Whether you watch the films, are familiar with the pop culture or an avid reader of the comic, BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE presents a tremendous burden on any director ballsy and confident enough to take the material to task. Not only must it tackle the immense challenge of respectfully portraying two of the most iconic characters in history, but then must also sensibly tie in a multitude of other characters, including the beloved Wonder Woman, while also laying the foundations for the many other films following the D.C cinematic universe. When you add such a polarizing directer like Zack Snyder to the mix, it almost seems inevitable that there's going to be a strong brew recipe for mishap, disappointment and downright anger.
Tune in with Ernesto Martinez and the Cinematic Universe gang as we discuss the tumultuous blockbuster that left some cathartically satisfied and others stewing in their seats!
Please note, major spoilers ahead! You've been warned, ya'll:
Some more thoughts I have to offer after the podcast:
I both understand and don't understand why there is so much criticism about this film. Upon an initial watch, I found myself wondering if some of the plot line was eluding me since I don't have nearly the amount of source material background that many other fans have under their belts. I was so caught up in trying to put together each scene by scene that I watched the film as vignettes rather than seeing how each moment connected for the grander picture. I missed many visual clues that left me feeling like I may have overestimated how much I was truly going to be absorbed with joy like I was with Man of Steel.
Then I watched it again two days later, and it clicked. Pacing, rhythm and the ebb and flow of not just the plot but the themes and emotional beats really stood out as much more obvious and masterful in execution. I was able to sit back and notice all the things that prevented me before from connecting all the dots and wrapping my head around the story. Some may say that Snyder making a film that requires multiple viewings is a failure and a disservice to its high dollar paying movie-goers--- I find it the opposite. Whenever you look at any piece of art for the first time, there is never an guarantee the viewer is going to immediately understand the meaning behind it, the visual complexities or the underlying message. This film is so rich in ideas, moments, visual metaphors and subtleties that it's really a disservice as a fan NOT to see it at least twice, if not more. Snyder's films can often be like a fine wine, perhaps bitter at first and maybe hard to swallow, but then the after taste lingers in your senses and becomes more bold and rich with each subsequent sip.
More specifically noted in regards to the podcast: I don't feel like Superman was ever invested in a fight between him and Bruce. He knows his own strength, and as far as he can tell, no man can stop him, which is why I think he's so caught off guard when Batman utilizes different tactics to try to take him down when they do fight. Instead, Superman "shows him mercy" and gives him a warning once he stops the Batmobile during the chase for the Kryptonite. He never wanted to initiate or be part of a fight between him and Batman, but rather didn't want Batman to continue operating above the law, which is why he warns him to bury the vigilante agenda and give it up as the Bat of Gotham.
Ironically and again highlighting one of the many similarities that the two super heroes share, Superman also acts outside of the law and becomes judge, jury and executioner, creating his own operation outside the justice system. He does, however, cooperate with the government when called to do so, which is shown in this and Man of Steel, but ultimately that isn't enough for Batman who's seen what power and destruction Superman can wield on a whim. Batman's cynicism for the losing battle he's constantly up against while trying to keep the streets clean in Gotham makes it next to impossible for him to see the good in himself, let alone others. This seasoned Batman has spent the years watching players come and go and has witnessed the corruption that has turned the city and its people sour. He's isolated, literally under a lake living in a cave. The only person he has a connection to of any kind is Alfred, a relationship which is complex and wanting as they both are unable to embrace their deep familial need for one another while minding their pre-established boundaries created by household hierarchy. As Bruce watches from Wayne Enterprises as the Capitol is blown to bits, a portrait of his father is literally peering over his shoulder. He feels this unrelenting weight on him always.
Superman on the other hand, also an orphan who has lost everything, including his whole planet, still does have people dear to him who are very openly an important part of his life. Batman is underground boiling over in his own prison, unable to be his true self when he does walk amongst us, and yet Superman is still able to be his true self publicly and have the emotional support of loved ones. Batman's decades of fighting up against this ever growing evil, not just of mankind but now also of potential gods and aliens, has created an ultra paranoid vigilante that feels like any potential threat must unquestionably be eliminated. In his mind, if they can do it, they will do it, and this unrelenting fear is what leads Alfred to saying that the feeling of powerlessness is what creates the fear that turns good men cruel because he sees this sentiment weathering Bruce down.
It's important that Batman is not the one to kill Superman because it's imperative to his character and his ultimate morality that he pull himself back from the brink of losing what makes him different from the criminals he faces. Also, furthering the Christ symbolism, thematically it works better that Superman sacrificed himself to save us, and that he was also stabbed with a spear in the torso a la Jesus. The ripped open S across his chest from the entrance wound is a perfect punctuation to "the death" of Superman the Christ figure.
And yet, despite their differences, it's ultimately their similarities they share as men that brings them together. Even before the climatic moment that Batman reels back from almost murdering a helpless, desperate, pleading Superman, as an audience we are constantly reminded of their intertwining lives and the burdens they share as two willing and able men trying to do good amongst insurmountable opposition. As Superman has retreated to the mountaintop after he fails to prevent the capitol explosion, he seeks the counsel and relishes in the sore memory of his father and the principles he stood for: the cost of stepping in and intervening with fate and the ripple effect those actions create. Simultaneously, Bruce Wayne stands before the family crest, heavily contemplating the principles on which the Wayne family was founded upon, leaving the manor with the mediation that his lineage is derived from hunters -- a foreshadowing of his destiny to become a manhunter in Gotham. Both Clark and Bruce have someone who care about them and try to steer them from pain and danger, whether they heed the pleas or not. They both feel the heavy responsibility of acting upon what they can do, not necessarily on what they should do, and how effective can they even do it? The similarities they see within each other gives them the hope and reassurance they need to be able to rise up and not only fight together against the manipulating forces around them, but conquer their own personal battles of own self doubt, guilt, and powerlessness. This story is ultimately about lost but good men trying to find hope within themselves and the world. The moment when they re-discover their identities and meaning as heroes.
Concerning Lex Luthor, I thought Jesse Eisenberg after proving his acting caliber via The Social Network, was a most excellent choice in casting. It would have been a shoe in choice to do Brian Cranston or re-try Kevin Spacey in the role, but Snyder has modernized the material for socially relevant times, and a young Luthor is simply the way to go. He's the perfect millennial whiner, a too quick to the top spoiled brat who's all too telling of some of today's swift name to fame successful CEO's running high dollar corporations. The branding, an emphasis on outer image, the quirky casual attire and overly confident yet calculatingly sharp mindset all run in line with the kind of young industry mogul that can more easily exist in today's business world.
Luthor too also has abandonment issues with his parents as he specifically mentions his father several times, highlighting his father's inability to provide for his family and Luthor's need to be saved by a God that never came. Not only does he fear the supreme power of the Superman, but alongside making him physically helpless, it serves as proof that if there are Gods amongst men, then they chose not to be there for Luthor when he needed them the most--- when he wasn't rich and powerful, but when he was poor and weak. Where was God then? Lex Luthor tries to play smooth when in the presence of those he is trying to influence and impress, but when put it front of a group of people for longer than a few minutes in the spotlight, he practically unhinges and starts to unglue during an erratic speech originally intended to simply be remarks about the contributions to the library. Luthor is pretty much one step away from falling into the deep end and the scary thing is that you have no idea what he's got up his sleeve- how many steps is he ahead of the game? Because to him, it's all a petty game that he is hellbent on winning.
I, like most of the world, is eagerly anticipating more Wonder Woman on screen. She dominated every moment on camera and while exuding sexual elegance and sly allure as Diana Prince, she literally rocked it as her warrior woman persona. Both viewings the audience erupted into a roar as it seemed like Superman was the one to fly down and save Batman from Doomsday, and then we all got siked out with that being Wonder Woman's grand entrance. Additionally, I think the audience nearly died with nerd pleasure as she manhandled with the lasso of truth. Splooge moment indeed.
Whether you loved the film or think it's nonsensical, heretical garbage, it's a must see for any super hero lover. Snyder's character driven approach to the Superhero genre draws focus to the morality of what it means to be all powerful, the philosophies and questionable injustice behind being a vigilante and the heavy affects the mere existence of these beings plays into the psyche of mankind. He encapsulates the height of motion & emotion in his shot design, offering an admirable attention to detail in his films and hopes that you will approach his work in an engaging manner. Snyder highlights the overwhelming uncertainty superheroes face when they must with grapple the absoluteness of their own imperfections. It may feel initially "dark" to so openly address these themes within the context of potentially one of the most fantastical escapism mediums often relied on for its ability to take us out of our own heads instead of turning the microscope onto ourselves for deep reflection. All I ask is that you leave your pre-conceived notions at the door, put on your thinking caps and really pay attention to what's in the movie. The great director Snyder demands active viewing from his audiences. He expects us to be smart, and to put the pieces of the puzzle together ourselves--- to be our own Batman great detective, if you will. Any worthy piece of art is going to make you work to truly appreciate the multi-levels of reward it has to offer.
Dig in, enjoy its many juicy layers.
Uh, the layers of the movie, I meant, ahem, cough, I mean, wow.
And for those who were curious about that 2007 "I AM LEGEND" BvS poster in Times Square:
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