Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Via Comic Book Movie
SPOILER WARNING: I'm going to be referencing quite a bit of the plot from this movie, so if you haven't seen it and care to be spoiler free before going in, I don't recommend you reading much past the break.

Full disclosure: I went and saw this movie after reading bad review after bad review, so I was set to dislike it from the get-go. Yay, another Batman origin story retelling! Henry Cavill looks like a douche-bro! Wonder Woman is barely seen! The story is nonsensical! Zack Snyder is getting "paid millions of dollars to pretend not to be Michael Bay!" Jesse Eisenberg was woefully miscast! I'm sure you've read all of these, too. The internet was inundated with negative criticism, so much that you could barely find anything positive to say about the movie.

Now, usually, I try to be open-minded whenever I've read reviews of movies I'm going to see because, hey, I'm an individual and I like to make my own decision as to whether or not a movie is a piece of crap, but when it comes to DC, there's always this little skeptical devil on my shoulder, reminding me of how many times the publisher and WB have royally fucked up some of my favorite characters (*cough* the Finches' Wonder Woman run *cough*).

So imagine my surprise when I realized, "Hey, I don't hate this movie."

First, what worked: I weirdly enough liked Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne (although I did find it odd that this movie was less about Superman and more about Bruce's search for kryptonite for ... reasons. But I'll get to that in a second). I dare say I actually prefer Affleck over Christian Bale's Bruce, but that could be because all I could see was American Psycho whenever he was in playboy mode. His fight scene as he's saving Martha Kent was quite cleverly done and was the point in the movie where I sat up and was like, "Is this going to get good now?" Gal Gadot was perfectly cast as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, and every scene that she was in made me smile, especially when she finally appears as Wonder Woman (not gonna lie, I clapped like a schoolgirl when she was revealed as the savior of Batman). Her battle scenes were just so kickass that I'm 100% on-board with the Wonder Woman movie, about which I've been very side-eye since I heard it was being made. Plus, her appearance brought in some much needed levity that the rest of the movie lacked. Oh! And Holly Hunter's reaction to seeing the jar of Granny's Peach Tea on her desk at Superman's hearing (which ... what?) was on the nose, even if I did find her character to be on the stuffy and useless side of things, but that's something I'll go back to. And finally, when Clark realized what he had to do to defeat Doomsday, I actually welled up a bit; his interaction with Amy Adams' Lois Lane was the kind of heart the character had been missing the whole movie.

And second - you knew this was coming - what didn't work for me. The first three-quarters of the movie were just SO. BORING, even with all the gunfights and whatnot, and I was lost throughout most of it. Why does Bruce Wayne, a noted smart person, decide that Superman is the bad guy without having all the information available? How in the world does Lex Luthor's complicated plan actually work (answer: because it's in the script - you have to read that in Sir Ian McKellan's voice, btw) because so much could go wrong and then where would that leave him? Why is Bruce in his batsuit in the desert? Why is Lois even in this except to essentially play the role that Gwenyth Paltrow's Pepper Potts has in Ironman 2? How does putting Luthor's own DNA into the pool or whatever with General Zod's body create Doomsday? My face throughout a lot of the movie was pretty much this:
Via Gif Sec
I feel like there was enough fodder for two movies here. I mean, neither would be great, but at least we could actually explore stuff like how Lex Luthor set up Superman exactly and why in the world Lois was in Africa* and how Clark knew she was there or why, all of the sudden, Bruce decided that Superman needed to die. There were so many plot complications that bogged the film down that I honestly wondered if this was like the extended version where all the unnecessary deleted scenes were just thrown back in. Like Bruce's very 9/11-esque opening sequence, paired with his parents' death and his falling down into the cave of bats, etc., could have been cut and we could have opened with the other annoying plot point of the hearing** of Superman, which thankfully ended with that explosion.

See, here's the thing. Warner Brothers and DC want to compete with Marvel, which I totally understand, but there's a reason Captain America: Civil War has taken years to release. You have to develop the rivalries and differences of opinion and friendships over time, as opposed to being like, "Oh, yeah, totally a bad guy. Kill him with fire." after one freaking movie. Iron Man and Captain America have, since their introduction to each other, frenemies, completely disagreeing on protocol and ideologies, but have fought with each other and worked well together, which is why their splintering apart is such a good development. Just tossing Batman into Superman's world like a dog fighting match is foolhardy, and you end up with a very confusing movie.

Then we have Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Sigh. Honestly, I feel like he was trying too hard to emulate Heath Ledger's Joker combined with Tommy Lee Jones' Harvey Dent. That's not Lex Luthor, folks. He's not insane; he honestly believes that Superman is bad for the Earth. He's intelligent - not unlike Bruce Wayne, who also took stupid pills in this movie - and a philanthropist and a successful businessman, with a penchant for wanting to take over the world but hey, he's a supervillain. That's kind of in the job description. What made the Joker such an excellent foil to Batman is the similarity of character: one step in the wrong direction for Bruce could turn him into Joker, and what makes Lex a great opponent for Superman is that he's just as dedicated to his view of the world as Supes is. I can honestly say that I have no idea what Lex's motivation throughout Batman v Superman was. Kill Batman? Kill Superman? Create Doomsday? Profit? I DO NOT KNOW. And I don't care.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was not as horrible as I expected it to be, which is nice, I suppose, but it does not make me super thrilled about the Justice League movie that it hinted at near the end (and OMG did it take forever to end. I asked aloud, "Dear God, did Snyder take cues from Peter Jackson here?"). But like I said above, I am hyped about Wonder Woman and now Aquaman (Jason Momoa, you are a beautiful man), so maybe that's all the WB needs to do with this movie: get us excited about characters other than the Big Three. Still, that's kinda shitty; I mean, they could have made a miniseries ... or ... something other than this.

* Ugh, the whole "City, Africa" thing irritated me. WHAT COUNTRY ARE YOU IN? AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY.
** I get that there are consequences to fighting superpowered aliens in heavily populated areas and that the government would definitely want a scapegoat for all their upset citizens, but seriously, do they think that Superman doesn't deal with the guilt every single damn day he wakes up?
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