This is going to be a spoiler filled review, so if you haven’t seen it yet? Look away now…
Today was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 65.
He died 5 years ago and I miss the hell out of him.
It’s apropos, trust me.
So I finally got around to seeing Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereafter referred to as simply: BvS), after it being on release for over a week already. Having read and watched reviews being less than kind to it, I wanted to see for myself if the less than glowing critiques were justified, and if they were, what was it exactly that made the film so bad?
For a start, BvS isn’t quite as bad as the current rating of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe. There were some pretty good points about this film…
The first positive of the movie. Seriously.
Christian Bale was and probably always will be my favourite on-screen Batman. So when Ben Affleck was announced as Batman, I was seriously questioning what the fuck DC were thinking.
As it turned out, he makes for a great Batman. Not Bale great, but great nonetheless. Bats in this film is a perfectly realised Frank Miller’s Batman of The Dark Knight Returns. Right down to the story beats, age and even his bat costume & armour. All are directly referencing and lifting from Frank Miller’s defining work.
This is a pissed off, grizzled and just plain fucked off Batman. A man who is sick of shit and just wants to clean up and protect his Gotham from any and all threats.
As Bruce Wayne, he was in Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel (MoS) and saw and experienced first-hand, at street-level, the kind of wholesale wanton destruction that Kryptonians are capable of when they have a tiff.
After a short dream sequence (the film is full of them), the intro sequence to the film depicts the destruction during the end of MoS as witnessed by Bruce. The background to this destruction laden intro is the World Engine that was unleashed by Zod in MoS, battering the city.
With buildings collapsing left, right and centre, Bruce dodges his way through the destruction, in an effort to see who he can save. His main goal is the Wayne Industries building in Metropolis, which he witnesses being sliced in half by Heat Vision, and collapsing, killing everyone still inside.
From that point on, you can understand how an ordinary man like Bruce would view aliens like these. Mega-powerful, god-like creatures who can’t be stopped or killed by mortal weapons and who could, on a whim, destroy all life on the planet. As he said to his butler, Alfred:
“Count the dead, thousands of people. What’s next? Millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race, and if we believe there’s even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”
Thus begins his mission to take down Superman…
Henry Cavill returns as Superman, his second appearance as the Last Son of Krypton.
I bloody loved Man of Steel, and a lot of that was down to Henry Cavill. I think he not only makes a perfect Superman, but also a great, more modern Clark Kent.
Christopher Reeve for many, will of course, and rightly so, be the best Superman. However as good as he was (and he was!), he never quite had the physicality that you would associate with someone as physically powerful as Superman.
Cavill fills that suit with aplomb.
If it sounds like I’m completely man-crushing here?
He returns to the role, and does just as great a job here. The impact that the events of MoS had both on Metropolis and Clark play out here.
There are two diametrically opposed views on Superman in this film. Those who support Supes, and believe he’s only here to do good, and those, like Bruce Wayne, who believe he presents a clear, present and potentially future threat to the citizens of Metropolis and beyond.
Cavill plays the guilt-ridden and conflicted Superman/Clark to a tee, and events later in the film show him pushed to the breaking point, ready to go full on nuclear on the film’s main antagonist and first major failing,
Lex Alexander Luthor.
Good job Henry.
No, not the Lex you’re used to. Just not yet at least. Jesse Eisenberg, again playing himself as he does in every film he’s ever in (hey it worked for Sean Connery right?) plays Alexander Luthor, son of Lex Luthor.
Here, Alexander…fuck it, Lex, is a tech billionaire, of much the same ilk as another character Eisenberg played in the Social Network: Mark Zuckerberg. Here he’s full of twitches, tics and really hams it up as a man with psychological and pathological daddy issues.
His portrayal of Lex frames the character as one that might actually be clinically insane, which was honestly the best thing about the character.
But the biggest negative about his character is his motivation.
What the fuck was it?
It was never made clear throughout the entire film exactly why Lex was doing what he was doing. He just seemed to hate Superman and wanted to kill him. He kept referencing imagery of angels and demons, so maybe he was meant to be thinking that Superman was a demon in human form and he saw himself as the saviour of the world?
But if that was the case, then that doesn’t track logically with his unleashing of the villain that criminally was shown in the trailers: Doomsday. A creature hell-bent on destroying everything. But we’ll come back to him in a bit.
Underused, but we got to see a decent glimpse of how Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman will be realised in her first full length feature that’s set to début next year.
There were initially a lot of concerns, similar to Batfleck, about Gadot’s casting. Happily though, again similar to Batfleck, Gadot pulled off the Immortal Amazonian Princess shtick with not a little bit of credit to her name.
No, she’s not built, like some would have liked, but she did well with the little she had handed to her to work with. That amounted to a few scenes outside of the Doomsday battle, and of course the majority of that battle itself.
But what of the other cameos? Flash? Aquaman? Cyborg?
Well, these were all “blink and you’ll miss them” cameos. Seen mainly as surveillance footage gathered by Lex in his research, each cameo was on screen for less than a minute each.
For me though, Flash aside, none of the others really have me all that pumped. And I only exclude Flash from that because I love the completely unconnected TV show. But frankly, the guy they’ve chosen to play Barry Allen in the DCU?
Looks like a skeevy drug dealer to be frank:
Bleh. I remain to be convinced about any of the coming Justice League members outside of the Trinity. They’re not the Avengers, that’s for damn sure.
And as an aside? No-one even fucking likes Aquaman. I feel sorry for the frankly miscast Jason Momoa. He’s been stuck with a fucking terrible superhero to portray. I predict his solo film will absolutely stink.
Not even the guys on the Big Bang Theory, who all love superheroes, even like Aquaman.
And as for Cyborg? Anyone care?
Anyhow, the remainder of the MoS supporting cast are all here too: Lois Lane and Perry White (a returning Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne), as well as Martha and Jonathan Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner).
The actual emotional highpoint of the film for me was when Superman went AWOL for a while to try to clear his head and to get away from Metropolis, following a bombing at a trial where he was the only survivor.
He went hiking in the snow, and had a vision of his adoptive father, Jonathan Kent whilst there.
Pa Kent had a few wise words for his son, and the line that got me, after the vision ended?
Clark: I miss you dad.
Told you it was apropos.
Lowpoints of BvS
Anyhow, onto the failings then, and what dragged the film down, Lex Luthor aside…
First off, there was very little humour in this film. I can remember two jokes, one of which was the “I thought she was with you” line from the trailer.
Other than that, and an aside from Alfred (who seems to have been merged with the character of Lucius Fox in this DCU continuity and provides Batman’s tech support), there was bugger all to lighten the mood of what was otherwise a fucking grim spectacle.
Serious spoilers for the end of the film follow from this point right through to the end. You were warned!
And yes, DC are using a bastardised Zod’s body (as seen in the trailers!) as that Doomsday. And here? He looks like a fucking Mutant Ninja Turtle. Like a pissed off Middle-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle that didn’t get his pizza delivered within 20 minutes or less…
Anyway, the storyline follows that particular character’s most notable story to a tee.
Yeah DC, you done blown your load early.
You killed Superman.
You went and utterly blew the Death of Superman storyline by cramming it into the last 20 minutes of the second film in the DCU?
/facedesk x infinity
Death of Superman should have been a storyline that had an entire film dedicated to it. Man of Steel 3 perhaps.
You should have given the general audience time. Time to bond with this iteration of Superman beyond 1.5 movies. Give them time to see him redeem himself from the events of the first movie, to prove himself to be the hero the world knows him to be.
Then? When he’s a proper saviour, and adored by the world of the DCU and audiences worldwide? Then drop the hammer of Death of Superman, without any hint that he may still be alive, unlike what they did with the final shot of this film.
Alas that wasn’t to be. Instead, DC rush things in an effort to catch up to Marvel, and cram Superman’s most important storyline into the last 20 minutes of only the second film in the DCU, thus robbing the character’s sacrifice of much of its gravitas and importance.
But, as anyone who knows the Superman comic history will attest, Supes does come back after the Death of Superman storyline, and this version will too, but I’ll swing back round to why in a second.
There were many dream sequences I mentioned earlier, and two of them are relevant to where I think the DCU are heading with their overall story arc. Particularly that of Superman.
The first dream sequence involved a more overt cameo from the DCU’s Flash. In it, he warned Bruce Wayne:
“Listen to me now. It’s Lois, Lois Lane. She’s the key. I’m too soon? I’m too soon. You were right about him. You’ve always been right about him. Fear him. Find us, you have to find us.”
The other sequence, partially in the trailers, was set in the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside of a city, presumably Metropolis. In it is carved a huge Omega symbol, and there are troops with Superman’s S logo emblazoned upon their arms.
In this dream, it looks like Superman has gone evil, and amassed an army that worships him like a god, and he’s destroyed everyone that has gone against him.
Given these two dream sequences, I have a feeling they are going to really fuck things up. Especially for Superman fans.
A few years back, a fighting game was released by WB featuring the superheroes of DC.
It was called Injustice: Gods Among Us.
It was set 5 years after the events of Death of Superman, and in it, he and Lois are married and she’s pregnant with his child.
The story goes that Superman, after the Joker tricks him into killing Lois and destroying Metropolis, Superman decides that he needs to impose a forced “peace” on the world. He warns the governments of the world to cease fighting, or that he’ll do it for them.
In essence he becomes a global dictator and rules the planet with an iron fist.
So yeah, that’s where I think they’re going, and maybe why they’ve blown such an important storyline so early in the DCU.
It’s also fairly obvious that the major villain in the DCU, and perhaps in the last JL movie proper, is going to be Darkseid. In the aforementioned apocalypse nightmare, Darkseid’s henchmen are fighting alongside a corrupted Superman and his troops, so it looks as though both Superman and Darkseid could be teaming up in a future DCU installment.
In essence, Darkseid is going to be DC’s Thanos.
Except Marvel will have threaded the threat of Thanos throughout 12 movies over the course of 10 years.
Not so much patience being shown by DC.
Am I glad I went to see the film?
Yeah, of course. I love superhero films and TV shows, and it takes one to be really really bad for me to regret seeing it. Potentially Aquaman’s solo flick will be falling into this category.
Would I recommend you go see it?
Eh. It depends if you’re as big a fanboy as I am. If not? Maybe wait for the Blu-Ray release in 6 months.
Ultimately, it’s a very mixed film. Storyline was sketchy to non-existent, and the characterisation of some characters was off or incoherent at best.
The premature use of the Death of Superman storyline so early on in the DCU is so very nearly unforgivable, and Zack Snyder is going to have to really justify trying to run before he can walk with this nascent Justice League IP. This should have been a story that would have been built up to over the course of years, and if Darkseid’s coming? Have him resurrect Superman as his lieutenant.
But the film did have some high points. The fight sequences were good, and the effects were well handled. Batfleck and WW both came out of this with credit in their banks, and we’ve got a possible showdown with Darkseid on the cards.
I don’t usually score stuff, but it would be around a 5 to 6 out of 10. It was far from awful, but it was also far from great. And I say that as someone who adored Man of Steel, a movie that has had no shortage of critics in the years since its release.
An appropriately bitter-sweet experience then, for a bitter-sweet day.
Happy Birthday Dad.