Batman vs. Superman
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
In the past couple years there hasn’t been many other films that have had the amount of buzz and hype that this film has had next to Star Wars and Civil War. And once the early reviews hit, they hit pretty hard. So even though I technically saw this film on opening day, I went in with a whole lot of trepidation. As far as my history with Zack Snyder, I’m generally more in favor of his films than against. While I haven’t seen his first feature film, Dawn of the Dead, I have enjoyed more than I haven’t. In fact the only film of his that I’ve actively disliked was Sucker Punch. And while Batman vs. Superman is weighed down by some of his shortcomings, there was enough mystery and nuance to the film that I enjoyed seeing where it was going. It mainly suffered from two things: it constantly mired itself in artistic flourishes to make it feel like it’s tackling serious topics rather than two guys in costumes fighting each other, and like Age of Ultron it had to spend a lot of time making it known that there’s connective tissue linking it to other films coming in the future. Finally, as is usually the case there may be spoilers ahead so tread carefully if you are worried about that sort of thing.
In some ways, this film feels like a response to the criticism of Man of Steel’s rampant destruction, especially during the first several scenes of the film once we get past the combination Crime Alley origin story and dream sequence. We get to see what Bruce Wayne was doing during the attack on Earth within Metropolis. More importantly, we get to see Bruce Wayne be a badass as well as the seeds of his mistrust of the Man of Steel. But backtracking for a moment to the opening sequence which is that scene of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne that we have seen many times over and it’s also a great example of the way that Snyder treats this film as if it were an art film rather than an action epic. There’s the stereotypical close up of the shell hitting the ground, his parents falling to the ground as the string of pearls scatter down to the concrete. The one flourish that did actually feel unique and inspired was how the killer’s gun broke the necklace with its recoil.
What was a little more surprising coming into this film was how it’s structured much more like a mystery than a typical superhero film. There are the key players that are seen in many various points throughout the film, most notably the Russian played by Callan Mulvey who has a distinct look, in part thanks to his lazy eye. He essentially plays Lex Luthor’s right hand man who is never technically associated with him. There are various plots going on at the same time and they are all interconnected. Unfortunately they also border on being rather convoluted and forced. There’s the random guy that Bruce Wayne saved during the Metropolis attack who lost his legs and resents Superman ever since. There’s also this attack on an African village predicated by Lois Lane’s involvement and blamed on Superman, yet was actually instigated by Lex Luthor. And there’s the whole fight between Batman and Superman which was also all part of Luthor’s plan to kill Superman. And while they make sense on a certain level, there’s just an underlying question of “why go to all this trouble” when things could have been done in a much more simple way.
What the film did get right for the most part was the fan service. There were moments here and there throughout the film that fans of the DC universe will greatly appreciate. From the nod to Jason Todd that was teased in the trailers to the glimpses of comic book like poses by Affleck’s Batman as he’s clinging to the corner of the ceiling, or when his cape is flowing as he grasps the side of a building. There’s even the brief moment where we get to see the desiccated body of Superman after being hit by a nuclear strike before he’s resuscitated by the sun’s rays. It’s also a great touch when the two heroes finally connect with each other over the fact that their mothers both have the same first name. Something that I never actually noticed until Snyder pointed it out to me.
The actual acting in the film was somewhat hit and miss. Affleck did a great job as Bruce Wayne and Batman, and Jeremy Irons was nice as Alfred even though he never got the chance to have any runaway scenes in the same way that Michael Caine did. This Alfred is someone who is the voice of reason and Batman’s support, one of the best moments was at the end of the titular fight where he mentions that he has been listening and has already taken the next step. Though it is a bit of a nit pick that while they’re under a big time crunch, Bruce Wayne takes the time to change out of his mecha Batman suit and into his normal Batman suit before heading to the rescue. Henry Cavill was passable as Clark Kent and Superman though he didn’t really get much of a chance to be Kent this time around aside from making the moves on Lois and complaining to Perry. Gal Gadot was also passable as Diana Prince, but also never really got the chance to do a whole lot aside from wear designer fashions and fight a big CGI Doomsday troll. The big disappointment was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor who plays the supervillain as a socially awkward and fidgety eccentric.
And of course, this can’t be a review of Batman vs. Superman without discussing the actual fight scenes. Honestly, the best fight scenes were the ones with Batman fighting random minions. The one showcased in one of the later trailers was a great moment, as was the Batmobile chase and the desert fight even though the last one turned out to be a dream sequence. The titular fight was ok, but it felt a little lacking when compared to the animated fight from a couple years ago with the Dark Knight Returns part 2. Then of course, there’s also the big fight between Doomsday, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. What was great about this fight was Batman’s role in the fight. Considering that he doesn’t have any super strength, he spent the fight just trying to stay out of it as much as possible. But as far as a climactic battle sequence goes, it didn’t feel very far removed from the Superman and Zod fight from Man of Steel, and the way it ended with the three of them working in tandem without coordinating beforehand felt just a little too neat and tidy.
I’ve gone on for a while already and there are still quite a few things that I haven’t been able to parse out. From the large number of bizarre dream sequences including a heart to heart with Clark and his father and Batman getting constantly attacked by giant bat creatures. To the incredibly unnecessarily dark tone for this film that no matter what is going to appeal to younger audiences. In fact, in the theater I saw this film there were well over two dozen kids younger than 10, mostly boys and included a large group that appeared to be around six all seated in the front row. In fairness, the audience never seemed to be a problem, but there are plenty of adult content that was not entirely appropriate for kids that age, from a bathtub scene between Lois and Clark to a naked-but-nearly-Austin-Powers-level-strategically-blocked General Zod dummy to a gaping hole in Superman’s chest, to plenty of people being gunned down and exploded left and right. Which also brings me to the fact that this is a very different Batman than I’m used to. This isn’t quite the Dark Knight Returns version who believes that a gun is a coward’s tool even though I don’t believe he ever directly uses a gun himself outside of a dream sequence or the Batmobile. And nearly every incarnation of the Batmobile or Batwing has had guns from the Burton to the Nolan versions. But at the end of the day, when I look at this movie for what it is, I did enjoy watching it. It’s not a complete piece of garbage that some critics might have you believe, neither is it a fanboy’s wet dream. Like many movies, it has its good points and its bad, and it’s up to you to sort it out for yourself. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.