Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

March 27, 2016 at 10:21 am | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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As far as I can recall, never has a genre dominated the box office nearly so much as superheroes have over the past decade. Not even Sci-Fi or vampires have been asked to do so much of the heavy lifting of annual revenues. One cannot help but wonder when the fever will break. Well, it seems unlikely to any time soon, given that this film is, once again, breaking records; it has the highest earnings of all time for an Easter weekend, with a haul of over $170M. Not bad. Particularly for a movie that is, well, not good. Critics have bashed the self-serious tone but I think it’s disingenuous to be critical of that here, while loving Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” series. In fact, dark and serious is what DC does. Look at their last “Superman” film, or the TV series “Gotham” and “Arrow.” Unlike Marvel, who has tended to embrace cartoonishness and humor, DC has chosen “gritty” and “real” as their interpretation of classic characters. So, the somber pensive mood of this film did not bother me. In fact, I find the idea of idol worship and it’s backlash to be a fascinating one to explore within the context of superheroes. I think the real shame of this film is how shallowly it was explored. The plot was a jumbled mess made up of two classic DC stories (“Batman vs Superman” and the “Doomsday” storyline, which I will leave cryptic, so as not to ruin it.) and set-ups for upcoming films; we are treated to micro-cameos of the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Darkseid’s minions, and Wonder Woman’s Steve Trevor. Blockbuster films have been particularly guilty recently of being less a stand-alone film then a set up for the franchise (e.g. “The Force Awakens”) but I can forgive that, if it doesn’t befuddle the plot. Here, they all felt like pointless add-ons in an already overstuffed film. In particular, a long Bruce Wayne dream sequence was nonsensical within the context of this plot. In fact, both he and Clark Kent had far too many dreams/visions/whatever the hell they were. They added nothing to an already overly long story. If director Sack Snyder (“300,” “Man of Steel,” “Watchmen”), or whoever else made the decisions, had just focused on one thing, we might have had a good film. A complex exploration of the central themes and the underlying motives of the characters would have been compelling and given much more weight to the two heroes’ battle. As it was, the title battle was so rushed that it was anti-climactic; I never quite believed what got them fighting to begin with and I laughed at what finally made them stop (you’re ready to kill this guy until you find out his mother shares the same name as yours? Really?). So much could have been done to pare this 2½ hour behemoth down to a reasonable size. They didn’t need to tease those other films; people are going to see them anyway. And they could have saved the “Doomsday” plot line for another movie, rather than for the last 30 minutes of this one. Snyder has an eye for mood and the visuals in this film were often stunning. His Batman moves more fluidly in action scenes than any previous incarnation. It was actually fun watching this Batman fight, as he looked more like the comic version than I have seen before. Also, with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Snyder may have found the first really arresting female superhero. DC certainly has faith in him; he’s involved in virtually everything coming up for them: Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Justice League and Suicide Squad. His tendency seems to be form over substance (think “300”) but, when given provocative material (“Watchman”) and a tight reign, he’s at the top of the game. Here, clearly, nobody was reigning anyone in. I’ll be curious to compare this to “Captain America: Civil War,” which is due out in a few weeks. The premise is very similar: classic heroes turn against each other after a concerned government wants to regulate them. Some feel they can self-police and others feel they should force compliance. It’s an evocative idea. I wonder if Marvel can do a better job of it.


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