“Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice” is quite the polarizing film, even more than its predecessor “Man Of Steel”, and in my own opinion, I do like it, though it’s a very bloated and messy movie that suffers from trying to do too much at once. As a sequel, it has the same flaws as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, while thankfully being nowhere near as bad as that movie. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was a massive drop in quality from it’s predecessor because Sony studios was more interested in setting up a cinematic universe to try to replicate Marvel’s success, than they were interested in telling a good story in its own right, like the movie they were currently producing. They stuffed it with so many characters and subplots, without developing most of them, that it lost the heart and sharp focus that made the original movie so likable in first place, and killed whatever potential that series had dead. “Batman vs Superman” nearly makes the same mistake, because even though it’s supposed to be a sequel to “Man Of Steel“, it’s more like a rushed attempt at setting up a Justice League movie. Around the early 2010’s, DC clearly started to envy the success Marvel was having their superhero movies, so they wanted to create their own ‘cinematic universe’ (I am really getting tired of those, by the way) to try to compete with them, without taking the time or putting in the hard effort to do it properly.
If you want to introduce Batman in Superman’s second movie and come up with a reason for them to fight each other, instead of focusing on Clark’s new life in Metropolis and developing his new status quo, then by all means, do that. But if you also want to bring in Lex Luthor’s daddy issues, Wonder Woman and the future members of the Justice League, some weird flashforward involving Darkseid and his parademons, and finally, Doomsday and the death of Superman arc, it really doesn’t need to be said that that is overkill and that trying to juggle so many subplots at one time will only result in the overall film being both overstuffed and undercooked. There are several points in this movie where you won’t even understand what’s happening anymore, because there are a few scenes thrown in that contribute absolutely nothing to the plot at hand and only exist to set up some future Justice League / Darkseid movie: like Bruce’s nightmare about a dystopian future ruled by an evil Clark, followed by the Flash appearing from the future to tell him something (what?!), or Dinah checking out files of random, superpowered people Lex is keeping tabs on, right in the middle of the climax, completely detatched from everything else that’s happening. But despite everything I just griped about, there are still a lot of things I appreciate about “Batman vs Superman”, both as a sequel and its own film.
Henry Cavill reprises his role as Clark Kent / Superman in this film, and while he’s still likable, personable and sympathetic as Superman, he’s also a good deal more passive this time around. For all of it’s flash and spectacle, “Man Of Steel” was a very character driven movie, particularly when it came to Clark. At it’s core, it was all about Clark’s desire to find his purpose, his background that informed his choices, and eventually his need to make the hard decisions for the greater good of humanity. “Batman vs Superman” is less interested in who Clark is as a protagonist and his ongoing character growth than it is in other people’s opinions of him. It’s ultimately everyone’s perception of Superman – from Bruce Wayne to Lex Luthor to the general public – that drives the conflict and plot of this movie forward, which is a bit disappointing. Arguably, the character who receives the largest, complete character arc in this movie is Batman, and as a side effect of all the mediation on Superman, as a person and an ideal, the ‘Superman as a messiah figure’ allegory is played up heavily once again. “Batman vs Superman” expands on the main theme from the previous film – Clark putting himself out there in the world, wanting to be accepted by humans – by dealing with the consequences of Clark’s first mission. Even now, two years later, humanity is still slow to accept his presence. On the one hand, Superman and his allies saved the world from Zod. But on the other hand, Zod made it pretty clear on live television that Superman was also the reason he came to their planet, and Metropolis did not escape unscathed before the invasion was stopped, so they have some pretty good reasons to be wary. A hot topic among the people of America, as well as the United Nations, is Superman’s limitations and how much he should be allowed to meddle in human affairs, unencumbered, as an unknown element who answers to no one.
It’s a frustrating time for Clark, since people seem to love and hate Superman, and the idea he represents, in equal measure. Eventually, he feels utterly rejected and hurt, and his trademark optimism and idealism fades as he starts to lose his drive and motivation. He starts to wonder if ‘Superman’ is just a fool’s dream, a parallel to the dangerous feelings of despair and powerlessness that are currently driving Bruce. Something Clark struggles to accept is the reality that sometimes he’ll try his best, do everything in his power to help, and it still won’t be enough. Some people will still die, and some people will never accept him. But he shouldn’t let that stop him from trying to be the best person he can be, trying to make a difference as both Clark Kent and Superman. So Clark tries to look into a vigilante named the Batman, a destructive loose cannon who’s been blowing into Metropolis lately. Clark doesn’t approve of the Batman’s methods and is worried he’ll get more people killed with his crusade, so he warns him to stay out of Metropolis. Clark and Bruce are strongly opposed to each other, having very different viewpoints on how to handle crime – though Clark doesn’t actually want Bruce dead, unlike a certain Bat – and thanks to Lex Luthor’s machinations, the pair eventually wind up trading heated blows. Once they join forces, to save Clark’s mother and defeat Doomsday, the rest of the climax feels pretty reminiscent of the last two Superman movies. Like in “Man Of Steel”, Superman and a hostile, alien brute have a destructive, city-wrecking showdown in Metropolis, and like in “Superman Returns”, Clark eventually sacrifices his life to save the world, and earns back the trust of the public. Even if Superman isn’t human, the planet Earth is his home just as much it is ours, with everyone and everything that he ever loved living on it, so he died keeping it safe another day. And for Clark, as tragic as that idea is, there really isn’t a better cause worth dying for for him.
“Batman vs Superman” introduces Clark Kent’s greatest rival and eventual colleague, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – and like Jonathan Kent in “Man Of Steel”, Bruce’s character is handled quite differently than his traditional portrayal. The film starts with his classic tragic backstory: his parents were gunned down right in front of him as a kid, two more victims of Gotham City’s disgustingly high crime rate, which scarred him for life and gave him the drive to become Batman later in life. In the present day, Bruce Wayne is seemingly a carefree and successful man of the people, but underneath the façade, he’s very disturbed. This version of Batman is a middle-aged vigilante. The years are starting to catch up to him, giving him so many battle scars, and his crime fighting career has made him so cynical and jaded that he’s almost become nihilistic. By now, he thinks that no matter what he does, Batman doesn’t really make a difference in the world: there will always be some new, greater evil to immediately pop up and replace the last one he stopped, and he won’t be around forever. Not to mention, his sidekick Robin was apparently brutally murdered by the Joker, giving him even more trauma. Having lost hope in Gotham, Bruce has gradually started to abandon his own code of ethics, becoming more and more ruthless and reckless in his attempts to crack down on crime. His butler, Alfred, clearly disapproves, but by this point, he basically sticks by him out of loyalty. To quote another Batman movie: ‘you either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain’. Throughout this film, we see Bruce tumble further and further down the slippery slope of morality, until he eventually starts to become an anti-villain, only pulling back at the last minute from crossing a line he couldn’t come back from. It’s a vastly different portrayal of Batman than we’ve ever seen before on the big screen, and a very alienating one, since Bruce goes way out of character in this film, but it makes for a strong ‘fallen hero’ arc.
Batfleck is clever, sharp and quick on his feet, but he’s also rather thuggish and brutish; he’s not afraid to throw his weight around to get a job done. Bruce blames Clark for Zod’s attack on Metropolis, and his paranoia, resentment and xenophobia encourages him to view Superman as a threat, frequently dehumanizing him throughout the movie. Eventually, he decides Clark needs to die. Despite that, he’s also a hypocrite. Clark clearly strikes a nerve when he correctly points out the Batman has no problem turning the streets of Gotham into his own personal warzone, not worrying too much about the collateral damage. It’s pretty clear that despite what Bruce tells himself, Clark is just a convenient outlet for all the many, many issues that have been building up inside him for a while now. During their fight, Lois and Clark unwittingly trigger Bruce into having a PTSD episode that fundamentally changes his perception of his Clark, giving them a chance to talk him down – and more than anything else, this scene really makes it apparent just how much Batfleck needs some therapy. In any case, Bruce makes good on his promise to save Clark’s mother just in time to face down against Doomsday, and after all of his vicious, ruthless and arrogant behavior in this movie, it is incredibly cathartic to see Doomsday humble him and make him squirm. In the end, Bruce gets what he wanted: Superman’s death. He finds it doesn’t feel as great as he thought it would, and has to live with the guilt of letting it happen, having learned his lesson about ‘he who fights monsters’ just a bit too late. Bruce is angry that Lex Luthor used him, but he’s even angrier that he let him do it, and he’s reminded why he has to be better than that. The irony isn’t lost on him that he spent much of this movie lamenting how there aren’t many good men left in the world, and he nearly snuffed out a great, selfless one himself because of his own demons. Clark died a much better man than him, and from here on out, Bruce will be searching for some redemption for his sins.
Pulling the strings from behind the scenes, Lex Luthor serves as the main antagonist of this film – again. The Superman movies really seem to have an obsession with Lex Luthor, and Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of him is probably my least favorite one so far: because he never shuts up. Jesse’s Lex is a quirky, sinister manchild who’s really a psychopath with no empathy for human life and loves creating chaos for his own amusement: he seems way more like a discount Joker than a re-imagining of Lex Luthor. Additionally, have you ever noticed that Jesse seems to play a similar sort of character in most of his movies? The skittery, OCD, hipster nerd. Either he has very little acting range, or he’s getting typecast. In any case, Lex Luthor in this continuity is a schizophrenic billionaire with loads of time and money on his hands, who’s developed a personal interest in Superman, or rather an obsession, looking down on him as an arrogant false god. Like several other versions of Lex, he would call himself a man of Metropolis and a defender of Earth, defending it from Superman and the threat he might pose. Of course, it’s all total rubbish. All he’s doing is projecting the multitude of unaddressed mental health issues he has (courtesy of his abusive father) onto Superman and using Clark as a convenient punching bag for his own nihilism. If that sounds familiar to you, then it should: Lex clearly exists in this movie to serve as a morally bankrupt foil to our darling Batfleck, a glimpse of where Bruce’s dark side might ultimately lead him. Throughout the movie, Lex exerts the tremendous amount of influence he has to frame Superman for various wrongdoings and turn the public against him, while also fanning the flames between Clark and Bruce. Eventually, he forces Clark to fight Bruce, by threatening to kill his mother, while siccing Bruce on Clark took a lot less strong-arming. When Plan A doesn’t work out, Lex creates an abomination and sics it on Clark to finish the job, standing back for the rest of the movie and watching the show.
Amy Adams reprises her role as Superman’s co-worker, confidant, and girlfriend, Lois Lane, and like the previous film, Lois and Clark’s scenes together are cute and touching. After two years, Lois and Clark have established a stable, daily routine – Lois solves conspiracies, Clark fights crimes, and they both come home to a warm bed – but things can still be difficult. Loving an alien superhero is something very few people have ever had any experience with: there will always be parts of Clark that are distant from her, parts of him that she will never understand, and she’s starting to grow worried about his loyalty to her. Clark is a good boyfriend and he will always come to her aid when Lois needs him, but people are starting to notice that, particularly Lex Luthor. So Lois tries to be a good, supportive girlfriend in return. With Lex trying to besmirch Superman’s good name, Lois is naturally the one to pick up the case and investigate things, and she’s given her own subplot in the film. Luckily for Lois and Clark, they have one more friend in the government after the events of “Man Of Steel” (I still like seeing Lois butt heads with the US military, by the way). Lois manages to clear Clark’s name, just in time to watch him die, and afterwards, she discovers he was going to propose to her, just so Zack Synder can really drive that knife into her gut. Gal Gadot makes her debut in this film as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, an enigmatic woman Bruce repeatedly encounters who he has shiptease moments with. Gal does a fine job as the confident, secretive Amazonian, but I’m gonna be honest here: Diana contributes nothing meaningful to the actual plot of this movie until the last twenty-five minutes, when she participates in the fight against Doomsday, and we never learn much about her. Wonder Woman is primarily here to set up that future Justice League movie DC really wanted, as well as her own solo film (which gained a much warmer reception than “Batman vs Superman”, so I’ll congratulate her there).
After the massive scale “Man Of Steel” had, Zack Snyder clearly savors the opportunity to helm a smaller detective mystery in “Batman vs Superman”, embracing the gritty, noir vibe Batman always brings with him and the different style of fighting the Dark Knight has. While “Man Of Steel” had a bold, striking color scheme to match Superman’s optimistic personality, “Batman vs Superman” is frequently somber and grey, dragging us into the Dark Knight’s cynical perspective. As always, Zack manages to make the movie’s action scenes pop – in particular, there’s the audience’s first introduction to Batman, which is shot like a horror movie to build tension, the titular fight Batman and Superman have as they each briefly gain the upper hand over each other, and an impressively shot and choreographed scene where Batman takes down about two dozen goons to rescue Martha Kent – though his bombastic, city-wrecking fight scenes officially start to wear out their welcome by the climax with Doomsday. When it comes to the special effects, they’re at the same high level of quality as “Man Of Steel”, which only makes the low production values of “Justice League” feel even weirder. For all their faults, “Man Of Steel” and “Batman vs Superman” were both well-produced films that look like $200,000,000 projects, while “Justice League” is so clunky and unpolished that it looks more like an amateur hour television show than a theatrical film. So, what happened to that movie’s production? Hans Zimmer writes another great score for the film, expanding on the themes and leitmotifs he wrote for Lois and Clark in “Man Of Steel” (like a few sad, quiet reprises of Superman’s theme), as well as composing some dark, theatrical material for Batman’s tortured character. My only complaint is that Wonder Woman’s rock theme feels weirdly out of place with the rest of his traditional score.
All in all, “Batman vs Superman” is a mixed bag. Batman, Superman and their respective character arcs are easily the best aspects of this movie (as they ought to be), along with the overall tone of the film, while the rest of the movie is bogged down by an incredibly miscast Lex Luthor and several forced attempts at setting up a franchise (which stretch the movie too thin) that ultimately led nowhere worthwhile.
* Movies and TV shows really need to stop having characters scream in slow motion. It always looks silly.
* “Are you a terrorist, general?” “They did not tell me the interview was with a lady” “I’m not a lady, I’m a journalist”.
* Early on, some CIA stooge gets himself shot and nearly drags Lois down with him. It took me a long time to discover that guy was supposed to be Jimmy Olsen. So I wondered, what was the point of introducing this character and then killing him off thirty seconds later? Apparently, Zack Synder thought it would make for a fun and shocking twist. Oh, Zack…
* “I… I didn’t know” “Ignorance is not the same as innocence, Ms. Lane”.
* Daw. They’re so cute.
* “I just don’t know if it’s possible… for you to love me and be you”.
* Sweet gesture Clark, but that’s just nasty, man. You didn’t even take off your shoes before you got in the bath with her.
* Well, that cop very nearly earned himself some time in the slammer for shooting his partner.
* “Everything’s changed. Men fall from the sky, and gods hurl thunderbolts. Innocents die. That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel”.
* “You don’t have to use the silver bullet, but, if you forge one… Well, then, we don’t have to depend upon the kindness of monsters”.
* “Is the US providing experimental military arms to rebels in Africa?” “You know with balls like yours, you belong in here”.
* “We haven’t been told the truth” “Here’s the truth. A reporter got greedy for a scoop and went where she shouldn’t have. Superman acted like some rogue combatant to rescue her and people died. Don’t invent a conspiracy theory to put back his halo. Or yours” Oh, snap.
* “The bittersweet pain among man is having knowledge with no power. Because… Because that is paradoxical!” Lex, shut up.
* “The Daily Planet criticizing those who think they’re above the laws. A little hypocritical, wouldn’t you say? Considering every time your hero saves a cat out of a tree, you write a puff piece editorial, about an alien who, if he wanted to, could burn the whole place down. There wouldn’t be a damn thing we can do to stop him” Oh, snap.
* “You should hop the hub more often though, I’d love to show you my labs. Maybe we could be partners on something?” Well, I know something you both have in common…
* “Were talking about a being whose very existence challenges our own sense of priority in the universe. If you go back to Copernicus, where he restored the sun and the center of the known universe, displacing Earth. And you get to Darwinian evolution and you find out, we’re not special on this Earth we’re just one among other life forms. And now we learned, that we’re not even special in the entire universe because there is Superman. There he is, an alien, among us. We’re not alone”.
* “You know, it’s true what they say about little boys: born with no natural inclination to share”.
* “I don’t have a halo over me, Mr. Secretary. I went into the desert, people died. It keeps me awake. It should! If you think Superman is a murderer then throw it away. But, I don’t believe you think that” Aww…
* “Next time they shine your light in the sky, don’t go to it. The Bat is dead. Bury it. Consider this a mercy” “Tell me, do you bleed? Because you will” Giggity.
* “Be their hero, Clark. Be their monument. Be their angel. Be anything they need you to be. Or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did”.
* “Do you know the oldest lie in America, Senator? It’s that power can be innocent”.
* It’s good to see you again, Pa Kent, and it’s even better to see you give Clark some advice that’s not creepy.
* “Close, but I’m not talking about Lois. Every boy’s special lady is his mother” Make it rain, Lex!
* When it comes to eye candy, there’s nothing better than watching two angry, buff dudes in spandex brawl like madmen. It’s almost like wrestling, but with capes.
* “You’re letting him kill Martha! Find him! Save Martha!” There’s something about the awkward delivery of that line, and the awkward situation Supes is in in general, that makes me laugh every time.
* “It’s okay, I’m a friend of your son” “I figured, the cape” I don’t think ‘friend’ is the word I would use.
* “Oh, shit” Get him, Doomsday!
* In all seriousness though, despite all the cheap shots I’ve thrown his way, I don’t hate Batfleck. Batman x Superman is even my crack ship for this series.
* “Is she with you?” “I thought she was with you”.
* “I love you” “No, Clark, you can’t” “This is my world, Lois. You are my world”.
* “Man is still good. We fight. We kill. We betray one another. But we can rebuild. We can do better. We will. We have to”.
* “AND THE BELLS CANNOT BE UNRUNG! He’s hungry. He’s found us. And he’s coming! Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!” Dear God, Lex, shut up.
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