Monday, March 28

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Directed by Zack Snyder

This review of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will not be the mammoth dissection that was my review of Man of Steel three years ago [LINK]. This is just going to be a short statement of my own impressions, with no intent to argue or justify my points. What would be the purpose? The critics have spoken, and as happened with John Carter and Green Lantern both, what may have begun as legitimate criticisms seems to have started feeding on themselves as critics seem more interested now in outdoing their peers in showing how clever can be their criticisms than in providing reasoned analysis and evaluation. The audience seems to have received the movie more kindly. For what it’s worth, the Rotten Tomatoes scores are quite divergent (approximately 28/72), far more so than for Man of Steel (approximately 56/76). (I found it really interesting last week how the initial critics’ assessments were quite a bit more in line with Man of Steel than the ones that started coming out later – when the later critics had had time to figure out which way the wind was blowing and the piling-on had time to begin.) Don’t get me wrong. This is obviously not a movie for everyone, and it is a movie that does have its shortcomings, particularly an uneven pacing as well as a couple of things highlighted below. It is ultimately, I believe, less a movie for general audiences than it was a movie for me and someone like me – a life-long comic-book fan with a deep love for these characters (one I do not have for the Marvel Universe, which means I admittedly approach those movies with a degree of objectivity that is not possible for me in this case). I can easily see how someone who does not have that love – and the innate knowledge of myriad story-lines and images accumulated over fifty years of reading DC Comics – would be left cold by it. All I can ultimately say is that I enjoyed BVS:DOJ  very much and look forward to seeing future installments in the DC Movie Universe that is emerging from what I consider to have been a similarly – albeit not to the same degree -- maligned Man of Steel.

The first most critical thing I would say right now is that I myself would not have gone this route for a second Superman film. I set forth my thoughts on what the follow-up to Man of Steel should be at the end of the aforementioned review, and I stand by what I said then. Most importantly, I would not have introduced Batman as an adversary of Superman’s. However, given that the producers had different ideas, I think they pulled off the build-up to the confrontation fairly well, giving Bruce Wayne a believable remote motivation in his street-level view of the war between Superman and Zod and the human cost of what we saw three years ago. But then to build on that by making Batman a patsy of Lex Luthor’s? That is almost as wrong-headed as the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as a Lex who comes off as a cheap, evil imitation of Tony Stark.

Jesse Eisenberg. Is. Not. Lex Luthor. That was easily the worst element in this movie.

For me, although I do have problems with the way Batman’s character was used in the overall story, I consider Ben Affleck’s interpretation of the character, both as a middle-aged Bruce Wayne and as a war-weary Batman, the best part of the move. And kudos to costuming, effects, and the choreography of his fighting normal human thugs (which was, I thought, more visually effective than his armored slug-fest with Superman) – after seventy-plus years of trying, somebody finally got it right. I feel like I have finally seen the Batman that I imagined all my life from the static images of the comic book page explode into real life action. I could say much the same for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Awesome.

I haven’t really processed much else in this movie – it usually takes me time to do so. And I definitely have not untangled all of the, very possibly overused, dream-sequences and hallucinations. I don’t think it’s really possible to do so at this time. I am near certain much of that will be more easily understandable several movies on down the line, because I think one thing is clear about this movie. It is not meant to stand alone but is rather far more akin to a first (or second) issue in a saga that will play out over time and be far more integrally related and meaningfully cross-referential than the Marvel movies have been. I don’t necessarily think that that’s a good thing for your casual movie-goer, whose interest and patience for the unfolding multi-movie epic is probably not sustainable, but for me – and others who love the long-form serial story-telling of the comics medium – if Zack Snyder and crew are permitted to carry through with their vision, I think the results will be very satisfying. My biggest worry is that, although the first weekend’s box-office seems to have constituted a success, a combination of accelerating critical drubbing and general audience mystification at what they just saw will depress subsequent sales and the film will ultimately be counted a box-office failure because it does not “live up to studio expectations.” It may have already started. I was not part of that first extended (Thursday through Sunday) weekend audience because I felt it would have been a bit unseemly to go see any such movie – even one that I was so looking forward to – on one of the most holy days of the Church year, when my attention should be instead on the ineffable sacrifice that a real God-man made for me. I did go see it on Monday, however … and was saddened to see that the early afternoon theatre crowd numbered perhaps eighteen to twenty – if that. I hope I am wrong and that WB shows faith in its product and allows the ambitious plans that have been put forth already – out to 2020 or -21, I believe – to play out.

I don’t have much else to say, except I look forward to seeing the next installment.

Cheers, and Thanks for reading.

NOTE: Subsequent to writing this, I came upon a profound and touching commentary identifying what was the heart and soul of this movie. It is worth your time viewing. I could not get it to come up on Blogger's embed-video search engine, so here are two versions of the URL:

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