My Thoughts on BvS
By Paul White
This is a companion piece to ‘I liked Batman V Superman, What’s Wrong With Me?- BY Scotty White
Spoilers for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
About two weeks ago, I heard that the premier for Batman V Superman had taken place in New York and the initial comments on Facebook and twitter before the Non Disclosure Agreement was lifted were positive. I was excited! I’ve been a Batman fan since I can’t remember and always dread when a new movie is released because there’s a chance it will be another Batman and Robin. So based on that, I messaged Scotty to see if he was free on Thursday night to catch an early showing of the movie. He was and so tickets were acquired. Then Tuesday hit and the NDA was lifted and the critics started castrating the movie. I was starting to wonder what I had gotten myself and Scotty into.
Thursday finally arrived and Scotty and I settled in with a mostly filled theater to see this supposed abomination of a film. I thought my fears were confirmed within minutes of the start of the film when what had been a pretty straight forward retelling of Bruce Wayne’s parents murder and his discovery of the future batcave suddenly has young Bruce Wayne being lifted off the cave floor purely on the power of bats circling around him. At this point, I was feeling bad for dragging Scotty out to see what was apparently a godawful movie. Then Bruce Wayne wakes up in the movie and we realize it was just a dream. Crisis averted I hoped.
The movie jumps forward to what is one of the stronger scenes in the movie. We see the end of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne’s perspective on the ground in Metropolis while the city is being destroyed during the fight between Superman and Zod. The action is decent with Affleck saving a few people as Bruce Wayne and also helps set up the animosity between Batman and Superman. What I want to focus on though is the role of Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman. This is the first Batman movie where I felt that Bruce Wayne was not just a persona played to keep people from suspecting that he was Batman. This Bruce Wayne feels like he could actually be in charge of multi-billion dollar company. In the Nolan trilogy, Lucious Fox is basically in charge of the company and with Burton’s movies I never got the feeling that Bruce Wayne had a day job. You might ask what about the Schumacher films. My response would be, “What films? I paid good money for a partial lobotomy to have those memories removed!”
Of course you can’t talk about Bruce Wayne without talking about Batman. Affleck’s Batman is extremely solid and makes me want a solo movie for him. This Batman is lot more brutal though than most interpretations and makes me think of when Batman first appeared in the comics. Initially Batman used guns and would often kill criminals. While this Batman doesn’t carry guns, both the Batmobile and Batplane are equipped with .50 caliber machine guns (or something similar) and in fighting hand to hand he’s not afraid of letting stray round from other people’s weapons hit other criminals. I personally don’t have an issue with this interpretation and really liked the action scenes involving Batman. His fighting technique makes me think of krav maga – take the bad guy down hard and fast. This is definitely a scary Batman and one that I would not want to encounter.
Once the movie gets through the sequence from the end of Man of Steel, it jumps forward 18 months and spends the next hour or so setting up the confrontation between Superman and Batman. In doing so, it also contrasts the methods of those two. Superman, while most of the other characters in the movie aren’t sure of his motives, is portrayed as a “good guy” and Batman, while a hero, makes you question his methods at times. There’s a lot of dialogue in the film about gods and man, angels and demons, and the nature of power. Thinking about all the religious references makes me wonder if there was supposed to some parallel between the God of the Old Testament (Vengeful AKA Batman) and the New Testament (Loving AKA Superman). Add to this the fact that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are called DC’s trinity, and you have the makings of a very long discussion.
Besides the initial animosity of Batman for Superman and Superman’s distaste for Batman’s methods, you also have Lex Luthor playing them against each other. A lot has been said about Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of the character. The character is very different from the Luthor of the comics. This Lex Luthor seems like a sociopathic version of Eisenberg’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. While I liked this take on the character, I do have an issue with his motivation in the movie. He seems to be the bad guy just because Lex Luthor is a bad guy. In the comics, Luthor believes the end justifies the means and that ultimately he is protecting mankind. There are some references to global security in the movie, but they don’t come across as genuine. Add to that (possible spoiler) he creates Doomsday – who can’t be controlled – from the dead body of Zod and it makes me wonder if there were multiple scenes that were cut that added to his character.
Having talked about a lot of the other characters, I feel like I should bring up Wonder Woman now. She wasn’t in the movie that much, but when she was, it was highly enjoyable and one of my favorite scenes involves her. Leading up to the movie there were questions about whether Gal Gadot could pull off playing Wonder Woman. While she doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in the film, I totally bought her portrayal and could definitely see her being Amazonian. My favorite scene with her, and this has been a negative with some reviewers, is during the fight with Doomsday she takes a hit from him, shrugs it off and smiles before jumping back into the fray. To me, this fits her character perfectly. She is a warrior who for the past hundred years or so, has not been using her abilities and has been holding back. With Doomsday she doesn’t have to hold back anything and can enjoy the thrill of battle. Personally, while I still have some reservations, this really makes me want to see the solo Wonder Woman movie that’s still in production.
So far, I’ve mentioned my thoughts on the main characters in the movie, but haven’t really said anything the supporting cast: Alfred, Lois Lane, Perry White, and Doomsday (going to include him in this section). There needs to be more Alfred. Jeremy Irons did a great job with him and has some of the funniest/snarkiest lines in the movie. A lot of reviewers have commented about how serious this movie is (and it is), but there are some truly funny lines and most of them involve Alfred. Diane Lane as Superman’s mother has a very funny line when she interacts with Batman and Lawrence Fishburne has a couple good lines as well. Amy Adams was just fine as Lois Lane, but her character is very tough to include in a superhero/comic book movie. She is a very strong character, but since she’s not a superhero, she’s generally comes across as either just the love interest or damsel in distress (both in this case). Her best portrayal was probably in the original Superman movie. Doomsday is a CGI character. I don’t have as much of an issue as most people do with him. The concept in the comics is that each time he “dies” he actually evolves and becomes immune to whatever killed him. In Batman V Superman whenever he is injured, he evolves and becomes more powerful. The initial CGI version of Doomsday is very CGI and could have been done better. The final incarnation that we see though, I thought was fine and relatively close to the version seen in the Death of Superman story arc from the 90’s.
I feel like I should talk about the movie as a whole at this point. As I said earlier, critics have not been kind to this movie. Rotten Tomatoes has a score of 29%. This movie has issues, but it’s not a bad movie. I believe critics have gotten so used to the relatively lighthearted Marvel movies over the past few years that’s what they expect from movies based on comic books. If you look at the Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones, neither of them have much humor and would actually probably fit very well in the DC movie universe. Having said that, there are issues with the editing/script in Batman V Superman. What was released had the potential to be a great movie. It clocked in at roughly 2.5 hours. In my opinion it either needed to be 30 minutes longer or shorter. Zack Snyder had to set everything up for the Justice League movies (haven’t touched on the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg cameos, but done well in my opinion). To incorporate Wonder Woman, you needed to include a huge threat that would require her getting involved. To set that up adequately, plus the confrontation between Superman and Batman, requires more than 2.5 hours. The alternative would be to cut out the Doomsday portion of the movie and focus on the conflict and resolution of the Superman/Batman conflict. I think what happened was Zack Snyder ended up pulling a Joss Whedon from Avengers 2 and tried to do too much. I have heard there was a lot of material cut from Batman V Superman, and I wish they would release a directors cut in the theaters. I think it would probably take care of a lot of the so called issues with the movie.
Overall, it’s hard for me to accurately describe my thoughts about this movie. There are so many positives that I liked, but at the same time, there are some things that could have been done better. I will say that whatever the issues, it makes me want to see more of DC universe on the screen. The Wonder Woman movie is set during WW1 which I have always found interesting. Batfleck did an amazing job and needs a solo movie. I’d even be down for another Superman flick even though I don’t find him that interesting. In the end, I’d recommend the movie, but keep an open mind because it’s not what you’re used to…