Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman: A Dark Tale of Power

If you read that Batman v Superman lacks the uplifting heroes and storylines of a movie like The Avengers, then two things are true: 1. What was written in that statement is true and 2. Comparing DC to Marvel is plain wrong.  DC comics and media has worked hard to build a darker world than that of Marvel comics and media.  Even television shows like The Flash are darker.  There is actually only one fluff DC show out right now and that is Supergirl. So if you go and see Batman v Superman expecting the wit of an Ironman or nobility of Captain America, you are in for disappointment.  DC left that Batman and Superman in the sixties and early seventies.  They returned to the darker edge even in the 80's with Batman and have sought a darker edge, particularly in that series since that time.


I wanted to love Batman v. Superman, but that just didn't happen.  I liked the movie.  I liked it a lot, but it was at times a bit muddled and perhaps overly long coming in at just over two and a half hours.

There are two things that I think may cause this problem.  One is the inclusion of "nightmares" and the other is trying to join two of the greatest storylines. One is from Batman's mythology and the other from Superman's while trying to ensure that the movie is the introduction to the beginnings of the Justice League.  The Batman story comes from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns which gives us the older and much grimmer Bruce Wayne/Batman. The other story is from Superman's Doomsday series which, if you know what happened to the Man of Steel in the comic book story from the mid-90's you will also understand the reset that came for Superman from the kinder gentler one of the 70's too.  If you don't know what happened in Doomsday, I will just say that its final issue in the series became the best-selling Superman comic of all time. 

Batman v Superman is first and foremost a Christopher Nolan film.  Nolan who directed the Christian Bale's stint as the Dark Knight and is executive producer of Batman v Superman is well-known for his dark tales and often complex storylines.  Zach Snyder who directed this movie and The Man of Steel is also no stranger to edgier works which also includes 300 and The Watchmen.  Expecting some happy spiritual movie is just not in the cards. 

 Its theme is a reminder of ideas about power and vengeance.  We meet an older Batman, who has defeated most criminal geniuses who have come his way.  He is driven still by vengeance and knows that he too as a self-described vigilante is a criminal.  His brand of justice is not some grand vision of heroism, but a necessary evil.  Ben Affleck finds redemption from his round as Dare Devil in taking on the Batman mantle.  He is strong and unassuming as the older Wayne.  Henry Cavill returns to his Man of Steel role and is a capable Superman.  He is filling the role as Christopher Reeves once did.  As I said earlier, that kinder Superman is gone.  In its place is a hero who can destroy the world should he decide to do so.  It is the conflict between these two ideas that sets up the conflict between these two iconic heroes.  Superman sees only sees the vigilante justice of Batman. Batman fears the corruption of absolute power.  Both feel he must stop the other.  Both badly misjudge.  

Enter into this mix a psychopath named Alexander Luthor. "Lex" Luthor is not the Lex who was Superman's nemesis in comic books, but the son of that Lex Luthor.  We are not sure if this lunatic version hates Superman because he caused the downfall of his father or he just hates anything he cannot control.  Luthor, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is one of the weaker problems in the movie.  Like the Joker, he is someone who just likes to watch the world burn. Luthor is more lunatic and less super-villain. Eisenberg's typical repetitive and overly speedy delivery of lines also doesn't really make him a unique villain.  It is hard to believe that any corporate board would leave such an obvious madman in charge of a huge company like Lexcorp.  

Besides the nightmare sequences of Batman which illustrates his fear of Superman's rising power, we also have a secondary storyline of Senator Finch played by Holly Hunter.  The plotline loosely accomplishes two things. First, it causes Superman to question his dream of a hero of hope which he already seems to be questioning, and second, it gives Luther something evil to do until he creates Doomsday from General Zod's corpse.  It is these elements that tend to muddle the movie.

Remembering that the title of this movie is actually Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice, we are also introduced to Wonder Woman played by Gal Godot.  We are hastily told a brief backstory of the Amazon warrior but little else is revealed except that she shows up to help fight Doomsday. If you are expecting much more than a quick introduction of other Justice League members, you are going to be sadly disappointed.  Much has been made on comic book movie sites and nerd world of the appearances of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg in this movie, but that is all the audience will get is literally a brief appearance of these members of The League.  You are going to have to wait for more in future movies if you want more.  

With all that said, I do like the movie. I have always liked the darker tones of the DC world.  The action sequences are intense.  Gone is the silly fake voice of Bale's Batman and in its place is the older and more cynical Affleck's Batman.  Superman is not some infallible hero but an alien in a world where he must tread as a man but could easily become a god.  He loves and is troubled by the consequences of his actions. He is still learning what his future might hold and what sacrifice he must make to become the hero of hope dreamt of by a Kansas farm boy.  While the plot is muddled and it's villain far from "super," the movie has strong enough performances and characters to keep the audience's interest.  It is intense and the PG13 rating is well placed. For a comic book fan, it is a good entry into the comic book movie realm.  Is it the best one? No.  I am glad I saw it and will buy the DVD.