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Is that seriously what they’re calling it? Yeah, I’ve still not stopped saying it. That is a title written by an 11 year old. In a bad way. I mean either they didn’t read it out loud or they are grasping at straws to prove that they’re serious about making Justice League.
Before I go into full “internet-backlasher” mode, let’s look at what this movie is. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, follows on from 2013’s Man of Steel with the story of how that steel man, met Gotham’s Dark Knight and got into a fight. Something that I have been wanting to see for a long, long time and those properly into comics, a lot longer.
With this film being announced back in distant 2014, we have all had a lot of time to speculate and pre-criticise. My family made the excellent point that the very title brings us images of the That Mitchell & Webb Look sketch, Angel Summoner & BMX Bandit, in which two superheroes of those respective names try to co-exist as a crime-fighting duo, yet find a challenge in keeping the latter relevant when the former can “summon a hoard of celestial super-beings”.
Such jokes have been circulating for years, ever since the comic industry, particularly the super-hero sub-genre, first made demands to be taken seriously, with the release of Alan Moore’s masterpiece Watchmen, in the 1980s. The rest of our culture, found it difficult to get past the very clear logical flaw in having Superman, an alien who is basically Hercules with laser-eyes (which would have made taking on the Hydra a little easier, no doubt), either collaborate or fight the insane billionaire genius Batman.
So, the very basic idea, to those unfamiliar with the comics and their glorification of Batman and his American Dream “mortal who becomes more” idea (even though Bruce Wayne is still a man who inherited much of his fortune and thus is less representative of the common man than he is of the current ruling classes), Batman v Superman sounds silly beyond belief.
Well, I can say with confidence that this movie does actually make it make sense. Not only does Batman’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel make sense, the opening few scenes and some of the more philosophical moments later in the runtime, give us a dark and convincing reason why the Dark Knight would find the presence of this Kryptonian Boy Scout in red and blue, offensive to his very core.
What is less well-explained is some of Superman’s hatred for the Bat and why I should wholly sympathise with Supes. This guy often comes across as a vandal who cares only for himself or those he’s already met. We are given a brief montage of him doing good deeds, but not enough for me to think he is anything other than something Batman should probably beat a lesson into.
I suppose that the audience is supposed to sympathise with him because he’s Superman. We’ve had 80 years and 6 major live-action films to get to like this guy. Trouble is, I have never liked him. While I have gotten used to the idea of a hero with near-unlimited power (which I used to think made him more boring, but I feel now gives him simply another way the guy can be complex), we more often than not get someone who irresponsibly causes problems than solves them.
Let me put it this way, while everyone says that “Superman doesn’t kill people”, I have never once heard him explicitly state that as a rule, not even after snapping Zod’s neck at the end of Man of Steel. And the death toll climbs.
What’s good though about this, is that we have an excellent cause to sympathise with Ben Affleck as the new Batman. Despite the whines of the Internet, the man is an excellent protector of Gotham. Given more time in his own movies, I feel that he can prove himself to be possibly, dare I say it, the best actor to don the cape and cowl I’ve ever seen! (Except Kevin Conroy and Adam West, because they were and continue to be perfect!)
Speaking of casting, it’s all pretty solid. Henry Cavill, though his character lacks literally any fun or camp that the great Christopher Reeve bestowed unto him, does make a convincing Demi-God. Maybe he’s a little too good. Affleck when playing Bruce Wayne, works in a little of that dumb playboy act that the character puts on to make him more invisible. Cavill as Clark Kent certainly puts on the glasses (which I’m so glad doesn’t stop Amy Adams’ Lois Lane from recognising him) but he never appears to play the nerd that Metropolis deserves. I suppose with a jaw-line like that, nobody can possibly direct him to be geeky.
I always thought that Jesse Eisenberg would make a good choice for Lex Luthor and I feel I was right. However, and I never thought I would say this, tone it down Jesse. I get that you’re trying to be awkward yet confident, but take a few more notes from yourself in The Social Network and a few less from Jared Leto in the new Suicide Squad trailer! Also, he should not be Lex Junior, just saying.
Zack Snyder is back as the director, having helmed Man of Steel. I think that Snyder definitely has some talent,, just look at 300 or Watchmen. For all those movies’ problems, of which there were more in the former than the latter, at least the style worked for the most part as it captured their source materials in a superb way.
However, these Superman films are dreadfully directed. The camera shakes in places it shouldn’t, the colours are all smudged all over the shop, reaction shots go on for way too long and the tone remains at Saving Private Ryan levels of sad. The action is really good, but you don’t have to zoom in and shake the camera in every dialogue scene. You’re not making a found-footage movie, you’re making Batman v Superman!
Once this expanded universe, which this movie, with hits and misses, sets up, gets into gear, it would be cool to see the vision of some other directors and cinematographers. What if Allejandro G. Inniritu took on a movie version of Teen Titans, or David Lynch did something at Arkham Asylum?! Long shot, but you never know! Heck, before Citizen Kane, Orson Welles wanted to make a The Phantom movie!
This movie currently sits at approximately 29% with critics on Rotten Tomatoes. While these aggregators should never be the basis of one’s assessment of a movie’s quality and are one of the signs of our world’s lack of interest in reading actual criticism and desire to place a number on something, this should act as an indication that it’s reception from the critical class has not been the warmest.
You know what? For all of Jesse Eisenberg’s occasional Mark Hamilising, Superman’s terrible actions, a dozen moments which make no sense and directional and writing decisions that genuinely made me turn around and ask what the hell I was watching, I think this movie’s pretty good.
There is some epicness about the fight between these two giants of pop-culture. Some of the philosophy involved is actually pretty thought-provoking, indicating at ideas that, with a little script polish could have elevated this flick into a proper classic.
If you hated this movie, I get it, I really do. However, if you will indulge me, I can’t deny that there were enough moments that made me smile at how cool it was that I can’t say that I feel entirely the same way.
Plus, this really isn’t the low-point of either of these film franchises. Not to sound like every other internet film commentator ever, but I didn’t see a single bat-nipple or Nuclear Man anywhere in sight!
Recommended Scenario: It doesn’t matter, you’re probably going to see this anyway. It’s Batman v Superman!
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