Friday, April 15, 2016

'Batman v. Superman' Review, Part Two: What I Liked

Okay, so as I said yesterday, I'm now going to go through the things about this movie that I enjoyed. I want to reiterate, this movie wasn't entirely terrible, and the following is in now particular order. I should start with the obligatory movie poster, though right?

Once again,


I do think this is more easily made into a coherent piece, rather than a bunch of numbers, so I'm just gonna go for it. And I'm going to start by addressing the positive perspective on the last point I made in my post about the negative things in Dawn of Justice. I added that after the original posting, though, so I'll include it here, in case you read the first part but didn't see that bit:
So if Batman is driven SO BLOODY OVER THE EDGE by Superman's fight with Zod and the presence of this alien, and he is so Hellbent on killing him for 90% of the movie, how come all it takes is Lois saying their moms share names for him to turn around and be on his side? It was cool, and there's an argument for why it works,  but also for why it doesn't. See, we spent a whole movie watching Batman hate Superman. Superman is the cause for him being willing to kill now, and to brand the thugs he catches with a Bat Symbol, and his main goal since Superman showed up, over a year-and-a-half earlier, has been to end the Man of Steel. But in thirty seconds, that all turns around? That's not enough. If you're going to build up that much backstory, it can't be reversed with a few lines of dialogue. I would have rather seen  them decide it was in their mutual interest to fight together against Doomsday, then, once the Big Bad was gone, have a neural conversation where Superman plead his case convincingly enough- which I think he could do, if Goyer wasn't being suck a fucking moron. There's a legitimate argument for why Superman did what he did, and it's not unlike how Batman destroys SO MUCH PROPERTY during every chase he's ever in; he could say how he tried to get Zod out of the city, and when it didn't work, he eliminated the threat to save the lives left, etc. I think Batman would listen to that and be persuaded to at least not kill Supes. And then, maybe have Lex kidnap Mama Kent (or have her put in danger in  the next movie... which I kind of hate saying... because ALL SHE'S GOOD FOR IS BEING IN DANGER JUST LIKE LOIS IN THIS MOVIE) and Bruce finds out she shares a name with his deceased mother, and that makes him more eager to work with Superman because of stuff  I'll talk about in the positive post. 
So okay, the reason I think this had the potential to at least be cool is because a lot of Bruce's hatred of Superman was rooted in bigotry. Call it speceism, if you will, but all of the times Bruce/Batman calls Superman "alien," and the amount of venom and disdain in his voice, it may as well be replaced with the n-word.  And I think this draws a very interesting parallel with racism and movements for equality, because one of the most sensical arguments against discrimination is that we all have way more in common than we think. So Bruce realizing that Superman's mom is in danger, and that his mom's name is the same as his own deceased mom's, makes Bruce realize that he and Superman have more in common than he was willing to realize. This is a fascinating revelation, and it should have been expanded on more- and again, if they had done that after the fight instead of before, it could have been. Because Bruce was afraid of Superman because he had the power to kill the whole human race, yeah? Well, what happened throughout the movie? Oh yeah, BATMAN WAS KILLING THE SHIT OUT OF ERRBODY. So by being so desperate to get rid of Superman, he, by degrees, became the thing he was trying to destroy. And him realizing this, coming to terms with it, and thus joining Superman's side with sincerity and earnestness, it could have been great. And it was there... kind of... it was just very, very poorly done. But I had to point it out positively, too, because Batman realizing Superman is more human than he thought is a big deal. Because I don't think there's ever been a version of Batman that didn't portray him as stubborn as fuck. So him changing his mind  is a B.F.D.

Along those lines, then, I liked the premise behind Lex, even if he was terribly cast and written. Because his whole goal wasn't to hurt Batman, really; he wanted to end Superman. That's why he's so bent on getting the kryptonite; that's why he's so adamant to Senator Finch that Superman is dangerous. He, too, saw the destruction in Metropolis, and he became terrified of what Superman could do to the people of Earth, on a whim, if he had a bad day, whatever. But in his madness, his drive to Stop Superman, he kills tons of people, too. To quote another DC character from a different movie, 

Luthor got so caught up that he started destroying lives and ending them without any thought to it. The pain he put Keefe through, the way he orchestrated the whole shin-dig in the desert, the people he held hostage, how he blew up the Capital Building, you would think that's the kind of stuff he would want to accuse the target of his anger of doing. I think part of why he wanted to have Superman kill Batman was because for however "criminal" Batman is, if he's been at it for 20+ years, he must have a loyal following, and if he died at the hands of Superman, that would probably remove any credibility Superman had left. 

I also don't think Lex Luthor necessarily had it out for Batman directly because, as I said before, he had to have known Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person before the fight in Metropolis happened, well before Keefe was injured, in order to help drive Batman over the edge like that. 

And that's a fantastic parallel: Weirdly, Batman and Luthor had the same response to Superman, and had the same goal with regards to him. They both want to end him during the course of this movie. They both go down a dark path because of the violence they see during the fight between Zod and Superman.

And so here's one of my favorite things about this movie: I loved that it opens (mostly) with the Metropolis fight shown from Bruce Wayne's perspective. That scene was a huge part of what people (myself included) thought was wrong with Man of Steel, and it was visually stunning in this use, as well as moving. The look on Bruce's face at the end of the sequence, this shot right here, explains so much, even without the hints at backstory we get later:

Much hate. Such the anger.

I would have loved it more if there had been some followup closer to the time of the incident, like maybe a montage over opening credits of people protesting against Superman, if they had mentioned during the coverage of Keefe's incident at the statue of Supes that this is the umpteenth time the thing had been defaced because there's a lot of anti-Superman sentiment. Showing us this scene reminds us why everyone shown as afraid of Superman is, in fact, afraid of him. They also could have bolstered it a bit with maybe someone at the Daily Planet being anti-Superman, or at least before the incident in the desert. But regardless, starting it with that was a great choice, and while I imagine it was also Zack Snyder saying, "FUCK YOU!" to his critics from the first one, it still was a great storytelling move, one of the few good ones in the whole Goddamned movie. 

So then, back to Bruce's face. I LOVE that the incident in Metropolis is what puts Bruce over the edge. Because when you think about it, and especially given the context we get later- a dead Robin, he's been at it for over twenty years, something terrible seems to have happened to Wayne Manor- it's fucking brilliant to turn Superman into the scapegoat for all of Bruce Wayne's anger and pain from his life. From his parents' deaths in front of him as a kid, to whatever happened the day before shit got real in Metropolis and stuff. That's a lot of rage. What it comes down to, is he's projecting all of his anger and misery onto Superman. And realizing that is what really should have been the catalyst for him changing his tune, even though yes, realizing Superman has some humanity to him, too, was good. THAT would have been far more moving and would have resonated more loudly in the psyches of the audience. That being said, I like to think that it was still in there for Ben Affleck as he was acting the scene where he vows to Supes that he'll save Ma Kent- he's too smart of a man and too good of an actor to miss that psychological twist to the Batman/Bruce Wayne he's portraying, here. 

And with that, I have to say, I was waaaaay into how off the deep end Batman/Bruce Wayne goes in this movie. I mean, it's not like Batman doesn't lose his shit in the comics. Here's a pretty famous panel I'm sure you've seen (and yes, I kind of detest the use of the "r" word, here, but it kind of proves the point that Batman has historically been batshit at times in the comics):

Another example, I'm of the belief that he actually kills the Joker in The Killing Joke, even though some cling to the idea that the Joker snaps his own neck simply to spite Batman. As much as I love Batman for choosing not to kill, it's very believable that he would, if the right buttons got pushed. So it was totally believable for me. I haven't read any reviews of Dawn of Justice yet, but I watched the one from How it Should Have Ended, and I was entirely unsurprised when he said that he didn't like that Batman was killing people. As stubborn as I am about "versions" of characters being "wrong" (i.e. my thoughts on Lex Luthor in this same movie), I also think it's reasonable to be open to Batman being that off his rocker and a little too stubborn for people to automatically discredit that development in his character, however much of a moral/ethical regression it may be for him.

So I wasn't weirded out by the fact that he has a shit-ton of GUNS and ROCKETS on the Batmobile, at least not from a "that's now what Batman does" point of view. And I fucking loved  this:

I don't know why that wasn't done sooner. It seems like the kind of thing Frank Miller or Alan Moore would come up with themselves- it's dark, creepy, and, let's face it, fucked up. And that's what makes it juicy and delicious! And whether or not it actually leads to the guys in prison getting killed is debatable- I like to think it's more correlation, rather than causation. After all, the news report about the dude put in the hospital (NOT killed, I should reiterate, but in the hospital in critical condition, which, come on, usually when he doesn't kill someone, Bats is probably leaving them paralyzed or something) was a child molester or something. And it's common knowledge that wife-beaters and child molesters have it the worst in prison. Did the brand make  his beating more severe? Maybe. I don't know. I don't really care. I like the idea that Batman has been driven so far over the edge that he's branding the baddies he catches, knowing full-well it at least gets them beat up in prison. It's a far more twisted version of leaving Carmine Falcone on a headlight so that he makes a Bat Signal in the sky with his body.

Now, did all the blatant killing on Batman's part make me uncomfortable? Yes. But  that was good. Because that's the whole fucking point. And I'd argue that the people whining about him killing and branding are missing it. The idea is that Superman freaked him out so Goddamned much that he lost perspective and that core aspect of his own Identity. I reiterate, there's quite a bit of backstory alluded to here- the Joker killed Robin in the past, Wayne Manor was destroyed, and I don't recall any positive references to Gordon (although there is a BatSignal, so I'm going to assume he at least at some point was on not-bad terms with the GCPD). He says something like, "We've always been criminals," to Alfred and while I know I haven't read or seen every version  of Bruce Wayne/Batman  out there, I think that's a substantial bit of personal development for him to admit that, and it, too, speaks to some of that backstory. 

So, yes, I would watch the shit out of a Batman movie starring Ben Afleck. And especially with Jeremy Irons as his Alfred. The scenes between them were all fantastic, and their rapport was perfect and exactly what I want out of a dynamic between Alfred and Master Bruce; like I said in the other post, I was sad I missed the beginning of one of their scenes together because I had to pee (and didn't want to endure any more of Kevin Costner's Pa Kent, to wit). Irons was a spectacular Alfred, and I was sad that he didn't get more screentime. The bit where he takes over the Batplane is fucking glorious, and that's another thing I'm surprised we'd never seen before in the Bat-verse (at least, as far as I'm aware). So both of them were GREAT casting decisions.

Another one, and one that I will 100% admit surprised me, is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/ Diana Prince. She stole every scene she was in, and not because anybody around her was really bad, but because she was just that fucking cool. So yes, I am going to do my damndest to see her movie at a midnight premiere next summer. I totally believed that she's an Amazon. I loved her little sneer when Lex is dissing Zeus- that was flawless and seamless and delightful and I squeed, because I know they made her his daughter in this version (insert feminist critique of that here...*), which is at least better than one of the theories floating around a while ago. So last time I griped about the fight choreography for Batman being mostly bad. What I meant by that was, it didn't get good until Wonder Woman joined the crew. The way she, Batman, and Superman all tag-teamed Doomsday, it was great- as if they'd fought together before, almost. And OHMYGOD I loved her "aw HELL no" looks she'd make each time she gets knocked down, like this one:

I fist-pumped every time, and so did the person I saw the movie with, and she knew nothing about Wonder Woman. She is that fucking cool in this movie. 

Truthfully, and this is kinda sad, but the scenes between her and Bruce were so good, their dynamic so yummy, that I think this movie would have been way better without Superman. Like if they had made it just a Batman+Wonder Woman flick. That is a movie I would happily go see, too.

But seriously, Gal Gadot vastly exceeded my expectations, and I'm so glad that we're past this feeling:

And I'm not too nervous about it anymore. If how well she did here is any indication, the Wonder Woman solo movie is going to be great. And as an aside, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is a great choice, and I suspect they'll have some great chemistry. I also like that it appears as though they're going back to her WWII roots.

But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself in anticipation.

I also really enjoyed Lawrence Fishburn's character, Perry White. He speaks a lot of truth, and while I don't have much else to say about him, I wanted to be sure to highlight that, too. Fishburn is always a solid actor, and I'm glad his lines were good enough for the calibur he brings to the cast.

And yes. This movie was very visually stunning. Mostly. It got kind of hokey during the fight with Doomsday, but Doomsday himself wasn't problematic.

In fact, I kind of dug that Doomsday was a creation of Lex Luthor. That is the kind of shit I expect from him, is the exact kind of shit he does. He's a mad scientist at heart, albeit one with a fuckton of money to back it up/make it easier. And while I did immediately think they kind of pulled an Ultron by changing him into a lab experiment instead of being (yet another) alien that lands on Earth (i.e. Marvel made Ultron a creation of Tony Stark in Age of Ultron, rather than being... an alien that lands on Earth), I still thought that was the truest thing to Lex Luthor's character in the whole movie. Even going back to how he sliced off Zod's fingertips to gain access to the crashed ship- that's a Lexish thing, too. "Blood of my blood." Granted, Jessie Eisenberg's delivery was more... creepy... than maniacal.

And there's precedent for it, too. Since the early 90s, the character Superboy has been a hybrid clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. The human portion of his DNA is why Superboy can't fly and do a few other things in Young Justice, and there, and in other versions, Luthor uses that tie to manipulate Superboy and use him as a sleeper agent/tool to hurt the Justice League. So it's totally believable that Lex would create some weird hybrid of his and Zod's DNA in order to kill Superman. Since Goyer is at least consulting on these damn movies as "the comic guy" for the story, I have suspicions that maybe he suggested this little tweak to Doomsday's origins as a nod to that part of Lex Luthor's "recent" (as in "in the past twenty years of") history. I'll admit, though, that if I didn't know this about him, I would have found it just plain creepy, not gonna lie.

And  while I'm on Lex again, let me say that while I didn't actively dislike the music, I was slightly disappointed in how it mostly sounded like a bunch of rehashed stuff from previous movies for which Hans Zimmer had been the composer... save for the creepy violin music that would play when Lex was being particularly weird/creepy/eccentric. Like the scene where he's talking to Senator Fisher in his house- the music basically made that scene.

And speaking of that scene... I loved that there is a jar of piss on her desk right before she blows up, too. That... well, I don't know if that's quite a Lex Luthor thing to do, oer se, but regardless, it was glorious to see. Because it was down-right fucked up. And, just in case you forgot, things are totally fucked up in Zack Snyder's universe, here. 

And so now it comes time for my rating. If it weren't for how great Batman and Wonder Woman are, I would say D-, or 5/10. But I honestly enjoyed those two (and Alfred) enough that I would say C+, or 7/10. They saved the movie for me, truly. I won't see it again in theaters, but I will definitely buy it when it comes out on BluRay, and who knows, I may end up writing a follow-up based off the extra scenes (because apparently the original cut is nearly FOUR FUCKING HOURS LONG...).

*The short version is that, by making her the product of a romantic tryst between Hippolyta and Zues, rather than being a blessing to the Amazons from female gods and formed out of clay, they're removing some of her independence. Part of her "feminist iconic" strength came from her total of zero ties to the male gender until meeting Steve Trevor; making her yet another one of Zeus's bastards diminishes that, as well as removes some of the strength and independence of her mother, Hippolyta- a badass in her own right, too. This piece from TheMarySue beautifully captures everything wrong with this telling of her history, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in her character, how she's evolved over the years, and/or is tired of my rants. 

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