Sunday, April 17, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Directed by Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jessie Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Lawrence Fishburne, Holly Hunter


I've been avoiding reviews and web forums and blogs about this movie, but I couldn't help hearing that some people are very vocally unhappy with it. After getting my chance to see it, I don't understand why. I enjoyed it. It wasn't without flaws, but I came away feeling pleased and satisfied that I saw it and looking forward with enthusiasm to the movies that are currently slated to follow on is heels.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few things that I particularly liked about this movie:
Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman's lasso
Wonder Woman kicking butt
Setup for the Justice League movie
Setup for the Wonder Woman movie
Darkseid, maybe?

I've also heard a lot of complaints about this movie being dark, both thematically and visually. I didn't find it too dark thematically; this movie is about the moral questions raised by having a person as powerful as Superman in the world. It's also about how Batman has kind of lost his way and his interaction with Superman ultimately helps him find the way back to fighting the good fight. A lot of the film's action also took place at night, so of course it was visually somewhat dark. But not too dark to see what was going on. It wasn't depressing or gloomy or relentlessly unpleasant.

There is a lot going on in this movie. It not only introduces Batman and Superman to each other, it also introduces Wonder Woman to both of them; briefly brings in Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash; and introduces Superman's long-time comic book nemesis Lex Luthor. It lays the initial groundwork for the formation of the Justice League, and hints that the Justice League may be needed to combat a much bigger than human threat (possibly frequent Justice League villain Darkseid).

But most of the movie is about Bruce Wayne/Batman. This is a Batman who's been at it for a long time, and has grown bitter and angry as a result. The events that took place in Man of Steel have made him turn that anger toward Superman, as the surviving representative of the Kryptonians who caused so much destruction in Metropolis. He's lost perspective and become obsessed with punishing Superman for those deaths he couldn't prevent, though he's clearly channeling some of his own anger at himself for not being able to prevent the deaths of his own parents. The story hints at a lot of other details about Batman's life prior to the appearance of Superman, but it doesn't give much information. We don't get to find out why Bruce Wayne has abandoned his family home or what destroyed it. Nor do we know which Robin worked with him or what happened to that Robin. It's only hinted that he even had a sidekick, but I suspect a lot of his bitterness isn't just about not being able to protect his parents; it's about not being able to protect Robin.

As a consequence he's become more of a loner, with only his faithful retainer Alfred to aid him. Alfred is pretty darned useful; he helps construct the Batman armor and pilots the Bat-plane by remote control. But although he remains devoted to Bruce, it's clear he's not at all happy with the direction Bruce's life is going, and he's not reluctant to express his displeasure. Jeremy Irons was brilliant as Alfred.

In the end, of course, Batman and Superman have to work together to defeat a threat. Batman recognizes the error of his ways, thanks to Superman's willingness to sacrifice himself to save lives. One detail I particularly enjoyed was realizing that Bruce Wayne's mother and Clark Kent's mother had the same name, Martha. It's one of those little details that can bond people together.

Most of the Batman versus Superman storyline was inspired by The Dark Knight Returns, but the threat that pulls them together as a team was drawn from The Death of Superman, the comic in which Superman died back in 1992. This time around, though, the monstrous Doomsday isn't an alien killer genetically engineered long ago by the Kryptonians, but a creature created by Lex Luthor from Kryptonian technology and genetic material. Lex in this version of the DC Universe is younger and crazier than his comic-book incarnation, but he's still just as determined to get rid of Superman. Not satisfied with just making a monster to kill Superman, he first tries to ruin Superman's reputation, then threatens the lives of Superman's loved ones. I'm not sure I really liked Jessie Eisenberg in that role, but Lex is such an over-the-top character anyway that Eisenberg didn't really feel too out of place to me.

Now to Wonder Woman. No one calls her that at any point in this film. In fact, she doesn't even have a name for most of it. But when she finally puts on her armor and goes into battle, she is AWESOME! I've always loved the Justice League animated version of Wonder Woman, who is as powerful and nigh-indestructible as Superman. This Wonder Woman was that Wonder Woman, and that made me very, very happy. I'm even more excited to see the Wonder Woman movie now. I liked it that she wasn't a blue-eyed European woman with an American accent, too, though I'm sure some comic book purists are screaming that Gal Gadot has brown eyes (eyeroll).

I can't help adding what this movie made me think about the expected Batman solo film starring Ben Affleck. The script hasn't even been written yet from what I read, but this article from io9 made me wonder what they'll do with that story. BvS set up Batman to be the driving force behind the creation of the Justice League. As I mentioned earlier, this Batman is a man toward the end of his career. I wonder if perhaps part of his solo story will be showing him realizing that both he and Alfred are older, they can't keep on doing this, but he doesn't want to leave Gotham without a protector. That could then lead to him finding another Robin, and learning to let go of his fear of losing those he cares about.

If I have to mention any flaws in the film, it's that it focuses more on Batman that I would have liked. My favorite DC characters are Superman and Wonder Woman, and I want to see movies about them, not more movies about Batman. The movie also had perhaps one too many dream sequences. One of my coworkers told me that the first time he saw this movie he found it very confusing. I knew right away that the dreams were dreams, but those visual cues might not have been obvious to all viewers. My coworker, by the way, went back to see the movie four more times, so clearly the confusion wasn't enough to deter him. I have half a mind to go see it again myself, just to put paid to all the people who have labeled it a flop.

To sum up, I would give this movie 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I expect that I'll enjoy Captain America: Civil War more when it comes out next month, but I didn't regret seeing Batman v Superman and would definitely see it again.

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