|"Right here, Bruce. That's where I'll always be, for I am eternal."|
"Clark, I'm an atheist."
I have to start this review by saying that I came into Batman V Superman with exceptionally low expectations and very little personal investment. Yes, I’m traditionally a DC girl, specifically a fan of the Batman Universe (ultra-specifically, wholly devoted to the Clown Prince of Crime), but Superman has never tickled my fancy. He’s always struck me as a dull cardboard cutout of a character whose arc in films dissolves into “I’M JESUS!”, complete with Christ symbolism about as subtle as a Templar’s blade to the gut. Man of Steel followed this to a T, complete with excruciating post-Nolan-era dialogue so pretentious it was nearly Matrix-worthy, so I expected nothing less in Batman V Superman. I was, however, tentatively excited about a few aspects of this film going in: Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Wonder Woman, and my beloved Khal, Jason Momoa, as Aquaman. Yes, I was mostly excited for the short character cameos rather than the actual film.
Knowing this was a Zack Snyder film, I knew that it was going to be visually strong, full of badass slo-mo walking, muted colours, and manly shouting. It did not disappoint. The very opening scene was Zack Snyder at his Zack Snyderiest—a portrayal of the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents reminiscent of Sucker Punch’s opening. Agony was laid bare in close face shots, pearls scattered symbolically, and I cried like a little girl. The film was visually stunning all around, though I maintain my constant opinion that so many movies these days are afraid of colour, and I cannot understand why. I’m pretty tired of staring at a gray Gotham. The only big colour you see in this film is Superman’s suit, as if we needed more brain-bashing symbolism surrounding him.
The character of Superman yielded absolutely no surprises. He was dull as dirt and surrounded by Jesus symbolism. Others constantly referred to him as an angel and a god. This was far more obnoxious than it was in Man of Steel, because the crux of the storyline seemed to be “Should we make the Divine yield to our earthly rules?!” to which the answer seemed to be, “Of course not.” The subtext of this made me, a student of history who is currently studying the Crusades and the power of the Church in medieval Europe, very uncomfortable. However, that discomfort made me support Bruce Wayne’s views all the more.
Speaking of, as an avid Batman fan, I have to say, Batfleck is Boss. Ben Affleck’s portrayal of a middle aged, embittered, and wary Batman might be the greatest version of the Dark Knight depicted in a live action movie thus far. You feel the years of vigilantism weighing on him and his decisions, the tragedies he befell. His was also a noteworthy portrayal of PTSD, even though the dream sequences themselves often took a turn for the comical and the predictable. I wholly believed Wayne’s train of thought when it came to Superman, and I wish that the film had focused more on developing that belief, and the tension it caused between the two heroes, than Lex Luthor’s non-arc of insanity and monster making.
Let’s talk about Jesse Eisenburg. Other than the very last scene, he completely blew me away. With an amiable, casual nature, often lightly humorous, he was very likeable, even with his odd vocal tic that I cannot effectively describe in writing. However, his mercurial shifts into strange, tense tangents, his retreat inward in the middle of public speeches, and the cold look he gets in his eye when threatened, were marvelous. Add to that his fanaticism with foiling a superhero and a disregard for his life that made me question his sanity and a fiery explosion which began with a joke (Grandma’s Peach Lemonade, HA!), and I was sold. Jesse Eisenburg is the next Joker. He may be more socially active than we are used to seeing the Clown Prince, but damned if I’m not excited to see this wonderful new interpretation, which is so often reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s own amazing portrayal.
Wait, he was supposed to be Lex Luthor?
Lex Luthor, a charismatic and power-hungry billionaire purported to be one of the most intelligent people in the world, who knows how to bend Metropolis’s politics to his will?
I loved what Eisenburg was doing with his character. He leapt off the screen. I wish I could cut and paste him into a movie more befitting of this bizarre and compelling character he created. But he is not Lex Luthor, the savvy businessman and all-too-human foil to Superman’s blatant otherworldliness. He especially was not Lex Luthor by the end, where he is left dribbling and drooling and mumbling about prophecies in an asylum for the criminally insane after being threatened by Batman. There is no way Eisenberg’s villain is from Metropolis. He is so obviously cut from Gotham’s cloth. I cannot be alone in thinking this.
What started out as a semi-formal review has, in true Dee form, dissolved into a ragey tangent. Moving on.
Wonder Woman was far more involved in the story than I had initially thought. She appears multiple times and even has an obnoxious flirty banter with Bruce Wayne before emerging on the battlefield in full pantsless costume. For the most part, I really liked her. I loved the subtle-not-subtle solid gold bands in her evening gowns, her careful attitude, and I adored her portrayal in battle. This is the Amazon warrior of the DC Comics. I’m especially proud of Zack Snyder for resisting the urge to look up her skirt (you could tell he wanted to in a few shots.) I wasn’t a fan of her one interaction with Bruce Wayne (too Cat Woman), but overall, I’m very optimistic about her in future films. I daresay Hollywood might actually portray a female superhero with a modicum of dignity. Perish the thought!
I need to move on to the storyline, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jason Momoa’s ten-second cameo. In a word, YES. Oh, dear God, yes. Yes to everything. I never thought I’d say this in my life, but Team Aquaman, baby! Hell yes!
The first half of this film truly surprised me. It took a moment for me to readjust from Nolan’s films back to more comic-book-style rules. I had grown used to Batman’s abilities, technology, and budget being somewhat rooted in reality. I had to give that up. Batman is amped up in this movie, donning armor, multiple vehicles of land and air, and an underwater Bat Cave with no explanation whatsoever. In a film about an alien Jesus wakened by a green rock with a sixth sense about where his girlfriend is at all times, though, Batman’s over-the-top wealth, strength, and resources are well within the realm of believability.
However, to my point, the first half of the film was surprisingly compelling for me. The early scenes of Bruce Wayne and the population of Metropolis lost and terrified in the chaos of the battle in Man of Steel was heart-wrenching and brilliant. That scene alone for me is worth the ticket price, but I’m a big fan of different perspectives in traditional tropes. Bruce Wayne, as mentioned before, is wonderfully portrayed. Jeremy Irons is the perfect Alfred for this film; snarky and very hands-on, he is the epitome of the long-suffering pseudo-father whom this Bruce Wayne leans upon. His may also be my favourite portrayal of Alfred in a live action film. I was very drawn into Batman’s story in this film, fully understanding his fears and doubts and decisions, though they may have been a bit harsher than we are used to from our Dark Knight. I did, however, like the rest of the world, hate Batman’s unexplained lack of qualms with killing people in this film. He doesn’t just let people die (him branding criminals, which is a death sentence in prison, was acceptable, though harsh), he actively kills people and does not blink an eye. With this embittered, haunted, older portrayal of Batman, I can fully understand that he may have fallen off his typical path of non-lethal combat, but we deserved an explanation. A throw-away line of dialogue would have been sufficient. If one looks at the vandalized Robin suit and the darker attitude of Wayne, one can draw guesses that Batman has become more extreme in his views, and normally I’m a huge fan of show, don’t tell in film, but Batman’s refusal to kill is an integral part of his character, and it should have been addressed more clearly.
For this reviewer, the film began to bulge at the seams when Lex Luthor obtained the kryptonite and went onto General Zod’s ship. The dark political aspects of the story ended there, and the plot became a jumbled mishmash of dropped storylines, shoehorned-in plot points, and simply melted into a desperate scramble to cram all of the information required for a Justice League movie into two hours. The story shredded into lazy comic book logic (the villain pitting the heroes against each other in a big misunderstanding that could easily have been resolved, and in fact is solved in this film, with a split second of dialogue). A giant monster, Christy self-sacrifice, villain drooling in jail. Cut, print, ship.
Overall, Batman V Superman is worth seeing. The far more organized beginning of the film makes many grand promises with strong characters, enticing teasers for future films, and even an original thought here and there. It’s pretty in a Zack Snyder way. It wasn’t appalling or offensive to me as a fan or a cenophile. But it certainly isn’t ground breaking, and you certainly won’t strain your brain with this one. For me, Batman V Superman is proof that the superhero movie fad has overstayed its welcome. Though there have been a few great films still borne from it, like Deadpool, it is apparent that Hollywood is spinning its caped wheels. There are a few films I’m still excited about seeing…okay, just Aquaman, really, but after watching this one, I’m pretty burnt out on superhero blockbusters, and I’m ready for the next big thing.
|And can we film this one already?! PLEASE?!|