So… Is It Good?

A blog featuring the various writings of E. H. Lau.

Archive for April, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

Posted by cyberpfalcon on April 26, 2016

Alright, I’ll admit that after Man of Steel, which I hated (yes, yes, in an earlier review, I gave it a 7/10 and said that it was “good”, but over time, the negatives of that movie overthrew the positives of the movie for me until it became HATE [who knows, maybe on another watch, I may have to correct this statement too…]), I wasn’t too excited by this movie. In fact, I had no hope for it.
But, to my surprise, I actually walked out of the theatre having enjoyed the film.

Really though, I didn’t enjoy the film as a “Superman and Batman movie”, I enjoyed it as one of those alternate “what ifs”, and this is the “What if Clark becomes Superman way later than Bruce becomes Batman? What if Bruce Wayne had to go through years of being Batman before Clark Kent showed up as Superman?”
I say this because the movie’s portrayal of the Superman and Batman relationship in this movie is so different from the traditional portrayal, and that relationship in this movie is so affected by this change in premise that it feels like some of those alternate universe stories that DC has released over the years (e.g.: Superman: Red Son – what if Superman’s rocket landed in Russia instead? Justice League: Gods and Monsters – what if it was ZOD’s “son” that was put into the rocket instead?)

Which brings up the biggest problem with this movie, the same problem that plagues most of these alternate universe stories – the viewer needs to already be invested in the mythos for it to be enjoyable.

It’s hard though, to explain what I completely mean without spoilers. So, the first part of this review will be a spoiler-free, general overview of my thoughts. After that, I’ll have a noticable break, and then begin a more detailed, spoiler-FILLED explanation on my thoughts on my the movie.

So, in general then.
I felt that this was a good movie, but… only if you have watched Man of Steel and remember it, and have a good enough understanding about the Batman mythos to infer his entire backstory from the clues that the movie drops.
It has great action, great visuals, and some interesting themes (such as how the world would react if an alien with insurmountable power showed up, the personal responsibilities of such an alien if he chose to be a vigilante, and, of course, man versus such a being). Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne was great (called it 😉 ), and I would even go on to say that he did a better job than Christian Bale.
However, there are way too many scenes that were crammed there for the sole purpose of promoting the so-called “DC Extended Universe”, when time could have been spent fleshing out Batman’s backstory and the rest of the movie’s plot. It made the movie feel very rushed and disjointed, even though it ran for two and half hours. The movie felt like there was a missing Batman movie that should have came out before this one.
Also, some of those themes mentioned actually just… gets dropped partway through the movie.
But, for those of us that know way too much about the DC mythos, it was a very interesting and enjoyable take on “What if Bruce Wayne became Batman 20 years before Clark Kent became Superman?”

So, to sum up the spoiler-free review, it’s worth a watch for the great action, the visuals, Ben Affleck as Batman, and if you are invested in the Batman mythos. For the casual viewer though, it’ll feel disjointed and just… average, at best. I’d recommend The Dark Knight Returns for those that want to watch a better Batman vs Superman film.

Oh, and this movie just made me angrier that the next movie is a Suicide Squad movie, and not a Batman prequel movie! 😉

Alright, after the break will be a spoiler-filled (and complaint-filled) review. So stop reading if you don’t want any spoilers!

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Okay, everyone here understands that I’m about to spew out a ton of spoilers?

Okay, good, here we go.

Okay, so, first, I’m going to assume that the movie was made as a sequel to Man of Steel. So I’m going to review it as such, and not as a standalone movie. That means that I’m not going to complain about Clark’s story not being fleshed out, like I’m going to do with Bruce’s, because the audience is supposed to have seen Man of Steel first.

So, my biggest complaint is that the movie leave the viewers to infer all of Batman’s backstory in this movie instead of having it fleshed out properly.
Even though I know a lot about the Batman mythos, it still left those scenes feeling disjointed and… kinda random.
For example, the beginning of the movie that goes through Bruce Wayne’s parents funeral, leading to a flashback to their murder, then ending with young Bruce… being lifted out of the hole by bats?
That whole sequence then just cuts to an older Bruce Wayne getting out of the helicopter at Metropolis during Zod’s attack on Metropolis from Man of Steel.
If the viewer had no idea about Batman’s origins (and these people exist, and it’s not even remotely their fault, so don’t be an ass about it), that whole beginning doesn’t connect properly because the movie doesn’t bother explaining that that was Ben Affleck’s character’s past, and it doesn’t bother explaining that that’s what lead him to becoming Batman. A viewer that doesn’t know Batman’s origin and that Ben Affleck plays Batman before going into the movie would never connect that whole beginning with Ben Affleck’s character, at least, not until it was very late in the movie, and I’d argue that most of them wouldn’t connect it without some external source.
For those of us that do know about the Batman mythos, I’d argue that the beginning sequence still serves no actual purpose, because it’s still not properly connected properly to the rest of the movie. If this was all just to remind us that Bruce’s mother’s name was Martha (and I have plenty to say on that later), then a shorter scene with Bruce standing in front of his parents’ graves would have sufficed and been more impactful.
Heck, I’d argue that just that scene would have worked better for both the casual viewer and the in-the-know viewer, because the audience would have had a chance to see Ben Affleck mourning at his parents’ graves, and then seeing him go into Metropolis, rather than just a boy who’s parents get killed… and then a random Ben Affleck landing in Metropolis.

Which leads into my second complaint about the film. The movie introduces Ben Affleck… and just assumes that the audience knows that they’re playing Bruce Wayne/Batman.
For Bruce Wayne/Batman, until about maybe a quarter of the film, the movie never actually states that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and then Ben Affleck is playing him. It just kinda… assumes that you read the cast list. They show scenes of Ben Affleck’s character, they show scenes of Batman, and then, very disjointedly, finally show that Ben Affleck is Bruce Wayne is Batman, as if the audience was supposed to know that all along. If you didn’t know that Ben Affleck was playing Bruce Wayne, and that Bruce Wayne is Batman, you wouldn’t know until that “reveal”. This would be okay if it was supposed to be a “reveal”, but it’s not supposed to be, and it just makes it harder for a casual viewer to get into.

Now, here’s something that’ll bother even the viewer who DO know the Batman mythos: having to infer all of this Batman’s backstory.
Sure, sometimes having a character with a mysterious backstory is great, but this is not the case here. Here, the movie keeps making it felt that there’s a huge chunk of Batman’s backstory that the audience SHOULD know about, but don’t.
For example, the whole Wayne’s death scene and that Bruce became Batman because of it (stop using that scene if you’re not going to bother explaining it!).
For example, why is this Batman so much more angry, cruel, and brutal than his traditional portrayals? (He even lets people die now, as long as it was indirectly.)
For example, how did this Batman become so poisoned against trusting other vigilantes?
And, of course, the whole Joker’s spray-painted message on Robin’s suit thing. Which Robin was it? Did Robin actually die? What happened? (I actually couldn’t tell that it was Robin’s suit during my viewing, and thought that it was a Batsuit. Considering that the movie never bothers explaining it properly, hasn’t even established a Robin at that point, and that suit was mostly covered by spray paint and way to dark to properly distinguish when the scene only lasts seconds, you’ll forgive me for the mixup.)
Having the movie constantly refer to all this missing backstory leaves the mythos-invested viewer with a feeling that the film is missing story bits, and leaves casual viewers feeling confused.

Next, I guess I should address all the Justice League stuff… Ugh.
In my opinion, I felt that they were pretty much a waste of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the DC Universe, and I had a kick out of seeing them, but all that time could have been used to flesh out the plot a lot better.
I mean, the whole dream sequence with the alternate future and then Flash coming back to warn Bruce ultimately leads to nowhere in THIS film, and probably would have been better in another film, if it is supposed to be foreshadowing.
All the videos of Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman were cool, but they were unnecessary, and could have just been mentioned at the end, if they wanted to tie it in so desperately.

So, after all the complaining about unnecessary scenes, what do I think the time should have been spent on?
Weeeeeell…, some things like:
– Batman’s backstory, at least enough so that a casual viewer could see that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and that he was a hardened vigilante who had gone through years of pain and suffering that made him so brutal
– Lex finding out about Bruce and Clark’s secret identities. What? Are we just supposed to assume that he’s so smart that he figured it out offscreen?
– Bruce and Clark figuring out either other’s secret identities. What? Are we just supposed to assume that Superman used his X-Ray vision and Bruce used his detectives skills (WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN ESTABLISHED IN THIS FILM)?
– Better characterization for why Bruce hates Superman. The movie’s reasoning is… filmsy, at best.
– Better characterization for why Clark hates Batman. Especially when the movie’s stated reason is that Clark hates Batman because Batman is a vigilante… which even Bruce points out as filmsy because Superman is doing same thing.

Moving on, the whole reason why Batman and Superman fight then…, ends up, not being because of a difference of ideology, but because… Lex Luthor kidnapped Superman’s mother and forced Superman to go fight Batman. A Batman who hates Superman for… being part of the destruction of Metropolis, leading to the bomb in Capitol Hill, and not being a good enough superhero? That’s as best as I could make it out to be.
Then, to rub salt on the wound, the whole Martha thing that ended the fight felt forced. Yes, their names are the same, but it sounded very unnatural, to me, at least. Superman could have said something more natural like, “At least, save my mother!” and it would have had the same effect of humanizing Superman for Batman.

Oh, and to FURTHER drop the themes of the movie, we can go on to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman teaming up to fight Doomsday.
A monster that Lex made to defeat Superman because he was afraid of Superman destroying the world… So he made a monster that he couldn’t control, which could also destroy the world… What?

That’s… most of the major complaints I have about the movie.
Now, on to the good stuff!

Love the action scenes, in particular:
– Batman’s fight against Luthor’s mercenaries
– the actual Batman VS Superman fight
– the Trinity (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) fight against Doomsday

And, as I’ve mentioned before, the themes (before they were dropped) presented in the movie was pretty good.

Loved Affleck as Batman and Bruce Wayne.

The Wonder Woman thing, while a little forced and could have been handled better, was still enjoyable overall for me.

I enjoyed this movie’s version of Lex Luthor, but he was so different from the traditional Lex Luthors that I’m going to call him not-Lex (like not-Catwoman, not-Bane, not-Talia, etc. from The Dark Knight Rises, which I did like).

And yes, I do think that Superman’s death was a bit too soon in the series, and definitely cheapened by the hint at the end of the movie, and how he’s due to appear in Justice League; but I felt that, otherwise, it was done well.

And, again, like I said, I enjoyed it as a look into a universe where Superman becomes a superhero twenty years after Batman.

So, overall, I enjoyed the movie, and would recommend it to anyone who understands the Batman mythos enough to enjoy it. For the casual viewers though, I highly doubt that they would enjoy it, as it would feel to disjointed and confusing.
Word is, there will be an extended edition that will hopefully flesh out the plot some more, and hopefully that’s true, but we’ll have to see.

Now, go watch The Dark Knight Returns!

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P.S.: When Doomsday was doing his energy thing, I wanted to yell “SUPER SAIYAN!” so badly.

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