Batman v Superman: Movie Review

This has been the hardest movie for me to write a review about. Not because it was a horrible movie – it was a great movie – but because of the controversy and fanatic backlash that was thrown against it before it even hit the theaters.

Considering this is the first time ever that the two most popular and beloved comic book heroes in history would share the silver screen together, it’s amazing that Batman v Superman has had such a huge cloud of doubt surrounding it. If Marvel was able to turn heroes with no prior mass recognition like Iron Man, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy into hits, then surely Batman and Superman, the two most recognizable characters in existence should be an easy sell. It seems like this movie has been anything but.

Because of the magnitude of the movie, and because the trailers gave away very little about the movie (compared to Deadpool for example), it’s hard to do a review about the film and say why I loved it so much without also spoiling many of the finer points. Fair warning, this review does contain some minor spoilers.

The most important thing I took away from the movie is that you should forget everything you think you know about Batman and Superman. The closest source material I could think of is the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns and the two-part animated film of the same name. Aside from those amazing pieces, this movie does not feature the Batman and Superman you grew up with and are accustomed to.

Paradigm Shift

According to the dictionary, a paradigm shift means a “fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.”  What I loved about BVS is that the movie took a lot of liberties with the characters and sort of reimagined their roles. Zack Snyder recognizes that we live in a different world than we used to, and a vastly different world than existed when the two titular characters were created in 1939 and 1938 respectively. As such, Zack Snyder created a paradigm shift in this DC Universe where the things we accept as fact – specifically as they relate to Batman/Bruce Wayne – are no longer the case.

Batman and Superman are no longer simply squaring off against bank robbers and cat burglars. These days our world has to contend with darker realities like human trafficking, drug cartels, pedophilia rings and terrorism. As the troubles we face evolve, so too do our heroes.

But as every cause has an effect, every effect has a cause. BVS shows you how changing the smallest of details about a character’s backstory can result in massive consequences and change of path. As time goes on, the gap between one path and the other widens, and the differences in outcome are glaring.

In 2005’s Batman Begins, a young Bruce Wayne witnesses his mother and father get gunned down outside the opera, and just before they get shot Thomas Wayne pleads with the assailant and tries to pacify the situation, ultimately getting killed despite his efforts. BVS begs the question, what if instead of trying to resolve the situation without violence, Thomas and Martha Wayne went down swinging? Even if they were still murdered, how might this one little detail impact a young, impressionable Bruce Wayne? And as time went on, how might this affect Batman?

The result, as explained by BVS, is a tougher, hardened, more forceful and less compromising Batman.

(Almost) Impeccable Casting

Bruce Wayne / Batman

Ben Affleck will impress even the staunchest of Batfleck doubters with his incredible performance of the Caped Crusader. This is an older, wiser, experienced Affleck, playing an older, wiser, battle hardened Bruce Wayne, and the pairing could not have been any better. While Christian Bale was a good placeholder in the ever revolving door of actors to don the cape and cowl, Ben Affleck actually fills the role and the suit. The result is a Bruce Wayne that you can actually relate to, and a Batman that is as physically intimidating as he is absolutely terrifying.

This is not your grandpa’s Batman. Not at all. In fact this Batman would curb stomp  Bale’s Batman, and then eat Tom Hardy’s Bane for dessert. I love Batman but one thing that always irked me about him wasn’t that he brooded, but that he always brooded. The guy was always a morose, mopey bastard, and at a certain point you want to say “dude come on. Your parents died like 30 fucking years ago. You’re a grown ass adult. Get over it already”. Or as Carmine Falcone put it…

Snyder and Affleck bring us a revised Bruce Wayne. One who is known to occasionally indulge in a night cap, flirt with women, swear, and dare I say it actually enjoy himself. This is a Bruce Wayne who actually gives a shit about the business his family started and seems to care about its success, its future, and its employees and their well-being as if they were an extension of his family.

Clark Kent / Superman

Henry Cavill brings a routine performance. Honestly, how complicated of a character is Superman? It’s not a hard role to mess up. Just be annoyingly good and one dimensional. But I will say this, Cavill was fit for the role visually and he brings the physical prowess that was sorely lacking when Brandon Routh played the character in 2006’s Superman Returns.

Also like Batman, this version of Supes actually has some spice added on. He has some backbone and cojones. He argues with his boss, he says fuck all with authority, and the man gets down with his lady and doesn’t care if the neighbors below complain about a leak in their ceiling. Just like Bruce Wayne, I like that Clark Kent actually has a personality this time around, and that for a change he doesn’t come off as a total boy scout.

Diana Prince / Wonder Woman

Granted her role in the story felt a little forced, I think the casting was fantastic. Gal Gadot is undeniably gorgeous but despite not being ‘roided out she did have a sort of effeminate brawn about her character. A sexy swagger. A bombshell femme fatale. And although she sports a dress like the finest of women, she can also throw down with the best of men. Gadot fits the role perfectly and I am genuinely interested in seeing her in the upcoming films, both standalone and Justice Leagues.

It’s also worth noting that I am very happy that Rhonda Rousey didn’t play Wonder Woman. Just saying.

Lois Lane

Meehhhh. Amy Adams just doesn’t do it for me. She’s pretty but she doesn’t have that va-voom look that Lois Lane is known to have. Plus the role has historically always been a brunette/raven. This is one of the few areas I am having a hard time breaking from the source material. I was a little annoyed at her character’s total disregard. She would run off to do a news piece in some godforsaken part of the world only to need to be rescued by Superman. Her character kind of reminds me of those American idiots that Travel to places like North Korea and Iran. That sort of entitled, let others clean up my mess type of shit that is all too prevalent these days.

Alfred Pennyworth

Again, amazing casting choice. Jeremy Irons is an amazing new take on Alfred. Instead of a butler, he’s more of a trusted confidant. He’s Lucious Fox meets security engineer meets best friend. This interesting amalgamation of roles, instead of the tried and tested man servant is a nice change. Alfred is as important in Batman’s crusade as Batman himself and this is an Alfred who is equipped to help Batman tackle the modern age technologically and morally. I am also interested to see Bruce and Alfred’s chemistry later in the franchise.

Lex Luthor

This is the one that ruined it for me. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was just horrible. The big thing was the age. Lex being so young that he could be Bruce’s son was different. And Lex is usually at least semi intimidating. He’s got nowhere near the stature of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, but he at least looks like he could throw down, and he often does.

This version of Lex Luthor is more creepy than intimidating and it’s hard to take seriously. While watching the movie I thought this Lex was like a creepy, maniacal take of Mark Zuckerberg, which finally occurred to me while writing this blog that Eisenberg actually did play a creepy, maniacal version of Mark Zuckerberg six years ago.

Spoiler alert, Lex goes to jail at the end of the movie so maybe when he appears in the next Justice League he’ll be prison ripped and toughened up and finally come off as a force to be reckoned with. But as of right now, I’m glad his character is confined to a jail cell and off screen.

The Batman

BVS felt more like a Batman movie with Superman in it, than a joint movie, and I think that’s a good thing. Batman movies sell and people can’t get enough of him.

Having grown up watching Batman it’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of a Gothamite to whom Batman is merely an urban legend. Imagine growing up in Gotham hearing stories of a bat creature terrorizing the criminal underworld. Never knowing if it’s a man or a monster. Imagine being a criminal in Gotham wondering if tonight’s the night you cross The Bat.

This movie reminded me how fucking terrifying Batman actually is. I won’t give it away but there was nice scene in the movie where I actually jumped back at the sight of Batman. It reminded me of something out of Jeepers Creepers.

Playing Catch Up

The big thing about this movie is that it felt a little rushed at times. DC is desperately trying to play catch up with Marvel and I hope they don’t expend all their energy on the first lap. DC did in two movies with BVS, what Marvel did in six with Avengers. BVS is only the second installment in the DC Extended Universe and were bombarded with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor and poked in the eye with Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash – and this wasn’t even a Justice League film.

The difference however is that neither Batman nor Superman need an introduction. Everyone already knows who these characters are so the movie hits the ground running. I do however hope they pause to explain a little more about Wonder Woman and offer more of an origins story for some of the other, lessor known characters that will be brought on screen or future adaptations.

Left Hand v Right Hand

Perhaps the one thing that bothers me the most about this movie is that DC currently has half a dozen other cinematic universes going on at the same time.

  • DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman)
  • Gotham
  • Arrowverse (Arrow, Flash, Constantine)
  • Supergirl
  • Plus a whole slough of animated universes such as the basic television animated Batman series
  • The New 52 animated movies

And all of this comes right on the heels of the Nolan trilogy to boot. It will be little hairy to follow all the various storylines simultaneously, especially for people who are new to these characters. I like what Marvel has done by streamlining all of their live action titles into a single, cohesive world. Let’s hope DC and Zack Snyder have a game plan.

Summary

All things considered I thought Batman v Superman was a great movie. It was different. It was edgy without trying too hard. It took a lot of risks (a la Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy) and I can certainly appreciate that. Zack Snyder has a real eye for converting comic book and graphic novels into live action movies with taste, and with real flare.

Perhaps I am wrong in saying this but Snyder also seems to have a history of a lacing his movies with a conservative undertone, which again, I really like. Either that or he chooses to make movies based on stories with conservative undertones, such as Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchman (Rorschach), Man of Steel, and now this film which had root in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a writer who also infuses his work with conservative undertones.

The movie rocked. You’ll probably enjoy this movie if:

  • You can’t stand that Superman is such a boy scout
  • You can’t stand that Batman is always moping around and never enjoys himself
  • You love Batman but cannot for the life of you understand why he takes such a limp wrist approach to characters like the Joker who have killed hundreds of people
  • You want to see Batman cuss
  • You want to see Batman get some giggity
  • You want to see some bad ass fight scenes

So I guess I like this movie for what it is, as much as I love this movie for what it’s not. And that is that it’s not the same old crap over and over again. A lot of people might not like the liberties DC took with these two archetype characters, but if you want the same old same old, you’re welcome to continue watching your Nolan Batman trilogy. For those of you daring for something new, this is the movie to see.

I would give this movie a 9/10, but because of Jesse Eisenberg and the rushed pace, I give the film an 8/10. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a very refreshing take on time tested characters and plotlines. I will no doubt purchase this movie when it comes out on Blu-Ray and I highly anticipate the next installment in the DCEU.

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