I am not a comic book fan, but I have been looking forward to seeing the new Batman/Superman movie. This movie got panned by critics, but is making gobs of money. I was on vacation last week, and a rainy day in Orlando gave me an opportunity to go see it unexpectedly with my kids. I saw it last night a second time with a friend.
First off, my kids loved it. We have a little thing where we rate movies we see on a 10 point scale after we see them. My 11 year old son gave it a 9.5 out of 10. He thought the superhero battles were "awesome". My 9 year old daughter gave it a 9 out of 10 but she took a point off "for the kissing". My 7 yr old gave it a "9 and seven eighths out of 10". While being surprised my first grader was so versed in fractions, he said he took an eighth off because it "didn't have a lot of action at the beginning."
As a parent, there was no scene of violence that really caused me to be too concerned. It was very bloodless and comic-bookish, and about on par with what you would see in an Avengers movie. The biggest concern was a scene where Clark Kent hops in a bathtub with Lois Lane, but he is fully clothed when he did. My kids see more than that when my wife watches Real Housewives.
I saw the movie on a Tuesday at 4:45 matinee, and the theater was packed. We had to sit in the front row. All that was left was front row. That means this movie was packing theaters all week at off times and doing well. On a late show on Saturday night, the theater was half full.
As for my thoughts on the movie, I thought it was really really good. To be honest, I don't get what the critics are talking about. At points, particularly in the fight sequences, it was great. At other points, it was...a comic book movie. It ain't art. It ain't The Godfather or Fargo. But it was really entertaining to me; and my kids absolutely loved it. What more could I ask?
Admittedly, I am a Superman movie fan. I've loved Superman since I saw Christopher Reeve playing the character in 1978. So take my views for what you will. But this is a good - and at points great- movie.
Particular thoughts on positive things from the movie -
Is the movie very serious? I guess it must be since so many people mentioned it in their reviews, but I just thought it fit into the story. It didn't strike me as being a problem by itself. I was looking for this since I had read it in the reviews. But as I got caught up and watched the movie for 10 minutes, I didn't notice anything out of place with it or even really think about it until the movie was over. Truthfully, if anyone had popped up with one-liners or Downey-esque quips, it would have been a harsh break with the story.
Simply put, this movie is a darker action movie, whereas the Avengers line of movies are more like action-comedies. I don't think a superhero movie has to be trite, any more than it has to be high melodrama. There is more than one way to break these eggs. I thought it fit in with the narrative.
Is it no fun? I had fun. I was entertained. I was entertained watching Batman and Superman wail on each other, then team up and wail on a bad guy as Wonder Woman joined the mix. Did I laugh at quips by the characters? A couple times. But the spectacle was a lot more fun.
Jesse Eisenberg is good as Lex Luthor. He wasn't Gene Hackman (best), but he also wasn't Kevin Spacey (ugh). There's one scene just before the Batman/Superman brawl where he says "Fight Night" in this really crazy and scary way. One of the best villain line deliveries ever. That was his "Ms. TESCHMACHER!" moment. He hits home as a power-seeking psycho at that point. That sold him to me. He will do.
Ben Affleck is Batman. No doubt about it, he is the best part of this movie. He was awesome, and the Batman action sequences are the best scenes of this flick, if not the best Batman sequences of all time. My 7 yr old kept going oh! and ooo! as we watched. Well said, young man.
There was some criticism regarding Batman being so brutal. But it just fit. Batman is kind of "on the edge" in this movie. That's part of the narrative. What happens in the movie kind of pulls Batman back from that abyss. You kind of see Batfleck self-evaluate and change as the film concludes. For example, Batman starts branding people as he starts to lose his soul, but at the end he doesn't brand Luthor. A+. I like to see 80 year-old character tropes challenged but then reinforced.
Gal Gadot is awesome as Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman was portrayed really well. For my daughter, I am glad to see a superheroine being a superheroine. This was refreshing and stands in positive opposition to a female hero being rotated as a semi-love interest to various male characters. See Scarlet Johanson in the Avengers movies.
Lois Lane is cool and tough. She is not just a damsel in distress, but actually plays an important role. The relationship with her and Superman is much better developed than in Man of Steel. Superman's rescues of her were used for good narrative effect, as opposed to being ends in and of themselves. It was a cool way to bring the classic Superman trope in as a plot device much in the way it was done in Superman I and II.
Henry Cavill was pretty good. He's not Christopher Reeve, but who can be Christopher Reeve to my mind's still 5-year-old eye? The big critics' complaint was that he scowled a lot, and I guess he must have since so many people mentioned it. I didn't notice it in the movie, however.
I guess he had a lot to scowl about. It fit the story. My take away from the movie is that "Superman" (as we have known him for 80 years) was still not fully formed, though almost there. He's a dude who wants to do good, but not everybody accepts him yet. Because, ya know, he's a freaking alien who could destroy the world if he wanted to. Or because, ya know, he has god-like powers. You might think that would be confusing to a dude from a podunk town in Kansas. He might scowl when dealing with it. I would.
To be honest, this take on the character rings true to me. It kind of points out how simplistic Reeve's portrayal was (though I will punch you if YOU say that). However, by the end, due to events in the movie, "Superman" is now fully formed. Noobody will doubt his motivations in the future, and he will not doubt himself. He will be a symbol of hope to the world, he will love himself, sun will shine out of his bum, etc. In other words, he will be like Reeve's Superman, just with more muscles and less disco. I like the development of the character. I am still thinking (but not yet knowing) that Cavill is the guy to pull it off.
Here are some negatives:
Justice League setup scenes were included, but they were like the Chinese-made batteries included in your kids' x-mas toys. They fit, but they didn't work quite right. Obviously the DC superhero characters are playing catch up with Iron Man and friends. This makes some of these scenes choppy (including particularly one with the Flash doing some sort of time travel wierdness to show up in Batman's prolific nightmares). These movies are setting up a future Justice League franchise which is supposed to be like Avengers, but they are fast-tracking it. That was apparent. While I agree that post-credits scenes are as played out as superheroes exchanging smarmy witicisms in the heat of battle, this could have been handled better. This is especially true for those of us who haven't read comic books in 30 years and whose most recent memory of the Flash is the kid from Daddy Day Care who crapped on the ceiling (watch the movie...it's there). However, given that I knew this was an Easter Egg for a future movie, I just chalked it up as a momentary WTF, and saved it for later. I will say, however, that my 9 yr old daughter thought this scene was really interesting. She was asking me all kinds of questions about what would happen in the next movie and whining about how she wanted to know NOW what it meant. If WB was trying to get kids invested for the next few installments, then mission accomplished as far as my daughter was concerned.
The Batman/Superman relationship needed more development. 《Spoiler Alert》One of the criticisms of the movie centered around a scene where Batman realized that Superman's mother had the same name as Batman's mother. I didn't have a problem with this concept as I watched the movie. What I saw on Batfleck ' s face was "Holy sh*t, this alien pr*ck has a Mother? You mean he's a person and not a monster? WTF am I trying to stab him through the heart for?" It fit the story, and it also provided a little opportunity for redemption for the world-weary Batman. To me, that was cool. However, Batman and Superman needed a little bonding time on screen after that. I wanted to see a friendship develop there, or at least a mutual respect. Instead, they had to go immediately into battle the big baddies. You have to remember that I grew up on Super Friends, and the idea that Batman and Superman were best buds, as different as they are. I know this view has been revised over the years among comic book nerds, but that doesn't mean that it should be. I like the idea that the only dude that freaks Superman out (and the person he trusts the most) is a regular human like Batman. I also like the idea that the only person who gives Batman faith in human nature is an alien like Superman. I wanted to see the seed of that in the movie in a real way. I guess there just wasn't time so it fell by the wayside. There was a nod to it at the end, but that felt forced and at least incomplete. Perhaps it was too much to ask at this point, and something to look forward to in the next movie. I hope it shows up.
So, overall, this movie was really good. For sake of comparison to other superhero movies, this was way better than Avengers Age of Ultron, any movie with the name Thor in the title, any movie with X-men in the title, Batman and Robin (1997), Iron Man 2 and 3, Spider Man 3, any movie called "Amazing" Spider Man, the Incredible Hulk, Superman III and IV, and Superman Returns. It was about as good as the Captain America movies, Batman Begins, Iron Man 1, Man of Steel (which I really liked), Spider Man 2 (2004), Batman Forever, Batman Returns (1992) and Batman (1989). It was not as good as Spider Man 1 (2002), the Avengers, any movie with "Dark Knight" in the title, nor the grandad of them all, Superman I.
In other words: it was a really good movie. It was cool. I was really entertained. Take your kids. You'll all have fun watching it.