My Indian Nerve brethren have already expressed eloquently their thoughts on Batman v Superman (make sure to read Asif Shaikh‘s and Arindam Sen’s reviews). Since they’ve covered good ground between them, I thought I’d take a different approach to talking about this movie, and so I offer thoughts on what I liked, what I disliked and what excites me about the future. I hereby title these lists Dope (adjective), Nope (exclamation) and Hope (noun).
Be warned – this article contains SPOILERS, as well as speculation about future movies.
The Boyhood Dream Comes True
As a boy, I spent countless hours in my local library reading superhero comics. While Marvel has perfectly translated the comic book experience to the screen, I’ve always leaned towards the DC side of the fence, and longed for an adaptation that does justice (Haha, pun) to my childhood heroes. The Richard Donner Superman films, though wonderful, were limited by the constraints of their time. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was magnificent, but too grounded to be an out-and-out comic book experience. The other scattered films that appeared over the years have ranged from decent to awful. But something about BvS just clicked for me: the sheer beauty of the visuals, the awe-inspiring action, the fight sequences choreographed with reverent nods to iconic comic book storylines and the delicious promise of more to come. Have you ever heard an old song on the radio and been vividly transported back to the time you first heard it? That priceless blend of joy, melancholy and nostalgia is what I experienced over and over during this film.
Sixty Seven Percent of the Holy Trinity
Two years ago, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock stood in the same ring to kick off Wrestlemania XXX. It was a giddy moment for me, but soon eclipsed by the news that I would soon see an even holier trinity sharing screen space: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Do they deliver as well as that other trio did? Well, mostly. I hated Zack Snyder’s interpretation of Superman in Man of Steel, and although Supes is handled better in BvS, his characterization is still a tad knotty for my taste. But Great Caesar’s Ghost, did they get Batman and Wonder Woman right or what?
For my money, Ben Affleck is now the definitive screen Batman. Previous versions have ranged from the campy (Adam West) to the philosophical (Christian Bale), but this is the Batman we have long needed and deserved – a terrifying tornado of unforgiving rage. There has been much criticism about having Batman kill so freely in this film, but I love that decision. This Batman should strike a chord with anyone who is becoming increasingly angry and disillusioned with the world. It is fascinating to see such an uncompromisingly brutal and violent character positioned as the centerpiece of a new film universe.
While audiences are arguably more familiar with Batman than any other superhero, they needed to be properly introduced to Wonder Woman, and this movie does so handsomely. Gal Gadot only has a few minutes on screen, but she is a scorching show-stealer.
The Dawn of Justice
I am in the minority on this, but I liked how BvS set up the Justice League. The premise that Lex Luthor has been gathering intelligence on ‘meta-humans’ living in secret on our world was an economical way to tie the Justice League into this movie, without further crowding an already cluttered film with four more story threads. True, they could have been a bit more subtle about how a couple of these characters were introduced, particularly Aquaman and Cyborg, but I am intrigued and excited about the direction of the DC Cinematic Universe.
Superman and Friends
Something about the folks in Metropolis isn’t right. Henry Cavill is not a bad actor, but Zack Snyder’s Superman is too grim, conflicted and humourless for my liking. This was one of the biggest issues I had with Man of Steel, and things haven’t changed much in BvS – the only reason it worked this time is because Batman was in the movie too. Compared to him, even this Superman seems genial and well-adjusted.
But it isn’t just Superman – his supporting cast is off as well. Diane Lane is fine as Ma Kent, but Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) could do with some cheering up. Laurence Fishbourne’s Perry White is a below-the-poverty-line ripoff of J Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man trilogy. Jimmy Olson is weirdly repackaged as a CIA agent, and killed off in a minute. I suppose I am just not on the same page as Snyder when it comes to Superman’s world. Even the lovely Amy Adams, a decade older than Henry Cavill, seems miscast as Lois Lane. But speaking of bad casting….
This is the one element of this film that I just can’t defend. I unconditionally apologize to Ben Affleck about my reservations on him being cast as Batman, but my doubts about Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor proved completely justified. I have nothing against Eisenberg himself, but what were they thinking? Eisenberg reminded me too of Shah Rukh Khan in this movie, and although I had a blast laughing at the similarity, it defies any belief that a weird, twitchy, spoiled kid could be positioned as the criminal mastermind of this franchise. Not only is the casting poor and the performance ridiculous, the character’s motivations are a confused mess. Luthor’s plans and machinations don’t stand up to the slightest logical scrutiny. I can only hope that they pull a swerve in the next film and reveal that Lex Luthor’s father is still alive, and has been attending to some secret business. Lex Luthor Sr. arrives in Metropolis disgusted by Junior’s antics. He shoots his son and dissolves the body in acid. He then turns to Mercy Graves, adjusts his hat and sunglasses, and says “Say my name.”
Batman v Superman worked fabulously for me, but it definitely has issues. The editing has been singled out for criticism, with the film choppily jumping from one thread to another. I actually think the editing works in the movie’s favour, because it makes some of the holes in the writing less obvious. I watched the movie in a charitable mood, and allowed myself to be bobbed back and forth on the current of the four or five different subplots without being overly critical in my observation. Hence, the deficiencies were less obvious to me than if one story had been followed all the way through without interruption. But the seams appear under the slightest scrutiny. Those who have lamented the flimsy setup for the Batman-Superman feud, the equally clumsy resolution of the fight or the contradictions inherent in Luthor’s plans are all correct. The film is not on the soundest footing. Moreover, in retrospect, the marketing was appalling. Warner Bros. gave away far too much about the film in the trailers and the promotional material, and there was very little to discover. I understand that they wanted to sell the film hard, but a title like Batman v Superman sells itself, and there was no need to divulge the number of crucial plot points that they did. Compare this to the assuredness with which Marvel is conducting business. Warner Bros needs an authoritative creative force spearheading the DC film universe. Is Zack Snyder the best man for the job? I have my doubts. Although a brilliant visual stylist, his storytelling instincts are a little suspect.
The DC Extended Universe
Suicide Squad will be upon us in a few months. 2017 will bring Wonder Woman, helmed by Monster director Patty Jenkins. Solo movies for The Flash, Aquaman (directed by James Wan of The Conjuring fame) and Cyborg are also in the works, as are Shazam and Green Lantern Corps. Of course, two Justice League films are in the pipeline as well, with Part One scheduled for release next year. A variety of other projects have been rumoured, including films based on Green Arrow, Lobo and Justice League Dark. The one that excites me the most is a potential Batman solo film, directed by Ben Affleck himself. Affleck’s record behind the camera has been outstanding so far, and if he does sign on to direct the Batman movie, it could end up being one for the ages.
Injustice / Reign of the Supermen?
The Death and Return of Superman is one of my favourite comic book storylines, and one I’ve long felt would make for a marvelous movie adaptation. I was surprised and impressed by the decision to kill Superman at the end of BvS, and my mind immediately filled with excited speculation about how the storyline could play out. In the comics, after Doomsday and Superman kill each other, four new heroes emerge, each resembling Superman in some way. Which, if any of them is the real Superman? Isn’t that a mouth-watering premise for a movie?
While there is a chance that they might go down the Reign of the Supermen road, some clues in the film suggest an equally intriguing storyline. In the Injustice comic/video game series, Superman goes berserk after Lois Lane’s death and becomes the tyrannical dictator of Earth, with Batman leading a resistance against him. For the uninitiated, the scene in BvS where Bruce Wayne falls asleep in his Batcave appears to contain a message delivered by a time-travelling Flash from the future – “Lois is the key. You were right about him, Bruce. Find us…”
While the ending of BvS teases a Darkseid appearance in Justice League, I think a Justice League vs. Superman battle would be far more fascinating. They can always save Darkseid for later. I mean, Snyder’s Superman is not likeable anyway, why not make him outright detestable?
The Other Batman Movie
Are you upset at the darkness of the DC films? Do you crave a little bit of the levity that Marvel incorporates so well into their movies? Well, this trailer was released recently:
<iframe width=”658″ height=”370″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/aBJyp2LFHgk” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
Yes, this absolutely counts as part of the DC universe.