifies the same kinds of fights that it critiqued in its opening. The entire last twenty minutes of the film are the same kind of rampant, horrifying action that comprised the ending of Man of Steel, and a few scenes suggest a similar death toll the hands of the character Doomsday during its first energy-expending salvo. Many people have critiqued these final scenes for seemingly abandoning the opening lessons of the film, but I feel it is pretty clear that Snyder is pulling the old Watchmen critique here: if you want the spectacle, you have to deal with the consequences. You don’t get your superheroes without their bad sides.

Snyder’s vision of these heroes wouldn’t exist in the Marvel paradigm. Sure, it’s possible to tell difficult or tragic stories within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but to mold these fan favorite heroes into their most tragic versions requires draining all the fun out of the superhero world. It’s no mistake that portions of Batman v Superman appear to be right out of a Lars von Trier film. Drained of color and proceeding in slow motion, large chunks of BvS want to actively divest us from the aesthetic and comedic stylings of the contemporary superhero film that Marvel established so successfully over the past decade. It’s an inoculation process, and no one likes getting a shot.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Dawn of Justice, but I don’t think that it is the payoff in itself. The film’s massive success, carried by marketing, character recognition, and fan curiosity, will hopefully cause a sea change in the way that we understand superhero films in the near future. In the same way that Deadpool recently signaled a desire for an R rated superhero film, I hope that BvS will signal to producers and executives that there’s a desire for a superhero film that isn’t about the fun and fancy of colorful characters quipping and dropping laugh lines every five minutes. Snyder’s take on these iconic characters has slowed and shifted what we might accept as a superhero production, opening interesting doors towards more complex superhero films in the future.

—  Cameron Kunzelman, “Batman v Superman isn’t like other Superhero films and that’s why its great.”