Batman V Superman
Dawn of Justice
There’s always one, isn’t there?
Mind you, this time I’m the one. Yep, I’m the one person who seems to have been really enjoying director Zack Snyder’s helming of DC’s first foray into an extended universe of super–heroes — something that they’ve been doing with amazing confidence and success over at Marvel for a number of years now.
For nearly the first two hours I bought into the dark world view that scriptwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer* had put on offer in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I didn’t mind the shuffling and unease that I could feel in the seats around me (‘When is something going to happen’?). I was also willing to overlook the seriously dodgy extended dream sequence which – apart from serving no purpose whatsoever – looked as if it had been lifted from a computer war game.
And, as with the previous film, I closed my eyes to the total lack of chemistry between Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) – even when they tried to bolster it up with a cringeworthy dive by a fully-clothed Clark into the bath with a naked Lois. Listen, it would have taken a full-on sex scene a la Nite Owl and Silk Spectre from Snyder’s Watchmen to put any life into the relationship between these two – and maybe even that wouldn’t have done it.
But I didn’t really care: because this film belonged to Bruce Wayne and the Batman (Ben Affleck).
“We’re Criminals; We’ve Always Been Criminals.”
After seeing the precursor three years ago, I wrote:
“There is plenty to enjoy in Man of Steel; but as I said before the viewer never connects with any of the characters. It is one of the most humourless, joyless and grim experiences that you could find in a cinema. And whatever about the pluses that I’ve just outlined, they are totally wiped out by the sheer anarchy, chaos and nonsense of the last hour, by which time I was convinced that the film was never going to be over.”
Well, this time I certainly connected — with Wayne. The other difference in this superior sequel is that the whole edifice only came crashing down for me in the last half-hour (which is where it came alive for some people; but I ignore those with no taste).
Until then we get to see an impressively realised Bruce Wayne/Batman; and the intimidatingly bulked-up Affleck is a pure presence any time he is on screen. He may get accused of only having two expressions but those work just fine here.
The Return of the Darknight Detective
And for old-time fans of the comic-book character it is nice to see him actually solve things through brains and detective work (after all, he was often referred to as the Darknight Detective); but when he decides to solve things through muscle he does it with a level of savagery heretofore unseen in the character as he even brands those who have crossed him with the symbol of the Bat. Hardcore stuff for a 12A Cert and makes me sorry that Snyder didn’t go all out and forget about a Rating. Yeah, like the DC Corporation was going to let that happen.
There is a lovely, stylized credits sequence where the young Bruce sees his parents murdered. All the familiar elements are paid respect to, with the nice touch of the movie that they have just been to being changed from The Mark of Zorro to Excalibur, a very appropriate one for this future Dark Knight.
We later learn that afterwards Bruce set out, using his immense inheritance and with the assistance of his techno-savvy butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), to fight criminals on the gritty streets of depressed Gotham City. When we meet him he is a still-angry man who has been at this for twenty years, relieving his endless battle and quieting his personal demons with alcohol and super models.
However, when the film proper opens with him witnessing the carnage caused by the battling Kryptonians that ended the previous film, Superman becomes the focus for his rage as he see huge swathes of Metropolis leveled by the combatants amidst many deaths and maimings. (I should add here that there is a quirky bit of geography that places Gotham just across a bridge from the wealthier city of Metropolis.)
Attack of the Furious Fanboys
His anger at the Last Son of Krypton is stoked by a young Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who pulls the strings of both from behind the scenes. And it is towards the depiction of the villainous Lex that most of the Ire of the Fanboys is directed. For myself, I thought that the idea to play him as a sort of young, brilliant and psychotic Mark Zuckerberg was pretty interesting. There’s a good scene where we see him begin to lose it and realise that he is wrapped ‘way too tight as he delivers a rambling speech in which he refers to Prometheus and Zeus, attracting the interest of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), the immortal Wonder Woman who has been in hiding for the past century. If anything, I found Gadot’s appearance far more problematical, for the possibly sexist reason that she just didn’t come across to me as an Amazon warrior.
It’s Diana, however, that alerts Bruce to the fantastic notion that there is an entire sub-culture of ‘metahumans’ who exist on the fringes of our society – as, of course, the Batman also does.
“You Were Never a God; You’re Not Even a Man”.
And what of Superman himself? Well, Batman is grim and Wonder Woman isn’t looking to be a barrel of laughs either – but surely Kal-El was always the one that you could look to for stability? Well, not in Snyder’s vision.
Look, fanboys, there’s no use in complaining, as a lot of you are doing, that this isn’t the great Christopher Reeves. I love those lines where Reeves spoke of fighting for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’ and never telling a lie as much as anyone. And when he delivered them I also believed him, imagine that.
But this is a different world and a different vision. With the collapse of the Wayne building during the initial mayhem we have already been pointedly reminded of the Twin Towers – and the aspect of terrorism that hangs over this film is later taken to an even higher level by a completely unexpected and horrifying plot twist.
I’ve a feeling that a lot of so-called fans have gone into this wanting to see what they already had in their minds up there on the screen and really hating it when that didn’t happen; but they have gone overboard in their venomous dislike. And by the way, do not believe this nonsense that regarding the film’s title, there is no clear winner. Short of tattooing the result on their stupid geek heads it couldn’t be more clear. Nor is the introduction of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg in the slightest bit clunky. If anything, it is downright creepy.
It’s just that last half-hour… which the film would have been not the slightest bit poorer for losing and which only heightened my distaste for overused CGI effects and left me wondering how the Hell Diana Prince got all that weaponry through airport customs in this day and age.
*I really hope that Frank Miller, the artist/writer of the three-decade old graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns got a suitable wedge for this film; because some of the best lines (not to mention the unremittingly black vision) are lifted directly from him.
And just as an afterthought, although this film won’t send you into the streets feeling happy at the world, Snyder does slip in an amusing couple of gag-references. I particularly liked the tip of the hat to his debut, Day of the Dead.