There was a strain of thinking right after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the march of capitalism and the spread of democracy would usher in an “end of history,” where the great ideological struggles that had so roiled the 20th century would give way to the logical marketplace of ideas.
How far would you go for something you love? How much are you willing to wager if the object of your affection is a portrait of questionable lineage—layered with centuries of grime, snatched up at a broke aristocrat’s estate sale—that you’re convinced is a lost masterpiece?
A typical twentieth-century complaint: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we do X?” If we can put boots on a heavenly body, why can’t the first few squares of toilet paper rip clean? Why can’t we stop M. Night Shyamalan from making movies?
Enough digital ink has been spilled over the awfulness of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but allow me to add a drop of a different color. While most critics have focused on the lack of character motivation, the skimpy writing, the overwhelmingly complicated plot, the poor direction, the bland score, too much time devoted to setting up future features, and the overwhelming sense of gloom and cynicism, few have focused on the source material that led to this cinematic disaster and how this work became so poorly translated.
I was 9 the first time I heard Chicago had been destroyed. It was the summer of 1996 and Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day was on a rampage. Bill Pullman’s President Thomas J. Whitmore told the audience Chicago was dead, incinerated by fire or, as Will Smith’s character put it, that “green shit.”