Geekin Dad Reviews Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Spoilers discussed)
It's been a few days, now, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is getting all kinds of mixed reviews and feelings from everyone, Critics and casual movie goers like. After having seen it twice now this weekend, I think I have a good basis of an opinion for a review, and think it's time I get my thoughts tossed into the sea of chaos that is Batman v Superman.
I'll have a TL:DR down at the end, so if you want to just skip on down, feel free.
Let me first be clear on my history with these two characters, as I believe this to be the single most important factor in my review. I did not grow up reading the comics. I have only recently started reading comics, back in Sept/Oct of 2015 being when I really got reading, and even then most of what I read tends to fall on the side of Marvel. I grew up loving Batman as a super hero. He was my favorite all through my younger years of childhood. Super hero's lost interest to me as I got into my junior high years and high school years, where gaming and football became my way of life, and only in the last few years have I slowly embraced my original joy and passion for the super hero world. Superman was always there, never my favorite, and I really don't know why either. Maybe because Batman had his show on when I would watch it, maybe because he didn't have all the cool gadgets of Batman, or maybe because I could find Batman toys all the time where Superman toys seemed to be of less abundance as a kid. It is of my opinion that the life experiences one has with Batman and Superman will inform their opinion of this movie heavily. So, now that you understand my life experiences with these two characters, I give you the proverbial grain of salt to read this review with.
This movie was overshadowed for me by other movies I was excited to see this year, and around this time. Deadpool, Captain America, X-Men, Suicide Squad later on, and Doctor Strange late this year are all movies I'm really excited to see. With Batman v Superman having been the concept for so long, it didn't excite me to the same extent that others may have. The trailers for the movie, building up over the last few months helped me keep the movie in the back of my mind, knowing it was coming, and the realization that Feb, March, April (not really but basically) and May we get different and great super hero movies, got me excited to see it. With the help of a Verizon Wireless promotion, I was able to snag tickets free to the movie, which aided in me being able to see the movie twice, two days back to back, which has helped with the clarity in which I am able to think about the movie.
Not having any expectations or hopes, except for Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman to be a dominant character upon her arrival and for Ben Affleck to play an older Batman well, I didn't have much in the way of wanting anything other than a good movie to come from this viewing experience. And, I think I got that. I got that in the sense that this is an action movie based on themes and characters of comic books, not a comic book movie. I got that in the awesome fights, both with Superman and Batman, and then the awesome entrance of Wonder Woman. I got a good movie in the way Jessie Eisenberg played this version of Lex Luthor, even if it wasn't close to what I would have hoped a Lex Luthor would be, being a great villain, being the catalyst for all of the chaos in the movie. I got it in an epic fight, to the death, at the end of the movie, and I got it in the setting up of what the future of the DC Cinematic Universe could be moving forward. I got a lot of what I want out of a good action movie. It had moments that felt more like Bond than Batman, but in some ways Bruce Wayne as Batman is James Bond, just with a cape and pointy ears on his helmet/mask. There was politics, there was foreshadowing (almost telegraphing what to expect), and Ben Affleck was great at being Batman.
I should say that from this point on, there will be very blatant spoilers of what happens in the movie. If you have not seen the movie yet, please, I implore you to go see it to form an opinion of your own, this movie deserves as much.
Now, back the where I was. This felt like a Batman movie for the most part to me. I know Superman was there, but it felt more like a movie exploring why Batman was going to kill Superman, and then felt a bit too easy of a cop out at the end, with Superman simply trying to spit the word "Martha" out to get Batman to not drive the kriptonite spear through the heart of Superman. It felt like Superman was weak, pathetic even, still, being very angsty about his feelings on how others feel about him and about how Batman is reigning his own brand of justice in Gotham. It felt cheap when he bent to the will of Lex Luthor, giving into the fact that he would have to fight Batman to save his mom, and not thinking of another alternative, or truly working towards achieving that other alternative that he half heartedly threw out, "I have to convince him to help me, or he has to die." Superman wasn't the one who made the change of heart in the movie, and he didn't even really do much of anything to change the heart of Batman in this movie, either, which would have been way better in my opinion. Instead, when Batman hears the name of his dead mother, he flashes back to her, and all of the pain and trauma he felt having lost her. It was more the memory of his mother that lead to the change of heart, not Superman convincing him that he is here to help, do good, and doesn't want to do anything to betray the people of Earth. What's interesting is that this movie does a better job of making Superman look like the weak guy who made the ultimate sacrifice, killing himself to kill Doomsday, and made Batman to be the bigger, better, more capable character in this movie. Although, to be fair, the idea of Superman being altruistic, good for the sake of being good, and a pure hero was beaten to a pulp this entire movie, giving us lines that tell the viewer and Clark that there's no room for that kind of hero anymore.
Let's talk about this, a bit more, shall we? Superman, the idea and the character alike, were brought down so many pegs on the totem pole, that it felt like we were being told that in this world, there is no such thing as pure good, as hope without fault, or that there is nothing so great as Superman anyone should aspire to be. For Clark, when he aspires to be that, he is beaten down, left and right. Let's compare that to Captain America and his role in movies. Captain America, in Winter Soldier, is told that the world is changing, that there is no room for chance, and that there is no longer such a thing as pure good anymore, yet he takes down an entire organization to fight for the fact that there is still pure hope, goodness and light in the world, and that it's worth fighting for. He betrays his government for that idea, and ultimately prevails. It isn't the easy path for him to take, in fact it's the hardest path he could take, but as the audience you can't help but watch that and not want to look for the good and hope in any situation, and fight for what is right, even though it may be hard. Bringing it back to Superman in this movie, Clark essentially gives in. When everything is on the line, when the weight of his world is on his shoulders, he gives in. He goes to fight selfishly, instead of heroically. And I feel like the fact that he doesn't have the same convictions as Batman leaves him weak in this fight, thus ultimately leading his way of getting Batman to back off and not kill him coming from that of a young child almost, out of that weakness and sorry for him, more than out of the goodness that Superman should instill. That was probably a crappy sentence, apologies. But you get the point.
Adam Hlavac (@adamhlavac) of SuperHeroNews.com puts it perfectly in the above tweet, that because of how dark, stark, and terrible things can be today, and because of how unforgiving the world is in the day and age of social media and 12 hour news cycles, a more hopeful, more inspiring Superman would have been great to see in this movie. But, instead we got what we got, and at the end of they day that will be, in my opinion, what makes or breaks your opinion of this movie. Within the context of this movie, Superman did his part, and did it well. It's just a shame to be told that, in today's world, there isn't room for a pure symbol of hope and goodness, the things most men aspire to have in their lives.
Speaking of not being exactly the story lines, let's talk about how Batman turned into someone who could care less about bringing the criminals in, about whether or not Superman killed that guy when he rescued Louis Lane, and so on. People were pissed when Superman killed General Zod in Man of Steel, which is right since he never was a man to kill anyone in the comics. Even in the Dark Knight Trilogy from Christopher Nolan, there still is Batman doing all he can, for the most part, not to kill anyone. Here we see quite a different Batman, one who doesn't seem to have much regard for the lives of the criminals he pursues, even going so far as using them and their car in one chase scene as a weapon, flinging the car all over the place to beat up and destroy others, only to have it fling up and land on another car. I mean, come on, let's be real, no person would survive that. And the pure mowing down of the bad guys when Batman is going to save Clark's mom, Martha, is a bit un-imaginable in a comic strip and a comic of Batman, but yet in the movie, when you take it as an action movie that takes inspiration of these two characters, it makes complete sense, almost like Bond would have no problem doing when trying to save the damsel in distress. To be fair, the fight scene in the warehouse while he is going to save Martha Kent is pretty awesome, and one of the best scenes in the movie, maybe even better than the fight between Superman and Batman. There is just a lot of things that seem to be missed, that aren't spelled out for the audience, leaving the viewer wondering if Superman kills now and why Batman is so eager to do so.
The acting of Ben Affleck as an aged Batman was good, really good, and in the same way Robert Downy Jr. is Iron Man, the same way Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool, I can very very easily see Ben Affleck becoming very well known and endeared for his role as Batman. He looked the part of Bruce Wayne in a way that the other's to have played him haven't yet, and for that I have to commend him. Henry Cavil as Superman was fine, but I think that the character of Clark Kent/Superman was written to be flat, sad, and beaten down, and he did that really well, almost to a fault. Amy Adams once again played Lois Lane very well, better than last time, but since this is her second movie with the character, I expect her to know and understand her better by now. All of the supporting cast did a great job as well, really, selling the roles and parts, fitting the overall puzzle very good. It's unfortunate that we didn't get more of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, but as Wonder Woman, when she showed up to save Batman from the death that was the heat wave from Doomsday, she was a complete and utter warrior, and a beast of one at that. Also, as a side note, while all of the music for the movie was fine, the Wonder Woman theme was by far the best. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was interesting. If you were to tell me he was just a rich kid genius who had a funny tick that wanted to get rid of Superman and was willing to get rid of the Bat of Gotham, then I would be able to believe the character. But he was Lex Luthor. Now, like I said I've not been a major Superman fan nor do I know near enough about him, but I can say that whenever I would see Lex Luthor, he always seemed calm, cool and collected, and ready to do business in efforts to make those means be an end to Superman. In this movie we got a neurotic, crazy genius who, even though he played that style character well, didn't feel like the right embodiment of Lex Luthor. Someone like a Bryan Cranston, James Spader or Kevin Spacey would have been better for that role, in my opinion.
On to the best part of the entire movie, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She was a pure bad ass. She didn't know what Doomsday was, but didn't care. She moved with the strength and speed of Superman, but had the fearlessness that I would have expected from Superman. She knew how to fight, she knew how to be tactical about her fighting, and she could take a beating. It was a shame that they had to do the crotch shot when she had been knocked back, but I have to admit I only noticed it after my second time of seeing the movie, as the first time I was just pumped up to see just how bad ass she was in that fight with Doomsday. When she's brought into the fight by saving Batman's life, and the music for her plays, which had a bit of an epic rock and roll feel, and she completely absorbs the heat ray and is unscathed, I got chills. If this were, for some crazy reason, the only bit of Wonder Woman we ever got on the big screen, I would hope it would inspire my daughter that she can be as capable and bad ass as any other man, because in this fight she sure was. We got the sword and shield, she sliced his Achilles tendon, was able to withstand, almost more than Superman was, the shock wave that came from Doomsday, and kept the fight in the favor of the Trinity. Batman was completely useless this fight, and it's not until Wonder Woman breaks out the Lasso of Truth to keep Doomsday wrapped up does Batman get a chance to be useful, shooting his last kryptonite gas grenade, weakening Doomsday enough for Superman to drive in the kryptonite spear. And I'll admit I was a bit shocked, but Doomsday stabbing Superman with the bone spear (that grew as a result of Wonder Woman slicing his hand off) was disappointing and fitting all at once. Not knowing about the Death of Superman in the comics, it wasn't expected on my end. And yes, he seems to not be fully dead at the end of the movie (which took way too long to wrap up) felt too early. Death should be final, and should feel final, even though there is room for someone like Superman to come back to life in order for the Justice League to go on.
So, I know this is a bit all over the place, but unfortunately the movie was too. It had it's moments of greatness, tons of potential, and for all it's technical faults and "interesting" character and casting choices, this movie still gets a solid 4/5 from me. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't terrible. I GET why others do hate it so much, and why it is getting such low scores from other people, but I have to admit that I left this movie looking forward to the rest of the DCCU, the Wonder Woman Movie, and potential Batman movies that might be coming. Go see this movie in theaters if you haven't, otherwise, you don't really have room to add to the chaos that is what everyone thinks about this movie. Hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment and let me know what you thought about the movie, and why you think that I'm completely wrong and insane for the score I gave it, I would love to hear about it
Also, on a related readings note. I'm going to look at reading Dark Knight Returns, The Death of Superman and The Reign of Superman. I'm also in the middle of reading Superman: American Alien and The Legend of Wonder Woman.
Dark Knight Returns - http://amzn.to/1LSKgu0
The Death of Superman - http://amzn.to/21OaTSw
The Return of Superman - http://amzn.to/1VPnUf9
The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus - http://amzn.to/1MLBSqY
Superman: American Alien - http://amzn.to/1UQQD3H
The Legend of Wonder Woman - http://amzn.to/1RIQaAd
Man of Steel - http://amzn.to/21ObfIN