This is Batman V Superman post #3 for The Cinematic Katzenjammer.
Read Vivek’s official review here.
Read Sverrir’s opinion piece here.
Ben Affleck as Batman
When Ben Affleck was first cast as Batman, the world was up in arms about the man who “ruined Daredevil” donning yet another costume and cape. I was in the minority when I defended his casting (almost two years ago!)* and after a wild opening weekend, the general consensus is that I was correct. Affleck steals the show as an aged, rugged, more violent Dark Knight and even handles the alter ego of Bruce Wayne rather well. He’s ripped. He’s angry. He’s vulnerable. He kicks ass. And yes, folks, he even kills people. Batman post-Jason Todd has no moral code. Which is a character flaw I am sure will be addressed the next go-around.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Another concern the general public had with the casting of the film was Gal Gadot, a relative no-name actress who was cast as the world’s premiere super heroine. Those are a big tiara and golden cuffs to fill and Gadot does it with ease. She is sexy, she is mysterious, she is confident, and she is sexy as Princess Diana of Themyscira. Not to mention the way she is introduced is quite simple. It does not feel as forced as one would think and her inclusion in the final battle makes sense. Seeing her join the likes of the cape and the cowl and bringing The Trinity together for the first time made any fanboy’s heart skip a few beats. Needless to say, I am very excited for her solo movie.
The Special Effects
Say what you want about Zack Snyder and his direction and story-crafting, but his ability to craft particular action sequences is something to be admired. The intensity, power, and speed of which Superman fights is captured brilliantly, as it was in Man of Steel, and each fight sequence carries its own sort of ‘gritty charm’. However, the editing and pacing, which will be addressed later, affected the over quality of some of these effects. But as a whole, BvS looks great. Seeing the DC universe expand even further to include the rest of the Justice League and Darkseid (!?) will be very fun. The only iffy thing to mentioning concerning the effects is Doomsday, who while he looks better than I thought he would given the trailers, could have still used a little extra work around the edges to avoid the “look at the tennis ball and pretend he’s there”.
Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor
Perhaps the biggest WTF on my list is my inclusion of how much I liked Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. The majority believes his performance to be over-the-top and comedic and that his version of Lex is too far from anything we have seen before. However, one thing the movie nails directly on the head is Lex’s power struggle in a world of meta-humans. Throughout all of the comics, he has always had the knowledge and the financial power to do whatever he wants. However, when faced with an unstoppable force like Superman, he feels weak and angry. No matter the tech or the money, Lex has always struggled with the fact he just isn’t super and BvS handles this very well. Not to mention, his gaining of particular knowledge towards the end of the film only strengthens the character for later appearances. Perhaps the unhinged side of him will tame itself as he becomes more of the straight laced, imposing figure we know from the comics.
Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL’s Score
Regardless of what you thought about Man of Steel, the film did have one of the best trailers I have ever seen. A large part of its effectiveness was the new Superman theme composed by Hans Zimmer. It is emotional, heroic, inspires all sorts of good feelings, and can stand on its own as something of quality. Zimmer returns for BvS alongside Junkie XL (who did the music for Mad Max: Fury Road) and delivers equally as brilliant pieces of music. Besides reusing the Superman theme, Zimmer and XL’s new theme for Wonder Woman has to be one of the coolest parts of BvS. An electric guitar rock-god kind of sound is the only way to introduce WW. She is a true warrior and badass and the theme fits her perfectly.
There are Easter Eggs and then there is fan service. While I am giddy as hell about the impending Justice League movies and cannot wait to see the likes of The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman on the big screen, their appearances in BvS feel nothing but forced. The scene which includes footage of the three is completely out of place and exists purely to set up the events of the future films. Yes, each hero looked cool on his own right, but to include them just “because” was a bad idea. If anything, the footage of the three should have been a post-credits tag to tease the future, not something we focus on right before the climax of the film. That being said, bring on the meta-humans! Show me Central City. Show me S.T.A.R. Labs. Show me Atlantis!
If you have a huge blockbuster movie with a budget the size of a small country’s total wealth, there is really no excuse to not show it off as best as you can. With BvS, the editing is a mess and takes away so much from the action sequences that could easily be something special had the cuts and camera been a little more focused. There is a particular scene involving the Batmobile and a semi-truck playing cat and mouse through the streets of Gotham that really stands out. It is poorly edited and put together and feels more like a kaleidoscope of explosions than a coherent chase sequence. What makes matters worse is that in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan showed us how to do said scene very effectively, while capturing the scope and scale of such chaos ensuing. If you are going to spend a ton of money on effects, please let the audience enjoy them!
The Lack of Superman
Poor Clark Kent. BvS was originally set to be Man of Steel 2, continuing the story of Henry Cavill’s Superman. But as Warner Brothers wanted to play catch up with Marvel, the sequel morphed into a collage of heroes building up to The Justice League. Ironically enough, the leader of the team suffered the most from these changes and Superman exists as more of a catalyst for certain events to unfold rather than a player in the game. Batman steals the show, Wonder Woman steals her moments, leaving the last part of The Trinity to pick up the pieces. Henry Cavill does do a great job as Superman, but unfortunately the script does not allow him to shine and show off what kind of acting abilities he has. As much as I love Batman, I really wanted to see Superman shine a little brighter and have a little more screen time than he does in BvS.
It is also worth mentioning that in this new franchise, we have yet to see the Superman from the comics. He is not the beacon of hope, the heroic symbol for good, or the big boy scout we know from the pages. He is dark. He is brooding. He is a god unhinged that is played up all too frequently. He needs to be the polar opposite of the dark and gruff Batman, not his equal in grit.
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
I love Amy Adams, mind you. She is a great actress and a good fit for Lois Lane. But there is no room for her in the plot for BvS (except that bathtub scene because hell yes). Every scene of Lois Lane takes away from the central conflict as she plays some sort of globetrotting Carmen San Diego like character who puts herself into unnecessarily dangerous situations just so we can have one more scene featuring Superman being Superman. At the end of it though, it turns our boy in blue into an errand boy constantly saving a damsel in distress and not a protector of our planet. In the grand scheme of things, the world could be destroyed, but this Superman would only care about whether or not Lois Lane is alright without a scratch. I understand her inclusion is to help bring Superman down to earth and more relatable, but when it is full blown war on the abandoned streets (they remind us of this way too many times), Superman needs his full attention focused on the chaos, not a little redheaded something with a microphone and a notepad.
There is very little concerning a cohesive plot in BvS. There are plenty of ideas and story lines happening around a “central idea”, but nothing ever really gels as well as you would hope it would. Characters are introduced and quickly dismissed or killed off, with even some seemingly iconic characters being forgotten completely. The film really is a jumbled mess of a story that only occasionally hits its strides. There are so many characters whose motivations are unclear, convictions are dropped quickly, rules are broken, and opinions are changed out of the blue. The movie feels as though it is a few different movies all squeezed together. It is probably the biggest complaint I have for the film, as it never has the chance to reach heights of awesome, given the distractions of the ever-branching out plot trying to do all different sorts of things. Had the film been more focused and the story injected with more sense and emotion, we could have some kind of masterpiece on our hands. Instead we are left with something that has moments of greatness overshadowed by more moments of straight “what the fuck is happening?”. Here’s hoping that the extended director’s cut tightens up the story a bit and reign in the bloated mess of a screenplay Warner Brothers approved.
Looking above, one could assume I did not like the movie, as The Bad and The Ugly outweigh The Good. However, I still very much enjoyed the film and am excited for what is to come in the DC universe. It is a heavily flawed movie. It is neither the film we deserve or need right now, but it does its job. The movie is a serviceable introduction to new characters that will play larger parts in later films and sets in motion the intergalactic events that are sure to follow. If anything, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does a few things so well, I can brush aside its flaws. We now have a new Batman, arguably one of the best to be on the screen, a female superhero (this is a pretty big deal), a chaotic villain who has contacted the New Gods, and a growing cast of supporting characters with their own secrets to uncover. The film may not be a true gateway into a full expanded universe, but one can say that with its issues and mistakes, the film leaves us in the doorway, waiting for us to be pushed through to the bigger picture and to come face to face with DC’s Finest.
* (Vivek’s editor note): I defended this too – one of the few times Nick and I have stood on common ground when it comes to most comic-book films.