Batman Begins and The Dark Knight kickstarted a trend to make superhero movies more dark and gritty. In more recent years, however, people are starting to get tired of the “dark and gritty superhero” trope and embrace lighter fare, like the majority of the MCU movies. In fact, one of the main complaints against Batman V. Superman was that it was too dark and gritty. But there are still some superhero movies and TV shows that can do dark and gritty well. Ironically, Marvel’s Netflix series show this. One example is Jessica Jones.
Like Batman V. Superman, Jessica Jones takes a more realistic, grounded approach and shows what the possible negative consequences of those with powers in the world would be like in real life. But what does Jessica do that makes it beloved yet makes Batman V. Superman hated? Why does one franchise get away with being dark and gritty yet another doesn’t?
I think the characters are one thing. While Jessica Jones is not a lively show exactly, all of the characters, from Jessica to Kilgrave to even more minor characters like Ruby and Malcolm, have distinct, individual personalities that make them memorable. Most of the characters in Batman V. Superman, on the other hand, have no personality. Besides Alfred, Perry, and Lex, they are all bland and zero dimensional, including the titular Batman and Superman. I mean, sure, it’s cool to see Wonder Woman in action but, besides being able to kick butt, I couldn’t name a single thing about her based just on that first appearance. Jessica? Let’s see…she’s snarky, jaded, has a traumatic past, isn’t the nicest person but still tries to do the right thing…I could go on.
Of course, because the characters are more memorable and have more personality, they also talk more like real people. Another problem I had with Batman V. Superman is that it felt like almost all of the dialogue was made up of long speeches about the nature of man and what is the ethical/right thing to do and yadda yadda yadda! No one makes big speeches like that in real life, unless they are in a situation where they have to, like they’re at some event where they have to give a big speech.
The characters in Jessica Jones talk about ethics and what it really means to be a hero but they do it in a way that people would in real life. For example, in one episode, Jessica finds out one of her clients is trying to kill her because she hates superheroes seeing as she was effected by the huge battle at the end of The Avengers. If this was Batman V. Superman, Jessica and that lady would be trading speeches about the ethical natures of superheroes.
In Jessica Jones, however, the dialogue is a bit more simplified, which makes more sense because most people talk in a simplistic way. For example, the lady complains that the Avengers are heroes yet ended up being in a situation where people were killed, which causes Jessica to ask why she doesn’t just go after Captain America and the lady says she wants to “make an example”.
But what about Nolan’s Bat-flicks? To be fair, they also did the whole “almost every line sounds like it came out of a philosophy paper” way of speaking that was used in BvS and those movies were good. So why were those movies able to get away with it but Batman V. Superman isn’t able to?
I think the thing is…Nolan’s flicks actually back up the points they are trying to make. We see the characters making those huge speeches and then the movie shows the characters either defying those speeches or proving the character’s point. For instance, when the prisoner played by Tiny Lister gives a big speech about how it’s obvious what they have to do with the detonator, he throws the detonator off the ship.
Even without the speeches, Jessica Jones does the same thing, as it has the characters talk about the ethics of what is going on in the plot and then has the characters back up what they are trying to do. With Jessica Jones, we understand why others would hate superpowered beings, especially when we see what Kilgrave does and understand how the huge battles in the Avengers films have effected them, causing the themes to resonate more.
The problem with Batman V. Superman is that they don’t justify the points they are trying to make at all. Even if the Avengers can be destructive while trying to stop the big bad guys from, well, destroying the universe, we as the audience know they are trying to do the right thing. Same thing with The Dark Knight and the other Nolan flicks, even though Batman has inspired a group of ne’er do well’s to pretend to be him and cause destruction and Batman himself destroys things, we know he means well and wants to save Gotham. And, with Jessica Jones as well, we know she’s trying to do the right thing, even if she does some ethically unsound things to do it (like locking Kilgrave up and torturing him).
In Batman V. Superman, Batman comes off like a psychopath who doesn’t care whether or not he does the right thing while Superman just comes off as a destructive idiot. I say that because Batman does things that, as a hero, he didn’t need to do that makes him look sadistic, like scaring the people HE WAS TRYING TO SAVE and branding their kidnappers for no reason. And Superman destroys a Middle Eastern village just to get rid of some evil terrorists, when he could’ve easily gotten rid of a few non superpowered men with no ray guns, no lasers, nothing really without causing any destruction. There’s no reason given why they do these things so it’s hard to really connect with them. Yes Jessica tortured Kilgrave and locked him up but he’s been torturing her almost her whole life so it makes sense she’d want to bring him to justice, even going as low as doing things like that!
Because of this, in Batman V. Superman, there’s no middle ground. In Jessica Jones and The Nolan flicks, while you can understand and sympathize with the people who feel like the superheroes are doing more harm than good, you also understand where the superheroes are coming from and they are, more often than not, put in situations where unfortunately destruction is the only solution, making both sides easy to understand where they are coming from and making the questions those movies and this show asks more understandable and debatable. In Batman V. Superman‘s case, Batman and Superman are so destructive that I can’t help but feel like the world would actually be a better place if they gave up being superheroes!
Therefore, that’s really what makes Jessica Jones better than Batman V. Superman. It asks the same questions BVS does but it makes you understand both sides while, with Batman V. Superman, it just makes it seem like the characters are idiots and the movie comes off like it thinks it’s smarter than it really is.