THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Alex's Batman v Superman Review
Alex’s Batman v Superman Review

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice. Where do I begin? 3 years ago Zack Snyder and Harry Lennix shocked us all by reading a quote from The Dark Knight Returns on-stage at Comic-Con, sending the DC fanbase into a goddamn frenzy. The search was on for a new Batman, and the Man of Steel sequel was beginning to come together. Next, we get news that Wonder Woman will be making her first big screen appearance as well, and the expectations for the movie shot up with every new piece of information. Oscar-award winning screenwriter Chris Terrio? Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? Jeremy Irons as Alfred? The list of information spread out over the span of about 1000 days is too endless to list. Now that the day finally came where we can enjoy the movie, it’s not shameful to feel…a little bit underwhelmed.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s biggest problem, yet which is also it’s biggest strength, is that it’s structured and presented exactly as a comic book or graphic novel would be. You can feel the stacks of single issues in the movie that culminate into one big, giant trade paperback that a delayed reader would pick up. The problem with this is that the film’s screenplay envelopes itself with a unique and jarring presentation which may or may not take repeat viewings to finally get a grasp of. Much like Gone Girl, it’s unconventional layout makes viewers either flip a switch on that says “Alright, I have to change how I watch this film” or for some others, “this isn’t how movies are supposed to be made, this is lame.” which is completely understandable, for non-comic readers. The basic principles of a comic book apply to this film in every single way, which is why it’s probably so divisive right now.

It’s troubling, for me, as I am a lover of film and a lover of comic books. I’ve extensively read both film screenplays and graphic novels, and reviewed for both mediums in the past. However, it feels as though the film’s editing was clearly tampered with to cut it down to a presentable theatrical cut length. Plenty of scenes — which were gorgeous and fantastic, such as Kevin Costner’s cameo — felt out of place and didn’t necessarily link with the rest of the film’s context. It definitely exudes breath that this is not Zack Snyder’s full and complete film, which is why the Extended Cut was probably announced weeks in advance to assure viewers that there is more than what we saw, in the case there were any reservations.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

It almost feels as if Batman v Superman denies itself a traditional second act in favor for an extended final battle, whereas Man of Steel’s third act was a bit short so it almost offered itself a fourth act to finally deal with General Zod. During the climactic battle with Doomsday, we’re often suddenly cut away from the gigantic momentous action to give us a glimpse of what else is happening in the world that isn’t quite important to the story, to present elements that somehow would’ve been great if the middle had more of a traditional roller coaster vibe. Yet, this is almost the same structure that comic books follow. And that’s how Batman v Superman presents itself through thick and through thin, as a comic book film. It’s a comic book movie made for comic book fans.

Ignoring how it’s built in the underlying layers, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actually boasts a really fantastic, gripping and heart-stopping story-line culminating threads that started from the beginning of Man of Steel. The film features Clark Kent’s natural extension to his Man of Steel character arc, where he’s trying to still figure out what his purpose is, but the public just won’t care to see it, only for him to realize Lex Luthor is framing him for nefarious crimes. Then, you have Batman and Wonder Woman looking into Lex, which prompts Lex to bring Batman and Superman together in a fight to the death, but why? It’s almost a storyline completely pulled from the panels of a comic book, and that’s why it’s brilliant for DC fans like us. This is probably another “elemental clash” that critics couldn’t quite grasp, it’s the fact that Batman v Superman presents a cartoon-style storyline and characters with the aesthetic and tone of an adult film, much like DC’s actual comics do. Other comic book movies usually pick one or the other, even Zack Snyder’s previous adaptations had a concrete or significant style.

BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Speaking of Zack Snyder’s previous efforts, this film is probably a complete polar opposite from Man of Steel, which, aside from the natural story line extension, makes it feel as if it’s not even connected to the predecessor. With Man of Steel, the focus that Snyder and company had was that it took place in a very relate-able, grounded environment that viewers can sympathize with. They built sets with Sears, iHop, 7/11 and much more to make it feel as if we were living in the movie. The coloring was a bit desaturated to reflect that as well, among other things. With Batman v Superman, we have the reverse. Insanely vivid colors, fictional and outlandish locations and sometimes blatantly stupid-fun setpieces or concepts. I’m not even saying this in a negatively way, because this is actually the correct reflection of a DC Comics book, it’s just possibly another reason why people didn’t quite expect such a cartoon from this film considering how realistic Man of Steel was. Everything from Lex’s insane, maniacal plan, the almost satirical depiction of the “evil military” and the birth of a giant monster by subjecting Zod’s body to a DNA merger felt almost like a “self-parody” of not only older comic book movies, but Zack’s previous work itself. To put it bluntly, Man of Steel was the beta test and Batman v Superman is the final product launch.

In an odd way, it almost feels as though Batman v Superman is the flipped version of Snyder’s 2009 adaptation of Watchmen and I fully expect Justice League to sort of follow this thematic reversal. Through my personal interpretation, Watchmen is one of the most layered, complete films there are yet it disguises itself as a cartoonish superhero film in a satirical way when it’s everything but that, whereas Batman v Superman disguises itself as a strong, serious dark piece like Watchmen when it’s actually a cartoonish superhero film, and it definitely works for this piece of film. That’s not to say Batman v Superman doesn’t have layers or depth — because it certainly has plenty as that comes with the package of having Snyder make your film — it’s just that first and foremost the movie is about creating a love letter to some of the greatest hits of Superman.

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Zack Snyder’s goal with these movies is to create the definitive Superman who goes through thick and thin, adapting his greatest ups and downs from the comics and using the real world audience as a mirror reflection for his films. Despite being a Batman fan all my life and someone who sort of neglected Superman (and later got a proper appreciation for the character), I can’t deny that these movies are all about Superman, especially with the religiously allegoric ending where he sacrificed himself for the greater good despite the world (even our real one) not quite deserving such a sacrifice. I just firmly believe that there’s a misguided definitive depiction of Superman in some people’s minds that lead them to not understand the heavy faithfulness to not only the character, but his world of DC Comics, in these films.

During the final act’s climactic battle, I have to wonder if the multiple — yet, not forced — mentions of no civilians being in the range of danger was due to a response of Man of Steel’s constant criticism (in which over 5,000 people died) because Superman flying Doomsday into space — leading to the nuke scene from The Dark Knight Returns, executed brilliantly — was a natural extension to his character’s traumatic experience from the fight with General Zod. However, Wonder Woman asking Batman why he drove Doomsday to Gotham’s abandoned docks, and then the military mentioning Stryker’s Island being empty felt a bit on-the-nose of a response to the destruction criticism. Nevertheless, it definitely worked for all the characters involved. Wonder Woman knows how traumatic these monsters can be from her past, and Batman’s line in the Batwing — “It’s happening again, Alfred” — spoke almost more about the character’s stance on the Battle of Metropolis than even the intro flashback scene did.

Talking about more of a technical aspect of the movie now, Larry Fong and the rest of the crew worked tirelessly to make the movie look absolutely beautiful from the first frame going forward. Not a single shot in the movie looks uninspired or lazy, and some camera setups are so genius to convey a presentation of the strong narrative. A notion I once thought to be impossible — for a film to have a better funeral scene than The Comedian — was surpassed with almost seamless ease as Superman and Clark Kent’s parallel funerals were beautifully executed with gorgeous shots and a score that shattered my emotional resistance. Clark being buried in an old-school traditional wooden coffin whilst the American flag being pulled off of Superman’s expensive, luxurious coffin with a silver S spoke volumes. Especially with the importance of that symbol meaning “hope”, it was now being buried into the ground. Yet, the destruction of the biggest symbol of hope is what causes that very value to persevere in future films with the Justice League, which is a particularly odd topic to discuss with this film for me.

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I don’t believe there is a single shot in the movie that isn’t perfect for it’s purposes, and even the cinematography and camera operation felt like it came out of a comic book or video game, something that isn’t foreign to Zack Snyder films. This is definitely one aspect that is undeniably better than Man of Steel, as that film had questionable shots and snap-zooms that did seem a bit odd. Perhaps it was the return of Snyder’s longtime friend and partner Larry Fong that skyrockets the quality of visuals in Batman v Superman, a master in his field of work that will be praised for decades to come and even long after his death, hopefully. It’s a friendly and committed crew that keeps Zack Snyder films at top level, because everyone is so in-sync with each other after years and years of hard work. Zack, Larry, Clay, Michael Wilkinson and the rest of the regulars are such pioneers and so dedicated to the craft that they are always improving, always innovating whether those tests have positive outcomes or not, Snyder is never afraid to try something new especially with the incredibly brave and ballsy as fuck ending Batman v Superman entails.

There’s enough of Batman v Superman to talk about to fill an entire book’s worth, but one thing that can’t go unmentioned is the incredibly performances by the cast. In her small — yet vital — role in the film, Diane Lane absolutely slays as Martha Kent, a veteran actress who probably won’t get enough praise for her contributions to these films. Ben Affleck destroys every Batman that came before him with powerful line delivery and not only an accurate representation of a troubled Bruce Wayne, but a destructive and tormented Batman as well. In the film, the two characters have almost merged into one, with Alfred being the core divider to prevent the chaotic mess that would be if Batman assimilated Bruce Wayne or vise versa. Jesse Eisenberg’s criminally insane, yet manipulative Lex Luthor is a picture-perfect mirror reflection of not only the version of the character from comic books, but also retains some DNA from the early Richard Donner films with Gene Hackman playing the mad scientist. It’s almost as if Lex is still a child, seeking approval from his (now deceased) father, a thread that very well could have been pulled from the TV show Smallville, which Snyder is a confessed fan of. Henry Cavill also massively improves, where some of his best performances are those even without dialogue, as his body and facial language speak hundreds of words, such as the scene where the U.S Capitol explodes and he’s just standing in the middle of the explosion. I don’t see how any of the acting in Batman v Superman can be criticized.

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To summarize, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Batman v Superman in a technical aspect. When it comes to the creation and behind-the-scenes process of painting the canvas, it’s unbelievable some of the stuff they pulled off and I’d love to study the ins and outs. However, from an artistic point of view, Batman v Superman definitely has it’s structure, pacing and editing problems amongst other things. It’s clear the movie we paid to see in theatres is not Zack Snyder’s complete vision. I think the issue so many critics have with Batman v Superman is that through each and every layer it has, it exudes comic book DNA. Despite some viewers thinking this is a negative because it doesn’t fit the medium of film, it’s exactly what Zack Snyder was going for. Martha Kent’s line rings too true with almost all of Zack Snyder’s experimental filmography; “People hate what they don’t understand. […] You don’t owe this world a damn thing”.

Did you enjoy Batman v Superman? Let us know in the comments below.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Hmm. I’m a little sad that the Bible of Zack Snyder missed a few things about this movie and is actually disappointed in it.

    “Plenty of scenes — which were gorgeous and fantastic, such as Kevin Costner’s cameo — felt out of place and didn’t necessarily link with the rest of the film’s context. ”

    Costner’s cameo was so needed. His story was a perfect illustration for Clark to realize the implication of his action have a reaction. Even when he means well, there will be fallout that could be ultimately negative. And in the end it’s STILL a choice he has to make (like the lesson Pa is pushing on him in MOS). And in the end Supes goes back to Metropolis, ready to again bear the burden, because his choice will always be to help. The scene is absolutely needed and in-line with the story.

    The second act of the movie is there. It’s the soul searching both heroes needed to do to continue on. The first arc is their introduction and a depiction of their disillusionment as a hero as well as the ramp up to their fight. The second is actually deciding to tackle it, or in this case tackle their projecting disillusionment onto each other (very obvious with Bruce, with the nightmare sequence). and ultimately fighting with one another. And the third is obviously rising above their quarrel and uniting.

    “Lex, which prompts Lex to bring Batman and Superman together in a fight to the death, but why?”

    It’s explained in Lex’s dialogue with Superman on the heli pad. Lex doesn’t like someone looking above him casting judgement. He obviously hates authority (the jolly rancher in the senates mouth, his dealings w Holly Hunter are good exmples of this). And Superman is pretty much the highest pinnacle of this (in Lex’s mind). And towards the end Lex also alludes to ANOTHER reason that could be why he orchestrated this multiple attack on Superman.

    “the almost satirical depiction of the “evil military” ”

    The movie presented the good sides of the military, actually. From familiar faces from MOS actually leaking information to Lois Lane and believing in Superman, to acting decisively to shoot the Nuke, to end the threat. It wasn’t easy for them to do, but they had to act quick. And they actually cared about Supes after that attack.

    But this is my opinion. Just rather sad that this site felt this way.

  2. I have to agree with Arvin Bautista here. Kevin Costner’s cameo is definitely relevant and important. In fact, it even resonates with the motivation of Lex Luthor, which I wonder why this site feels there is a lack of explanation of.

    “if God is all-powerful, He cannot be all good. And if He is all good, then He cannot be all-powerful. And neither can you be.” This is probably the most important line of the movie, which illustrates the whole point of Lex Luthor and the constant dilemma Superman is always in throughout the movie.

    Lex brings Batman and Superman together in a fight to the death to show that if Superman kills Batman, he cannot be all good. If Batman kills Superman, he cannot be all powerful. It is exactly in nature with the story told by Kevin Costner. If Superman wants to save Martha, he has to kill Batman. If Jonathan Kent diverts the flood and becomes the hero, there will be someone else suffering from the consequence.

    And, I don’t think Lex seeks approval from his father. He simply hates God because no God came to save him when he was abused. He simply wants to prove that the concept of God (a father-like figure) , which Superman impersonates, is just a fraud.

    I have to admit the first hour of the movie has some minor editing and pacing issues which I think will be resolved when the director cut comes out. In addition, there is certain shoehorning of JL stuff in it. Yet, I would still say this along with watchmen and 300 are the three best works of Zack.

    To be honest, I feel disappointed that this site does not seem to see through some of the message (which I explained above) brought out by the movie. I hope that when the director cut comes out, this site can give another review and reevaluate some of the substances in the movie given than there is the full picture. Thanks. (though I am not a big Zack Snyder fan, I do enjoy some of his work)

  3. “It’s almost as if Lex is still a child, seeking approval from his (now deceased) father…”
    This is so accurate. This version of Lex Luthor displays an Oedipus Complex: unresolved conflicts with father/authority figures throughout the entire movie. From references to Ancient Greek myths about power struggles between Prometheus and Zeus, to paraphrasing Nietzsche’s “God is dead”, it was so apparent Lex had “daddy issues”, that’s why I was surprised everyone seemed so confused about Lex’s motivations.
    Man’s relationship with the figure of “God” is reminiscent of the relationship with his father: the Father/God figure is both feared and respected, simultaneously. From a Freudian perspective, there is said to be an inherent desire in man to get rid of his father, due to his fear of being emasculated by him, whilst at the same time wanting to become like him. What happens when you take “the daddy” and make him humanity-scale? We get the God figure, which is present in every culture around the world. In a nutshell, Lex hates God because God is “the big version of daddy” (abusive and cruel) and because God is a fraud, isn’t helpful/kind to humanity and isn’t the true embodiment of good. So, Lex, feeling abused and threatened by his father at a young age, projects the concept of an arrogant, abusive father/God-figure onto the closest thing to God there currently is: Superman.
    Superman, being so powerful and imposing, is only bound to be a megalomaniacal, modern version of a deity, according to Lex. Because of this, Lex fancies himself a modern Prometheus, saving the world from the wrath and arrogance of the evil God that he considers Superman to be. That’s how Lex sees himself: a defender of humanity. A little trivia: the name “Alexander” literally means “defender of mankind”. Jesse Eisenberg has stated in multiple interviews that his character firmly believes he is “the good guy” and that he is doing the world a favor by killing Superman. This way, Lex Luthor is trying to be a hero in his own right (he wants to kill Superman, yet he wants to BE Superman, as well!).
    I think the way Alexander Luthor Jr. was fleshed out as a character fits perfectly with the “blank-canvas” Superman we see in the movie: everyone projects onto him their own idea of who he is/what his motivations are, depending on the psychological patterns they have acquired in the past (this includes Lex, as well as Bruce Wayne). The way I see it, Batman v Superman had a few depths that were left unexplored by the majority of the audience. For that reason, I truly appreciate the review and it’s refreshing to finally read something insightful, not the usual parroting of superficial details most bloggers don’t even understand properly.

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