Voiceovers And Storytelling- The GKN Update 3/28/16
Those of you who have read my ramblings over the years may remember that I used to post brief movie reviews. I loved doing them but after a while it didn’t line up with the thrust of the blog series. I’ve always wanted to do a full-blown review but couldn’t find a film I felt compelled to write about. With that in mind, in lieu of a regular-type blog entry I present to you my amateur review of the movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice“.
There’s a voiceover lesson at the end, I promise!
Before I dive into the review itself I need to establish a baseline. You read a comic book for about 15 minutes. You watch a movie for roughly 2 hours. It is a completely different entertainment experience. Movie makers almost always need to make adjustments to the story & characters to make it work. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a beef with some of the liberties they took, though!
Also, I am a lifelong Justice League fan. I have been collecting the comic book series in all its incarnations for almost 35 years. I’m very familiar with the pantheon that is the Justice League so that gives me a certain perspective on the Warner Brothers attempt to create the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) featuring The Justice League similar to the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) featuring The Avengers.
Oh, there are some minor spoilers below so keep that in mind if you haven’t seen it yet. On with the review..!
Almost everything you need to know about Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is in the title. The movie is about contriving a fight between Batman and Superman and introducing the other Justice League members. For those of you who are confused and thought they were friends, for the most part they are. There was a critically-acclaimed mini-series in the late 1980’s called “The Dark Knight Returns” in which Batman and Superman did fight. This film is partly based on that as well as “The Death of Superman” story line from the early 1990’s.
It is my understanding that they are working very hard to make the DCEU dissimilar from the MCU. There is no top-down oversight when it comes to the production of the individual films. Warner Brothers is using at least eight production companies to produce the films. As far as I can tell, Marvel is using just one: Marvel Studios. This creates some problems, continuity being one of them. I read somewhere that “Suicide Squad” director David Ayer was told by Warner Brothers that he can do whatever he wants with the film. I really hope that isn’t true.
One of the other “big-picture” problems is that the DCEU films will have nothing to do with the highly successful CW and CBS television programs, “Flash”, “Arrow”, and “Supergirl”. All three are made by Berlanti Productions, BTW. Grant Gustin who plays The Flash on the TV show will not be in Justice League movies. Ezra Miller will. I have read that the rationale is the television shows are too bright and optimistic for the dark, brooding culture that they want to set up for the DCEU. I can understand wanting to make the DCEU darker in contrast to the sparkly, Disney Company-owned MCU, but that that rationale doesn’t make sense to me. Flash, Arrow and Supergirl are thrust into dark, difficult, challenging, tragic situations all of the time so I’m sorry but I don’t buy that.
I also took umbrage with the marketing. I had seen so much of the film via movie trailers and sneak peeks that I knew mostly what was going to happen. There were almost no surprises. They even revealed the surprise villain Doomsday in the trailers which I felt was a big mistake. I found it odd that writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer would deviate so far from the comic book origin & powers of Doomsday. Director Zack Snyder was almost fatalistically loyal to the source material in his 2009 DC Comics film “The Watchmen“.
The over-exposure of the film contributed to the fact that I was…I don’t know if the bored was the right word, but definitely nonplussed. I didn’t react to most of the scenes. I wasn’t excited, saddened, scared, shocked, surprised, amused, titillated, or even angered. A scene begins, a scene ends, rinse and repeat. I went on no emotional journey of any kind.
It’s my understanding that 7+ months of shooting yielded 5 hours of footage. I believe the first cut was 4 hours long and the director’s cut was 3 hours long. The final cut was 2 ½ hours. It seems like there was way, way, way, too much information trying to be communicated into the film. It felt like many scenes were missing that could have tied it all together. That also made the movie feel like one big movie trailer. The conversations were inorganic, lofty, melodramatic platitudes. It was a conveyor belt of YouTube clips. I think they forgot that they were telling a story.
In the comic books, Batman doesn’t kill. Superman doesn’t kill. In “Man of Steel” Superman killed General Zod. In Batman v Superman, Batman kills. A lot. Batman not killing is as much a part of the Batman mythos as his Utility Belt, Robin, Arkham Asylum, etc. Personally, I think it’s lazy story telling. It pulled me out of the story and made it extremely difficult to re-immerse.
I will kvetch about one scene in particular and it isn’t giving anything away because it was in one of 5,496 trailers & sneak previews out there. Batman is in the Batmobile chasing some bad guys. In the middle of the chase Superman shows up, breaks his Batmobile, tells him “The Bat is dead”, and flies away. This is Superman; a good guy. A decent person. A hero. Also a guy who, with his X-Ray vision, could have seen through Batman’s cowl, discovered who he was, and then arrange an actual conversation. This was typical of almost every scene in the film. They tried to hit the high note so many times it lessened the impact of every scene.
As to the actor’s performances, I think they did the best they could considering what they had to work with. Yes, even Ben Affleck did a good job. “Bat-Fleck” as he is affectionately known in media circles gave a subtle, understated performance. I think it was one of his better acting jobs.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor on the other hand, was awful. Just awful. He portrayed Lex Luthor as eccentric, annoying, crude, and quite possibly insane. This does not even remotely resemble the Lex Luthor we have come to know & hate over the past seventy years. I have no problem with taking a character in a different direction. To portray him as a watered-down Joker, especially when the Clown Prince of Crime (played by Jared Leto) will appear in “Suicide Squad” later this year, made little sense to me. I will be curiously awaiting the Razzie nominations to see if Mr. Eisenberg will earn a Worst Supporting Actor nomination. The sneak peeks of the lesser-known Justice League members was fleeting, not particularly exciting, and contrived. In the comic books, Batman is known for being prepared to handle any situation. There was even a story in the late 1990’s where he was collecting data on how to defeat his fellow Justice League members in case they go rogue. Needless to say that ticked his fellow Leaguers off and dysfunction immediately ensued. A wonderful character exploration opportunity was squandered by Batman not being the one who collected data on the future Justice Leaguers. Instead he stumbled upon the information while he was looking for something else.
Even more out of character, Batman suggests that he and Wonder Woman attempt to recruit these fellow meta-humans. Batman would never do that. He is a loner has always been a loner. Of course that is true until he teams up with a certain Boy Wonder and becomes a founding member of the Justice League because he knows where his bread is buttered. I will allow that one. However, when Wonder Woman asked why they should do it, he replied that he “has a feeling”. I don’t know if that was Batman being calculating or lazy storytelling, but by then I had no interest in giving the film the benefit of the doubt.
Overall, I was massively disappointed in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” as both a movie-goer and a lifelong Justice League fan. It was not a good story nor was it told well.
Please keep in mind that I would never tell someone to not see a movie just because I didn’t like it. If you do see it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did! TIP OF THE WEEK
How does this relate to voiceovers? Voice talents are storytellers. Whether it’s a ten-hour audio book or a 15-second used car radio spot, a story needs to be told. Every part of the story must have purpose. The purpose is always the same: to engage the listener and move the story forward.
The next time you are presented with a script, ask yourself: what story am I telling? Who am I telling the story to? What is the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Did I engage the listener on every single line or did I just enjoy the sound of my own voice?
Listen, think, and engage like a storyteller!
NEWS AND NOTES!
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Happy Pillow Fight Day and Something On A Stick Day!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
From my village to yours; this is Tom Dheere, GKN News…
Tom Dheere is a 20-year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for clients in over a dozen countries. He is also a coach at Edge Studio, voiceover business consultant known as the Voice Over Strategist, and is currently writing & producing the comic book “Agent 1.22”.
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