There’s a video circulating around of #sadfleck – Ben Affleck’s face as he hears that the reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice aren’t that good. You can watch it here.
But Ben needn’t fret – I just walked out of the cinema with a big smile on my face The pre-emptive critics and haters are all full of shit. Bats vs. Supes is a pretty damned good movie, even if it isn’t quite The Avengers.
And perhaps that’s where the critics are getting their ammunition from – because if you compare Batman to Avengers: Age of Ultron or Iron Man 3, it’s not really a flattering comparison. With a richly built world to frolic in, those movies are almost effortlessly perfect.
But Batman v Superman isn’t far behind; and it does two things that the Marvel movies don’t: It continues a different aesthetic to superhero movies – the gritty realism of Zack Snyder – whilst also trying to world-build a franchise worth of material to exploit; all within the confines of a single movie.
And in that regard, it’s pretty triumphant. Batman v Superman tells a coherent, engaging tale whilst also introducing a world in which characters like Aquaman, The Flash and Wonder Woman exist. And it does it competently. At no point does the movie feel like ‘ just a trailer’, or a lead-in to something greater (as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kind of did.) Instead, solidly lays the groundwork for the DC Comics movies that will follow.
There are criticisms. The movie is lethargic in the beginning, and you really don’t get much excitment until almost half-way through. There’s a lot of exposition – including, for the countless time, a flashback to Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered (a scene we’ve seen so many times, it’s practically become a cliche.)
The gritty realism is also a little heavy-handed. The success of The Avengers was the humor. There’s nary a joke to be had in Batman v Superman, except for the (no spoilers, since it’s in the trailer) crack when Wonder Woman appears; with Superman and Batman both wondering: “I thought she was with you.”
But aside from that? Pretty damned seamless.
Henry Cavill has the same alien gravitas from Man of Steel, and does just as good a job as I’d predicted. Screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer also do a fantastic job of clipping Superman’s wings, by initially facing him off against a foe even his super-strength can’t defeat – the scorn of a suspicious congressional hearing.
Ben Affleck swats all the haters aside as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He’s triumphant. Batman is portrayed pitch-perfectly, with a fantastic costume, some amazing fight scenes and a gruff personality that exactly fits in with the comics. With this one outing, Affleck has become my favorite cinematic Batman; and I really can’t wait for an Affleck-directed solo Batman flick in the future.
Jesse Eisenberg similarly defies the critics, as a maniacal Lex Luthor who is both convincingly dangerous, yet lucid. He’s truly the ‘big bad’ of this movie and demonstrates that brains are enough to level the playing field even with the Man of Steel.
And, finally, there’s Gal Godot as Wonder Woman. Everybody I know who’s seen the film says that she gets a round of applause at her costumed debut – and my showing was no exception. Her few minutes of screen-time were enough to arguably call this The Wonder Woman Movie: Also Featuring Batman and Superman.
The plot combines two threads from two of the most popular comic books – The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. While the plot dictates that neither adaptation is exact, Zack Synder carefully retains not just key themes, but also key visual images from both beloved comic books.
When I heard that the Bats vs Supes fight from The Dark Knight Returns was going to be combined with the Doomsday showdown, I was intially worried the movie would prematurely shoot its narrative load; but I needn’t have been concerned. The script is taut, both plots are given adequete screentime and focus, and it was a treat to see them brought to life onscreen.
In fact, the only cynical part I saw was how Terrio and Goyer addressed the criticism of Man of Steel by making sure to mention that each part of the city being destroyed was ‘practically deserted’ or ‘uninhabited.’
While a lot of real estate was destroyed, collaterol damage was kept to a minimum – and the opening scenes of the movie, set in the wrecked Metropolis of Man of Steel, also went some way to addressing the criticism of the first movie.
With scenes mirroring the devastation of 9/11, Zack Synder used the destruction to truly establish the fear and suspicion that an all-powerful being like Superman could instill in a helpless population.
From beginning to end? I’d say it was about 90% perfect. Definitely a worthy second chapter in the DC cinematic universe; and a promising taste of what’s to come.