I was lucky enough to get an early invite to see Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice last week. As an avid fan of superhero movies, I jumped at the opportunity. On the off chance you've been living under a rock for the past year, Batman v. Superman is the culmination of decades of anticipation and the kickoff of a new DC Comics cinematic universe.
Unfortunately, initial reviews for the film have been rough. As of writing this, Batman v. Superman holds a 29 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been described by The Atlantic's Christopher Orr as a "...tiresome, ill-tempered film, and one too lazy even to earn its dismal outlook."
I wish I could disagree with Mr. Orr's assessment, but alas, I cannot. While I thought Ben Affleck's portrayal of Batman was the best yet committed to film, the movie itself was a mess. About an hour too long and suffering from a poorly fleshed-out plot, the entire thing suffers from being overstuffed, misdirected, and shockingly tone deaf. Upon walking out of the theater, I couldn't help but think that the unfortunate lessons of Batman v. Superman could also be applied to entrepreneurship.
1. Don't overstuff your product.
One of the major weaknesses of Batman v. Superman is that it is a bloated, overstuffed mess. In trying to serve as the foundation and catalyst for the entire DC cinematic universe, it forced too many characters and arcs into the plot. It lacked a single cohesive essence and suffered as a result.
The film would've benefited from a commitment to essentialism, a concept that can be traced back to the works of Aristotle and Plato, and holds that a given entity has a few core traits that define its very existence. There can be many additional traits, but there are always a few that define the essence of the entity in question.
As an entrepreneur, I've found that when you apply essentialist thought to a problem, you actively strip it down to its most basic aspects. Shedding extraneous information helps you to focus your thoughts, get down to the point, and simplify the decision making process. By focusing on what is most essential, you're able to develop a product (or in this case, film) that is easily digested and stands the test of time.
2. Stay true to your core.
I've written in the past about finding your company's "God Particle," the ethos of your business and the ideal that colors everything you do. Identifying and embracing these core values is central to the success of any endeavor. In the case of Batman v. Superman, it seems as though director Zack Snyder failed to understand the core values of the central characters.
The longevity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman is due in large part to their archetypal nature. Unfortunately, Batman v. Superman fails to hold true to these archetypes. Instead of standing as a beacon of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way," Superman is brooding, dull, and unsympathetic.
In business, identifying and starting with your God Particle enables you to approach decisions and challenges with specificity and purpose. You have to know who you are and what makes your product or service special. The most successful companies know this well and manage to infuse it throughout everything they do. They don't depart from their essence or try to recast it in a different and dissonant light.
3. Resist the urge to pander.
Finally, I felt like Batman v. Superman tried to pander to the whims of DC super fans. From call-outs to minor comic book characters to the meticulous recreation of iconic comic book scenes, it was clear that the film tried too hard to please everyone. While it definitely hurt the film, I can certainly empathize with the temptation that the creative team must have faced.
After launching BodeTree, I was inundated with feedback asking for new features and adjustments right out of the gate. Sometimes these requests were incredibly valuable, highlighting potential features that helped us find the best product/market fit. More often than not, however, the feature requests bogged down our team and lead to product bloat.
For entrepreneurs, there's always a strong temptation to add features in order to satisfy the customers you're currently engaging with. Learning to say no to new features (even interesting ones) is important--although this is easier said than done--especially when you're looking to attract customers.
The case of Batman v. Superman just goes to show that any project, whether it's a mega blockbuster or a startup, can suffer from bloat, lack of direction, and the urge to pander. Entrepreneurs can learn from these lessons and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.