On Wednesday, I went with a friend of mine to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Since my viewing, I have had some interesting conversations about the film after telling people that not only did I enjoy it, I think it was a pretty good movie. It has felt like for the past few days, it has become my job to explain over and over again why I liked the movie. The funniest portion of this conversation to me has been that those who have disliked it often respond in a way that indicates they are almost offended by my enjoyment, an inversion of Schadenfreude if you will. This cracks me up a bit; it is as though my like of the film is a direct shot at them instead of a simple differing of opinions. Just as a warning, this will get into Spoiler territory, so if you don’t want to know anything about the film, I suggest you read no further.
I have long been a fan of Zack Snyder films. Not in the same way that I love the Coen brothers, Guillermo Del Toro or Tarantino, but in the “Hey! That flick was a damn good time.” His films have a look to them which is both beautiful and gritty. For many, 300 was a revelation, a movie the likes of which had never been seen before. Then came Watchmen and the beginning of the popular past time of ragging on Zack Snyder films. Granted, his next film Sucker Punch was a bit of a weird jumble of god knows what, yet somewhere in there is a movie worth watching. Then came Man of Steel, a movie which should have been amazing, but stumbled a bit out of the gate and never really regained its footing. Though there were many story problems with his first outing with Superman, the one thing Man of Steel did do well is establish a universe which was well suited for the DC characters. In the end, Batman v Superman was able to expand on and improve that world in many ways. Snyder got excellent performances out of his actors while also creating a movie which was visually appealing. Don’t lie to yourselves, the fight between our two heroes was pretty ridiculously awesome.
Casting was pretty spot on and the actors did a solid job of holding up their ends of the bargain. Ben Affleck has become easily my favorite Batman ever. The dude blew it out of the water. No one in my memory has captured the angst, paranoia and sheer insanity of a character driven to do what he does. I have heard people complain about Bruce Wayne’s response to the presence of Superman pointing to when he says, ” He has the power to wipe out the entire human race and if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.” A line which hits really close to home considering our current political climate (but that is neither here nor there). The important thing to remember is that this is Batman. The same exact character who destroyed the entire Justice League in Tower of Babel By Mark Waid. This is a character who has a contingency plan to take down every superhero in the DC universe. The nightmare sequences that Bruce has are intense, but spot on from a man with his level of psychosis. The physicality that Affleck brings to the character is even better. He is the first Batman I have ever seen who looks like the character in the comic. Check out the side by side of Affleck and Bale’s takes and tell me I am wrong.
Then there is our villain, Lex Luthor. I was really hoping that we would see Bryan Cranston as Lex, but that would have been the easy route to take. Since we have a relatively young Superman in Henry Cavill, it makes a fair amount of sense to have a younger Lex Luthor. Jesse Eisenberg has a twitchy take on Lex which makes him seem like he is a bit of a clown at first. I hated this villain in every way and isn’t that the point? Eisenberg’s Luthor seems to be playing the clown; a man who can barely get out a coherent sentence. That is the cleverness of the character, his awkwardness is a cover designed solely to disarm. In the moments there are no other characters in the scene with Eisenberg, he shows the true intensity of his character. The clown fades away, and we are left with a man driven by hate who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
As for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, I can’t wait to see her solo film.
Many have shot derision toward the story line, upset about the fact that this is not a direct adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, but there really isn’t enough material in the comic for a two-hour film about this single fight. The Batman vs Superman aspect of that comic only takes up a one issue of the seminal work. David Goyer was incredibly clever with his script by taking the best parts of The Dark Knight Returns and combining it with one of the most controversial and divisive Superman tales, The Death of Superman. Every move the characters took in this movie made total sense.
The tonal quality of the film is dark, there is no hiding that fact. This is actually one of the major complaints of many of the critics. DC is at its best when things are at their darkest. I think that the team for this film really did make this movie for the comic fans, but even some of the fans don’t seem to realize it. Consider for just a moment that many of the best DC comics are some of the darkest comics ever released by the company. The Dark Knight Returns, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Swamp Thing: The Anatomy Lesson, Identity Crises, The Killing Joke and so many more. Even one of the best Superman stories, All Star Superman revolves around the impending death of our hero due to cellular decay. We as viewers have become so accustomed to The Marvel Cinematic Universe and its brand of light action adventure that we have somewhat lost the ability to sit through and enjoy a two and a half hour film which really contemplates the heavier topics of what it means to be a superhero. Maybe this isn’t a superhero movie for the masses, but I feel if core comic fans really consider it, this is indeed a movie designed for them.
I am very excited to see Captain America: Civil War in about two months as I have loved the MCU since its inception. Now after seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I am also looking forward to seeing Suicide Squad.