Coming off the heels of Man of Steel, one of the most divisive Superhero films to date, we have Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And this one is sure to be as controversial. I will tell you flat out that I liked Man of Steel and I liked Dawn of Justice, a lot in fact. I will have to see it again to process it, but right now. I like it. But, hey…lets crack into this movie. I will try to break this movie down into what I like, and what I think others may not like. We are all human, different taste and all. Mild Spoilers ahead.
First, this movie is dark. So dark in fact I think I see why it could have gotten an ‘R’ rating. Batman v Superman is not a traditional Superhero movie. It’s a horror film. We can argue if this is a good thing or not; grafting horror on to a Superhero picture and one with Superman in it at that, but I think it fits with Batman and I still want to see a Batman movie that is full on Horror Movie. Mind you, I say this as someone that is not crazy about that genre. Well, slashers anyway. I think you have to keep that in mind when watching this film. The tension in so high and the steaks get very personal.
When the film starts, it starts with the murder of the Wayne’s intercut with their funeral with Ben Affleck doing the Voice over, walking us threw his dream. It’s all darkly beautiful, and clearly Zack Snyder. It also reminded me of Batman Forever with Young Bruce running away from in all and falling into a Bat cave. In this film though, it’s not one giant symbolic Bat that comes after him, rather the whole colony. It ends with Bruce being afraid then accepting, then floating upward with the bats. You see, I think this film sets somewhere between a dream and reality, symbols and facts. I don’t think everyone will like it. The film also gets, well, weirder.
One thing that Marvel does are the end credit scenes. These have been in more than just Marvel films, but Marvel uses it as a tool to showcase an Easter egg and let you know what may come. While I like most of them, I think most don’t work and have to be slightly retconed. In this film, all the eggs are in the basket for you to find. And I think they work. Of course only future films will dictate just how well they do. But they only lay the foundation for what is to come. But what is this film about, why are Batman and Superman even fighting?
From the trailers we get the idea that Bruce hates Superman for all the destruction in Man of Steel. The through line of the film is that Superman is an unchecked power, a god so to speak. But more importantly, how this power affects Superman. Again, I don’t think this will set well. It is a serious question that weighs on him in this movie. There is a line in this movie, I want to say it is in the trailer, but it goes something like, “Maybe Superman is just a guy trying to do the right thing.” And that’s the problem; rather, that’s his problem. In most stories when Superman shows up everything gets rather hunky-dory, rainbows shoot down and everyone is in love with Superman. But frankly, if the world is that happy what need is there of Superman. I think we kinda see the answer to that in the Donner films. After he falls in love, he gives it all up. And if you take both Superman I and the Donner cut of Superman II, it all takes place in the span of two days. But I think part of the narrative is that the idea of Superman is something that’s so hard to live up to, that it weighs you down. In that, it becomes a weird deconstruction of Superman and his place in the world, and how Lex and Batman are trying to tear that all down. Speaking of The Batman.
While, I’m not sure if Ben Affleck is the best Batman, frankly, he is the Goddamn Batman. While I think parts of the film is a Batman story and part of the film is a Superman story. It is Batman that shines brightest. Dawn of Justice, I think, does a pretty good job of showing you their respective worlds and crossing them over there is just a lot of weight to it all. Part of Clark’s story is doing an article on Batman and his increasingly violent nature. Bruce in the film has a growing distrust of Superman. It is all a slow burn until both sides reach its tipping point. The interesting thing that this film does is make the tipping point more personal. It shifts focus to something direr for Clark. The film also has to do the job of expounding the DC Universe. We see glimpses of the other League members, and they don’t overcrowd the film. They are Easter eggs. And not throw away end credit scenes either. Rather something that speaks to the larger world.
The Relationship between Lois and Clark in this film works better I think than in any other iteration of the par. It feels real and genuine as well as a driving narrative piece. Lois also has more to do in the film. She has a stand out moment near the climax of the film. Wonder Woman works well in the film. You may hear things like she has a standout performance. Take that with a grain of salt. I only say that because she doesn’t do a lot throughout the film. She has a bit of a cat and mouse thing with Bruce. Its cute to watch that play out so when you hear that line, “Is she with you?” you smile or laugh because it has a bit more weight to it. Make no mistake though, when Wonder Woman appeared in the Fan Screening event I went to, the theater erupted twice when she came on screen. Like I said, she works. If there is one misstep, for me, it would have to be Lex Luthor. Not Jesse Eisenberg’s performance, just the characters motivation. I am not sure there is one. But Eisenberg’s performance in one that is unhinged. He plays slightly eccentric and deathly serious. There is a scene in which Lex is giving a speech and you see the character break. He gets lost in his speech and goes off on this tangent. He is lost and disjointed. Some may say that this film feels that way. But again, I think this film is set somewhere between dream and reality, symbol and fact. There is a painting hanging in Lex’s office that he wants to turn upside-down because it changes the meaning of the picture. Weird, disjointed, unhinged, Lex Luthor. And I loved every moment he was on screen. Most may not; will not like it at al.
For me, Batman v Superman felt like a Frank Miller story drawn by Jim Lee, tossed in a bit of that Jack Kirby DC Comics weirdness. I can’t wait to see what other tricks this new DCEU has in store for us. As always, See you in the Theater.