Review by David Paul Hellings
Why so serious?
The reality is that there was a legion waiting to hate and now they get their chance. It was the same when Daniel Craig was announced as James Bond. Remember that? “He’s blond? He can’t be Bond”. Then it was “Affleck as Batman? He was terrible in Daredevil!” No, Daredevil the film was terrible. That wasn’t his fault. Everybody was terrible in it and everything about it was awful, so we can’t really lay the blame at Affleck’s feet for that one.
Some people hated “Man of Steel” without any kind of real logic. “Superman Returns” was worth hating, but “Man of Steel” proved the point that Superman is only as interesting as whoever he’s fighting. If Krypton’s favourite son is at risk, it’s cool. It’s good to see him getting his ass kicked, it just is. It’s what makes drama: conflict, sure, but the genuine fear that the protagonist will lose. Put Superman up against Batman and who would you prefer to win? Batman, of course. Anybody who said Superman needs to have a serious word with themself. Seriously.
And so here we have it: Metropolis’ nice guy against Gotham’s damaged mental case. Plus a few other characters that will find their way into the future outings as DC and Warner Brothers desperately try and catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe by way of one long film directed by Zack Snyder. The film is now over $468m box office worldwide and rising and the mainstream critics universally hate it. The question is, does “BvS:DoJ” work?
Storywise, we’re in the same territory as the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War” in terms of how much responsibility should super beings have, especially with the human collateral damage of their actions? Here, it’s a case of should we allow a Godlike power to walk the Earth unchecked? It’s not a question that would be kicking around if General Zod and company had won the day previously, which throws another “is democracy actually a good thing?” question into the mix for consideration. After seeing deaths at his building, Bruce Wayne decides that Superman is indeed a bad thing and resolves to kill him. Superman, meanwhile, repeatedly saves love interest Lois Lane (Amy Adams), who does little except need saving, whilst considering that he may be on the wrong planet with so many ungrateful people around. Into this is added elements of “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Doomsday”.
If you liked “Man of Steel”, then it’s most likely that you’ll enjoy this pseudo sequel that actually provides a lot of surprises. First off, Ben Affleck is excellent both as Bruce Wayne and Batman, more akin to the Frank Miller Knight in a post ‘Robin is dead and Wayne Manor is abandoned’ world. Affleck’s Wayne is jaded and world weary, the presence of Superman almost a catalyst to kick start Gotham’s vigilante back into life. He has a rather cynical Alfred (Jeremy Irons, always great) on hand to help. Henry Cavill’s Superman remains watchable and solid, the good alien on a troubled planet. They are, indeed, night and day.
Add to the equation a Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who is more like a mixture of a certain Facebook creator and the Joker. The hyper kinetic result will not be to everybody’s taste, but is at least a new spin on a tired villain.
So, in need of playing catch up with Marvel, we get a glimpse of the Flash and Aquaman, plus a basically unnecessary Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who’s actually surprisingly well presented and a positive contribution to the film. This is, when all is said and done, merely a set up for “Justice League” (or the ‘Justice League of America/JLA’) supposed franchise, plus the Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, Flash, Batman solo outings to come. WB have gambled everything in real terms on one film and financially it’s paying off, such is the beloved nature of the two lead characters. The tone may be more of the Nolan world of the miserablist, but it works. It’s moody, noisy, dark, gritty and a mixture of pessimism and optimism.
The script is, at times, meandering. Lex Luthor is an occasionally annoying character, but perhaps a deliberate comment on the worst aspects of the Millennial. Amy Adams is wasted. The dream sequences often unnecessary, but there’s more than enough in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” to enjoy. Why the hate towards it? Ask the people who basically don’t like comic books or comic book films. Or the ones that do but think they’re experts on what the audience wants, yet don’t actually have an audience of their own.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is far from the disaster it’s being painted as (“Fantastic Four” was a disaster, so let’s put things in perspective). “BvS:DoJ” is a big, positive surprise and the cherry on the cake is that Ben Affleck just took ownership of the Batman character. In terms of building a franchise to rival Marvel, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” may not be we film we want, but it could well be the film we need.
Ignore the haters, kick back and enter the darkness. It’s worth the ride.
images: Warner Brothers/DC Comics (c) 2016