Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Of course I made it out to the opening night for the cage match all superhero fans have been waiting for. And I was nervous. Heck, back when they announced it I was concerned over the scope of the film. As details emerged, I became more and more concerned that the scope of the film would exceed what could be done over the course of a couple hours (which the running time of the flick does exceed, but not quite enough for the story they needed to tell).

When the reviews started rolling in and were primarily negative, I was feeling somewhat heartbroken, although still hopeful since most of these folks seemed to need to comment how marvel could do no wrong (meaning they must have missed iron man 3 and age of ultron).

Needless to say, although I’m one of those folks who consider man of Steel to be a solid flick, I feared this movie could mark the death of superman in film.

After seeing the movie, I find myself incredibly conflicted. Although most of the negatives stated by others against the film, it still has so much amazing stuff going on in it.

So, let’s start with the negatives. This film suffers from trying to do too much. Not only do we get the requisite batman origin story (something that was needed to set up who this batman is, but could have been done without using the way overused death of Martha and Thomas sequence that every bat-flick has to steal from frank miller), but we also get the titular battle, background on what’s been going on the last two years, origin on lex luthor (only sorta),  and a whole host of things that just mentioning could be considered spoilers. This movie is stuffed to the brim with set up, both for this flick and the upcoming ones. My guess is that just like age of ultron had to much studio involvement for the purposes of building a franchise, this flick was doomed from the start.

To Snyder’s credit, most of this set up fed directly into the current movie, but still caused the whole thing to feel bloated. And most importantly, it meant that time had to be taken away from the pieces that would have made the movie make a lot more sense. I’m guessing there’s a five hour director’s cut somewhere that causes many of the narrative issues to be patched up.

The other big complaint is about character choices. I honestly like most of them. Lex was annoying, but no more annoying than gene Hackman’s version… And much more maniacal. Batman goes back to his initial roots, and I could talk for hours about how I appreciate how they’re building superman to become superman, as opposed to him just starting out as perfect. The build of his dichotomy between god and man could end up to be brilliant (more later on how a lot of my feelings toward this and MoS rely on how the franchise moves forward).

There is plenty of places where this movie falls short. I think the characters choices aren’t one. These are some heavily beloved icons of pop culture who mean something to almost everyone.  That’s why everyone freaks out every time a new batman is announced. They have their expectations and anything that goes against them immediately causes an outcry. I think if you look at the comics, you’ll easily find these characterizations have a place in the character histories (just realize that The Watchmen was initially written with batman as rorschach and superman as Dr Manhatten, and I think you’ll note some easy similarities to what’s being done here) . And, more importantly, these characterizations have an amazing story they could tell.

I think that’s even more apparent when you note how very few people seem to care that Aquaman looks nothing like any version of him we’ve ever seen ever. Or the fact that wonder woman has only 16 lines (based on some random Internet source), seems to be based off the least beloved comic version of the character, and she is being touted as the best part of the movie (I’ll admit, she’s definitely a strong highlight).

But the point I’m wanting to get at here is that I think this movie is good. Maybe not the movie I wanted it to be, but definitely better than Age of Ultron, which is a fairer comparison than most Marvel flicks, considering scope of story being told. Civil War will be an even better comparison when it finally comes out.

And I want to highlight that I believe this is a highly superior movie to Ultron. You marvel fan boys can disagree all you want, I’m digging in my heels on this one.

And here’s why :

First, batman and superman aren’t moody, they’re men with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The avengers spend their time playing and partying when they’ve got time off, this batman and superman don’t have time off. And every failure in their performance causes them to sink even deeper into their own personal abysses.

There’s a wonderful scene between Clark and Lois/Bruce and Alfred that highlights this succinctly.

But this movie also shows that this may be the end of that. The ideal behind the justice league, as Bruce discusses by the end of this movie, is that this world saving business can’t be done alone. This movie ends with a sense of hope, coming from batman himself, a character who, in film at least, has not had a hint of hope at all.

Where I see the true brilliance in this movie is that it harbors a literary allusion to the end of the dark and grim DC and a beginning to one that fights to make things better.

But there is so much more to love about this movie than just that. So much. If only people will give it a chance. Sure, the bat-dreams get confusing and are mostly unnecessary, but they do give us a glimpse that Crisis is coming.

And watching lex have a full fledged strategic plan to take down the one man he considers a threat is a lex that the movies has never done justice, and honestly the only reason comic book Lex is actually a bad guy.

You should love this movie because it has the prospect of being so amazing in retrospect. Like Empire Strikes Back. I cant imagine folks left the theater entirely happily when that movie first came out, and they barely knew the characters. But coming from Jedi, that movie makes a lot of sense, and it considered by many to be the best of the original trilogy.

There are some serious storytelling issues with BvS, but it’s also the most real superhero flick I’ve seen. And I think it did my man Supes a heck of a lot of “justice”.

 

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