Alex Yarde shares his thoughts after seeing Batman v Superman.
Warning: Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen BVS be warned!
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a fan of Snyder’s vision of Superman in Man of Steel (MOS) you can read my review here. In my MOS review comments section. I called the heart of the sequel would be World’s Finest (still a better title) Lex Luthor’s exploiting the destruction of Metropolis and getting his hands on Kryptonian technology. I think I did pretty well in hindsight. I also enjoyed its sequel Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice (BVS) but I don’t dare make predictions this time. Writers Chris Terrio (Argo), David S. Goyer (Nolan’s Batman Trilogy) & Director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen, Man Of Steel) shoehorn plot threads from Kingdom Come, The Dark Knight Returns (TDKR) Injustice Gods Among Us and The Death of Superman. BVS is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Larry Fong (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) and scored by Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy) & Junkie XL (Mad Max Fury Road, Deadpool). This film has an admittedly convoluted middle and end because it’s forced to bridge Justice League, the Wonder Woman stand alone and expand the DC Cinematic Universe. BvS is best consumed as a second part of a trilogy, rather than a stand alone film. In fact, I argue there are at least two films here, a great Batman film, a good MOS sequel and an extended JUSTICE LEAGUE featurette.
First, let’s begin as the film begins, Batman’s origin. The Wayne’s murders has been portrayed many times, however this time Thomas and Martha Wayne don’t go gently into that goodnight. They resist, slow motion pearl raindrops spattered in the gutter as Bruce’s mother’s tangled necklace snaps with the recoil of the assassin’s gun, a shot for shot of Miller’s TDKR. Orphaned Bruce fleeing their burial, falls into the cave that would become his lair, disturbs its occupants a colony of bats who swarm and envelop the boy both terrifying and claiming him. We cut to Mr. Affleck, buff & greying at the temples, speeding through the destruction wrought by the waring Kryptonian’s to the ruins of Wayne Tower. Helplessly bearing witness to the mass destruction in impotent rage.
Affleck’s Batman was the most troubled and complex cinematic Batman I’ve witnessed. Any doubts about his casting as The Batman I think can be laid to rest. “Bat fleck” is a war weary soldier, suffering from PTSD, and haunting dreams (that may or may not be precognitive) soothing his pain through random hookups & medication, living in the shadow of a ruined Manor, armed and armored by a “Q” like Alfred (a sublime Jeremy Irons) with an iron will, all out of fucks to give about anything but “The Mission.”
Twenty years immersed in the cesspool of Gotham’s underworld, this Batman has crossed the line into branding and indiscriminately killing criminals. Marvel’s Punisher in cape and cowl. Even the rescued citizens live in fear of him and the people he helps don’t trust him. His intense paranoia fueled by childhood trauma, the guilt of losing Robin (who’s preserved costume defaced by The Joker hangs across from his own) finally pushed over the edge by alien invasion and the threat of mass extinction. Alfred’s admonishment about “what turns good men cruel” in the flesh.
Batman wishes to rid the world of the existential threat that Superman represents even if it costs him his life. However, during the epic titular battle comes the realization who the true enemy is. Ultimately, Batman’s arc is the most satisfying. Harvey Dent said in Batman Begins, “You either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain.” Batman’s commitment to what will eventually become the Justice League, I believe, gives him a more positive legacy than the slippery slope the homicidal “Bat” was on. It gives him a third choice. Justice instead of vengeance, evidenced in part by the opportunity to brand a criminal, but showing restraint.
Superman’s arc is basically what I predicted in my MOS review. He’s either a revered hero or an alien menace depending upon where you stood in the wake of his choices post Battles of Smallville and Metropolis. The film goes to great lengths to exonerate Superman and poses questions about unilateral actions and the limits of power unchecked, which is a familiar superhero trope. Clark has clearly developed a relationship with Lois (perpetual hostage Amy Adams) and is still is unsure of his role as hero, not helped by mixed messages from the most important women in his life. Clark as a reporter, who Perry White (Larry Fishbourne) perpetually rebuffs about his stories of Batman infringing on civil liberties “This ain’t 1939 (clever silver age reference) and apples don’t cost a nickel Kent, nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on The Batman!” Superman goes after Metropolis sister city Gotham’s Bat Vigilante. At their first meeting, Superman rips open the Batmobile and warns Batman “The Bat is dead, consider this mercy.” Batman replies, “Do you bleed? You will.” Foreshadowing the supersmackdown to come. Does Superman confront Batman to soothe his own guilty conscious because he acknowledges he operates in a similarly unilateral way? His dilemma is crystalized when he admits to Lois “Superman is a lie.” Lois responds, “No! This (points to his symbol) means something!” to which he responds, “It did on my world, not here.” Clark/Superman is so disillusioned after an event he blames himself for, he quits altogether, dons his hitchhiker gear from MOS goes on a walkabout, and summits Everest haunted by his adopted father’s expectations.
His main foil Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg’s unhinged boy genius (who I believe is in league with an eluded to Big Bad during one of the Batman’s fever dreams/precognitive episodes) has unwisely been given access to Kryptonian technology and hatches a plan to goad Superman into serving his goals. There is a subplot concerning Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious series) attempting to retrieve something that is best left as a surprise, who is confronted by Bruce Wayne and their chemistry is interesting, knowing how complicated Wonder Woman & Batman’s professional and personal relationship has been over the years. The highlight of the entire film for me (other than the BVS Fight) was the introduction of Wonder Woman in battle, heralded by Zimmer’s & Junkie XL’s Hellenic synth guitar fueled opus “Is She With You?” to riotous applause in the theater during the film’s climax. She held her own against the Cave Troll er. DOOMSDAY! I did not get enough of her and Wonder Woman is perfectly cast in Ms. Godot.
I’ve read scathing BvS reviews, some deserved some not. A reviewer I respect greatly—Walter Chow at Film Freak Central (seriously you should read his epic takedown of the film)—made an apt analogy. He found the “disaster porn” akin to the Kaiju monster films of our youth. As those Kaiju rubber monsters shed light on the Japanese psyche post Atomic Destruction of WWII, so do the recent CBM reveal the American Psyche post 911. 911 analogies and analyzing our collective zeitgeist aside, I’m personally a bit inured to serialized mass destruction. I say, “Let them fight!” cribbing Ken Watanabe’s character in the Godzilla remake.
As a child, I ran home to from school to watch Tokyo be destroyed every day on Monster Week. Didn’t you? I was weaned and grew up on a healthy diet of comic books. Annual Ragnarok’s were commonplace as a way to increase lagging sales. The perfect example being, ironically, DC Comics “The Death of Superman” arc. I loved Hellblaser & Jonah Hex. Green Lantern was only interesting to me during the Emerald Twiight Arc when the destruction of coast city drove him mad and he destroyed the Corps. I’m not sure what it says about me, if anything, because Superheroes break things and are broken. Their battles destroy people and worlds and in the yearly crossover events, crises and reboots, reshape realities. Superheroes also save people and worlds and realities as well. I knew that since I was seven. My most interesting comic book heroes were troubled, deeply flawed, lost their way and yet still found against all odds, a way to save the day. Or, more times than not, to pick up the pieces, and move forward. I’m not sure you’d sell many tickets to, “Batman discusses Wittgenstein over Backgammon with Superman”, but I could be wrong.
BvS ends how a Superman film featuring Doomsday should. During the abandoned waterfront battle (devoid of bystanders) his “false god” monument is shattered, as well as any doubt of Kal-El’s commitment to mankind. Heck, if this militant psychotic Batman can make a 180 degree shift about Superman’s intentions, it’s a small wonder how his overtly Christ-like analogy serves to reform his image. His statue is replaced by a people’s dedication and remembrances which bear the words “If you seek his monument, look around you”.
I’m not here to tell you what to think about Batman v Superman, I’m merely giving my two cents and suggest seeing it for yourself. It is at times a hot mess, yet it confidently throws down an armored gauntlet, building a broader DC Cinematic Universe. BvS answers my questions about the aftermath of MOS and shared startling revelations for the future, the cliffhanger is compelling and sets up the final phase of the trilogy. My kid and I dug it and this reviewer is eager to see what the next film has in store. Which is in my humble opinion, is the purpose of the second film of a trilogy.
all art-DC Warner Bros.