Everybody loves "Jurassic Park." It's the rare movie that requires you to pump the breaks on your channel scrolling and set up shop for 15 minutes, especially because that great kitchen scene is coming up next. But one moment of "Jurassic Park" that really stands out to me is Jeff Goldblum's monologue about man's reach.
"If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained," he preach-mumbles. "Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously."
If life's evolution can sometimes be messy, so too can the evolution of its expression.
If that seems to you like a smug, overly dramatic metaphor for comic book movies, you're absolutely right. But I still couldn't get that quote out of my head after seeing "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
We exist in a time in which nine out of every 10 people can tell you the names of every Avenger. Superhero films are no longer the niche affairs they were 25 years ago; they are Hollywood's gold standard right now. And I love them.
But maybe we're all looking at the polarizing mushroom cloud of "Batman v Superman" the wrong way. Maybe, despite its obvious shortcomings, the movie is actually that first painful step of evolution that Jeff Goldblum was talking about.
The many flaws in director Zack Snyder's launching pad for the DC Extended Universe have been well covered by now, so I don't feel the need to rehash them here. But the movie does deserve credit for its ambition. Snyder may not be able to tell a story that doesn't involve mass destruction, but he is good at raising interesting questions, and that's the first step of the evolution of comic book movies.
"The world has been so caught up with what he can do that no one has asked what he should do," Holly Hunter's Senator Finch says in the movie.
Asking how mankind would realistically respond to an alien god is a fascinating question, but the film is reluctant to answer it (since it doesn't, check out 2003's "Superman: Red Son" comic). Showing us a frayed Batman questioning the value of everything he's ever done catches my attention. Daring to go beyond just pure popcorn entertainment and deliver something challenging is admirable.
But, any momentum the film builds is promptly halted in its tracks with contrived plot escalations (Lois is in trouble! Lois is in trouble and there's a Batman! Lois is in trouble and there's Lex Luthor with the troll who bombed his "Lord of the Rings" audition). As soon as we start to become invested in any single storyline, some ham-fisted backdoor reference to the Justice League and future solo movies are shoved down our throats. "Batman v Superman" is so concerned with getting you excited for future offerings that it forgets to get you excited for what's right in front of you.
Still, the elements of the next phase of comic book movies - something with real narrative merit - are present somewhere buried beneath the initial disappointment. "Batman v Superman" may not great, but at least it attempts to be thought provoking and mature. The idea of a Superman, as the movie constantly points out, is a controversial one in realistic terms and that's relatively uncharted territory in the superhero movie genre.
I love Marvel. I've ruined many a first date with my talk of Ultron's Vibranium and Thor's Asgardian lineage. But I love Marvel movies in the same way that I love Chipotle. It's always good, I always enjoy it and I know exactly what I'm getting. It's dependable. Consistent.
That's not a bad thing. Those that can't crack a smile for "Guardians of the Galaxy" are the same people who hate puppy videos. But consistency doesn't always translate to greatness. No young football fan ever says he wants to be Lamar Miller when he grows up.
Marvel movies make you smile, but they don't always make you think. Outside of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," have you ever really turned over the central issues of a Marvel movie in your head on the way home? Even the fiercest MCU supporter would have to admit that the studio's movies are somewhat formulaic at times. That formula just happens to be awesome.
"Batman v Superman" is a very flawed movie, but I admire its aspiration to be something a bit more serious. I know, I know; people go to the movies to have fun. So do I. But there's no reason why comic book blockbusters can't aim to be held in the same critical regard as recent Oscar nominees "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Martian."
But Warner Bros.' starry eyes may be dimmed by the backlash "Batman v Superman" is eliciting from the masses. Already there are reports that this summer's "Suicide Squad" is undergoing reshoots to add more humor and lightness as a direct response, though some are saying these reshoots have been scheduled for months.
Either way, movie fans would have benefited had they been given a more well-constructed "Batman v Superman." It would have led to more parity, variety and competition in the genre. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like we're ready to break through that barrier just yet.
Gun (or kryptonite spear) to my head, I'd say Snyder's reach far exceeded his grasp in "Batman v Superman." But, maybe this is just the first painful step in the evolution of superhero movies to something greater.
Follow Brandon Katz at @Great_Katzby