I didn’t see Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice until about six days after its initial release, so I wasn’t planning on writing a review of the flick. And I still don’t (though I fall squarely in the camp of those who loved it). There was a particularly flawed aspect of the movie that kept nagging at me, as it represents a professional itch that just wouldn’t go away. So I’ve decided to scratch it with a little rant.
While I feel BvS succeeds overall as an action movie, a character-driven drama and an effort to build a larger super-hero movie continuity, it fails in lesser aspects. Chief among them, how it handles the practice of journalism. I’m a newspaper reporter, so clunky depictions of my profession always irk me. And boy, did director Zack Snyder and screenwriters David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio bungle the day-to-day operations of The Daily Planet at just about every opportunity (though there are few of them).
“Kent, you’re Sports today!” Um, no, Perry White, he isn’t. That’s not how it works. Maybe at a little weekly community newspaper, the staff might wear many hats, out of sheer necessity, given how those newsrooms can list fewer staffers than you have fingers on one hand. But The Daily Planet? A major metropolitan newspaper? Even in this difficult economic environment for newspapers, it just wouldn’t happen.
Now, at the end of Man of Steel, there was suggestion that Clark Kent might end up as a stringer for the Planet, a freelancer who would take whatever assignment was available. But in BvS, he’s clearly a staff reporter. He has a cubicle. Perry notes his absence in the office. He’s a staffer in the news department.
On top of that, it would appear Perry’s plan for the sports assignment (about a football player whose career has come to an end) was for the front page — of an edition set to be published days after the assignment. Forget that such a story wouldn’t be a line item on Page One. If the story was that big, it’d be one of the sports reporters — with the connections, interest and expertise in the subject matter — that’d handle the story. Hell, he or she would have a fit if it weren’t assigned to the sports department. And why would the editor-in-chief sound off on a sports assignment in the first place? The Planet would have a sports editor. Hell, my paper has one, and he’s one of only two people in the sports department.
Furthermore, given the dour outlook for the newspaper business that Perry espouses, Lois Lane’s globetrotting adventures seem rather unlikely. From the African desert to Washington, DC, there seems to be no locale she can’t reach for her undefined beat. It was especially true in Man of Steel but remains the case here. Mind you, it’s one of those cases of plot driving a character’s actions and presence, so that’s something I can easily overlook. “You’re Sports today” isn’t similarly defensible or necessary.
Another business blunder that took me out of the movie (even if it was momentarily) was Perry’s visit to the press room at the end of the film. That’s the slowest moving newspaper press I’ve ever seen, for one thing, and then there’s the atrocious grammar on that all-important front page. Oy. I winced. Really, I did. Mr. Snyder… Zack… Bubala, the next time you’re incorporating newspaper elements into one of your movies, drop me a line. I’m available as an adviser/consultant (for a nominal fee — negligible, really, in Hollywood terms).
Mind you, one could argue that Snyder’s and the screenwriters’ utter failure to portray journalism in even the most remotely plausible light is proof that they have remained connected with super-hero comics of yesteryear. After all, inaccurate and ridiculous portrayals of journalism have been a staple of the genre pretty much since it debuted in the Golden Age of Comics. From Lois Lane’s crime-fighting approach to reporting to Peter Parker’s unethical edge over competing photographers, comics writers have cast aside plausibility in favour of convenience and conflict for decades, so in that respect, we have further proof the makers of BvS stayed true to the source material.
Dawn of Justice gets journalism, especially newspaper journalism, incredibly wrong, and its incorporation of so many real-life broadcast personalities is quite distracting (notably Soledad O’Brien’s awful interjection into the narrative). But the filmmakers and cast do get storytelling, characterization and action right time and time again.
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