My Opinion on Batman v Superman
I have been a Batman fanatic for over thirty years. I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours thinking, reading, and writing about the character. I even continue to watch Gotham every week on Fox. Even though it’s not very good. I Love Batman.
Needless to say, I get excited when a new Batman movie comes out and until recently I’ve gone into the cinema expecting to blindly love the movie. So “Of course”, you’ll say… “Of course Tyler is going to give BvS a good review”.
But here’s the thing. I have an admission to make… I only “liked” Batman Begins and I really really “Did NOT like” The Dark Knight Rises. I tried to convince myself I liked both of those movies more than I did. Begins gave us a plausible origin story for the character after all, and Rises followed the, arguably, greatest comic book movie ever made in The Dark Knight. Of course I hated Batman & Robin – everyone did… even George Clooney. But the public admission that I didn’t like Rises is a big deal for me. Nothing against the filmmakers or the performers. I loved the little as possible use of CGI that Chris Nolan used; and I love Christian Bales’s Bruce Wayne. All the villains were incredibly cast and interpreted with respect. This trilogy – TDK aside – just didn’t quite jive with my very personal take on the character.
My point is I will not pretend to love a movie just because it’s a Batman movie anymore.
When Man of Steel came out it was met with a great deal of criticism. The destruction of Metropolis in the final scene was the major point of contention. Of course, there was criticism of Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the character. Unfortunately many people still have Christopher Reeve’s iconic version of Superman in their heads. They don’t want to believe that that version of the character, from the 1970s and 80s belonged to a different world. He wouldn’t fit in 2016 and he’d be decried as campy and ridiculous. Alas…
Then shock waves were scattered across the geek universe when Zach Snyder did the unthinkable. He cast Ben Affleck as Batman. The man who everyone hated as Daredevil more than 10 years ago was given the responsibility of playing the most popular comic book character ever. It might have been one of the most over blown, negative, hateful days the Internet has ever experienced (as far as trivial issues like who got cast in a comic book movie goes).
Here’s the thing…
“You can’t judge an actor on a performance they haven’t yet given… or a performance you haven’t yet seen.”
How can you possibly judge something you haven’t seen? You can’t! It’s not possible. It’s ignorance in action. It’s beneath everyone. Everyone.
Anyhoo, back to the topic on hand.
On March 26th, 2016 I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…
and “I really really Liked it”!
The plot of this movie is an organic continuation on where we left off with the events of Man of Steel. In fact the first act of the movie is partially set during the climactic scene from MoS; this time from Bruce Wayne’s point of view. Wayne sees first hand just how powerful and destructive the Kryptonians are and how necessary it is to be able to put them in check.
The world seems divided in their opinion on Superman. The movie touches on very current themes of immigration and open mindedness toward what we don’t (or don’t want to) understand.
Superman is literally called before the government to answer for his actions. The government wants to control the uncontrollable. And it scares the hell out of them.
Enter Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg). Imagine this: a successful and well-known Billionaire uses his celebrity and wealth to influence the public opinion in a negative way toward an “illegal alien”. Turns out, he’s a psychopath. Remember this was made two years ago. Yikes.
Lex makes a plan to take out Superman (by obtaining Kryptonite of course). Bruce, in full spy mode, discovers the plan and plots to intercept the Kryptonite and use it himself. A mysterious and very beautiful brunette (Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman), intercepts Bruce’s plan to intercept Lex’s plan and… well… wrenches are thrown into everyone’s plans…
Eventually Bruce and Diana come to an understanding that they are on the same side and they work together. Diana gives Bruce the encrypted hard drive that she stole from Lex so he can read the contents. He discovers the Kryptonite location AND files on Wonder Woman and several other “meta-humans”. There is even video footage of them. Here’s your future Justice League cameos. Very brief. Any criticism of these clips is pure Much Ado About Nothing. They are cool Easter Eggs for DC fans to enjoy. ‘Nuff said.
Bruce finds the kryptonite and decides to use it to take Superman out. He’s gone to the darkside (pardon the pun) and is ready to do what is, he feels, needed despite Alfred’s (beautifully played by Jeremy Irons) objections. He doesn’t just rely on the Kryptonite. This is a Bruce Wayne who readies himself. Affleck clearly understood the importance of this part of playing Batman. There’s a short training sequence and we see just how BIG Affleck got himself to play the role. He’s jacked up huge.
Despite losing his kryptonite (and Batman makes sure he knows who has it) Lex turns to his plan B – which involves the corpse of General Zod (Michael Shannon and the easiest pay check he’s ever received). He also recognizes that he has two thorns in his side in Batman and Superman and pits them against each other. Lex uses Lois (Amy Adams who has way more to do in this film that I would have imagined) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) to help entice Clark. Yup, Lex knows his secret identity. Kill Batman or Martha gets toasted. Superman has no choice and heads across the bay to a waiting Batman. Here’s the “v” in the title.
The battle itself is well shot and very exciting. It’s much shorter than I expected it to be. It’s set in an abandoned building in Gotham that is chalk full of graffiti Easter eggs from Bat Rogues. They both get in great jabs. Bruce classically displays a “readiness” for the battle and Clark classically displays that Bruce needs all the help he can get.
The fight is ended however when both Clark and Bruce’s Moms make them stop fighting. Seriously.
It’s their mothers who prove to be the catalysts that make them play nice and join forces. Just in time too because while they were scrapping, Lex gets plan B ready to let loose on the city. The silly trailers for this film let the plan B cat out the bag already so there’s no point in not mentioning it’s not Doomsday (created from Zod’s DNA). He’s a powerful foe and even Batman and Superman need help defeating him. Enter Diana in full Wonder Woman glory to do some serious ASS KICKING underscored by some heavy metal rock guitar. (I’ve heard criticism of the score for this movie and I just want to know exactly what music you want to listen to when watching the DC Trinity fight a friggin’ monster with super powers?)
A massive battle ensues. The DC Trinity v Doomsday. Blood is shed. Sacrifices are made. The forces of good win the battle. And realize they must prepare for the War… without their big gun. It is the “dawn” of something big.This film puts great effort into covering a lot of ground. Yes, the movie is a big old set up for the upcoming DC movies, and it makes no apologies about this fact. Questions are asked and their answers remain forthcoming. But that is kind of the point in a set up isn’t it?
Anyone who was worried about the casting choices in this flick can stop worrying. There isn’t a bad performance in the movie. My least favourite was Jessie Eisenberg’s Luthor, but he made very strong, very original choices for the character I respect that. Just because it wasn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean it was bad.
Gal Gadot made the absolute most out of her limited screen time and I for one am stoked to see her solo Wonder Woman flick. She was strong, smart and sexy.
Henry Cavill’s Superman is, as it was in MOS, terrifically played. Playing Superman is no easy task. The character has been around for eight decades. He means so much to so many. AND he’s practically indestructible with one Achilles heel. It’s easy to see how many people think it’s a boring character. In this movie we are given a man torn between the man he wants to be and the limitations of what the world will let him be. Save us when we need you, and stay out of sight if we don’t. It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation which is exactly what Snyder and the writers were going for. Cavill won’t be winning any oscars for this role, but he won’t get any razzes either.
The haters have been going after Ben Affleck since it was announced a few years ago that he was cast as Batman. I hope he is enjoying seeing all the reviews (even the bad ones for the film) almost unanimously agree that his performance is terrific. We have a very different Batman from the ones we’ve seen in the last 30 years. He’s much closer to the version I’ve always wanted to see.
Affleck seems to have ticked all the boxes the fans have wanted and is still getting a lot of disrespect despite his clear success in playing this part. There’s no weird put on Bat voice here (it’s computer generated). he uses the grappling gun and batarangs the way they are used in the Arkham games and the animated versions, (so visually cool) and the fight sequences are bloody brilliant. There’s the brutality of a guy who doesn’t mind cracking some skulls mixed in with the theatricality one wants from a ninja taking out a couple of dozen thugs with guns.
We also get a very different Bruce Wayne in this movie. He’s not a teetotaler whose Playboy persona is a façade. This guy is sucking the Wayne wine cellar dry and waking up… well, not alone. Affleck rocks the tux, drives cool cars and engages in espionage without the cape and cowel. He’s suave, sophisticated and seething all in one beefed up package. If this isn’t what you want out of your Bruce Wayne, I don’t know what will please you.
A lot of people are angry with this Batman’s lax stance on killing. But, aside from a dream sequence, he doesn’t murder anyone in this film. There is collateral damage and Bruce seems okay with that. (Not really different from Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer or Christian Bale’s version of the character). This is a guy who has not only seen his parents murdered in front of him, but a partner has been slaughtered by, we presume, his arch enemy and now he witnesses a half a city get levelled in one day by super powered aliens. His priorities change because of all of this. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it is also quite believable. Thankfully he finds his way back to his code by the end of the film. You’ll notice he makes the decision to NOT brand Lex at their final meeting. A clear sign he’s turning back into the man he was when he started his crusade. Affleck gets top marks from me in the role.
The major success of this film is proving to a divided world that they need Superman. As with most difficult lessons, this one is learned the hard way. When Superman is removed from the equation what is “this” world to do? Replacements must be found. Wonder Woman has already returned from her self-imposed exile and Batman climbs out of his dark abyss of cruelty and brutality to be leader the world so desperately needs. Superman represents all the goodness and potential of humanity. To be all-powerful AND incorruptible. To be faced with hard decisions and choose the right path even though it may be the hardest path. In his absence, those who believe in his ideals must unite. It would take many gifted people to fill his shoes. The movie ends with a Batman who chooses to find these gifted people and lead them according to Superman’s example so he can atone for failing Superman in life. This leaves us with the ultimate message of the house of El.