A year ago I was fortunate enough to be invited by a friend to see a screening of the Batman V Superman trailer in IMAX. In addition to an additional 5 second scene of Batman and Superman charging at each other, we were given 2 posters, and tickets for a free pre-screening. Making the drive back over on Monday afternoon I was excited. It was finally time to see the trinity on the big screen, and boy did they deliver. Although not in the way I believe many people expected. Warning, there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.
Zack Snyder laid the groundwork for DC’s new connected universe in 2013’s Man of Steel. The newest Superman was set up as a hopeful yet inexperienced hero who believed in the good of man. In this movie he was going to be introduced to an older, battle-hardened and jaded Batman that we had yet to see on the big screen. Something that lent credence to why they would fight and how Batman could gain an upper hand. Another new face was Wonder Woman, appearing and aiding the two in their battle against the newly formed Doomsday in her own big screen debut.
Henry Cavill, and newcomers Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck perform wonderfully throughout the film, with the latter players really stealing the show. Honorable mentions also go to Jeremy Irons as Alfred and Jesse Eisenberg’s intense yet flippant Lex Luthor. All who had questioned the casting of Batfleck will be glad to know that he kills it, at times literally, as Batman. Fans of the Arkham trilogy of Batman video games by developer Rocksteady Studios will see a very familiar fighting style displayed by this new Batman that I’m sure movie viewers will enjoy.
Set to the score created by returning composer Hans Zimmer and joined by newcomer Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool) this movie has a very contrasting tone. Going from the frightening, brooding, dark world of Batman, to the hopeful outlook of Superman, to the frenetic sound of battle with Wonder Woman, it really runs the gamut but the two composers never miss a beat. The two composers are more than up to the task of establishing this new universe musically, and really lend their talents to the film.
Another bright spot was the movie learning from the past and thankfully skipping over drawing out another origin story. We are shown the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne early on and in flashbacks but it is not the heavy story beat that it has been in the past. Fans of the characters are given a-lot of respect as far as being shown and not told about the world. We see Robin’s costume, we hear Diana’s secret alias used, but the story doesn’t linger on them. No awkwardly forced discussions or attempts at exposition are made, this is a world that has been lived in by these characters and does not require explaining.
However the good things also serve to underscore some glaring problems the movie had, it’s biggest offender being it’s stumbling disjointed narrative structure. It’s difficult to understand how a movie that handled the origin stories so succinctly took so long to really get started. We’re introduced to the new Batman who has ramped up his war on crime and began recently branding criminals. There is a comment on how one of them was almost murdered in prison because the brand identified him as a sex trafficker. This Batman doesn’t seem to mind though, and later on doesn’t even flinch about killing, using weapons ranging from the Batmobile’s machine guns to shred a jeep with a machine gun on the back to pieces, to missiles on his bat plane to blow up more jeeps with machine guns in a later scene, to even firing an enemy’s submachine gun and pistol. At-least with the last two he fired above enemies heads causing them to duck, and with the pistol made non-lethal debilitating shots. But make no mistake, this Batman has reached a point where he has no qualms with killing, which will, potentially, make the rest of this universe’s representation incoherent at the least. Namely how the Joker survived any recent run in with him.
Something I mentioned earlier that also holds the movie back are it’s use of time jumps and dream sequences/visions. Skipping ahead 18 months after the battle at the end of Man of Steel is fine, when it gets you somewhere. We jumped ahead to the very cool scene of Batman taking down the aforementioned human traffickers, then escaping the police, to the slow story of Lex Luthor versus a Senator, which takes up a good fifth of the film. Also, Lex trying to obtain a dangerous amount of Kryptonite, and the Senator blocking his attempts and placing her cards on democracy in how to deal with Superman. We also spend way too much time following Lois Lane attempting to discover who’s behind a plot to assassinate Superman’s character and yet somehow ignoring Lex Luthor as a suspect.
Another thing that was painful to see was DC make the same mistakes that Marvel always trips over and shoehorn in out-of-place scenes with no purpose to the narrative only to set up sequels. We’re treated to a dream/vision of a world ruled by Darkseid where Batman and a small band of survivors struggle against him. Think the Terminator future with more sand and less killer robots. In this world, Batman is more of a gunslinger then a caped vigilante, blasting foes as often as dispatching them with fists after some sort of trade for goods goes bad. Batman and a handful of his surviving allies are captured and brought before Superman, who laser eye beams them to death, before unmasking Batman. Nothing prompted this dream/vision (I honestly don’t know which it was) and it was never mentioned or touched on again. The second one featured The Flash making use of what I can only assume was his Time Traveling Treadmill to deliver an important message to Bruce, however the message was extremely garbled as Flash struggled to stay in this — reality? Time? I don’t know, it was never explained or touched on again. I honestly thought for a few minutes that the movie would pull a Days of Future Past and end with the timeline being changed.
Overall the movie was entertaining to watch, although a lot of that hinged on surprises that I don’t see holding up upon further viewings. I applaud it for trying something new even though I don’t believe it succeeded in every attempt it made, it was still refreshing to see something that was not Marvel’s cookie cutter “Superhero Movie” we see all too often. I wonder how much damage was done due to rewrites to bring in Batman more heavily, and feel that if Batman beat Superman in this battle, it was really the fans that suffered the biggest loss in what could’ve been an amazing movie.
- Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Amazing design and execution.
- Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score. Please release on vinyl.
- Doomsday evolving from Ninja Turtle to the badass we all know and love.
- Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons’ Alfred both adding new layers to these characters that non comic book reading audiences will love, and readers will feel rewarded seeing brought to the big screen.
- Full Justice League team clip show. Could’ve been great viral marketing, but you included it in the film by accident.
- The crutch of visions/dream sequences, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are strong enough to carry a film on their own, they don’t need that crutch.
- Killing Superman but bringing him back before the credits even roll? Talk about blowing your load early, this was the FIRST MOVIE IN YOUR EXTENDED UNIVERSE HOW THE HELL DO YOU DO THAT.
- Clark, Diana, and Bruce all know each other’s identities now? One of my favorite things about Batman and Superman’s friendship is that they build that trust and eventually share that with each other, we lose that moment now because Superman is a Super Eavesdropper.
- Lex Luthor and Lois Lane go to Washington!
- Kryptonian Google’s security measures are laughably weak