***DISCLAIMER*** Though I’ll try to avoid spoilers of any kind, this movie is hard to discuss without spoiling at least something. The potential for minor spoilers is there, so read at your own risk. Also, there may end up being as much talk about the internet’s reaction to the film, as the film itself. So if that kind of thing isn’t for you, you might want to go and read somebody else’s review. If neither of those things bother you, then have at it. ***DISCLAIMER***
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: 3/25/16 – 8.5/10 – Obviously it’s not a perfect movie, but it’s really damn good. If you love DC comics, and the more adult nature of the Batman comics, you’ll likely love Batman v Superman. For longtime readers of Batman, this is the most faithful screen adaptation of the character to date.
For years now, I’ve been waiting. Holding my breath while people who have obviously never picked up a DC comic within the last ten years, ramble on-and-on about how terrible the new DC Comics movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was going to be. You see, Zack Snyder is to the comic book movie world, what Eli Roth and Rob Zombie are to the horror world. Sure, there are going to be some people who just legitimately dislike Snyder’s style of film-making, but there’s another kind of Joker out there. We’ve all seen the type of person who puts great personal investment into their online persona, and its perceived credibility. Whether it’s Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Zack Snyder, DC vs Marvel, remakes of classic movies, Xbox vs Playstation, Coke vs Pepsi, Roe v Wade, if you’ve made your online friends through use of your fiery disdain for certain pop culture figures, it becomes hard to walk back from that. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every negative review of this movie comes from that place, but can we skip the BS and just take as a given that this type of person does exist? We only see them everywhere, going to great lengths to poo-poo on fan-excitement and/or morbid curiosity for certain popular media events. I have faith in our readership, and I believe wholeheartedly that if you clicked a link shared by one of our members, that you have the ability to consume media objectively, without being influenced by the mass hysteria that engulfs the internet, when a divisive topic becomes what you’re expected to discuss with the various people who fill out your news feed on a daily basis. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I will respect that opinion, so long as you promise that if you enter into a discussion with people who feel differently, you actually offer something to the discussion, instead of just telling people they are wrong for feeling one way or another about any particular movie, comic, tv show, new Taco Bell item, or whatever.
First and foremost, I’m a Batman guy. Scratch that, I’m a Batman superfan. Yes I have been a fan of mostly every movie he has appeared in so far. But it would be silly for me to not admit that some are better than others. Tim Burton’s run with the caped crusader is almost universally recognized as THE big screen adaptation of the character. Though much of it was less than comics-accurate, Burton’s dark and “alternative” world-building style suited the character just fine. When the non-Burton Bat-sequels started pouring in, people started to lose interest, as each new entry in the franchise continued to decrease in quality in a significant and noticeable way. The real franchise-killer was Batman & Robin, and I won’t even try to pin down exactly what made it so terrible. The short answer is “everything.” It took Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, to bring a tinkered-version of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One to the big screen, in the form of Batman Begins. Maybe if your exposure to Batman is limited to movies and TV shows, you found yourself in disagreement with the general consensus, that Batman was back, and better than ever. But if you were a fan of the Batman comics, your time had come, so to speak.
Zack Snyder has continued that trend, and even upped the ante with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This is easily the most faithful adaptation of the character to-date. It might be mildly spoilery to explain my reasoning, but I’m going to give it a go, anyway. One of the things that makes Batman a successful detective and crime fighter, is both his intelligence, and his toys. And yes, Bats has used his toys in previous Bat-films, but never has it felt more comics-accurate than Ben Affleck’s Batman in this particular movie. The way he uses his gadgets, firing his Batclaw into someone’s chest, and striking them to the ground as they fly towards him, being dragged by the grappling hook, finding the smartest method of approach so that he can surprise his target by smashing through just the right block of concrete to take the biggest threat in the room out first. This is an area where the Bat in BvS excels. Bale’s Batman was more of a straight-up brawler. He thought he could walk into any room full of goons, and The Raid 2 his way out. Most of the time he did so successfully, but one could argue that his confidence is the reason he ended up having his back broken by Bane in the first place. Batman takes a bit of an ass-kicking here, mostly when he takes his fight straight to the Man of Steel himself, but he never looked before he leaped, and he made use of everything he had at his disposal to tip the scales in favor of him coming out of the other side, victorious.
As far as Superman goes, I’ve read the comics. Well, I haven’t read all of the comics, but I am well-researched in the character, if that makes sense. Anything that I’ve been told is important to the character, or his growth, I have went out of my way to consume. Batman has always been more appealing to me, because Superman is basically a Boy Scout. And yeah, while he was responsible for a lot of deaths in Man of Steel, most notably, snapping General Zod’s neck to prevent him from destroying the human race, he constantly struggles with the implications, with the consequences of dealing with evil in a brutal, and final way. And, I guess — even though it’s alternate universe stuff — once you see Superman pull Joker’s heart out through his chest in the Injustice comics, snapping the neck of someone who just professed to you, that if you let them live, they will continue to murder until there’s nothing left to kill doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. There’s more of that in BvS, though mostly on the Batman side of things. And if you’re unfamiliar with some of the darker Bat stories, this might come as a shock to you. If you’re a seasoned Bat-vet, you’ll have witnessed worse in your day. Honestly, I didn’t mind Henry Cavil in Man of Steel, but only in Batman v Superman did he really begin to feel like Superman. The human side of him, the struggle he constantly faces, the moral confusion, as to whether or not he’s helping humanity, or hurting it. Cavil became the alien, this time around. Maybe not as much as Affleck embodied the Bat, but I think people will buy him as the Man of Steel a little more, this time around.
Another source of controversy was the casting of Fast/Furious franchise veteran, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The argument has always been that she’s just not built the way that an amazonian warrior goddess should be built. Which to some, could mean that she’s not as muscular as she should be, but it became more about the fact that she doesn’t have a massive chest-area, like Linda Carter. Not to lend any credibility to that ridiculous complaint, but Gadot has never been sexier that she is here, and especially in full WW garb. So long as the planned, shared-universe moves forward as planned, we have our Wonder Woman in the actress, and she more than does the character justice. Though she doesn’t show up in-costume until the final act of the film, for the most part, when she does show up, the moment feels as epic as it should have, in that we’re just being introduced to one of the most iconic, most important characters in the Justice League. And my packed theater was more than pleased with her arrival.
One thing that might turn the more casual viewer off is the long setup of the movie. Batman v Superman takes its time, setting everything into motion. It’s probably forty five minutes into the movie before the really exciting stuff starts to happen. If you’re used to a formula, where every 10 minutes or so something is thrown at you, to keep you from squirming in your seats while you wait for everything to play out in a way that pits the good guys against the bad guys, you may have a bit of trouble getting to the gooey center of BvS. Personally, I love it when a movie takes its time, assembling all of the pieces, putting all of the players on the board, before they start blowing stuff up. But I realize we’re part of a time where everybody wants everything, all at once, more, bigger, faster, and give it all to me right from the jump. So to some, the lengthy wait while everything is set into motion may be seen as a negative thing. But, if you genuinely love these characters, it’s not going to bother you. It may not be a problem in the first place. I remember being impressed that the packed-house my friend and I saw the movie in, didn’t get antsy, waiting for things to pop off. It seems like everyone I was sitting with while the movie unfolded were fully invested, and enough to sit through a good chunk of non-action before the real carnage began.
Oh, and you remember, every time a new character was announced as having been cast by whatever actor, the internet would go silly, exclaiming that they were trying to cram too many characters into one movie, purportedly centering around Batman and Superman? Well, I’m happy to report that it was utter nonsense. Without knowing the context, it is impossible for you to make the call that they’d tried to cram too much into the movie. I can’t really divulge the way in which the announced characters, such as Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg are introduced, and used in the movie, without spoiling a bit, so let me just say, you aren’t seeing these characters in action here. You are going to be introduced to them, setting up the shared universe of Justice League, this just doesn’t happen to be that movie. This is the setup. While Man of Steel was the official launching pad of the JL motion picture universe, Batman v Superman will be seen as the official launch. But to answer the pre-critique, no, they don’t really try and cram all of these superheroes into the same movie, not this time around, anyway.
It’s said by some that BvS is a “jumbled mess.” That the story is incoherent. The only response I can come up with to address that is that I think these viewers were watching a different movie than I. It has a beginning, it has a middle, and it has an end. The road you travel to get from point A, to B, to C is pretty straight forward. What’s messy about it? You have Batman, which the film opens with, witnessing the destruction caused by Superman at the end of Man of Steel. In fact, you see several of the main events from that movie, from a totally different angle. If you wondered what it would be like to be on the ground during the end-battle of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman puts you in exactly that position. And if, like Batman, you felt like Superman caused too many casualties while battling Zod and his band of Kryptonian assassins, why would you not feel satisfied that, not only does Batman/Bruce Wayne feel the same way, but that it’s a huge part of this continuation of that story. Snyder has always defended his Superman, and the fact that he killed, and indirectly caused death, and rightfully so. It’s a non-issue, that some of his detractors latched onto after the first batch of Man of Steel reviews. So it’s unexpected that he would take that critique, and work it into the screenplay of the sequel. It seems like something such as that would make certain people feel validated, as if their lazy critique was taken seriously, and addressed directly.
So, I’ve spent most of this review, defending Bat V Supes against what I feel is unwarranted criticism. Is there anything about the movie that I didn’t like? I’d say — and easily so — that BvS’ weakest element is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Though I can’t tell if they were going for sort of an alternate take on the character, as in, could this be some sort of descendant of the real Lex, his son, or something? I’d say that it’s unlikely, but still possible. Though Lex is sort of the “villain” in Batman v Superman, he’s more the puppet master, than anything else. If he’s going to be super-menacing, or ever the main focus and main threat to humanity in these movies, it’s not going to be here. He’s basically pulling the strings to pit these two heroes against one another. And though Wayne/Batman is on what he thinks is a just mission to destroy the man of steel, it becomes apparent — and obviously so, if you’ve seen a trailer — that Superman is not the biggest threat to humanity, and the two of them need to put their differences aside, and join together in battling a greater foe. Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex is probably as quirky as you have been fearing. And honestly at first, it was causing me to cringe a little. But as the movie progresses, as he becomes more and more unhinged, I started to buy it. Not that Eisenberg is the Lex I’ve always read about, but that his take on this character can exist in this world, and not cause too much of a fuss. Once he goes off the rails, and especially if they give him the toys he has to compete against the Man of Steel in the comics, I think he can pull it off. He’s small, awkward and squirrelly, but he’s still a talented actor.
I mentioned before that the blueprint for Batman Begins was obviously Frank Miller’s Year One. Well, the blueprint for BvS was obviously Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, though quite a bit of that story has been re-worked so that it can work as an introduction of the Justice League. A great deal of the actual face-off between the two titans felt like it was jumping straight from the pages of TKDR. But that’s not the movie’s only source of inspiration. You’ll likely notice — especially if you’re a big reader of DC comics — that several popular story arcs have been touched upon, or at least inspired certain events. If you remember the Nineties, and the big deal that was The Death of Superman, several moments in BvS will give you that feeling of deja vu. I can’t consider it a spoiler, to reveal that at some point, Doomsday comes into play, because he was in the trailers, and promoted as being in the movie. This spoils the surprise, I suppose, if you’ve stayed away from all trailers and promotional features, but if you’ve made it 2500+ words into this review, chances are you’ve either already seen the movie, or don’t mind a little light spoilage in the first place, so I’ll just make with it. At one point in the film it becomes apparent that Batman and Superman are not the main event of the movie, as far as the fight goes. The two of them, in addition to Wonder Woman ends up taking Doomsday on, and a lot of it is straight from The Death of Superman. So much so that, I really felt like revisiting that story arc when I got out of the movie last night.
So is there any validity to the ridiculously low Rotten Tomatoes score of Batman v Superman? In my opinion, no. I read through several of the top reviews, and of the core-complaints I could isolate, the words “Marvel” and “Deadpool” were seen more often than the word “Batman.” I strongly believe that certain things, such as a Zack Snyder movie, or a comic book movie that isn’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are judged using a totally different set of rules. I’m not saying that somebody’s perfect score becomes a one-star review, simply because of the players involved with the production, but it does become both political, and petty-personal. I’ve seen with my own eyes, critics being dishonest, competing to be the wittiest in their take-down of whatever that week’s subject of required internet scrutiny happened to be. Not all critics, nor vocal fans operate this way, but I think it’s more prevalent than we’re willing to admit. Everything on the internet has to be mind-blowing, in either direction. It can either be the best effing thing ever, or the absolute worst. Using that scale, a movie from a notorious director that could either be seen as pretty good, or just okay to some, becomes dissected and scrutinized for things it never tried to be in the first place, rather than accepted for what it is. The same pass given to movies like Deadpool — a movie which I enjoyed significantly less than the rest of the internet, but still enjoyed — is not granted if the director of the movie, or the studio releasing the movie is not as coveted. You know it’s true.
So, yes, I just wrote three thousand-plus words about a comic book movie. Yes, if you honestly dislike Batman v Superman, you are entitled to your opinion, and I’d hope to be able to discuss it with you. I wish we could get the internet back to the days of talking to one another, sharing ideas and information. I’d love to sit and have a conversation with a person who thinks that this is a terrible movie, so that I could try and understand what it is that they dislike, and what it is about the movies they do like, that makes them better. It is almost impossible to have that conversation on the internet though. Every time I’ve attempted it, people inject themselves into the conversation to alert everyone to the fact that they, in fact, feel differently about the movie than we do. But I can never get any substantive conversation flowing. If it’s so important to you to inject your opinion of a subject into every conversation you find, or, you know, the reverse as well. If you feel so strongly about something, so much that you have to scream it from the rooftops, why don’t you take a minute to formulate your opinion in a way that could spark a conversation, and help others to understand how you feel. I can respect most opinions, so long as they’re not hateful, if the person espousing explain to me using their own words, why it is they feel that way. If the only thing you say to me, when I ask you what you disliked about Batman v Superman, is that it’s “jumbled” or “a mess” or “too serious” or any other number of trigger words from popular critic reviews, unless you elaborate, it’s going to be hard for me to take you seriously.
But, hey. This is comic book movies. Maybe we should all take it a little less-seriously in the first place. As a reader of comics myself, I have always preferred the DC world. I do have Marvel characters that I love and continue to read to this day, such as The Punisher, and I have tried to read as many major Marvel event story arcs as I could, but for me, none of strikes me the same way that the Batman comics does. I’m not going to say that DC comics are more “adult” or “mature” but the stories have always felt a little more grown-up, especially when it comes to Batman. Maybe I’m a pod-person and I don’t even know it? I try to be as objective as possible, even when I find something popular that I happened to dislike, or even just like a little less than everybody else. Deadpool and Fury Road are two prime examples of this. I liked both movies, but I just didn’t feel like they deserved the internet fires that they set upon their respective releases. I’m one of the few who thinks The Hateful Eight was shafted in favor of Mad Max: Fury Road. Any time I’ve shared this opinion, I’ve done my level-best to explain why I feel that way. I don’t think any of you are “wrong” for loving Fury Road. I can even see why you do. In a lot of ways, I hate what the internet has done to the experience of seeing movies. Before it became a thing, half of the time you wouldn’t know a movie was coming before it was here. Announcing these movies four or more years prior to their release could seem like a good thing on paper. You’ll have almost four years to promote and create hype for your movie. But it goes both ways. That’s four years that detractors have to poke holes in every piece of news you release. And also, movies are over-advertised to us now. I try my best to avoid trailers and promotional videos, interviews, set photographs, rumors, and all of the things that have become commonplace in the time it takes to produce a movie after making it known to the world that it will be coming. But if you spend a lot of time on the internet, that becomes impossible. It’s almost a daily thing, now, a new tidbit of information about that movie or show or whatever it is that everybody is looking forward to. Look at Deadpool, hell, look at Batman v Superman. At some point the hype becomes too palpable, and it gives people strong emotional attachments to whatever opinion they’ve formed of the thing before ever even seeing it. Humans can’t have rational conversations about any topic at all if they go into it, already in a frantic state, ready to defend their position with force. Let’s find some common ground, and start talking about some effin’ movies, like grown folk. Can we?