By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The DC Cinematic Snyderverse (officially known as DC Expanded Universe) is very dark and grim. This director’s vision for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice spells out what’s to come, and in what these heroes — Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman — are facing is a look in the mirror darkly over what tyranny can look if the heroes are not put into check. That is, can they be allowed to do anything they want because they are super powered? One tease can be found in the trailer for this film, where soldiers are bowing down to the boy in blue and he looks quite angry.
Just how this scene fits in requires watching this movie. Bruce Wayne aka Batman has much to fear about this Kryptonian after the events from Zack Snyder’s last movie, Man of Steel. He criticizes Clark Kent about all the fluff pieces The Daily Planet published showing the good he is doing. However, Wayne sees the world differently. He lost his parents to a random crime and he saw one of his office buildings get annihilated during the fight between Supes and General Zod. The grudge he holds may never go away.
The film is more about fitting Batman into this “New 52” universe established by the comic company instead of following up on all the events from Snyder’s last film. In this world, there’s a public reluctance to accept these heroes as saviours. Not everyone believes Superman deserves a statue. The collateral damage he incurred during his fight with Zod costed lives and took millions to rebuild. The question raised of who is accountable is brought up. Another issue raised is if these powered heroes are gods or monsters. The dialogue does not stay long to address the issue, even though plenty of other products released by Warner Bros / DC Entertainment are examining it from varying perspectives.
With this film, the populace and government are divided over whether or not Supes is a hero or not. Congress gets to examine this difficult topic but will Superman show up to defend himself?
Another character, Diana Prince, is looming in the shadows and unconcerned over the fact “meta-humans” exist. She’s seemingly watching over Wayne, but as for what her agenda is, she does not have much of a motive to belong in this film until the climactic moments where she appears ready to fight. Both she and Xena are definitely vying for who is the true warrior princess!
Because this movie does not have a central idea, the plot feels mish-mashed. Three stories are being told instead of one. The only glue to bring these three together is the plot Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is hatching. And if he’s being manipulated by some other force, nobody is telling. There is a greater threat causing all this dissent and only followers of the DC Comics universe will know.
Darkseid is coming. The hint is there in both the trailers and film, and I saw it coming a mile away even before seeing the movie.
Luthor is this film’s primary antagonist and he is having a ball. Jesse Eisenberg enjoys playing the character but I love the version Bruce Timm created in the animated universe from more than a decade ago. The definitive Lex belongs to how Clancy Brown gave this character life. Much of what he did with his voice is easily transferable to a real-life portrayal and to have him play this character would have been a true nod to the version groomed by the decades of DC Comics. Gene Hackman was beautiful in the Superman (1978) movie that made people believe a man can fly. The surprise at the end where he pulls off his wig made this film memorable.
Although his assistant in that film was a comical Otis (Ned Beatty), eventually the character of Mercy Graves will get introduced. Sadly, this assistant (played by Tao Okamoto) was not fully realized in this new universe. She can be a formidable foe and I wanted to see her kick ass. She barely got enough screen time to make her an important character.
The fight with the mass of grey muscle known as Doomsday is fast and furious. He looks like a rejected idea from Sauron’s creation pits. Even the orcs look better than this glob of protoplasm. I felt a bit of satisfaction over recognizing the fact Batman is responsible for coming up with the deus ex machina to help bring the film to a close. Someone needed to be bright enough to figure out how to defeat this experiment gone wrong.
I do not have issues over how this beast is created, but when he did not mutate to the figure with a massive exoskeleton which I loved from the comics, I was sorely let down. Had more time and money been invested to the teams responsible for the design, the creature from the comics can easily be realized. Only half of a beast is put to screen.
Despite the negative reactions from the ‘net, I liked Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne. There’s a brooding aspect to the character he plays up and it works in context to why he’s become a masked vigilante. However, when it comes to blows, his reaction to when he realizes that both he and Supes are on the same side is stupid. Bruce’s recovery was too quick. He needed time to come to terms with the crazy reveal. When knowing this film is about getting the heroes fighting one another (under normal circumstances, Superman can easily turn Batman into guano) only to console afterwards, to team up against a greater threat, gives no impact on the film. I’m one of the few who appreciated the torment Superman felt when he had to make a choice, to either kill Zod or let him kill innocents. The hurt he had defined him over what kind of role he should play on a planet filled with death every day. He can’t be there to stop every loss. He’s no Messiah. Nature has to run its course.
Seeing Bats kill is a shocker. I was aghast since that’s a line he never crossed in the comics and animated interpretations. I did not mind the fact that he branded criminals, but to see him inflict serious pain shows that he is judge, jury and executioner. The reason he’s a one man act is hinted at whenever he looks at the costume his side-kick wore, but is now painted with the words, “HAHAHAHA Joke’s On You, Batman!” Everyone has their breaking point and after Bruce saw his parents killed, perhaps after finding Robin’s body, it made him snap much like how Martha turned into The Joker in an alternate universe story (Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox) where Bruce died and the father survived to become the masked vigilante.
The cameos from the other heroes to become the Justice League examines where the others have decided to hide from society. Flash prefers to stay in the shadows and will only help when absolutely needed. Aquaman prefers to stay in the depths of the sea and avoid humanity entirely. Cyborg’s position is still unknown. Although these cameos are brief, it sets up getting the Justice League movie out sooner than later, even though each of these heroes will get their own film to develop their personas further. When considering Cyborg is getting his body from what looks like alien technology, perhaps a Mother Box from Apokolips, this detail affirms who the team will ultimately face.
The movies being released this year and onwards are more about which company (Marvel or DC) is going to win at the box office. Both studios have two films in total this year, a slight departure from the usual one. In order, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad and Dr. Strange will soon be released. The battle at the box office is going to spell out which comic book universe will prove more exciting. I don’t think the seven-member team will get united for the first entry come 2017. Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern are required, and the team may not come together until part two in 2020 when the team deals with Darkseid’s invasion of Earth. Yes, we can make that collective sigh once again. This planet has a tough time of avoiding pending apocalypses.
3 Little Leaguers out of 5