It seems like forever since the mighty Aaron Neuwirth wrote of the manic news that broke at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 here, which surprised the six thousand plus fans in attendance with news that the direct follow-up to the very divided Man of Steel entry would not necessarily be a solo outing, but also would include the infamous Caped Crusader, Batman. Reports then quickly poured in that the film would also prominently feature Wonder Woman in a somewhat lead role and service as a launching pad springing viewers right into the fabled Justice League movie everyone has been asking for long before The Avengers became so wildly successful. You remember that George Miller incarnation, don’t you? So here we are some three years later. I thought this day would never come. While I was not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (review here), I wanted to come out of Tuesday’s press screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with a huge a$$ grin from ear-to-ear on my face. However, before we jump the gun and talk about what really went down, let’s kick this movie review off with the quote that gave both the boys and girls in attendance within Hall H at Comic-Con 2013 instant boners.
“I want you to remember, Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.”
Everybody calm now? So like I said up above, Batman v Superman is a direct follow-up to the 2013 film Man of Steel and the second installment in the said DC Extended Universe. Think the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe and that’s the same exact approach DC is copying here. The film is once again directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch), with a screenplay written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Gal Gadot. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will not only be the first live-action film to feature both Batman and Superman, but also portrayals of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. The main crux of the film as seen in all the endless trailers is Batman seeking to put Superman in check after the destruction caused in Man of Steel, which we will talk about in more detail down below.
Let’s go back to that Comic-Con announcement I mentioned up above in my first paragraph. Back in 2013 Zack Snyder promised us two things. The film would take inspiration from the Batman limited series The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, but that it would follow an original premise. He also clarified that this incarnation of Batman in the film would not be related to the one in the previous Batman film trilogy. Let’s face it. How could you really ever top Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy? You can’t! So I was happy about those two facts at least, but let’s look at Synder’s track record for a minute. While Watchmen was a hardcore, stellar comic book adaptation, it didn’t exactly break box office records with its R-rating and nearly impeded the paths for comic book films like Kick-Ass or even Deadpool to even exist. And what Batman v Superman review would bee worth anything without mentioning the highly decisive Man of Steel? That deserves its own paragraph so let me hit return on the keyboard.
Depending upon who you ask, like Scott Mendleson of Forbes for example, Man of Steel has many problems with it that I was hoping Batman v Superman will at least attempt to rectify. In my opinion, it tried way too hard to be Batman Begins. I can appreciate what the film does in many different ways, especially in the way it tries to show you how alienated Clark was a child, but the action sequences, editing timeline choices and every time Lois Lane was in the picture, were just pure absurdity. The one thing that could have been extra magical for me was when he took his first flight after getting his alien suit. That one moment could have been so memorable, but instead they fumbled it like they did with other things throughout the film time-and-time again. However, in all fairness, I don’t dislike the film nearly as much as I did my first viewing. In fact, I watched it this past weekend, and the with the exception of my aforementioned aliments with the film, it’s very plausible to me now because I really like Henry Cavill in his leading role. He just looks the part. In retrospect though, I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t go into Batman v Superman with the lowest of expectations. I had no choice but to do so.
So before we move on we have one more taboo topic to cover here, the casting. Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many people were shocked to hear of Affleck’s casting as the Caped Crusader? I know I was, but after the bashing that Heath Ledger took for his selection as the Joker in The Dark Knight I figured let’s just give this guy a chance. I am probably in the minority, but I actually liked Affleck’s Daredevil movie, and I’m not just talking the Blu-ray Director’s Cut either. It’s a lot better than that nonsensical, violent trash Netflix is passing off now as Daredevil. Don’t get me started on that. Moving on, I think even more surprising than Affleck was that of Gal Gadot being chosen to embody the long-awaited film portrayal of Wonder Woman. I don’t know about you, but I was rooting for Jaimie Alexander of Thor to land this coveted role, but I don’t have anything against Gadot either. She just seems a bit fragile and I was concerned about how she could fill out that iconic costume, but come on, she’s a Demi-God in this franchise. She can do any damn thing she wants, right? I’m not a Jesse Eisenberg fan so let’s just move along.
Our story here takes place some two years after the events in Man of Steel where Superman’s battle with General Zod completely annihilated the city of Metropolis. It’s not like the Transformers franchise. Zack and gang are actually talking about all the destruction here because let’s face it, the loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, and I’m not just talking about us critics. Haha. This is how Batman is shoe-horned into the story. As you can see from the film’s many trailers, Batman was there during and in the middle of all this chaos two years ago dressed as his alter-ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne. Batman is ultimately convinced that Superman is a threat to humanity, and left unchecked there’s no extent to the destruction he could cause to the human race. Batman embarks on a hellbent, personal vendetta to end Superman’s reign as a God on Earth. It’s the showdown of the century that was first forecasted so many years ago in that New York Times Square bulletin board in I Am Legend. Don’t forget about Lex Corp and its diabolical leader, Lex Luther, not to mention how Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg all fit into this story too. Oh wait you say, there’s Doomsday (that Hulk-like monster) and Zod in the trailers too? Haha. Are there anymore surprises not showcased in the film’s trailers? Of course there are!
The hardest thing this film has to overcome is how the hell do you fit and perfect that one moment I’ll call it where the “Holy Trinity” of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all unite, appear on and share the same copious movie screen. Not only do you have to bake this universe where they all exist together, but that first onscreen moment has to be so perfect or else it was all for nothing. It’s obvious this very moment also pivotally sets the scene for the whole D.C. universe to evolve film-wise. So what’s up folks? Did Snyder and team manage to pull this off? Did they just cram a bunch of characters into a movie without a rich story to tell just to tease a Justice League that’s yet to come? This and more I hope to answer as best as I can in the following paragraphs. Read on…
The character of Lois Lane that I disliked so much in the first Man of Steel outing actually has a purpose this time around. Yep. That’s right. She actually did NOT annoy me. Now that may have something to do with the fact that I was so engrossed in this new Batman mythology, loving the conflict within Superman and absolutely eating up every onscreen, crazy Lex Luthor moment (I definitely did not see the latter coming). While most things about this new Batman mythology feel familiar and borrowed, I did not let that get me down. I loved the angst, anger and extreme ways Batman executed his vigilantism (he even uses guns). Not even the white pearls can elicit a sigh of dismay from me. You didn’t think there would be any kind of Batman origin story without the pearls did you? Perhaps the greatest thing Zack and the screenwriters did for all of us is the fact that he did not waste much precious time at all playing out any long drawn origin stories of Batman or the others for that matter (yes you do see Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash). In other words, this wasn’t a Spider-Man reboot. We all know who Batman is, where he came from and what he’s capable of. He’s the world’s greatest detective after all and in this instance he’s been hard at work ridding the streets of Gotham scum for over 20 years. This is a very tired, cranky Batman and I love him. I told you Affleck was paramount for this part, did I not? Haha. Good choice, Zack!
Next up I want to talk about the action. It was batsh1t insane! Sure the action sequences trump the story. It’s a comic book movie after all, albeit a dark one. Think Netflix’s Daredevil in terms of carnage and violence level if you have to compare this to something. It’s the other end of the spectrum from a fun, Marvel outing like The Avengers or even the recent Deadpool. But that’s what I love about these DC films ever since Nolan took over the reigns with his Dark Knight trilogy. To combat and cover up the ridiculousness of it all, these recent batch of DC films are dark, brooding and try to be as serious in tone as possible. Man of Steel tried really hard to be too much of this, but it was just off in the editing, pacing and ultimately the clunky story department for me. However, this one has it all, another brooding Batman (anti-Adam West), a more conflicted Superman and a confused nation right by his side (sure one can argue this plot point gets old) and one hell of a diabolical villain to boot (although some will probably complain his performance is over the top for the role of Lex), and let’s not forget Doomsday. That is one third act that I can’t wait to experience all over again in the theater thanks to the bombastic Dolby Atmos mix. That’s how you do it! Kudos Zack. Did you notice I have not even gotten around to talking about Wonder Woman yet?
So let’s talk about that theme. I’m talking about that Wonder Woman theme in case I lost you. Little is known or even shared about the Warrior Princess, but when she finally makes her entrance it’s as epic and fun as the third act action. Sure, in the character development department, there’s basically zilch. Why did she pick this moment in time to help? I have no idea. I was just so into the zaniness of the situation unfolding before me on the screen that I gave little care to Wonder Woman in the film until that theme song of hers knocked me off my rocker. Is it out of place? It sure is, but it broke up the monotony of a scene and gave us some gams to stare at as she bounced around prettily with her sword. That’s basically all I can say about her character. There really wasn’t enough to go off of in here in regards to her. After all, this is a Batman versus Superman film (and up to you to decide whose story this really is…haha), and the rest of the story was fed to you through Easter eggs and whatnot. If you’re a obsessed fan of everything DC Comics lore, you’ll get it all. It you’re only a fair weather fan, well then someone might have to fill in the gaps for you. Thanks for the talk this morning, Craig Kandiko. Zack and crew fed us just enough. He did not make that Sam Raimi Spider-Man 3 mistake everyone relentlessly clamors on about. There was a lot to cram in here, and he gave us just enough bread crumbs to follow the trail, that is if you know where to look (thanks again to Craig’s talk with me this morning).
I guess you could say I’ve been waiting my whole life to see this God versus man titan showdown. Zack Snyder didn’t let ME down with the promise of all this film could be, albeit far from a perfect one, but one a comic book fan, male or female, could achieve a serious nerd boner from. All I got to say is haters are going to hate. I’m not sure I can explain the backlash over this film in the reviewer community. I mean I went from not being a huge fan of Man of Steel to loving this outing. Did I want this to fail? Part of me did out of jealousy and contempt over the previous Man of Steel adventure, but I went in with a clean pallet and ended up enjoying my two and a half hour romp with the Gods and titans in the DC Comics universe. Were these other reviewers out there in a state of predisposition to hate it from the start without giving it a fair chance? I suppose that could be the case. Some have even been writing about the potential for this one to suck for three years. However, I also believe in each his/her own. I know I had a great time with this one and I can’t wait to experience it again on the big screen sometime next week. I am even more interested in tackling that three-hour cut of the film on Blu-ray inevitably in several months too. Sometimes you just got to look yourself in the mirror and say are you happy and satisfied with no care to what others think, do or say. I know I am when it comes to Batman v Superman. The real question is are you? I think you know what to do to answer that question. God speed tomorrow night! Be your own judge! Be a hero.