Saturday, June 25, 2016

Snyder and company look at changing course in the wake of Batman vs Superman getting pilloried, a lengthy divergence on to the problem of Bucky in Civil War

“For me, it is a really personal movie,” Snyder told Uproxx of Batman v Superman and the negative reaction to it. “When [that movie] came out, it was like, ‘Wow, oof.’ It did catch me off guard.” Of the film’s sequel, he told Vulture, “I have had to, in my mind, make an adjustment. I do think that the tone of Justice League has changed because of what the fans have said.” The tone of Batman v. Superman wasn’t totally surprising considering Snyder’s oeuvre—his past films, including the comic-book adaptations 300 and Watchmen, were similarly grim. But Warner Bros. has too much riding on these movies to let one flop define the franchise; hence, the damage control.

“We learned that people don’t like seeing their heroes deconstructed,” the Justice League producer Deborah Snyder (Zack’s wife and producing partner) told reporters, claiming the sequel would be a “more inclusive” film than Batman v. Superman
Deconstructing the heroes is fine provided we get the sense that it's actually those characters being subjected to deconstruction. Somebody somewhere wrote at length about how incompetently Snyder's film invoked both canonical moments in DC comics and religious concepts from the Judeo-Christian tradition.  You can't exactly just magically transform two of the most iconic deaths in the DC continuity from the last thirty years into the meet-cute that successfully launches a Justice League franchise, not the way Snyder's film failed to do it. 
Still, in a half-hearted defense of BvS presented on its own poutier-than-Nolan terms, it's more psychologically plausible Batman would want to kill Superman just to be safe than that Steve Rogers would think that Bucky was worth sparking an intra-black ops government show down in Civil War, though, even if I had more fun watching the latter film.  The recent Captain America film managed to get its characters but it embodies a weirdly American ethos that if you didn't have a choice about what you did then you're automatically off the hook for what you did even if what you did was kill a ton of people.  When Bucky asks Cap if he's worth all the trouble in the film Civil War the script insists that he is.  Why?  Because Steve Rogers concludes that the murders Bucky committed when he was in the Winter Soldier program were murders he shouldn't be held responsible before because he didn't have free will?  Even Bucky considers that a problematic defense since, all told, Bucky still killed those people.

But, and here's the big but that's stuck with me since seeing the film, if Bucky considered himself morally culpable for murders he committed in the Winter Soldier program, couldn't he have turned himself in?  Black Panther apprehends him so in a way neither Tony Stark nor Steve Rogers did anything much at all except get into shoving matches while Black Panther captured Bucky and/or Bucky ... did Bucky turn himself in?  The post-credits sequence would seem to imply as much but it's not clear to me as I remember it a month-ish later.

In the original comics run Captain America turns himself in.  That's not what we get in the film version.  It's not that the plot points of Civil War make no sense within the terms of the actions of the plot.  The plot points as they happen are as reasonable as clockwork. The motivations of Rogers and Stark are crystal clear and internally consistent with their character arcs.  Stark has gone through multiple stories in which his hubris led to disaster that hurt himself and others, so he wants to be accountable. Steve Rogers volunteered to serve the cause of justice and fight bullies only to discover that the people he thought were the good guys could turn out to be bad guys.  Even guys whose motives he doesn't doubt have made decisions with consequences he found bad.  SHIELD turned out to be infiltrated by HYDRA and Stark's ill-advised Ultron project threatened the world.  So Rogers' motives make sense. 

It's that there's a disconnect between the plot points as clockwork and their reflection of the character motivations of Bucky.  Considering that the plot points revolve around decisions made about Bucky Barnes the character is too much a cipher to account for those decisions.  Sure, in some sense Steve Rogers would feel a sense of attachment to the one person in his generation he still knows.  What some would call generational narcissism is probably unavoidable.  It's a little hard to completely square with the idea that Steve Rogers, he of Greatest Generation thought life, could just presume the best about the mental state of someone who ended up being a Soviet puppet.  If any one between Rogers and Stark would be in a position to get that Barnes could be culpable for crimes as crimes while having not been able to control his own actions it would be the technocratic Stark.  That seems to be inherent in the tossed off joke Stark makes to Barnes about being the Manchurian candidate.  R
 I guess I'd put it this way.  The recent Captain America film has a Steve Rogers who's thinking through the ethics of how to deal with Bucky not as a soldier at all but as someone looking at it from a criminology standpoint.  In terms of war and espionage it wouldn't MATTER why Bucky Barnes became the Winter Soldier.  When a former asset becomes a liability you have to deal with the person in the terms of war.  Steve Rogers' firm belief that someone who murders but in a state of not being able to control his/her own actions would make 100% sense if this were Batman.  Batman's the kind of character who already refuses to kill (mostly), and is the kind of character who would consider issues of criminology and forensics.  But the rules of law enforcement are still not the rules of war, even if they overlap in creepy ways in modern societies.  So I guess a way to articulate a problem in how Cap deals with Bucky is that he seems to think about it like a cop rather than a soldier, and a cop bent on the most reformative/restorative form of discipline possible.  Considering the generation Steve  Rogers was born from ... it's a little tough to get why he lands that way sometimes.

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