So I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend. As it has become readily apparent of late, Batman v Superman is a divisive film. The critical community on the whole of declared it everything from horrible to a “dumpster fire.” The average film goer, though disagrees as it has made over an estimated $400 million in its first weekend alone. It was a strange sensation to go into this movie knowing this. It is no surprise that I came out of the movie feeling conflicted.
So, to get this out of the way, its not the worst movie ever made. I wouldn’t even call it bad. It is inherently flawed and a bit of a scrambled mess though. As the title would suggest it is a split tale between Batman and Superman as they wade through the aftereffects of the climax of Man of Steel. The movie begins as all new Batman’s do, by showing us the death of his parents…..again. Thankfully it is shot with Zack Snyder’s trademark visual flair and takes about a minute, though we do have to suffer through it multiple times (more on that in the spoiler section. Once we get that out of the way, we jump right into the Zod/Superman battle. Bruce Wayne races through a Metropolis under siege in one of the more effective sequences I have seen in a superhero film in a while. So often we see these scenes of mass destruction in movies from the Heroes pov. To see it from an outside perspective both acknowledges the complaints about Man Of Steels violent climax and gives us a frame work for Batman’s anger. He rescued people and helped the dead and dying in the rubble of his own building.
Batman’s viewpoint was the best part of the movie to me. In fact, Ill go ahead and call it, this is my favorite Batman. The way he moves and fights is straight out of the Arkham games. He uses cool gadgets, has Alfred in his ear, drives a badass car and a cool jet. This is what I have always imagined when I pictured batman in action. It’s what the Nolan movies, for all their good qualities, never nailed. This is also the first time that I bought Bruce’s rage. That anger and futility in dealing with crime. It permeates his every action. This leads to the controversial part that is turning off some viewers. Batman is brutal as fuck. He has never been more violent and ruthless towards the badguys. Those he deems bad enough are branded with a metal bat sign for all to know. Some, he even kills. Yes. Batman kills some people in this movie. Unquestioningly shoots the shit out of them with a plane and car mounted machine gun. I won’t argue with you if this bothers you. Like superman was in Man of Steel, this is a distinct departure from the way batman has been treated for years. I was ok with it. It fit the context of the story and added a nice bit of conflict as this is the key point of conflict between superman and batman in the beginning of the film.
One of the biggest problems with this movie is that this reason only exists in the beginning. I have decided that Batman v Superman is 1/2 a good to great movie, 1/4 an ok movie, and 1/4 a bad nonsensical mess…..and oddly enough in that order. The biggest problem this movie ends up having is motivation. We begin with this clear cut reason for a conflict that works with the characters and the story. Batman sees superman as the ultimate threat. An alien who doesn’t understand the human condition and can kill every single human on a whim if he so wanted. Superman sees batman as a brutal fear monger who uses powerful imagery and cruelty to scare the people of Gotham into following the law. This ideological difference is more than enough to drive a movie forward, and seems to be how the new Captain America movie is going about it. Instead this movie wants to setup the Justice League in a big way. Instead of spending time building up these characters we get 15-20 minute prophetic dream sequences by batman and an entire subplot with Wonder Woman that, while good, could easily be cut without losing one iota of plot. Its conflicting too because in a better situation these could be very interesting setups.
Unfortunately the movie finally comes truly off the rails when the titular battle finally happens. All those wonderful character based ideological differences we have go out the window. They honestly don’t even matter. Superman is essentially forced into fighting batman against his will. Instead of talking it out and resolving the situation they spend ten lackluster minutes beating each other up before an anticlimactic resolution so much like the reconciliation in the movie “Step Brothers” that I laughed out loud in the theatre. There is no debate here. They even flashback…….again to the death of batman’s parents. This part does not work, and it takes the air out of the entire final battle. Characters make decisions that make no sense in the context of what they know. Wonder Woman appears out of nearly nowhere. Even more stuff gets blowed up than in Man of Steel (though they are careful to point out multiple times that the area is abandoned so nobody will be hurt). Oh yeah, and Doomsday shows up after being made by Lex Luthor who I completely forgot to mention up until know. It is plain and simple that they bit off more than they could chew with this movie.
Here is the thing. I still liked it. In fact, the most frustrating part of this movie is that so much of it does work. That beginning half was really interesting. Wonder Woman is amazing. Batman is fucking rad like he hasn’t been before. The few sneaks we have into the Justice league are pretty damn cool. It ends up being truly an alright movie that is worth seeing…..maybe even a second time on home video to see how it plays without expectations. One that has the misfortune of having its worst part be the last act. This is far from the travesty that it is being heralded as by critics. Honestly, I think that it does kind of serve its ultimate purpose. I am pumped for the future DC movies….well most of them.