Hopefully we won’t get a major lynching not unlike the kind Supes would get for not blowing up to smithereens after Lex Luthor plants a bomb in a legless dude’s wheelchair during a court hearing with the senator about how a Kryptonian shouldn’t roam free among us earthlings…. But here’s the thing: I, this particular writer, saw “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” with the slight trepidation tainted by the bad reviews and feedback of a crowd so jaded over the most monumental event in not only comic book history, but cinematic history.
Just How Bad Are They Saying “Batman V Superman” Was? Try a Paltry 28% on Rotten Tomatoes for Starters.
Although the film made a boatload of cash in the box office, this doesn’t say a lot for the big blue and black bat as well as Snyder and company making their swing-for-the-fences play at a story that would face literally generations of sagas depicted in bound pieces of paper with blocks of dialogue and pictures (they’re called ‘comic books’).
Other reviews don’t say much either. Some claimed a lackluster endeavor. Plot holes aplenty. Sometimes the slickness of Snyder would downplay the effect of character, plus everyone’s a bit shady on the whole darkness thing going on with these films — after all, “Man of Steel” was colorized in such a way to minimize the red and blue everyone loves about Superman. And some viewers didn’t quite like that.
Make no mistake: “Batman V Superman” isn’t “The Avengers”…. But it doesn’t have to be.
This Is Where I Get to My 4-Star Rating (Which Arguably Would Be Much Better Than Many the Film Has Garnered)
I have to say I’m a bit peeved. Such a spectacle deserved a bit more praise than what it received (although many are thoroughly impressed with Affleck’s take on the Dark Knight, as was I). Here’s what I can gather about the ‘critics’ and reviews, such as what we see on Rotten Tomatoes, and the writers of those highly popular publications touting and surmising their opinionated editorials about the ‘flaws’, so to speak, of an eminent blockbuster:
They’re not wrong. However….
Let’s back up to something I call literature. Books. And, yes, this includes comic books. The thing about the written word — nay, the power of story — is its effect to imbue among a consumer a certain experience. And every experience is different. People are different. When you read a book, for instance, you might love the book, but not the story — and vice versa.
We’re a fickle bunch, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Discourse and a variety of experiences, opinions, reactions and feedback keep the richness of our dialogue and assimilation of the words on a page, making for the timelessness that is literature. There’s always something we can glean from a literary work. And the same goes with film.
Take “Star Wars: the Force Awakens,” for example: here we have a film with a healthy 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Yet, there are some naysayers out there pointing out specific flaws or negatives of the film that deter from the movie being a true masterpiece. Why is that? Why is a film heralded as a winner and still getting the ‘misses’ from other perspectives? Because, again, the experience will vary from person to person. That, however, doesn’t mean the work isn’t genuine, taut, finely and passionately crafted.
In other words…. I’m sure many don’t give a crap about da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”! Because everyone’s experience of the masterpiece will vary.
This Does Then Taint the Process of the Critical Review
Reviews aren’t perfect. Just like literature (which includes film). Not one single literary genius out there can create a truly perfect work. And not one person can create a truly perfect review. To do so would then imbue the exact same experience in anyone who absorbs the work. All readers of Harry Potter will have the exact same opinion. Even those who initially can’t stand the whole Marvel Captain America thing will absolutely adore the way “Civil War” played out regardless.
Everyone — and I mean everyone — would be the same.
Only in a perfect world, though.
Seems like a bad, unfair rep for many films and books out there truly; because this isn’t a perfect world, and the reviewer’s eyes are human eyes capable of being swayed by an opinion, an expectation, a mentality. Some reviewers are stiff and staunch; others are creative and flexible with their experience of the work.
After all, why do you think there were always two opinions for Siskel and Ebert? One reviewer’s viewpoint isn’t enough. Of course, film reviews are a random crap shoot and don’t always go 50/50, influenced by everything from the preconceived notion to the pastime experience of a well-known story rendered on film. So many different variables spanning as many as 50 to 100 years of interpretations.
As much as a reviewer can say that he/she would be impartial to the craft of the film versus the actual story of the film, there’s never any black and white: it’s just one big gray area.
That Brings Us to Where a Reviewer’s Mindset Would Be in Regards to This Take on Batman V Superman
Again, I don’t care how much a reviewer would look at a film cleanly, from an artistic and story standpoint — there will always be influences. Hands down. The thing we have to remember is those influences will ultimately vary as well from film to film, and book to book. It’s actually quite overwhelming when you think about just how much a masterpiece carries with it — thoughts, sentiments, theory. And “Batman V Superman” is no slouch in the thought, sentiment and theory category.
Let’s paint a clear picture for you on what it means to watch “Batman V Superman” in today’s society and why the film has already raked in so much cash that Snyder himself can build a time machine and be a Spartan with Gerard Butler —
You want to know when both Batman and Superman debuted in comics? 1940. That’s back during World War II, for crying out loud. 19-freakin’-40. The Bat and Supes were already rubbing shoulders way back then and did so in comics for countless decades later. There’s probably enough story between these two godlike figures to fill two Christian bibles and the Torah.
Now here’s another picture for you….
The first Superman TV series debuted in 1952. Our first chance in experiencing Superman in real life. We could almost touch the big ‘S’ on his chest. People with their new boob tubes thrilled at the fact that their comic books came to life. Even better, Batman himself debuted on TV as a series back in 1943! The Caped Crusader killed the Kryptonian in terms of timing there.
Now note this: we would see these two heroes in their own stories, played out in real-time fashion, on multiple TV shows, and films for all of these years, up until now — with “Batman V Superman.”
Heck, not even once do we hear the name of the other mentioned on TV back then. Michael Keaton never references Metropolis in Tim Burton’s masterpiece. Christopher Reeves’ Kal-El wasn’t concerned with a Bat of Gotham while fighting off Gene Hackman’s nuclear threat in the original origin story back in 1978. And yet the comics — the very start of this epic saga from a comic book empire called DC — began it all, with them together (and one beautifully dangerous Amazonian, I might add).
We can imagine the tease, the question, the wonder — will Michael Keaton ever cross over like in the comics, meeting Christopher Reeves in an epic saga that would do the comics justice? No. How about Val Kilmer and Brandon Routh? No. Okay, maybe we have Henry Cavill rub those broad shoulders with the likes of Christian Bale…. No. Hell, George Reeves didn’t even say hello to Adam West back in the day! It was like a pipe dream never coming to fruition….
Until the day we heard that Snyder would direct a Batman-Superman flick!
The explosion of a cosmic comic orgasm would be so delightfully catastrophic that reviewers would piss in their pants at the thought of it, especially when those same reviewers were the kids reading the comic books back in the day. We grew up on that stuff.
And that’s precisely why those expectations can make or break any film with such polarizing fashion regardless of how well it was made or how creative the story happened to be.
Yes, I’m an Avid DC Comics Fan — I Love Batman and Superman
Yes, I gave the film 4 out of 5 stars. I thought it was a spectacle to be experienced. I wasn’t just watching a film. I was experiencing an epic of dramatic proportions, pulling my heartstrings and taking me back to when I was a kid — even more than “Man of Steel,” even more than “The Dark Knight,” even more than “Superman Returns,” even more than Tim Burton’s “Batman,” even more than “Superman: the Movie.”
It wasn’t a truly perfect film, though (shocker, right?). But the experience, the heart behind it: you couldn’t beat that at the movies. Snyder definitely swung for the fences; and he had to. We were dealing with a mammoth saga starting back in World War II, for DC’s sake. But here’s what I thought truly worked, why it worked despite what other reviewers might say, and what may have not worked as much as it could:
Why This Superman/Kent Works in “Batman V Superman”
Starting off with Superman himself, and Clark Kent, here we have a gritty, realistic take on the actual comic book character — a Supes and Kent embodying the lightheartedness of an age reminiscent of one Captain America and his sentimentality. We adored Kent. We thought he was a goof. And then he turned into this blinding god in the sky with a smile on his face. We looked up to him. Literally.
The funny thing is Cavill’s Superman does still emanate from that ideal, but not nearly as much; and in my opinion it works that he’s a bit darker than what we’re used to in the comics due to the signs of the times. It’s not World War II right now. We’re not in a golden age of optimism eclipsed by the threat of war, depression and other maladies. We’re a bit more structured and maligned as a nation at the moment, albeit still broken in some aspects — The United States back in 1940 was more like a beast of a slightly broken-down Camaro, and the United States of today is definitely a Ferrari with several scratches on the body and a dent in the fender.
Even Kent brings that air of irritability with Perry White — a creative take rendered by Morpheus himself, I might add — in a day and age where we can, in fact, be completely realistic about our world. Make no mistake: “Batman V Superman” doesn’t see the world through rose-colored glasses, and it shouldn’t.
Now don’t get me wrong: not everyone will like the stylistic choice of character development. Some want the nostalgia. Others want to see an evolution. The way to see if it truly works despite a reviewer’s opinion is grasping the actual intent of going that route. And I definitely see what Snyder was doing. I respect it (as shown in this dazzling article on Screenrant).
“Batman V Superman” isn’t a “comic book movie,” per se. It’s a political, realistic, dramatic action thriller that just happens to have some comic book characters in it. I liken it to “Captain America: the Winter Soldier,” illustrating further. It’s gritty, with real-world drama and conflicts, established in our day and age of events spawned by everything from racism to terrorism and even feminism. Plus one other vigilante we absolutely have to discuss….
Here’s Why Everyone Loves Affleck’s Batman
All haters who raged at the thought of “Batfleck” can now be silenced as without a doubt the “Dark Knight” definitely had the darkness in the film, complete with the white lines in the hair and a smoldering stare of a man suffering from his own demons. Whereas Michael Keaton was more of a cheeky and murky detective, Affleck has a very serious chip on his shoulder. Even Christian Bale in all his business-like demeanor didn’t have the scars Affleck carried for the character.
Truly…. This is the Batman who should’ve fought Ras Al Ghul. This is the Batman standing toe to toe with the likes of Joker, Scarecrow, Bane, and the League of Shadows. This is the Batman of the visceral graphic novels. This is the Batman who almost killed Kal-El! Not many flashy toys or techno styles for Mr. Bruce Wayne here. He’s a vigilante, capable of breaking your arm. He’s hardcore, and what would you expect from a true demon of dark Gotham?
I’m surprised no one has said one thing about Mr. Alfred Pennyworth and Jeremy Irons’ inspired portrayal. I’m not saying, though, that Mr. Irons outdid Michael Caine. Even the original bat films with the iconic Michael Gough remaining as one of the only enduring cast members of films spanning four editions and three different Batman actors rings in my mind as a true mainstay, and that’s part of Alfred’s charm: the butler’s always there to break Bruce’s fall.
What I’m saying, though, is Irons’ take on Alfred seems to accomplish all of that in “Batman V Superman.” One film. Very pointed. Not overdone. And even with a bit of cheekiness and personality. Gough was just the ‘butler’, however crucial in the overall arch. Michael Caine was a true ‘mentor’. But Irons’ is almost a partner, much like how Robin would be. And that suits Alfred quite nicely.
As a matter of direction, I won’t even go into detail about Wonder Woman except to say that she nailed the ambiance of an Amazon; because while Miss Diana Prince carried her role well, this was truly Batman and Superman’s story. She is to BvS as what Spider-Man will be to “Captain America: Civil War,” and it was glorious seeing her bring the pain.
But Lex Luthor? Let’s Get Into This One….
One of the major flaws many say about “Batman V Superman” is, in fact, Jesse Eisenberg’s rendition of the Kryptonian foil. They say he didn’t get it to work quite well. It was uninspired, trite and tired. We were looking at just another regurgitation of Ledger’s wicked Joker, a man without boundaries and problems a’muck in the brain.
Bear in mind this important fact about “Batman V Superman” — both Batman and Luthor stand as characters in this film specifically as origin stories. Even Wonder Woman has an origin story to some degree, but not nearly as much as them (we’ll see Wonder Woman soon in her own origin story). In fact, the film actually begins with the death of Bruce’s parents. We’re seeing this story initially from Wayne’s eyes. But what about Luthor?
We’re seeing the decay of a genius’ mind to madness. Part of the problem people had was that the Luthor we were always so used to seeing was a criminal mastermind already made. Eisenberg’s Luthor is that criminal mastermind in the making. Of course he’s going to be a bit flawed, almost like a bad apple in kindergarten dressing funny, wanting to spray a can of paint on a teacher’s desk and light it on fire.
He’s not incredibly well spoken, jabbering almost like a serial killer, but you have to see underneath the insanity and know you’re dealing with a young Kingpin (borrowing from Marvel’s “Daredevil” there) before adopting the seriousness of a true crime lord persona. Eisenberg made Luthor realistic in a sense that he was more dangerous literally because he was that exact conniving kid with the can of spray paint and a devious mind.
Sure, Eisenberg seemed to borrow a bit from the mentality of a man “who can’t be bought”… “wanting to see the world burn” (quoting one Michael Caine in a certain Nolan film) — but that’s how a criminal begins down the road of insanity into the more quiet hand up Mona Lisa’s skirt like the devil. The scene when Luthor’s hair gets shaved off as he sits in jail is the quintessential telling of what Luthor’s going to be in follow-up films.
We’ve just seen him ruined. Tattered. Destroyed.
And to destroy such a child with hidden demoniacal tendencies can make way for a Gene Hackman-like villain, or even Kevin Spacey, under the humanistic facade of a sheer deity seeking to not only burn the world, but rule it. Eisenberg’s just getting started here….
Alas, “Batman V Superman” Isn’t a Perfect Film
Structure’s important in any story. Don’t get me wrong. And some scene cuts didn’t quite flow as well as it could’ve for “Batman V Superman.” Overall, there’s a hard, almost rough, edge to the plot; but in a certain way, it benefits the overall experience — and that’s key.
I get, though, that this story not only details the central plot of the conflict between Bats and Supes — but if you’re going to explore the lead-in to the penultimate of DC’s epic, the Justice League, you’ve got to lace aspects of the film with more of what we’re going to see beyond that of Wonder Woman, a clip of Aquaman, two instances of the Flash, and one video of Cyborg. Integrate them gently and cunningly into this central story line throughout the 2.5-hour span, and you make for a much more connected film that can stand on its own.
While it’s still just the tagline, the “Dawn of Justice” is still an important part of the title. Leverage it.
Again, Just Inefficiencies, Flawed to a Point, But the Whole Picture?
That’s what matters. Sure, structural problems can easily make for a disaster in any masterpiece. Overdo a lot of what Snyder’s known for, and you’ve got an eruption of CGI lava permeating the air of the theater and choking the life of any moviegoer. Many don’t even realize that the real work of making the movie isn’t on set, but in the editing room. And a director can spend as much time as possible in an editing room and never get perfection.
Structural flaws will always be there. But if it still stands and looks beautiful standing, what you have is a true imperfect masterpiece. In fact, a masterpiece isn’t a masterpiece unless it stands imperfectly. Like a cinematic Tower of Pisa. “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” is exactly that — a gritty, messy masterpiece of ambitious and artistic film-making at its best.
Could “Batman V Superman” have been better? Sure. Did it need to be better? Maybe. That depends on the point of view. Did the film deliver? Oh, yes. It certainly did. Bring on the Justice League already.