“That son of a bitch brought the war to us two years ago. Jesus, Alfred, count the dead… thousands of people. What’s next? Millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty… and we have to destroy him.” This quote comes from DC Entertainment’s (Warner Brothers) next entry in their DC Extended Universe called Batman v Superman. About a week ago, I had the pleasure of seeing this film with my good friend Jeff (a.k.a. @ on Twitter). Batman v Superman is one of those films that is big on spectacle and visuals, but kind of weak on characterization and plot development. It’s not to say that Batman v Superman is a bad film. Far from it. It’s actually a pretty entertaining film, but it does have its flaws.
The film begins with a quick retelling of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents and then flashes forward to the Battle of Metropolis. We learn that Bruce (Batman) is present during this event and it is from here, the story unfolds. Superman (Clark Kent) is regarded as a controversial figure in the world where some see him as an emblem of hope, while others consider him a threat to humanity. For Bruce, Superman is a threat that needs to be destroyed, while Clark regards Batman as a vigilante who needs to be stopped. Thanks to some manipulating on Lex Luthor’s part, both Batman and Superman come to blows. After a brutal clash, Batman attempts to finish Superman off with a kryptonite spear, but Superman with Lois Lane’s help implores Batman to “save Martha.” After hearing this, Batman realizes that Superman is not a threat and promises to rescue Martha, while Superman deals with Luthor. Luthor, however, won’t go down quietly. With the use of Kryptonian technology, Luthor unleashes Doomsday upon our heroes who are able to bring him down with the help of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), but at a costly price.
One thing I loved about this film was how they made Batman (Ben Affleck) seemingly fight in the style of the Arkham games. It was so awesome! Of course, the Batmobile, Batplane, and other gadgets utilized by Batman were cool as well. Another thing I loved about this film was the introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Gadot proved to be right choice for playing Wonder Woman. Not only, could she handle her own against Affleck and Henry Cavill (Superman), but also Wonder Woman’s musical theme was the best in the entire film. I also loved when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman come together to fight Doomsday. The three of them standing together ready for battle (see below) was so cool! Amy Adams as Lois, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch, and Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves were superb in their roles. Jeremy Irons as Alfred was another great casting move as Irons’ sarcasm and wit matched perfectly with Affleck’s cynicism and brooding as Batman.
My biggest problem with the film was the execution of the story (i.e. how the plot develops and characterization). For the most part, the conflict between these two titans of the DC Universe, seemed to be unnecessary. Not knocking the fight, itself (which wasn’t too bad), but I think the build up to the conflict was a little convoluted. In my opinion, a better set up utilizing both Batman’s and Superman’s view points about what constitutes justice would have worked better than having Batman’s paranoia or Superman’s arrogance as the vehicle for starting the battle. Basically, a clash of ideologies would have made more sense than an actually confrontation. To me, the film should have been more focused on getting Batman and Superman to unite together against a common enemy. Or better yet, tell a story about how the DC Trinity came together and fought Doomsday. In the end, I truly believe that with a better writing team who understand both Batman and Superman, the film would have been improved and may have garnered some more positive reviews.
Editing in this film was a little off at times, but this may be due to keeping the run time to under two and half hours. I’m looking forward to watching the uncut version to see if any editing issues remain. Another problem I had with the film was Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor. While, Eisenberg did capture Luthor’s lack of empathy very well, his overall performance felt a little unhinged, which is uncharacteristic of the Luthor character. Perhaps, I’m a little bias here because I was hoping for either Mark Strong or Bryan Cranston to be cast as Luthor, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Eisenberg got the part, instead. To me, Lex Luthor should be cold and calculating. Not quirky and crazy. Luthor isn’t the Joker or Toyman. He isn’t insane or awkward. Luthor is suave and brilliant. He also craves power and control, which I found to be lacking in Eisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor.
I know some people were bothered with Batman killing thugs or Superman acting mopey. I think these criticisms are valid, but they didn’t bother me as much because I view the Batman and Superman in this film as a different iteration of the characters from the comics. You don’t have to buy my reasoning, but Batman killing thugs isn’t a new thing. In fact, in his earliest appearances, Batman killed criminals often (see picture below). And, let us not forget, the Tim Burton films where Batman killed as well. One of the best examples happen in Batman Returns where Batman puts dynamite in one of Penguin’s henchman’s pants and then knocked him into a sewer drain as it explodes. Classic Burton right there. Batman killing thugs in Batman v Superman could have been a direct nod to these past incarnations and may have been a plot point, in which Batman may have become crueler over the years as a result of all the things that transpired (i.e. Robin being killed). Perhaps, Alfred saying this, “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel,” was a hint of what had happen to Bruce.
Superman acting mopey or grim in this film could be another plot point because Superman is still trying to make sense of who he is and how he can help people. I understand how a lot of comic book fans view him as ever optimistic and awe inspiring, but I think the point of the film was for him to discover how he can be a ray of hope in times of darkness. I’m not sure the film succeeds in this aspect, but it did give Jeff (who isn’t a fan of Superman) a more sympathetic and appreciative outlook on the character. In terms of sympathy, I think the audience is suppose to side with Superman, even though Batman had a valid, but flawed reason for fearing Superman. In fact, I would say that Batman was becoming more like the villains he fought in Gotham in the film, and it was because of Superman’s sacrifice or pleading for Batman to “save Martha” that made him return to his heroic self. This line of thinking isn’t new as evidence by the picture below I found on Tumblr where a uncle had a conversation with his nephew about Superman saving Batman. I would argue that Batman represents mankind’s cynicism, violent behavior, and darkness, while Superman is mankind’s aspiration to be greater and ray of light that shines over the darkness. While, the film succeeds with this point about Batman, I think it falls short with Superman. Perhaps, to the film makers, having an awe inspiring or hopeful Superman just didn’t fit, which is a shame.
Overall, I enjoyed Batman v Superman for the visuals, Batfleck, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and the action sequences. Could the film have been better? Absolutely. Does Batman v Superman deserve all this criticism? Probably, not. Are the fans right in saying the critics are Marvel fanboys? Not in the slightest. Could both critics and fans be correct in their view points? In my opinion, yes they are. I think Kevin Smith summed up Batman v Superman perfectly, “I’d said the film didn’t have any heart, but after the second viewing, I actually found the heart in #batmanvsuperman: it’s in the viewer. And the viewer I watched the blockbuster with the second time was all agog, eyes as big as saucers. During the Knightmare sequence, we shared a moment that even elevated the flick for me: when the winged New Gods nasties attack #Batman and take him down, Jay (age 40) & I (age 45) simultaneously looked at one another and whispered reverently “ParaDemons.” It was a beautiful moment shared by two lifelong fanboys who were delighted to see their childhood flash before their eyes.” As one can see, Kevin Smith found Batman v Superman, at first, not to have a heart, but after a second viewing, he was able to find it by sharing the experience with his friend Jason Mewes. When it comes down to it, don’t let critics, friends, or any one else influence you on whether you like or hate a film. The only critic you should trust is yourself.
In the end, visually and entertainment wise, Batman v Superman was an 8 out of 10, while the story was about a 6 or 7. Overall, I give Batman v Superman a 7.5 out of 10.