Time To Exhale: Batman v. Superman

After a record setting weekend for DC films at the box office ($166.1 million), it feels safe to finally vent about one of the most anticipated films for superhero fans in a long time. I understand a few of you have not seen the flick, so consider this a warning for spoilers. YOU ARE READING AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Going into my Thursday night opening showing of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice in IMAX, I fought very hard to keep an open mind. Reviews were less than stellar after screenings earlier in the week from people I trust, and I was already skeptical based on a lot of eye-rolling marketing. The Batman fan in me was still excited though, and I was ready for the new story following Dark Knight Trilogy.

I left the theater liking some things but hating other aspects about the film. There were pieces I felt could be built on and would make for a very interesting extended universe that DC and Warner Bros. plan to rely on as they look to fill a void left by The Hobbit and Harry Potter franchises. You can’t blame them after the opening weekend monetary success and wanting to keep pace with Marvel. Please do so without Zack Snyder though…

When I was asked how I would rate the film, I couldn’t commit to any end of the “Terrible to Great” spectrum so I’d say “6 out of 10 tops”. I also felt the last 3rd of the movie was significantly better than the first 2/3, and I hate that I had to wait for it to happen. To express that better, lets look at each variable that went into the 2 hour and 30 minute film.

Batman

What I liked: Ben Affleck impressed me. I personally don’t have him on the Christian Bale/Michael Keaton top tier, but he’s hanging out above Val Kilmer on my Batman actor list. Affleck fit the older and grizzled Batman that they chose to roll with. He was even better as Bruce Wayne. He carried himself like a dignitary at Lex Luthor’s party. He was relatively suave in his banter with Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and could do the “reckless playboy act” when it was needed. Affleck’s introduction from Bruce’s point of view during the Superman-Zod battle in Metropolis was smart and compelling. And in a film that was nearly void of comic relief, he and Alfred (played by Jeremy Irons) provided the little bit that was there.

Side note: Is it me, or was Irons way too handsome for Alfred? Not saying I minded it…

If there’s something I feel confident about going forward in this new DC universe is Affleck’s influence for the upcoming Batman solo film. I trust Affleck as a filmmaker more than Snyder, with The Town and Argo on his directorial resume.

What I didn’t like: While Bruce Wayne’s entrance into the film was very good, Batman’s was not. What made Christopher Nolan’s trilogy very good was its ability to get you excited when the Dark Knight would stop crime with stealth attacks and cool choreographed fights. Instead, Snyder chose to introduce Batman as a criminal who apparently tortures sex trade criminals off-camera, leaves a bat brand on them, and then scurries away when police show up. Not the best first impression for fans who have gotten to know at least 5 different versions of Batman.

The multiple dream sequences were silly as is, but the second one that leads to a confrontation with a genocidal Superman was the most disheartening. Why is Batman using a gun and shooting people? Has he completely abandoned his “No kill” policy that separates him morally from everyone else? Then came his actual fight scene toward the end of the film with Luthor’s henchmen. Rather than an impressive rehearsed fight, it was all CGI, cartoonish and hard to even follow. When TV shows like Arrow and Daredevil are killing it with stunt actors and fight scenes, you can at least try to hold yourself to their standard. Yes, the CW beat you in something, Snyder.

Lastly, seemed a little too quick to be referring to yourself as a “friend of your son’s” to Martha, didn’t it?

Superman

What I liked: Henry Cavill has the look, there’s no denying that. Superman is very difficult character to make relatable based on his ability to really do EVERYTHING, and Cavill pull off the dangerous and overpowering demeanor that people, like Batman and skeptics, fear. I have a hard time faulting Cavill when you know the people writing and directing his character are the ones responsible for most of the problems.

What I didn’t like: The “woe is me, I’m not from this planet” bit was so melodramatic and overplayed. We know, Superman. You had a whole standalone film (Man of Steel) to show us that and we, the audience, don’t care. Just go save some people in amazingly cool ways! Unfortunately, Snyder chose to downplay Superman’s cool and selfless acts toward the beginning in typical Snyder-like slow-mo with arrogant vibes and commentary over him. Rather than ramp up a rivalry with Batman, as the film’s title suggested, Superman seemed way more concerned with the public perception of him and the where he fits on Earth. It seemed more like a “this universe isn’t big enough for the both of us” rivalry for Superman, than an actual threat of global security…like it was for Batman. Then when he knows he has to team up with Bruce Wayne, Superman actually entertains the option to kill him when explaining it to Lois Lane. You’re better than that, Clark.

In their first meeting, Clark Kent has the opportunity to listen to the conversation between Bruce and Alfred (which he exhibits) and find out why they are investigating Luthor but doesn’t even take advantage of that. Just seems like a lot of drama could’ve been saved in that sequence that makes Superman appear more shortsighted than he should be.

 

Lex Luthor

What I liked: If Jesse Eisenberg’s goal was to make you hate his character, he did a very good job of that. He started off annoying and obviously spoiled, continued to be annoying but more dangerous, then finished as self-aggrandizing and psychotic (I know he had an okay comeback to that observation from Lois). The character comes off brilliant but only to an extent.

What I didn’t like: Eisenberg’s version of Luthor has influence and power, but zero poise or enough wit that could go toe-to-toe with either Superman or Batman. Joker is psychotic, but there’s method to his madness and you respect the danger he can inflict as well as his ability to exploit what’s wrong with the world to his advantage. Eisenbeg’s Luthor seemed to crack before we could respect him. And cool, he knows something we don’t about bigger baddies that are bound to come, but why should anyone want to team up with him?

How did Luthor expect to control Doomsday after unleashing him anyway? Was the end game just destroy Superman and Batman, and then the world? Doomsday never showed any sign of allegiance when he “busted out” of the ship.

Lois Lane

What I like: I like Amy Adams as Lois a lot. A very good actress who holds her own well in a blockbuster. Her status at the Daily Planet, as someone who gets what she wants when she wants was impressive. Unfortunately…

What I didn’t like: …her storyline had no real bearing on the outcome until MAYBE the very end. Her investigation with the intelligence bureaucrat was distracting and unnecessary. Bruce Wayne did all the digging anyone needed into Lex Luthor that broke open his so-called “masterplan”, which was pretty weak as is. Then she was reduced to Superman’s damsel in distress (twice) when she doesn’t have to be anymore. Audiences are ready for badass women, even those without powers. Let Lois be one.

 

Wonder Woman 

What I liked: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was a bright spot in a pretty dreary movie. I have to admit, I clapped when she showed up in the battle vs. Doomsday and her music a nice shot of necessary adrenaline. As Bruce is looking into her hack filed, compiled by Luthor, we see the photo of her alongside Chris Pine and that had us intrigued in her upcoming 2017 film.

What I didn’t like: That it took until the very end of the movie to see her in action. We know she lifted Bruce Wayne’s jump drive, but what was she doing with it? If she was going to just fly away on a plane, she obviously stopped pursuing it. I would’ve liked to know what her angle and purpose was in Metropolis before meeting Batman and Superman. As far as we know, she was just…there.

 

Other Thoughts

  • After watching Daredevil Season 2 on Netflix a week before, it was disappointing to see Zack Snyder’s result of a superhero rivalry/team-up film. Daredevil and Punisher were got straight to the point early on expressing their differences and philosophies, and they made it tougher to choose who you’d want to root for in a battle between the two. Siding with Batman just came way too easy in what was an overblown issue to begin with. It’s also going to seem like night-and-day when Captain America: Civil War hits theaters when Cap and Iron Man go head-to-head.
  • Action films with shaky cameras are annoying. You can shoot fights and chase scenes without making the viewer want to throw up. Maybe watch a few movies that execute this better…like some of your own, Zack.
  • WHY ARE WE KILLING JIMMY OLSEN OFF IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES? He deserved better than that, and better than needing the credits to remind you that it was indeed Jimmy (as a CIA agent all of a sudden?)
  • Having a hard time with anyone else as The Flash other than Grant Gustin. Seems like an oversight not to include him, given his popularity with a massive audience currently.
  • I’ll be honest, I like going to the movies to get away from the noise of pundits and politicians arguing annoying issues. So when Superman’s rescue scenes are drowned out by that exact thing (and F’ing Nancy Grace, of all people), you’re putting a bad taste in my mouth that can’t be fixed with popcorn or theater candy.
  • You can argue that the purpose of this film was supposed to be jumping off point for the rest of the planned DC Universe, but it really shouldn’t have been such a chore to endure. The film has made a lot of money, and might keep doing so this week as most high school kids in the U.S. have Spring Break, but box office numbers don’t reflect its quality. This isn’t one I’m going to go back to the theater to see, nor do I really want to spend time on it home after it comes out on Blu-Ray/DVD/Demand.

Last but not least…

You are allowed to like the movie. It’s very okay. Your taste in films and expectations can be very different than mine. Just know that it could have been a lot better, and we as fans deserved it to be after waiting so long for something like this to come along.

How did you feel about Batman v. Superman? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll also discuss it on The Piffcast tonight, so be sure to subscribe to the show

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