Okay, so my wife and son and I hit the local cinema this past Friday and took in Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. I liked it, as did my 11 year old son. My wife thought it was decent, but didn’t like that Christian Bale wasn’t Batman(she’s got a thing for the guy, what can I say?) Leading up to seeing it there were some initial tweets from various folks that saw the premiere that were very positive. That got me excited. Then, actual reviews started hitting the internet and things weren’t so good. Here’s a couple of examples:
“There’s a modicum of depth in the new superhero drama. Unfortunately, it’s buried underneath a grim façade and an unrepentant reliance on loud fight sequences.” – John Hanlon(John Hanlon Reviews
“…just another incompetent endeavor from an almost shockingly untalented filmmaker.” -David Nusair(Reel Film Reviews
“For all its overcranked spectacle, I emerged from Batman v Superman in a soporific state; foggy of head, heavy of heart, wondering if it was all just a bad dream.” -Mark Kermode(Observer UK)
“The film generates zero tension from what is implicitly marketed as a seismic battle of super heroes.” – David Kaplan(Kaplan vs. Kaplan)
And here’s my absolute favorite:
“Director Zack Snyder has blown it.” – Henry Fitzherbert(Daily Express)
Reading these you’d a thought the worst movie based on comic books had just been released onto the world. Really? Did you ever see Superman Returns people? What about X-Men 3? Spiderman 3? The Amazing Spiderman 2? C’mon, we’re not spending $9 a pop to see an Academy Award-winning spectacle. We’re going to the theater to see characters we grew up worshiping in comics and animation in flesh and blood form and hopefully breaking things now and then. Explosions, action, cool gadgets, and battling it out with some bad guy. That’s what we’re aiming to see when we go see these comic book characters come to life. I’m sure there were just as many hardcore comic book lifers that didn’t like this movie, either. I get that. You don’t think they did your favorite interpretation of Superman or Batman justice. Hey, to each his own.
But since I’ve started reading comics at the age of 42 I’ve come across a very interesting fact: there’s TONS of interpretations of these characters. Some are liked and some are not. Some people revere Frank Miller’s Dark Knight as the ultimate and can’t be beat version of Batman, while others are in the Jeph Loeb camp. Me? I think The Long Halloween is one of the greatest Batman stories I’ve read…so far. I’ve read Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and I think The Long Halloween beats it by a mile. Doesn’t mean Miller’s story is bad. I quite liked it, in fact. It just means I prefer Jeph Loeb’s story more. I also quite liked Tim Sale’s art as well. I look at these films in sort of the same way. They’re interpretations of stories we’re familiar with; interpretations of characters we’re familiar with. Going into these films with that mindset I feel I’m set up more to just enjoy them for what they are, and not what they’re not.
I thought everyone did a great job acting, with the exception of Lex Luthor. How Jesse Eisenberg played him I was not happy with. Maybe he’ll change as the newer films hit theaters in the coming years, but first impressions are everything. I was especially pleased with Ben Affleck. When it was announced he was going to take over the role of Batman I know the backlash was heard across the world. So many disappointed fans over the fact that the Affleck guy was going to ruin Batman. Ehh, I wasn’t that worried. I’m one of the few that like Ben Affleck. I think he’s a fine actor and an even better director. As Bruce Wayne he brings a certain urgency and world weariness to the role that certainly coincides with the aged Wayne from Miller’s tales. Cavill’s Superman is a cross between Christopher Reeves and something slightly sinister. He wants to do good, but you can tell that he almost feels put out by man’s need for Superman to convince them of his honest and good intentions. The supporting cast of Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Jeremy Irons is solid. I was especially thrilled with Irons take on Alfred. A more wiry and weary Mr. Pennyworth with a more hands-on knowledge of the inner workings of the Batcave and it’s many toys. The only major Justice League-er we get to see in action besides the Batman and Superman is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, but there’s plenty to see. Her Wonder Woman is part Bond girl/Amazonian warrior. The first half seeing her in slinky dresses and disappearing in sports cars, while the second half shows her saving the men’s butts at the end with the Doomsday battle.
So yes, there are some not-so bright moments in the film. The storyline can get clunky in explaining motives of certain characters. The big battle between our superheroes is a tad more build up than pay off(it only takes certain ideas from Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and uses them as an entry point into the Justice League world.) Doomsday is kind of a let down. The battle is impressive but there was more to the character/creature in the comics. And like I said before, Jesse Eisenberg played Luthor way twitchier and “insane” than what the character needed to be. Luthor is cool, calculating, and dangerously likable in the comic world. Here, he’s more cartoonish than a cartoon. Maybe not Eisenberg’s fault more than the direction he was told to take the role.
And about Zack Snyder. I think the guy is a great director and has a very specific vision for these films. I’ve been a fan of his since his Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. I thought Watchmen was a brilliant take on a brilliant book. 300 was a great take on Miller’s book. Wasn’t necessarily my kind of thing, but it was well done. And I quite enjoyed Man Of Steel. The “dark” aspect of that film, as well as Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice feels more in line with the recent run of DC-animated films that I think are brilliant. Some people think Snyder is a hack, and his films are all green screen, CGI affairs. Well, if it weren’t for green screen and CGI we couldn’t see our superheroes doing all these amazing things. This is the kind of superhero film I dreamed of as a kid in the 80s. This is EXACTLY what I wanted in a superhero film.
As much as I loved Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films, I think his take brought a certain cinema snobbery to the theaters and these folks expect that kind of filmmaking every time a comic book movie hits the theater. That’s not the case. The Dark Knight was a superhero cinema experience we’ll never have again I don’t think. It was more crime noir than superhero film. We can’t make that the norm. I think Snyder is doing his own take on the noir, with the darker tones and dreary vibe, and that’s okay. But the realism of The Dark Knight can’t continue into the world of Justice League. These are heroes with powers; Gods, metahumans, aliens, robots, and strange and bizarre creatures. It’s gotta be just a little over the top in order to work.
So this is coming from the point-of-view of a dad and of a comic novice, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice is much better than what John Hanlon, David Nusair, Mark Kermode, and Henry Fitzherbert make it out to be. It’s clunky, loud, sort of bizarre, and at times over the top, and my son and I are okay with that. You might be, too.
Father and Son: 3 out of 4 Stars
Mom: 2 out of 4 Stars(No Bale, no 3 out of 4 stars)