Review–Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Standard

Late in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Anderson Cooper, in one of the film’s countless celebrity cameos, says, “It’s not clear what just happened.” I think Anderson speaks for all of us, as this film, pitting two of the most iconic American figures against each other, is pretty much incoherent. However, it is not the disaster that some are calling it. It’s a great idea in the wrong hands.

Those hands are Zack Snyder, perhaps the worst high-profile director in Hollywood today (that’s a high bar, considering Michael Bay and Brett Ratner still walk the Earth). But he makes the studio money, and though Batman v. Superman was ripped by critics, it still set box office records. For all those people who saw the movie this weekend, it’s a shame that this wasn’t properly handled.

For one thing, I liked Ben Affleck as Batman. There, I said it. His Bruce Wayne is a little older, thicker in the middle (but still buff) and angry. Wayne Manor is a ruin (I suppose why will be addressed in a future film) and lives instead in a modern house with floor-to-ceiling windows (but where is the Batcave?). Alfred, played with gruff authority by Jeremy Irons, tinkers underground, while Affleck is having casual sex (he also, I believe, utters the first curse word in the character’s history, a softly muttered “Oh, shit”). After years of battling criminals, he’s pissed off at the arrival of Superman from the sky, who is being treated like a god even after destroying most of Metropolis in his fight with General Zod.

The film starts off on the wrong foot with once again showing the murder of Batman’s parents. By my count we’ve seen this in three films–enough already. Then we get the young Bruce Wayne falling in a hole and being surrounded by bats. Instead of being afraid of them, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman was, Affleck is levitated by them, literally. This was included, I suppose, as both characters are mama’s boys, with the crucial fact being that there mother’s names are Martha.

I won’t try to summarize the whole movie because it has enough in there for several movies, with many beginnings and endings. Suffice it to say that the tiff between superheroes is egged on by Lex Luthor, this time played by a twitchy Jesse Eisenberg. He’s a rich dude who is troubled by Superman being treated like a god, and there’s some good dialogue in there, rife with Nietzschian overtones, if only we could listen to it and not want to punch Eisenberg in the face. He wants to get his hands on Kryptonite so Superman can be defeated (when you create a superhero with only one weakness, it kind of limits plot possibilities).

So when these two stand off against each other, with Superman’s overwhelming strength matched by Batman’s cunning, I had to admit I was kind of stirred. Their fight scene, like the rest of the action, has too many concrete walls being broken, but I found this to be the best part of the movie, despite Batman’s ridiculous body armor. I also thought there were other good ideas raised. Early in the film, Superman rescues Lois Lane from African terrorists. How would Superman deal with ISIS, or Boko Haram, or Hamas? One of the uncomfortable things about reckoning with superheroes is that they can’t exist in the real world. Superman sees a girl trapped in a burning building in Juarez. Seconds later he’s there, rescuing her. What a world like that be?

The film also lays out the future D.C. Universe films (there are ten films with release dates so far). Most prominently we get Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She slinks through the film like a sexy panther, catching Affleck’s eye, but doesn’t do battle until the end of the film. Next year she will get her first film, and I’m hopeful, as long as Snyder has nothing to do with it.

So watching Batman v. Superman is a draining and mostly depressing experience. It’s kind of like being bludgeoned, as Snyder has no ability at subtly. He uses one of his favorite things–a bullet in slow motion–over and over again, and a movie at two and a half hours does not need slow motion footage. The atmosphere is mostly dark and brooding, and it made me long for the light touch of Marvel in films like Guardians of the the Galaxy and The Avengers. For whatever their weaknesses are, at least they are fun. Batman v. Superman is like a funeral (which the film ends with, but I’m not telling you whose).

There is hope, though. Before the film a trailer for The Lego Batman Movie ran. I am sure that will be a much better film.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

16 responses »

  1. I had very low expectations because of the terrible reviews and not really being a fan of these types of films (I was only seeing it because a friend was in town).

    So I was surprised to find it kept be interested and was generally OK with it. Maybe it helped that I didn’t have much invested in it as I’m not a real comic-book fan or modern comic-book movies; tbh I didn’t particularly care for the Nolan Batman movies that I saw.

    Certainly, there are a lot of flaws in the film. It had at least one dream sequence too many, a lot of the action was incoherent (as is the modern style) and had me tuning out, too much plot, the film lasted 15 minutes too long after the action finale, etc…

    But I thought many of the ideas and concepts presented in the film were quite intriguing (by big-budget comic-book standards anyway). The concept of Batman & Superman becoming enemies was fairly well done. And like JS, I thought Affleck was surprisingly good as Batman/Wayne and arguably more interesting in the role than Bale was. Irons was good support too.

    I’m not saying this film is a gem, but as a way to kill time on a weekend afternoon it was fine enough.

  2. Like I commented during last week, the extremely hostile early word-of-mouth towards the film was arguably more interesting than the film itself.

    Having seen it now, some of the more extreme negativity about the film perhaps stems from those who are so invested in these characters and comic-book culture. I saw it mentioned by one critic that this was the worst comic-book film ever made. Geez, obviously that person never saw Catwoman.

    And I sense there has been a bit of a backlash towards the backlash on social media with the more sensible consensus that while this isn’t a great film it’s hardly the unwatchable monstrosity that some were suggesting initially.

  3. A great breakdown of the film. My favorite part:

    Hey, Zack Snyder is no Michael Bay.

    You’re right. Zack Snyder is much worse. Michael Bay thinks explosions are awesome and stories are dumb. Zack Snyder actually hates you.

    What do you mean?

    This is a movie made out of disdain. Disdain for the nerds. Disdain for the audiences. Disdain for the kids whose parents might accidentally take them to see a movie starring their favorite superheroes. Disdain for the source material. He thinks he knows better than all of us what Batman and Superman should be, even if fans, critics, and mass audiences tell him otherwise.

  4. Re: that article, I’m baffled that Bricken is bemoaning how ill-suited BvS is for young children when it’s pretty obvious for many years that big-budget superhero films aren’t aimed at children but at adults. As has been well-documented the amount of adults who love and desire comic-book big-budget films is probably the biggest growth audience in cinema in the past 10 years and why studios keep churning them out.

    It’s so obvious that BvS isn’t aimed at children that Bricken arguing so is being disingenuous and just looking for another excuse to take potshots at BvS (as if there aren’t enough areas already to criticise it on).

  5. I disagree somewhat. It is true that Nolan’s Batman films were not aimed at kids, but almost all the Marvel films are, except for Deadpool, of course.

  6. Fair enough. But in this individual example, anyone who saw any of the advertising or trailers for this film (or seen Snyder’s Man Of Steel) would know that BvS isn’t a film for children.

  7. The percentage of people over 25 who went to this movie is absurd. I can’t find the link, but these movies are for nothing but adults. To think they’re even bothering to have kids come to these is nuts.

  8. It’s a great movie, no joke. Top notch action, fun characters and a surprising amount of heart for a summer blockbuster.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s