Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rant Review: Batman v Superman

After what seemed like an endless wait, it's finally here. The three biggest icons in all of superherodom team up in one epic movie, and those of us who have been waiting since our childhoods for such an event can barely contain ourselves. Can it possibly live up to the hype? Read on to find out! (Or, y'know, go see it.) I normally keep my reviews spoiler-free, and this one is as well, with one exception near the end. (You'll have plenty of warning, so don't worry.) However, there's so much to talk about that I'll be doing a spoiler-filled rundown about the movie's events and possible ramifications next week, so keep an eye out for that!

I'll say this right off the bat: critics have been savaging this movie, many of them gleefully ripping it apart in their reviews. For whatever reason, it seems that many of them had in for this movie from the beginning, and are taking some sick pleasure in hating on it now that it's finally released. But Batman v Superman wasn't made for critics. It was made for us. Many of the things that have drawn the critics' ire are some of the very things that fans of these characters will love most in the movie. It's also nonsensical to criticize the simplicity of the plot when everyone knew what it would be the moment the movie was announced: Batman and Superman fight, then realize they have a common enemy, and unite to take him down. It's a team-up movie designed to get these characters acquainted with one another and set the stage for the cohesive universe of DC Comics films, and it does that very well. This was never supposed to be an intricately-plotted thriller, and it would be foolish for anyone to go into it expecting that.

Now, let's take a look at the good and the bad of Batman v Superman!

The casting: This movie has one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Everyone pulls their weight, and even the small supporting roles are very well-played. One standout is Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. This is a small but crucial role, and Hunter is so damn good that she makes the character one of the most memorable in the movie. She steals nearly every scene in which she appears, particularly when squaring off against Eisenberg's Luthor. Speaking of...

Eisenberg's Luthor: This has been one of the most divisive elements of the movie from the moment the casting was announced, and that hasn't changed now that people are flocking to theaters to watch the final product. Eisenberg isn't quite like any version of Luthor we've gotten before, and many people are finding that off-putting. He brings a manic energy and disposition to the character that seems as if it likely shouldn't work, but somehow it does.

Wonder Woman: One of the major draws of this movie is seeing one of the world's most enduring superheroes make her film debut, and Gal Gadot makes a tremendous impression in the role. She doesn't have a whole lot of screen time, but she is mesmerizing whenever she is onscreen. In one of the showings I went to, applause broke out whenever she appeared! It seems the rest of the world is finally learning what many comic readers have known for decades: Wonder Woman kicks fucking ass.

The visuals: This is a Zack Snyder film, so it should come as no surprise that it is visually stunning. Still, it is such a visual feast that it bears repeating: This film is visually stunning. Frame-worthy images pop up with such frequency that it's almost distracting at times.

Alfred: No slight to Michael Caine, who was excellent in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but it's great to see the most comic-accurate version of Alfred to date in this movie. Jeremy Irons is absolutely perfectly cast, and I found myself wishing he'd had more screen time. It's worth nothing that the nearly 70 year-old Irons has aged so well that he barely looks more than a few years older than Affleck's Bruce Wayne. That's not a complaint; just an observation.

From page to screen: It's no secret that Frank Miller's seminal The Dark Knight Returns was a huge influence on this movie's depiction of Batman. Making that even more apparent are a series of shots lifted directly from the comic page and put directly into the film! Few things are more thrilling for a lover of comics.

Glimpses of the DCU: There are tons of easter eggs in this movie, ranging from blink-and-you-miss-it to whacking-you-over-the-head-with-it. All of them are a lot of fun, and I'm practically salivating over what the future holds for the cinematic DCU!

The title bout: Holy hell, the battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel is the stuff of legends. It's a good hour and a half before the movie gets to that point, setting the stage and moving all the players into position, and the payoff is most certainly worth it. It doesn't take place on the same scale as the climactic battles from such movies as Man of Steel or The Avengers, but it feels even more epic.

The Bad
Editing: There are some issues with the film's pacing. The editing in the first ninety minutes is often sloppy, leaping from scene to unrelated scene with such frequency that it can be rather jarring at times. With several narratives to juggle, the editing really needs to be top-notch, and it's often not up to the task. However, once the various plotlines converge, things forge ahead much more smoothly for the final hour.

Wasted characters: I'll be vague here to avoid venturing into spoiler territory, but there are a couple of characters who appear in the movie whose names will be very familiar to those acquainted with Batman and Superman comics. However, the characters are very minor and, frankly, are completely wasted in the movie. If you're familiar with the comics, you'll know who I mean when you watch it. (More on this later in the week.)

No post-credits scene: This was a bummer, especially after I sat through the credits, which seemingly listed everyone who has ever been born, while having to pee pretty badly. Not really a strike against the movie, but definitely disappointing.

Okay, remember when I said there was one spoiler near the end of this review? Here it comes, so if you haven't seen the movie yet and wish to avoid spoilers, skip ahead to the end now! Otherwise, highlight the text below to read the spoilers.

Batman kills: Pretty self-explanatory, right? Batman kills people in this movie. That's a huge misstep. Batman does not kill. Period. Even Superman has some flexibility there, but unless you're specifically adapting the original 1939 version of Batman or some Elseworlds version, Batman absolutely does not. He doesn't directly kill people with his bare hands in the movie, or anything like that, but there are scenes in which he blows up cars full of people and doesn't even give a fuck. It's not enough to ruin the movie, but it is definitely extremely bizarre to see. Even so, the movie does make it clear that this is a Batman who has lost his way, and Bruce's words and actions at the end indicate that he's realized this. It's a pretty clear indication that he will return to the more idealistic Batman that he used to be. We can only hope.

Even with a few warts, this movie is great fun. It's the stuff of wet dreams for hardcore DC fans, something so many of us have wished for for years now. I know this is exactly the kind of movie I've wanted for as far back as I can remember, and it's wonderful that it finally exists, and actually lives up to its hype. Frankly, the people who have been grumbling about this movie being joyless have my pity. I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face nearly the entire time both times I watched it. It's the most fun I've had at the movies in years, and I can't wait to see it a third time!

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