Batman versus Superman
In order to best discuss issues and elements of the film, vague spoilers are mentioned.proceed at your own discretion.
I took the girls out to Amherst cinema to see Batman v Superman on Saturday. This is the movie event of the summer for us – it’s the one with and waiting for, more than Civil War, more than Deadpool, more than Star Wars. It is the culmination of a dream come true. This is what we have always wanted to see, even more than the joining of the Avengers or the Punisher and Daredevil coming together – this is the ultimate dream for us. We are DC people after all.
There’s a lot of Trolls out there who seemed inclined to hate this movie from the word go – and for those who absolutely wanted to see this fail, those people are going to find as many flaws and as many things they don’t agree with in it as they can. There is plenty of it, so yes, I’m seeing more than enough of them feeling justified in their animosity. I’ve been defending this movie for quite awhile, with a wait-and-see attitude. I’m not the kind of person to hate something just because it’s cool to hate it. Some of you are sitting out there reading this thinking “I sense a ‘but’ here “.
Well not exactly.
Like any film you can divide it into a pile of good things in a pile bad things. Lets start off looking at the good things shall we?
Henry Cavill is perfectly adequate at being superman. That may sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but really this is a difficult role and he manages to blend in, embodying the fundamentals of the character rather than standing out as a particular actor version of it. He’s not the Christopher Reeve Superman, he’s not Dean Cain Superman he simply is… Superman. Cavill does an excellent job portraying a lot of Superman’s inner monologue, that is to say he captures the insecurities of the man, he conveys the inner turmoil without chewing the scenery. The Superman of this era is still on a learning curve and Cavill manages to convey that well. More than anything else, no matter what you have to say about the director, or the writer, or even the critics and fans, you can take absolute certainty on this – Cavill gets Superman. It is clearly evident in his rendition.
While we’re on the subject of Superman, (discussing the supporting cast is inevitable) can we talk about how good Perry White is in this movie? I was extremely on the fence about Lawrence Fishbourne in Man of Steel. There is something about his performance that threw me off… Perry is an old school war reporter, ‘Nam and World War II. Fishbourne seemed a little too cool sometimes, man that earring of his is really bugging me! This time around he seemed more grizzled, maybe it’s just the gray showing up on his beard but I don’t think so – he played the character with more maturity and age this time around. He played him crankier and with less patience. That really makes a big difference. I felt more like I was watching Franklin Langella’s (Superman Returns) or John Hamilton’s(Adventures of Superman TV) performance.
And then there is Batman. After all the speculation, we finally get to see Batfleck.
(I’m telling you guys! You should have used my design!)
It’s inevitable that we have to talk about him. You know, the Haters jumped right on top of him as soon as Ben Affleck was cast. I refused to delve into the mass of criticism (You can see my initial reactions on this blog HERE and HERE), particularly amid this group of people who want to hate on him simply because he is Ben Affleck. That was the big argument that I kept hearing, that he’s Ben Affleck and he’s going to suck because of it – or that he is going to suck as Batman because he sucked as Daredevil (curiously enough, the main argument and I’ve heard for why Daredevil is so terrible is that exact same one – it sucks because Ben Affleck sucks). Quite frankly, if I’d heard you utter these words or any variation thereof, I have immediately dismissed your opinion and I’m not interested in talking to you any further about these movies. (and by the way, I happen to like Daredevil – I mean really like it – like I don’t understand why everyone hates it, it’s one of my favorite superhero films). Yeah, harsh, but I’ve put up with it enough.
So how did acquit himself? I think that if you were dead set on hating him, if you were invested enough in that inclination then you’re still going to hate him. For someone who went in with no expectations however, Affleck does a marvelous job. This is a different Batman, it’s not Kilmer it’s not Keaton, it’s not Bale. Some of the characterization feels off sometimes, but it’s intentional. This is a Batman who has grown world-weary. He is so involved in vengeance, that he has very much forgotten how to be a hero that that’s one of the interesting things about this movie, Batman has a definite arc. This film is all about him learning how to become a hero again and it is only in his conflict with Superman, (and moreover seeing his own dark reflection cast by the light of Superman’s inherent nobility) that he realities how lost he is… How far he’s wandered off the path of the hero.
Make no mistake, Superman is the hero of this piece.
I realize that an inflammatory statement, but I think I can back it up. You see, in the final climactic battle between Batman and Superman, Superman comes in, unwilling to kill the Batman, even at the cost of his mother’s life. Batman comes in, solely intent on murdering Superman out of nothing more than a paranoid fear. I’m sorry, but no matter how I look at it, in this situation – Batman is the bad guy – and indeed it is the very reason why Batman almost wins here… not because he’s single mindedly willing to do “whatever it takes” to win, but rather because Superman is unwilling to take Batman’s life. Superman truly is the hero here. And that’s really the point of it all isn’t it? We see a remarkable redemption in Batman and this is a tough part to pull out off simply because of all of these elements that have been layered and incorporated into a single role.
Affleck’s body language is straight out of the animated series, and his delivery is pitch perfect from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight returns. For those out there who are complaining it’s not their version of Batman, I’m reminded of something John Byrne once wrote – his reaction to reading The Dark Knight Returns. He said that it wasn’t the Batman he knew, not the one he liked, but he understood how it was the Batman that he knew who had grown into this character – that this was a potential future for his Batman and it made sense to him when he looked at it from this perspective. I think there’s a lot of that here. If all you’re looking for is a rehash of Christian Bale’s Batman then you may be in the wrong place. That’s perhaps that’s a bit harsh of me, but I’ve never cared for the Nolan films, and have always felt a little distressed that so many people claim that as their fundamental version of Batman – the purist form, and the only one they wish to recognize. There are better versions out there, believe me. This may or may not be one of them.
The bat suit by the way, is dead on and I really love it. I get glimpse of gold on that belt once in awhile, even though it seems to be rusted over and black. I can see the bat symbol on the chest and it really stands out against the gray. There is nothing about this bat suit that I don’t like – and the Batmobile? I have not liked a Batmobile this much since Anton Furst’s design for the 1989 film, and the Lincoln Futura before it. It’s perfect. It has the teeth of the tumbler, mixed with the sleek look of the first Batmobile. I was excited from the very first images I laid eyes on, and the final product did not disappoint one bit– it’s sporty and brutal and beautiful
Of course the real performance everyone is talking about here is Wonder Woman. I have heard from more than a few critics fans and moviegoers that she stole the show. That was certainly the case for my kids. They waited almost an entire film just to see her – even when she showed up incognito they understood it, and their excitement was palpable. Wonder Woman does not disappoint here – and that’s quite a task considering how difficult it has been to bring this character back to the screen. Lynda Carter is still very much in the hearts and minds of everyone of my generation, but my kids have been exposed to her as well (although they are probably more familiar with the animated version that we saw in the Justice League cartoon). Still this was a brilliant performance, and Gail Godot proved she was absolutely worthy of the role. She is another one of those cases of undue criticism, before a single frame was shot. I really don’t understand why there was so much hatred heaped upon her head from the moment she was cast… long before we ever even saw her in the suit! This woman had an uphill battle and had to fight for every step of the way, and man, does she ever deliver in this movie! They manage not only to make her compelling, but to make her mysterious – to make her and enigma that we genuinely want to unravel and explore further. When we saw the old photograph that she had infiltrated Lex Luthor’s party to retrieve, we nearly flipped. It’s obviously a shot from the upcoming Wonder Woman solo film and that’s such a great way of integrating her into the DC cinematic universe. The amount of anticipation that my girls and I have for the upcoming wonder woman movie just shot through the roof!
Really, this is The epitome of what is Zach Snyder faced with this film. He had an impossible task, not only to bring these characters to life but to kick off a franchise and to keep us wanting to come back more. I have long said that Batman versus Superman was a license to print money… But only once. This film was guaranteed to be a success, but it had to be enough of a true success to make us genuinely want to come back for more.
I’m not sold on Cyborg and the Flash, not from the mere glimpses we saw in this film, and I’m still not in love with Snyder’s style, but that Aquaman we saw? Man I want to know more about that! He reminds me a lot of the 90’s Aquaman (the version I really like). and this really intrigues me. I am all about a new wonder woman movie and an Aquaman story. I also honestly do want to see more of Afflecks Batman.
I really want to know what’s up with that ending. My kids cried.
It’s not a perfect movie though, it’s at least 45 minutes too long – and far too much of the movie goes right back to my age old complaint about the Iron man films; we’re not in the suit isn’t nearly enough costume time, especially for Superman. We get a montage and rescue at the beginning and not a lot else until we hit that the third act. Batman is only slightly better. There is a moment in the film where Alfred points out that Bruce Wayne is capable of getting certain information far more easily and efficiently than Batman. I wanna punch Alfred as he says this, because I’m not nearly as interested in watching Bruce Wayne hobnob as I am in watching Batman swing on a rope! Aargh!
Lois Lane is not quite tough enough. Margot Kidder may have taken the hard as nails approach a tad too far, but the current Lois Lane feels just a little too soft and friendly . I’m a bit biased, I think Teri Hatcher was the greatest Lois Lane ever to grace the screen which is curious considering I’m not a fan of the Lois and Clark TV show…(although I’m softening on that stand, I’m almost through season two and actually liking it a bit more than I did when I was a kid)
Perhaps the biggest problem in this film, is Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor. This was another casting choice that I defended when it was announced, it was my thought that if he bulked up a little bit this might be an interesting chance for him to stretch is acting ability. He’s got the range, he just never uses it, instead choosing to rely on his Jesse Eisenberg persona. I even found this image back then – a speculative rendition of what he could be as Lex if he choose to play it straight.
Even when it came out that his Eisenber act was indeed the kind of character he was going to be playing, I assumed that the role had been written for him – with this gawky spaz kind of young Lex Luthor in mind… Now I’m not so sure.
There is nothing in his lines or actions that depends on the hyperactive awkwardness that he displays. In fact, there’s moments in his performance of real menace. It’s enough to make me believe that perhaps there’s something more there than meets the eye. I almost want to believe that the nerdy Eisenberg persona is just a defense mechanism. Just a surface act that masks depths of sinister intent.
The problem is it’s never paid off (unless Snyder thinks that the sullen look on Eisenbergs face as his hair is shaved off is that emotional pay off). We never really get to see this explored the ways should be done. As a result, it just comes up as annoying – a real missed opportunity .
When they were first looking around at casting next Luthor I was vocal in my support of Clancy Brown. He was the actor who voiced the character in the cartoons, though he is probably best known for his role as the Kurgan in Highlander or the mean guard in The Shawshank Redemption. He’s never been out of work. In very recent times, he’s played the principal in the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot,as well as appearing on Supergirl as General Eiling, and very recently showed up on Daredevil as the Punishers old CO.
Sit back for a moment, and transpose him over Jesse Eisenberg. Imagine Eisenbergs lines, but instead of the nervous sputtering delivery that Jesse gave, imagine Clancy in an expensive pressed suit – perhaps a lab coat, thought less likely. Imagine him delivering those lines confidently with that low,sure voice. Just a touch of menace to it. Imagine Clancy doing the things Luthor did. With Eisenberg, pulling the finger tips off of Zod is icky… With Brown it would’ve been terrifying in it’s genuis and obsession. With Eisenberg you hate him for kidnapping Martha Kent, with Brown you’re terrified of what will happen to her.
‘Seriously, I don’t understand this casting choice. Snyder is hellbent on doing something different, I understand. Indeed, I think in this determination to do something new, he actually exhibits that single-mindedness that we see in Batman… driving him to do the wrong thing.
The wrong thing. That that’s a bold statement, it’s an absolute and a label that I have not applied any other part of this movie. So why do I say “the wrong thing ” when it comes to Lex Luthor and stand by it with such certainty?
Because my kids didn’t recognize him.
My girls know who Lex Luthor is. They’ve watched him on the Justice League cartoons, they’ve been around Superman there entire lives, they play hero clixs with me and read the comics themselves and THEY. DID. NOT. RECOGNIZE. HIM. It wasn’t until the end of the movie, where Eisenberg sits in prison, wearing an orange jumpsuit and having his head shaved that Maddie’s eyes widened and she pointed at him. It was only in those final minutes of the film that my kids realized that they had been watching some strange incarnation of Lex Luthor all along. When you alter a character so much that he becomes unrecognizable to casual fans, you have absolutely gone the wrong direction with that character.
Zach Snyder is not interested in making fun, popcorn action movies. He’s trying to make a serious epic here, and I’m not sure that’s the right approach. While Batman V Superman is not a bad movie, The heaviness of it severely limits rewatchability. I have the same issue with Winter Soldier, and I especially have this problem with Man of Steel. We all know that Superman Returns is a terrible film, and it breaks my heart because the visual design has so much potential. But I’ll tell you what, even though Man of Steel is a better film, I’ve seen Superman Returns way more times that I’ve watched Man of Steel. It’s just an easier watch. Truth is, I don’t think I’ve made it through Man of Steel even one time since I saw in the theatre. Maybe in pieces, but certainly not in its entirety. Batman versus Superman will be the same – I may pop the video in and cue it past the second hour, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never watch this entire thing again. I liked it, and I’m glad I saw it, I just don’t know that I’ll ever be able to sit through this a second time, where as I can see myself watching Batman 89 again and again. If Iron Man is on cable I’m not going to turn it off. If I see BvS though, I’ll probably sit through it until commercial if it’s a good part and then keep on flipping.
The thing is, Snyder has mistaken heavy and cynical for mature. I have the same response to him that I did to the producers of the Muppets many months ago (you can find that HERE) that Cynical is not necessarily “adult”, and it’s not what I want to see with these characters. You didn’t “grow up “the Superman film, you just sucked a lot of the joy out of it.
A lot of the joy, but not all of it. Seeing Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman on screen together is something we wanted all our lives and we finally have it. This was a monumental and daunting task and if not ideal, Snyder does manage to pull it off. 3-D and IMAX are going to do nothing for it, but if you haven’t seen it in the theatre you really need to. We went for the cheap seats at Amherst Cinema and paid four dollars for a ticket. It’s showing on a double bill with Deadpool over at the drive-in near us. The movie is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere – you have no excuse. If you haven’t seen Batman versus Superman, I’m sorry I spoiled it for you but what are you doing wasting time reading this anyhow? Get out and see the movie!