I didn’t hate Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I walked into the theater last night fully expecting to hate it. Two and a half hours later, I ended up merely not liking it. That’s progress, I guess?
That said, there were a couple things I actually liked (most having to do with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman) and I can’t deny that Ben Affleck looks like Batman (even though he sure doesn’t act like him). But the thing that distracted me throughout the movie was the fact that it contained a lot of elements that were executed better in other live action adaptations.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
Let’s start at the beginning; namely, the death of the Waynes. The movie opens with Thomas and Martha getting gunned down. Again. This time, though, Zack Snyders it up via operatic music and copious amounts of slow motion. It’s also the movie’s opening credits sequence a la Watchmen. Still, the only thing I could think of while watching was how pissed Glenn from The Walking Dead must be to see Maggie and Negan as Batman’s parents.
To date, I still think the opening sequence on Gotham is the most interesting take on the Waynes’ murder. Which is saying something since I generally detest everything about that show. But I have to admit that the series kicked off with a promising start. For all the shortcomings on the show, I always thought David Mazouz was well cast as young Bruce. And his blood curdling scream at the sight of his dead parents is just as haunting today as it was when the Gotham pilot first aired.
In addition to retreading the murder of Bruce’s parents, BvS also enters into familiar territory regarding how Bruce discovers the Batcave. A distraught Bruce runs off during his parents’ funeral (with Jeremy Irons’ Alfred chasing after him), when Master Wayne falls through a hole in the ground. He’s then encircled by millions of bats that, seriously, lift baby Bruce into the sky (okay, it’s a dream sequence, but still).
Of course, Bruce falling down a well into the Batcave is taken straight out of the classic Denny O’Neil comics, but it’s also a defining visual from Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins (“Why do we fall, Master Bruce?”). Not to mention the fact that Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne embrace of the bats in the cave from that movie is one of my favorite scenes.
Seriously, I love that moment. Especially the way the music comes in as Bruce finally masters his fear. It’s the best use of Hans Zimmer’s percussive score in the entire Dark Knight trilogy.
Speaking of The Dark Knight, I’ve been very clear about my feelings regarding the missed opportunity to connect Man of Steel and that version of Batman. So I won’t rehash that here. But there’s an obligatory Batmobile chase scene in Batman v Superman involving a semi and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this classic scene from the 2008 classic.
Sure the BvS car chase was thrilling, I guess, but I prefer the practical effects and composition utilized in The Dark Knight (though not everyone thinks so). I think it helps that the scene in TDK doesn’t end with a dialogue exchange as ridiculous as the “The Bat is dead/Do you bleed” nonsense.
Seriously, who thinks that dialogue is good?
Speaking of Superman, who knew that they could find a way to make Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel even more depressing and dour? I know it’s a knock on the previous movie, but there were moments — scattered as they were — where Cavill was able to show some genuine hopefulness with a twinkle in his eye. Not anymore. This Superman is all melodrama all the time.
I get that this movie is trying to explore what it means to have so much power concentrated in one person, but it doesn’t really explore that anyway. So what’s the point? And it isn’t like Superman is torn up about what happened to Metropolis. It seems that the world has moved on and embraced Superman as its savior. They even erected a statue in his likeness at their Ground Zero. The only ones who are still upset about the destruction of Metropolis are Bruce and a Wayne Enterprises employee (who’s only mad because he’s being manipulated by Luthor — more on that train wreck later).
It doesn’t help that we never really get Clark’s point of view on… anything, really. Cavill spends a lot of time posing and clenching his jaw. But he doesn’t really say anything. Like, why is he so upset about Batman (also, if Batman has been active for 20 years, why are people only now paying attention? Shouldn’t news reports and headlines be less surprised, especially if there’s a goddamn Bat signal across the Bay?)
I feel like the philosophical differences between Matt Murdock and Frank Castle — which mirror a lot of what Batman vs. Superman is supposed to — are better argued and presented in the first three hours of Daredevil season two than in any of the three hours I sat through in that movie theater.
This is the other thing that bothered me about BvS. If you want Superman to feel remorseful and the public at large to be untrustworthy, why not just build on the events from Man of Steel? It would have made more sense if the plot was driven by the destruction wrought by his battle with Zod than the convoluted “conspiracy” to tie Superman to mercenaries and an African warlord. Like, why would Luthor need to go such a round about way to turn people against Superman when the smoldering remains of Metropolis should be more than enough? A Luthor who exploits the tragedy for his own personal gain would have been way more interesting than the mess of a character we were given. And boy was Jesse Eisenberg a mess.
For once, I would like to see a big screen Lex Luthor who isn’t a walking buffoon. Three times, Luthor has been the main antagonist, and each time, he’s a joke. At least, he wasn’t obsessed with real estate this time. That’s a plus. To date, the best live action take on Lex is still Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville.
Even when he played an unhinged Luthor, as he did in the episode “Shattered,” Rosenbaum acts circles around Oscar-nominated Eisenberg — which, honestly, is a strike against the writer and director.
Speaking of Smallville, I’m sure the scene where Lex finally gets his head shaved while in prison was meant to be iconic and chilling. The problem is that scene was done so much better 12 years ago when it was Lionel.
Smallville also did Ghost
Dad Pa better.
Is there anything Batman v Superman did better? Um, Wonder Woman’s theme is dope. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of Gadot’s take on the character in her solo movie — so long as there will be some Themyscirans of color. Also, Affleck has the best Batsuit to date, though I think it’s possible to make the black trunks work. If soldiers can wear armored crotch protectors, so can Batman.
Papa Pope was a nice surprise, too. Though I guess this means Cyborg was created by Skynet.