Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Being in the shadow of Marvel Studios, especially with the creation of the cinematic universe it has managed and controlled so well, we finally get a glimpse of what’s to come with the superhero ensemble on DC’s side of things over at Warner Bros. 

Most of you may not recall or even remember, but DC almost beat Marvel from the word go.  Whether it would’ve worked or not, Warner Bros. was set to introduce us to the ensemble right at the beginning instead of the solo movie introductions Marvel constructed so perfectly.  George Miller (director of all the Mad Max films) was to direct Justice League with already a cast signed on to play the heroes.  Signed on, was D.J. Cotrona to play Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Adam Brody as The Flash, Common as Green lantern, Santiago Cabrera as Aquaman, and a few others to round out the cast.  Production went as far as having costume fittings for the actors and actresses, with a lot of created concept art, but the Writer’s Guild Strike may have played a part in the film production’s downfall.  We’ll never know.

As doubt was casting a shadow on whether or not we can take a Superman film seriously nowadays, 2013 brought us a return to glory with Man of Steel.  The film, directed by Zack Snyder, gave us a more resolute Superman—no camp or outright comedy, just a no-nonsense heroic movie of a character most households are familiar with.  I enjoyed the hell out of that film and felt it was just the right push Warner Bros. needed to go forth with their plan to bring The Justice League onto the big screen.

So, questions began to arise regarding how the filmmakers were going to fit Batman into this cinematic universe.  Is Christian Bale returning as Batman?  Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt take over the role?  Will there be a new Batman?  Were they just going to reboot once more?  But word came about that the next movie—not necessarily a sequel to Man of Steel and not necessarily a Batman film, but a “versus” film that would pit the two heroes against each other.  Fanboys—myself included—were ecstatic and couldn’t wait to feast our eyes on such an epic movie.

As time went on, word also escaped that Bale would not reprise his role, but that the Batman in this film will have a new actor under the cowl.  It was also mentioned that the Batman in the movie is going to be an older, grizzled hero who has been crime-fighting for a long time. 

Not long after this news was out, the announcement came about that Ben Afflick would be the man wearing the bat ears in the movie.  I guess it’d be an understatement to say a lot of comic book fans weren’t happy.  It all harkened back to a little film Afflick starred in called Daredevil.  So many people have panned that movie, but I really don’t think it was Afflick’s fault.  I felt he did fine in that flick and I’d enjoyed watching it, even to this day.

Well, the photo of Ben Afflick in the suit popped up on the Internet.  Then, the first trailer…the second trailer…finally, the third trailer…I was chomping at the bit to see this movie and did not see anything wrong with Afflick in this role.

So, enough of the history on how this movie came to be…let me synopsize Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, shall I?

Per—Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.
Shortly before seeing the movie, I’d read an online article that a screening of the film was shown to the studio executives and at the end of the presentation, they all had given the film a standing ovation.  Some may read that and think it was a flattering endorsement to a great movie, but I had thought just the opposite.  Let’s not forget how much studio execs have ruined movies in the past.  Staying within the genre of comic book movies, the ones that come to mind are Superman II (the firing of Richard Donner after he’d already filmed 75% of the sequel), Spider-Man 3 (their insistence that Sam Raimi—against his better judgment—include Venom in the story), and, most recently, 2015’s Fantastic Four.  So to hear that studio execs loved this movie didn’t give me hope, it gave me despair.  I couldn’t help but think of Kevin Smith’s story of how Jon Peters wanted Superman to fight a giant spider in the climax of the Tim Burton/Nicolas Cage film that had never (thankfully) been made.  So, going into this, I had mild-to-low expectations.

Now, right off the ‘Batman,’ I have to say that Zack Snyder did a wonderful job with directing a multi-superhero movie.  Of course, recent history has told us that it could’ve gone one way or the other.  On one hand, it could’ve looked like a Batman & Robin or Spider-Man 3; on the other hand, it could’ve gone the way of The Avengers.  With BvS, however, I think it fell in the middle somewhere, but more toward the good than the bad.

Let’s start with the setup, the part of the plot that gives us the first part of the movie’s title—Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  It doesn’t give too much away to say that Bruce Wayne was near Metropolis when the climactic battle between Superman and General Zod went down toward the end of Man of Steel and it pissed him off royally.  Snyder excellently shows us that battle from a different perspective—as the defenseless populace who were scared and hurt due to the damage caused throughout that mêlée, watching everything from ground zero.  Seeing those images during this first act of the movie unquestionably conjures up memories of the devastation the country witnessed on television (or up close and personal) back on September 11th, 2001.  Needless to say, this is what starts Batman’s mission to bring down Superman.

So…about the Batman’s funny…the one uproar fanboys had about this film—before any photos were released or any trailers were seen—was the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman.  I say it’s funny because he’s the one who does best in this movie, making the dual character the most interesting piece of this film.  As the story moves along, you become mesmerized by his presence on the screen, even as Bruce Wayne and it leaves you wanting more.  Personally, I can’t wait to see the stand-alone Batman film that is set to be released in 2017 with this aged and cynical persona of the caped crusader.  The suit is awesomely reminiscent of the Frank Miller era in comic books and even has better gadgets that we’d seen in the Nolan films.  Affleck, in my mind, has totally redeemed himself since his role in 2003’s Daredevil.

Henry Cavill seems to fit right back into his role of Superman as easily as he fits into that costume, but he doesn’t say or do much in the part, only broods and looks dejected at times.  He seems to
play the part this time around almost like Brandon Routh had played it in the forgetful Superman Returns.  With the hero’s Clark Kent persona, there’s not much development there either.  Overall, I was expecting to see more of the hero’s attitude he had shown at the end of Man of Steel, how he’d crashed a drone that was following him and basically told the general “tough shit” after he informed Superman he destroyed a very expensive piece of military equipment.  During that conclusion in Man of Steel, it was looking like he finally found his place on this Earth as a protagonist, but in BvS, he’s back to the unsure-of-himself hero.  But I can’t fault his performance too much because it seems the movie cuts away before we get any reactions from him—this happens quite a few times, I’d noticed.

The one casting choice that had gotten under my skin and I just could not accept was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.  When the decision was announced, I had my reservations but held off to see how he’d play the role.  Even as the trailers showcased him as a little goofy, I waited to see the movie.  Now, as I’ve seen the film, I really must say that his part in this flick was the thorn in its side.  As we’d all seen in the trailer, where Lex Luthor greets Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, as he acts a bit off kilter…well…that’s what you’re going to get throughout his performance.  During the course of the Superman and Batman comics, there have been many evil-doers or villains with their specific personalities.  Lex Luthor has always been a powerful-looking man with a serious way about him.  Eisenberg almost seems to be getting him confused with the Joker, reciting his lines like a forgetful buffoon.

Above all else, the mixed feeling I have about this film is that it appeared to be a Batman movie that happened to feature Superman.  Although it’s supposed to be sort of a sequel to Man of Steel, it seemed to be focused more on Batman than Superman.  The good part of this musing is that it helps Affleck in his continuation of the Batman role, but it lessens the impact of Superman’s character.  Where we see a lot of setup into everything Batman does within this story, we only see a montage of Superman’s heroics, not understanding what led to them.  For instance, the scene in the trailer, where we see him save the rocket from being destroyed plays out in the movie just like in the trailer.  We don’t see who’s in the rocket, we don’t even know if there’s anybody in it—for all we know, he just saved an unmanned rocket from being destroyed.  All of Superman’s bravado is just given to us like snippets from a news reel.

As for the music we hear within the film, a lot of the Man of Steel cues are there, some original
music for Batman’s scenes were enjoyable as well.  Wonder Woman’s entrance, however?  The theme was unusual and strange, not really fitting and I kept on thinking, what is up with her entry music?  I take it, seeing that the score was shared by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, Wonder Woman’s cue was created by the latter.  I know there are fans of Junkie XL, so I won't hate on them...I just don't think the music they composed works in this particular scene.  Who knows?  Maybe Zimmer's the one who came up with it.

Lastly, we all know this film leads up to a Justice League movie, featuring a lineup of heroes to get together for a big movie.  I guess to give us a taste of that, it was decided to give us glimpses of these heroes within this film.  I won’t go into it, especially to avoid spoilers, but the inclusion of the few they show in this movie was forced and unneeded.  We know the ensemble movie is coming, we know there are going to be a number of stand-alone films to introduce them, so there was really no need to show the cameos or excerpts that they did here in BvS.

My final “bit” on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?

Overall the movie is enjoyable, with the right amount of action between the two title characters and even when they fight together with the inclusion of Wonder Woman going up against Doomsday (as seen in the trailers).  However, the editing seemed a bit uneven, giving us a lot of emptiness of certain subplots or characters.  After the film was over and I thought about what I’d seen, I couldn’t help but think there were missing parts that would explain certain details or expand on the character development a bit.  Maybe we’ll see a much better film with the release of home media—it was announced that a director’s cut with an extra 30 minutes will be added to the movie.  I’ve heard the complaints that some people have had with the story—some I agree with, some I don’t—but putting reasons for battles and reasons to stop battling aside, I’m going to reserve my views until I see the director’s cut in four or five months.

By the way, there is no stinger scene, so don’t bother staying after the credits roll.  I looked up this info before seeing the movie, but I’d noticed quite a few people remaining planted in their seats, waiting for that Marvel-esque extra we’ve all come to expect in this day and age, so just a word of advice…don’t bother to wait.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice without divulging too much about it.  Perhaps I’ll update this post when the DVD/Blu-Ray is released to see if my view has changed.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Eric said...

Great review, though I do believe we have a difference of opinion when it comes to Snyder. I hated Man of Steel, and disliked most of this movie. The 3rd act is when I finally came around. I enjoyed the strategy Batman used to take down Sup, and enjoyed it more once they were working together against Doomsday. I just don't feel that Snyder's style works for these characters. Loved 300 and Watchmen (though I know some comic die-hards were disappointed by the revised ending), but I just don't think Snyder's skills work here. There should be more FUN in a Superman or Batman movie. Everything is too dark and serious. They were trying to recreate the success of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but it was artificial. The beginning was too slow. Do we really need to see Bruce Wayne's parents death again? We get it. Anyway, I wish they would replace Snyder before Justice League but sadly that doesn't look so. I have hope for Wonder-Woman as it's being helmed by somebody else. Even the head of the DC studio said the future movies will have more optimism, because most viewers are getting turned off by Snyder taking these characters way too seriously. It doesn't need to be Marvel, but it should be fun. I'm glad YOU like it!