Thursday, March 31, 2016

10 Things Batman V Superman; Dawn of Justice Did Right

In case you haven’t heard, critics and audiences have been trashing the new Batman V. Superman; Dawn of Justice film left and right.  While I do agree with many of the complaints, I actually liked the film.  I’ve always been a stalwart DC comic book fan but there are some points in the movie that Zack Snyder and Co, actually did right.  Obviously, spoilers will follow, but I’m guessing you are not reading this to determine whether you will go watch the movie or not, but rather because maybe you enjoyed the film too.

  • 1.       Wonder Woman and her theme song. Duh, obviously.  I won’t pull any punches here and I do realize this fair ground to enrage the masses, that the best character in the film isn’t even one of the main characters, but by gods!  DC fans have seen such disastrous attempts at Wonder Woman before.  Gal Godot’s performance was perfection.  A Wonder Woman to appeal to pretty much everyone, and her theme music was so energizing and bad-ass.  Everyone in my theater sat up and took notice once that music started.

Just a few years ago, this was the Wonder Woman we would have seen on tv.

  • 2.       Cameos of Aquaman and Cyborg.  Now I do realize that not all the cameos in the film were handled well, ie Jimmy Olsen but Jason Momoa as Aquaman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg were handled well.  We get a clear look at Aquaman in costume and see a bit of his powers.  This tiny bit was immensely satisfying to me.  A head and shoulders above what we usually see as a cameo in superhero films, usually we only get to see a part of their costume, or the actor in their civilian clothes.  Aquaman is a character that has largely been ridiculed in recent pop culture.  Snyder took a risk in showing Aquaman in costume on screen.  Both the non-white casting for Aquaman and the inclusion of a black character, Cyborg, in the new post 52 Justice League have been seminal in seeing more persons of color roles in the superhero world.  Synder made the right decision to have both heroes appear in the film, rather than reduce them to merely appearing in a photo, as they did with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.

  • 3.       Batman’s fight scene. –While this version of Batman rubbed many fans the wrong way, Batman’s fight scene against the men holding Martha Kent hostage, is simply put, one of the very best fight scenes to ever occur in the Batman franchise.  Yes, I do admit Batman’s fight with Superman was not handled as nearly as good and felt quite stilted and fake in some spots.  The Dark Knight is still my favorite Batman movie and despite Christopher Nolan’s jaw dropping talent in writing, shooting and directing ability, the fight scenes in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises are quite competent but never really cinematic.  Nolan only comes into his own with fight scenes after Inception.  Car chases, action scenes, special effects; the man blows all the competition out of the water, but a raw, physical choreographed fight scene?  Not so much, until like I mentioned, Inception.  My favorite part of Affleck’s fight scene?  Multiple bullets to Batman’s head.  We see a henchman get the drop on Batman and fire two rounds to the back of his head and Batman reacts realistically.  There’s panic in his eyes as he moves the eff out of the way.  I have NEVER seen that in a Batman movie and it’s something that happens to you pretty quick in the Arkham Asylum/City/Origins video games.  As Batman you can take a bullet to the head once, but after two or three times you’re dead.

  • 4.       Focus on the heroes’ mothers.  I probably don’t even have to tell you how many time we see a father’s influence on a heroes journey and hear nothing about the mother.  She’s either dead or barely holding it together.  I can count on one hand the few times a mother is included at all; Brave probably being the best example.  I have read about critics flippantly dismissing the plot line about both Clark and Bruce’s mothers sharing the name Martha, as being superficially coincidental and idiotically conceived.  Now, granted, I do agree that even though this moment was properly foreshadowed by Bruce seeing blood seep out of his mother’s grave, the pay-off was mishandled somewhat and was not as potent as it could have been.  However, the realization that both Batman and Superman, have the same motivation is not lost and I applaud that a big, dumb superhero movie realizes this and plays up the mother’s influence, something you RARELY see, in any action film, period.

  • 5.       Superman does the right thing even when he is hated.  He is not a god, and he has limitations.  Another accusation fans and critics have against Zack Snyder is that he has almost fatally mis-interpreted Superman.  Most are in agreement that this version of Superman is too grim, too dark, and doesn’t make for an enjoyable film.  I do agree in some part but Snyder did not misinterpret Superman.  This is a very real facet of the Superman mythos.  Superman carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, not because he should (or shouldn’t as Lex, Bruce and others in film imply) but because he can and he struggles with that decision every day.  Superman IS NOT A GOD.  He lacks the ability to foresee every unanticipated impact of his actions.  His motivations to help come from his innate goodness as developed by his human parents.   This is not unlike ourselves.  Do you use your talents and abilities for good?  This is a struggle, America as a world power, sees EVERY DAY!  Do we take action against the terrorists in other countries?  Does that ultimately help or hurt us?  Does that help or hurt others?

  • 6.       America is not the only country featured.  Mexicans!  Yes, I’m half Mexican and I have to make everything about Mexicans, all the time, and every time but lord above!  Superheroes seem to go everywhere except Mexico and I liked that Mexico is portrayed as having a different opinion than in the US.  You ever read Japanese manga and realize that almost every story revolves around Japan as being the only country really ever mentioned in that world?  And then you slowly realize this is what American movies, tv shows and media must seem like to other nations as well?  As I have said, I wouldn’t expect a big, dumb superhero movie to realize this but this one does.

  • 7.       DC’s Trinity in action.  DC’s Trinity refers to DC Comics Big Three, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.  Every official incarnation of the Justice League features them and they have had several comic arcs all to themselves.  There is no comparison in the Marvel world.  Maybe Iron Man, Captain America and possibly Spider-Man but even then you’d have some lively debate as whether is should be Thor rather than Spider-Man.  I digress.  Watching DC’s Trinity fight a Big Bad like Doomsday at night, amidst swirls of dust and rubble, this is concept that sold this film out of the gate, and in this Zack Snyder does not disappoint.  This is really the number one reason anyone would friggin’ watch this movie, at all and this is why I do not even lament the 2.5 hour run-time.  This scene lives up to all various incarnations comic book nerds have pictured in their heads for decades.  Decades, people!  This was probably the trickiest of hat tricks the film had to complete, and they nailed it!

  • 8.       Jeffrey Iron’s Alfred is a marked improvement on Michael Cain, and is actually shown to be doing some work.  Who knew Alfred Pennyworth could actually be improved upon, after Michael Caine?  I don’t really count Sean Pertwee’s amazing work on Gotham, as his role is somewhat of a prequel version of Alfred, like trying to compare Alex Guinness to Ewan McGregor, because while they are playing the same character, each are playing Obi-Wan at different ages and thus are not the same role.  As much as Michael Cain ably plays the sage adviser role to Christian Bale’s Batman, his Alfred doesn’t really do much work around Wayne Manor. He introduces Bruce to Lucius Fox early on, whom tends to most of Batman’s tech.  Caine’s Alfred just kinda wanders around the Batcave and gets repeatedly hood-winked by Selina Kyle.  Iron’s Alfred can be seen working on equipment and the Batmobile, literally getting his hand dirty as he acts as Bruce’s voice of reason.  This is not the Alfred that hangs out around the house like everyone’s genial drunk uncle but rather the jack of all trades, Alfred Pennyworth that has become common in the comics.

  • 9.       Progression on Batman’s timeline, Wayne Manor is gone and a modern glass enclosed house in now on the grounds.  I do agree with most, we don’t need to see another interpretation of Batman’s origins in another DC film for at least 10 years.  It’s been sooooo overdone and Batman is probably the one character, audiences the world over, know about.  We don’t need to witness his parents murder, time after time after time.  However, I don’t hear anyone commenting on the progression of Batman’s timeline, something this film takes the time to set up.  Clearly the Joker has gotten to one of the Robins, Wayne Manor has been destroyed and Batman has seen some darker days.  This is a Bruce Wayne with gray in his hair and no longer in his 30’s.  We have never seen a Batman quite this old before, even George Clooney was 36 back in 1997 during the filming of Batman & Robin, Ben Affleck is 42.  Again for a big, dumb superhero movie this was handled surprisingly well.

  • 10.   Accuracy to the comics, almost all the major plotlines have precedence in the comic book history.  The connection between the two Marthas, Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday, Batman vs. Superman and their differing ideologies, Batman aging appearance and radically pro-military stance, Darkseid’s eventual recruitment of Superman,  Batman causing harm by not trusting.  Different versions exist of both Lex Luthor, Superman and Batman in the comics.  Batman has killed and has used guns in the comics.  I have heard other review accuse Snyder of not remaining true to the comics, and I could maybe make a case for that if you went by canon, which has be re-done and rebooted over the decades many, many times and did not include any of the Elseworlds comics. 

  • Via Wikipedia, Elseworlds was the publication imprint for American comic books produced by DC Comics, in which stories take place outside the DC Universe canon.  Some Elseworlds titles include Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, in which a grizzled, elderly version of Bruce Wayne goes after criminals and even Superman with insane amounts of violence and ruthlessness.  Even if you only wanted to count what is canon, then you need to realize that Batman, in his very first appearances, used guns and killed people all the freaking time.  I agree with many that this is not my all-time favorite interpretation of the character but to wrongly assume that Snyder and Co. did not do their research or were not faithful to the comics in any way is dead wrong.  If anything Zack Snyder has proved he has gone deep into the DC legacies of both Batman and Superman, even if you didn’t like the presentation, the love, the research and the understanding of these beloved characters was always there.  Audiences shouldn’t always have to go beneath the surface to enjoy a film, but for those that do, you will be rewarded.

From the pages of the Dark Knight Returns.

Look, I’m no great defender of superhero movies.  I was disappointed Deadpool turned out to be little more than a Lifetime movie cancer drama with two actions scenes added to the beginning and the end.  It needed to be funnier, have more action and really needed to be directed by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn.  But this movie was any better than it had any right to be.

Even one of the most deservedly, geek-lauded directors of our time, Joss Whedon, could only make one and a half good superhero team movies and he knows comic books better than any living director today, he wrote one of the best versions of the X-men comic book to date.

Check it out, it is glorious!
These type of movies are notoriously hard to get anything right.  I know geeks like to point out that the director of the Mad Max movie franchise, George Miller, had a Justice League movie in the works with Armie Hammer as Batman, which in theory sounds amazing until you realize the movie was to be filmed entirely as a CGI-Animated film, “Australian filmmaker George Miller was hired to direct the $200 million plus-budgeted Justice League. Early reports suggested that the movie would be a CGI-animated feature with the characters brought to life via motion capture technology a la Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express and Beowulf.”  I rest my case.  

I leave you with this;

Jim Gordon: He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it.

DC will survive this, Zack Snyder will survive this, the true fans will survive this, Batman and Superman will survive this.  They can take it. And I can too.


Post a Comment