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Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman Seeks To Advance The Course Of “Justice”


Well…Easter weekend has come and gone,  and with it the opening weekend for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Now that the dust has had plenty of time to settle, following the mayhem that ensued in Gotham and Metropolis, it’s time to discuss what went down. I’m sure plenty of you have already read or heard people say it was amazing or horrible and everything in between.

So what am I going to do here? I’m going to do what I normally do – tell you readers about the movie, what I thought of it WITHOUT getting personal, abusive, or insulting about the cast and crew.

Lord John Dalberg-Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This isn’t a difficult concept to understand, and most of us have witnessed it at some point in our lives on one level or another.

Power is reckoned in different ways;  physical strength, wealth and influence, and  it can also be attributed symbolically to a person or even an object .

Bruce Wayne/Batman is angry, embittered, and has become morally flexible when dealing with the increasingly violent criminals of Gotham. He has also been confronted with the stark reality of the destruction that is possible at the hands of beings with godlike power and strength. What is most troublesome to Wayne is the terrifying potential of such amazing power going unchecked. Bruce is even plagued by nightmarish visions of what he believes could come to pass.

Superman/Clark Kent, finds it unsettling that a masked vigilante assumes a semblance of lawful authority against Gotham’s criminal element,  and believes it’s unacceptable regardless of how well intentioned he may be or  how much the citizens and even some in law enforcement applaud his crime fighting efforts. As powerful as Superman is, he would prefer to take on “The Gotham Bat” as Clark Kent and expose him as a brutal, lawless thug on the front page of The Daily Planet.

And the “x” variable in this equation is a wealthy young industrialist named Lex Luthor, who has an unwavering belief that no man with the limitless power of a being like Superman can in fact be completely benevolent and thus poses a very real threat. This sneaky little backhander is prepared to use and abuse whatever corporate clout and resources he has to ultimately prove his theory. Lex has already begun searching the globe for the one thing that could eliminate such a threat – Kryptonite  salvaged from the destroyed world engine.

The movie starts off by taking us back to the big showdown between Kal-El and Zod, but this time we see it unfolding from an alternate perspective. We bear witness as Bruce Wayne furiously races to one of his company’s buildings in hopes of evacuating all of its occupants safely.

Unfortunately, Bruce observes first hand, the tragic fate brought on by a battle of beings with godlike power.

Jump forward 18 months after the incident. Whilst chasing down a story in Africa, Lois Lane is taken hostage by a warlord. Superman arrives in the nick of time , and before the warlord can dispatch Lois, Kal-El shows the warlord that he is truly faster than a speeding bullet.  Following the mayhem in Africa, Superman has the blame for deaths related to said debacle laid directly at his feet. Following this most recent incident, some believe that superman must be held accountable for his actions and any destruction or deaths that occurred as a result. Lois does find a small but mighty piece of evidence that could exonerate Superman, if only she could find anyone at a high enough level who is willing to help her in her efforts.

Just over in Gotham, The Bat is running down leads on a Russian criminal, in his signature style. In the process he discovers what appears to be a human trafficking ring, and before he can make his departure a couple of Gotham’s finest stumble onto the scene. The Bat evades capture and flies off into the night,  leaving behind a thug on whom he literally leaves his mark and many young women claiming to have been saved by a “devil”.

Wayne believes the Russian he is looking for may be involved in some criminal dealings with Lex Luthor. So while in attendance at a fundraiser held by Luthor, Wayne decides to do a little investigating. At this soiree, the paths of Wayne, Kent and Luthor finally converge. While Luthor and Wayne seem to pursue similar yet separate agendas, Kal-El must deal with the scrutiny which has arisen in the wake of his actions as a savior for mankind.

Luthor has been making his own machinations against the Man of Steel and will use what influence he can muster to begin a political crusade attempting to hold him accountable for his actions both future and past. He also believes that creating a “silver bullet” of sorts is necessary to potentially keep a an “angel” from becoming a “devil”.

Batman and Superman are soon set on a collision course, but they will find that the true threat is even more devastating and has been brewing right under their noses.

 David Goyer and Chris Terrio scripted a story that incorporates two of my all time favorite story arcs in the history of D.C. ComicsBatman: The Dark Knight Returns and Superman’s Doomsday debacle. Goyer has traditionally written thematically dark stories and he carries it over from where he started on Man of Steel, while still making things a shade darker. Regardless of how dark the Superman films of the 80’s tried to be at times, it’s a far cry from the current incarnation.

Of course, pairing him up with this particular version of Batman ensured that Batman vs. Superman definitely would have dark undertones. Bringing Terrio into the mix allows him to use his Oscar winning chops to help shape the story. However, there is so much story being fit into a limited time frame, which I know sounds silly since the movie has a running time of 2 hours and 31 minutes. But to really tell the story and expand upon the plot it may have been a better idea to split it into two films and release them six months apart. This could also help to give some more exposition or development to other meta-human characters, as they move towards the creation of The Justice League.

With these guys on the job they could have easily constructed a two-parter…and they probably should have.

Despite the ire of many Superman fans I feel that Zack Snyder has done a great job with Kal-El’s saga thus far.  His visual style and ability to orchestrate action sequences have helped to widen the scope of the action in these movies.  He has also gotten performances that are on par with the tone and direction of the story. However, as I have said, there is too much story being stuffed into a tight space and it shows in the editing. It’s all well and good to try to trim things for the sake of saving time but don’t get sloppy.

Hopefully a director’s cut on the Blu-ray release will smooth out the wrinkles…even if I have to sit through three hours or more.

Unlike many, when I heard Ben Affleck was cast as Batman for this film, I was neither angry nor skeptical as to whether he could pull it off. Frankly, I was excited to see his characterization, and became even more so when I found out the character would resemble the Frank Miller version of Batman. Most would say that Affleck is Affleck regardless of his character in most roles he plays, but here he is Bruce and he is Batman. While he isn’t completely lost in the character he still transitions well from the charismatic, yet aged billionaire playboy to Gotham’s Dark Knight.

He definitely gives the impression that Batman is not quite the moral absolutist he once was when it comes to crime and punishment.

In Man of Steel, Henry Cavill was able to effectively emulate a being who is trying to find his place in his adoptive world. We are able to bear witness to Kal-El’s learning curve as he tries to master his abilities and attempts to fit in and try to understand humanity in general…a concept even many humans have yet to grasp.

In Batman vs. Superman, Cavill displays a great deal of inner turmoil as much with his body language and facial expressions as he does with the tone of his voice. Despite his godlike power and abilities, it’s obvious he feels that the acceptance the inhabitants of his new home world have afforded him is eroding…and quickly.

Cavill shows that even the most powerful men can feel their resolve slipping away when all of their benevolence isn’t enough anymore.

Jess Eisenberg plays a different Lex Luthor than we have witnessed before, and frankly…I really liked this portrayal. He comes across as entitled, petulant, psychotic, egotistical and completely detached from reason. His behavior seems to stem from a belief that very powerful men cannot, by any means, be be completely good. This was probably instilled by a very strained and presumably abusive relationship with the most powerful man he had personally known before Superman–his own father.

Much like another D.C. villain, Eisenberg’s Luthor is not physically imposing, but his psychotic nature is what makes him truly dangerous.

Gal Gadot is the enigmatic and enchanting Ms. Diana Prince. There was a lot of negativity thrown around when she was cast, because she didn’t seem to fit the physical aesthetic many envisioned. Nay-sayers were probably hoping for someone closer to Lynda Carter, you know…somebody busty and buxom.  Ms. Gadot is tall, athletic and completely fearless as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. She is elegant and beautiful when out on the town, but get her kitted up for action and she will rush headlong into the fray without a second thought. The only problem with her performance is that she wasn’t featured more.

I definitely want to see more of Gadot’s Wonder Woman…take that remark as you will.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane is tenacious and tough, but with a true vulnerability that makes audiences as edgy as Superman when she is in danger. Adams shows that Lois is truly pained by the scrutiny Superman has become subject to. But Lois will always be a strong and capable woman in spite of Superman not because of him.

Jeremy Irons delivers a great performance as Alfred. He shows that he genuinely cares for Bruce, but that he is also disappointed that Bruce has changed and not for the better. There is also a very real regret that he realizes that Bruce’s legacy will likely be measured by his brutal dispensation of vigilante justice rather than finally knowing the joys of having a real family again.

Hans Zimmer lends his talents as a composer to the film, teaming with Junkie XL to create the film’s score. Zimmer has previously delved into composing for comic book movies collaborating with James Newton Howard on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight before tackling the score for The Dark Knight Rises on his own.

I am not going to tell any of you readers that it is imperative to go see this movie, but it should be obvious that I won’t tell you to avoid it like the plague. It would be entirely accurate to say that I truly enjoyed this movie the first time I saw it and even more the second, even if it does have its flaws. But I do think that expanding D.C. Comics Cinematic Universe was an eventuality, even if it seems a bit rushed within the context of this film.

It was also necessary to keep the story contemporaneous, which accounts for the darkness and cynicism in the story-lines. So you can take what I have said above for what it is…MY OPINION. If you find it helpful in making up your mind to see it, I am flattered you trust me that much. If you choose not too to see it, that’s your prerogative. Forcing my opinion on you and expecting you to bend to my will is not the game plan here.

There are enough douche-bags, assholes, armchair critics, and internet trolls out there attempting to do that already. Thanks for your time…that is all.

 

 


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]