For three years, we've waited for, we've discussed, we've speculated and unfortunately we've fought over whether or not Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder's 2016 follow up to Man of Steel would be a hit or a miss. I will just say that I came out of the theater on Monday night feeling absolutely exhilarated. For three years, I myself, have waited on this movie to bring its' A game and show me that there is another type of superhero movie I can be a fan of and bring some sense of balance into my life. I can happily say that Batman v Superman did just that.
Moving past one of the greatest openings I've seen to a comic book movie next to Watchmen and The Dark Knight, We find that Snyder's DC world is still talking passionately and aggressively about Superman and why he should or shouldn't exist. It's a bitter feud fought by talking heads, conspiracy theorists, and media faces such as Nancy Grace. "Are yoooooooou telling meeeeeee that yooouuu are uh supporter of Sooooooperman?" She doesn't say that in the movie, but I could see that as being hilariously annoying. Two years after the Black Zero event in Metropolis, the issue of Superman is plastered on every news source, an almost seemingly 24/7 perpetual topic as people continue to try to come to grips with what exactly happened in MoS and why Superman getting involved with international incidents. Cue in a hostage situation and a few casualties and people begin to burn Superman effigies in front of the Senate in D.C. where Superman must answer for his "crimes".
We find Lois and Clark in Dawn of Justice continuing what they started in Man of Steel. They base their relationship off of love, understanding, and protection, Clark needing protection from the world just as much as Lois needs protection from Superman. There's a very nice Lois and Clark type moment when we are first introduced to them again in BvS. No longer is Clark the brash Kryptonian meaning well, but endangering lives, which we saw in MoS. Clark is more reserved, pensive, and protective of himself when it comes to donning the red cape. He still makes the attempt to go wherever he may be needed. A building fire, a shuttle launch in dire straits; there's a really funny moment with Laurence Fishburne's Perry White where he angrily asks his employees where the hell it is Clark is always running off to. Speaking of Perry White, Laurence Fishburne did great, having a bit more to chew on as the character this go around, instead of just being relegated to a couple scenes with Amy Adams and running from skyscrapers. Being that Superman and Clark have now been introduced, Perry gets some breathing room to just be himself, trying his darnedest to wrangle in these crazy journalists he has running around beneath his roof.
The sense is that Clark is just trying to do the best he can at this point, as Clark Kent and as Superman, but its turning out to be really, really tough, as his critics just won't let him win and other (spoiler) events continue to paint him in a bad light. It's all Diane Lane's healthy return as Ma Kent can do to put Clark's mind at ease, which is what Martha Kent's primary role in the film is as it should be; a loving mother who only wants to see her son be happy.
That being said, let's hop a Turkish Airlines flight over to Gotham and see how billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is doing. Not so well, as it turns out. Late nights at fight clubs and other more polished events such as gala parties, filled with women, too much wine, and a sense that this really is "The Dark Knight Returns" Bruce Wayne who has all but given up on the whole facade of upholding his public image. When Bruce is not out galavanting around parties, he's deep down in the hi-tech auto-garage like Batcave, studiously slumped over the Batcomputer where he searches for (spoiler) and continues to hone in on what images, video and information he has on the alien known as Superman. Ben Affleck plays this role very well. You absolutely see the trauma in Bruce along with the empty void that grows larger in him, year by year in his greying days, a vigorous vat of rage boiling just beneath the surface that threatens to crack him altogether following the events of MoS. It's all Alfred Pennyworth - played fantastically by Jeremy Irons - can do to clean up the empty wine bottles and serve his trusted friend a much needed cup of sobering coffee and offer what little, yet potent advice, he has left to reassure the broken bat. Their relationship with each other is palpable and a joy to watch, Alfred's dry, scathing wit being matched only by Bruce's own. It's a duo I'd love to see return in a solo Batman movie.
Behind the curtain and back in Metropolis, Jesse Eisenberg's scene-stealing performance as the spry, neurotic son of Alexander Luthor Sr, brings a balancing act of levity and a sense of cautious, comic relief, as behind the innocent jabs at his colleagues and business partners, there's a real sadistic purpose hidden beneath the layers, that at many times, increases the level of creepiness to his otherwise boyish smile, his facial twitches and piercing stares suggesting a vacation or two may be needed for the young tech mogul. Lex Luthor is NOT the perpetual cartoon character the trailers make him out to be. He performs as he needs to in the public eye, a near slip of his mask actually occurring in a scene while he stands in front of an audience and journalists. Behind his closed doors, he sets to brainwashing and intellectually picking apart anyone who happens to step into his bad place. Couple that with the experiments he conducts that are glimpsed at in the trailers, and this Lex Luthor is a real psychopath and a Dr. Frankenstein on some pretty horrific levels. His scenes were some of the most interesting to watch in the film, my head tilting more and more in perplexity as I came to witness his mask all but shatter in the film's third act.
Speaking of which, we definitely need to talk about the third act, excluding spoilers, of course. The third act built the stakes and energy of the movie in such a way that I was doing all I could to resist going out and buying my own set of war drums in order to make it back to my seat and pound along with the score as the final battle began. Another reviewer explained the pacing and build-up of the film in a way that I think best explains it. Imagine a cone, a conical shape and take it as the framework of the movie. Now with your pointer finger facing up, begin at the base and begin to trace around the cone in a circular motion until you reach the pinnacle, the characters and stories lines intermingling along the way. This is the most accurate representation of the pacing of the film I can visually imagine. Wonder Woman's appearance in all her glory literally drew applause and cheers from my theater as we watched her rip into battle, Batman and Superman taken aback at her bold ferocity. Her theme music in the film may be some of the most energizing out of the otherwise fantastic score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL.
Oh and we can't forget the titular battle itself: Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham. It was BRUTAL. I won't say much else about it other than it more than gave us what we've all wanted in how a Batman and Superman fight would go down. The battle was big, epic and gave a very logical reasoning to how a mere mortal man could stand up to a god. The visuals in this fight and really, the whole movie in general were amazing, especially the Batman Knightmare scene where he's in the desert. See this movie in IMAX or on the biggest screen you can!
Rounding out this review with a few cons I do have in mind, being that there were a couple pacing issues here and there, which I feel became irrelevant and forgivable as the film began wrapping up. There were also a couple of head-scratching plot holes involved upon further reflection, though both of these issues really do not bother me when thinking back on all of the positives that were present in the film.
If I were to give it a 1 out of 10 score, I'd say it was easily a 9/10 with me going with a final 9.3/10 and I'm sure that score will slightly increase after I watch it a couple more times this weekend in order to pick up anything I may have missed.
To conclude, do NOT, I repeat do NOT buy into what critics are currently saying about Batman v Superman. I don't know if we saw the same film or if they were smoking something while watching it, but their reviews are all over the place and very non-consistent at this point, so do NOT trust any of them. This is not a comic book movie that is going to hold your hand, so don't get intimidated or irritated if you don't understand a cameo or an easter egg, as a lot of it is fan service for the fans. See it for yourself and judge it for yourself, though I have a pretty good feeling that most of you will enjoy it.
- Josh Price