Tuesday – 12 April 2016 Monday – 18 April 2016 Monday – 27 April 2016
I finally saw Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
earlier this last week two weeks ago. I’ve been trying to write this summation of my thoughts since then. More or less. At times, it just felt like too much drudgery to finish. But, here it is.
I managed to avoid most spoilers, either in conversation or in the media, before seeing the movie. There was one nominally big one that slipped through the cracks, but I thought it might have been a misinterpretation. (It wasn’t.) I will most likely pick up that thread later in this post.
Like my Man of Steel review, this is going to be a two-part review:
The first part will be more of a synopsis and spoiler-free.
The second part will be more in-depth.
Consider yourselves duly warned.
Part One: Synopsis
I mostly enjoyed this movie.
It appeared to draw from the following sources, among others:
Some would contend that there were too many moving pieces in this film and that never works. I’d counter with a look at X2: X-Men United. That story took four storylines from over 20 years of X-Men lore and wove them into a compelling story. This, however, threw a lot at the audience in its two-and-a-half hour runtime and there’s still (at least) thirty minutes of footage that will be seen on the DVD/Blu-Ray release.
And, seventy-five years after her introduction, we finally got Wonder Woman on the big screen. She was introduced with an air of mystery that I hope will be expanded upon in her feature film, due out next year. For the in-costume screen time that she did have, I was pleased with how she was presented: She was a warrior and one, it seemed, who enjoyed a good fight.
I give this movie five SuperBats… possibly six:
Part Two: In-Depth Observations
Now that the niceties are out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
This was a dark movie. Granted, Batman is in it, but I expected a Superman with a much lighter tone to juxtapose against the Dark Knight’s… darkness. That was not what audiences got.
This Superman was still rather aloof and somewhat removed from the people. Yes, there have been stories around that concept, but for the most part, Superman has seemed to enjoy not only being a role model, but also just being with and around people. Well, more people than just Lois Lane and Martha Kent. There was talk of – and a little lip-service towards – him being a symbol of hope for people… but it seemed more like they were just trying to convince the audience of that than anything else.
The Batman we saw could have been lifted directly out of The Dark Knight Returns: Older, world-weary, hardened. He perceived Superman as a threat to be negated and he also gave action to the growing sentiment of wariness and fear… even if he was pushed into this action through Lex Luthor’s machinations. That point, I’ll come back to in a few paragraphs. While I can understand Bruce’s rage-filled dream about Superman taking over the world, what I cannot fathom is why he would have any notion of parademons, the firepits of Apokolips, or Darkseid at this stage of the game. Hell, he shouldn’t even really have an inkling until Lex started ranting at the end of the movie… if even then.
Lex Luthor. There are many ways to get him wrong. Richard Donner didn’t do it. Bryan Singer didn’t do it. Hell, even the writers on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman didn’t do it. But, this Lex… I don’t know. The genius was there, but there was something missing. Perhaps it was in the way that he came off as a bit manic in some/many scenes. Perhaps it was an attempt to show the smartest man in the room, whose mouth literally couldn’t keep up with all of the lines of thought going on in his mind. I don’t know. I think that he did morph a bit from a less manic Lex and more of the cold, calculating Luthor that I was used to seeing in scene on top of the LexCorp tower with Superman.
Once again, I found that I enjoyed Amy Adams’ Lois Lane. She was tenacious and willing to fight for the stories that she felt needed to be told. You could see that she truly cared for Clark, with his best interests at heart, but also saw the dangers in the shadows that he didn’t – or wasn’t willing to – see.
The brightest spot, in terms of characterization, was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. To be honest, I was worried about what we would get. This, they got right. We didn’t get a lot of backstory – that’s being left to next year’s movie. While I would have liked to have known a little more about what she does for a living – she’s an antiquities expert/dealer, a fact I discovered from the packaging of a Wonder Woman figure for the movie – I was happy that Snyder got the “warrior princess” part right. And that was done very well. I loved the fact that, once she got into the thick of the fight, you could see that she was enjoying it, almost reveling in the ability to cut loose.
A friend pointed out something that I hadn’t considered: Snyder used Diana to effectively stop the plot (or at least put it on “Pause) while she “…watched trailers for the next movies.” True. For those who aren’t following: After Bruce Wayne decrypted Luthor’s file on metahumans and sent it to her, the story got derailed to show clips of the three unknown metas.
I mentioned Bruce Wayne’s buttons getting pushed by Lex Luthor above. Here’s where I come back to that point. I’ll grant you that Lex is traditionally considered one of the most intelligent characters in the DCU. What I would love to know is how did he figure out the identities of two of the most guarded figures in the DCEU?! Granted, if you watch Lois Lane’s movements enough, pick up on the fact that “where goes Lois, so too goes Superman.” Put that together with the fact that she started dating a guy – roughly Superman’s size and build – about the same time he showed up on the scene and it’s arguable that you could deduce that Clark is Superman, given enough time. In fact, Lex figured that out in comics in the second issue of Superman (1987), but rationalized it away, thinking that no one with Superman’s powers would waste his time pretending to be… just human. But, figuring out that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Nope. Can’t see it. And, being able to lead “the world’s greatest detective” on a snipe hunt for a man who not only doesn’t exist, but there’s a ship in the harbor that he’s been staking out with the exact same name and he can’t figure it out?! Nah, man. You lost me there.
Zod Doomsday. I’m amazed at how quickly Lex not only wrapped his not-yet-bald head xenotechnology and took control of the ark/Fortress of Solitude, but let’s also give him a hand for mastering xenobiology in about 10 minutes. “Lex E. Coyote, super genius…”
And the death of Clark Kent was handled even more ham-fistedly than in the comics. And that’s saying something.
I was struck by something that Christopher Tapley wrote in his review of the movie for Variety:
“… given that Snyder is obsessed with iconography, a visualist more than a storyteller. “
That phrase triggered something for me. After reading it, I considered some of the movies that Snyder has directed: 300, Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen. While I enjoyed all of those films – and even purchased three of the four – I realized that Mr. Tapley was right. Snyder has a keen ability to make something look visually stunning… but, unless he is (more or less) directly adapting something – 300 or Watchmen, for example – the story is kind of thin. And this movie was no exception to that rule.
As much as I enjoyed Man of Steel for the things that it did differently with the character, I just couldn’t muster that same satisfaction out of this movie. Wonder Woman pulled a lot of this movie’s fat out of the fire for me. I am not disappointed that I paid to see it (in IMAX, even) for the spectacle, but I’m on the fence whether I’ll be putting down money to buy the DVD/Blu-ray… unless the extra footage seriously helps the story. And that’s a pretty strong statement, coming from the guy who saw Green Lantern in the theatre twice(!) and bought the movie on Blu-ray.