I saw Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice with my family on Easter Sunday and loved every minute of it. Here's my review at a glance:
"There were a lot of story lines to balance and Snyder did the best he could, I think. Visually magnificent, and all the flaws were worth the final 1/3rd. For all of you saying that the film didn't need Lois, I'd beg to differ. She was key in establishing Clark's humanity. Overall: 8.5/10. I loved it and will probably see it again before it leaves theaters. Can't wait to watch the rest of the DC universe unfold. Oh, and the little part of me that never grew up cried- like, a lot, and I'm only a little ashamed. Seeing those three heroes onscreen together was so overwhelmingly surreal it literally brought me to tears."
It has recently come to my attention that there are more than a few individuals out there who did not like the way BvS portrayed women. I read an article published by IGN called "Batman V Superman Had Mostly Terrible Female Characters", and another one by yahoo.com entitled "Batman V Superman Pushed me Over the Edge- I'm Done with Comic Book Patriarchy".
However, "as a woman"...and I think that will be the only time I use that phase. As a woman, I had no problem with the women in Batman V Superman. In fact, I thought their portrayal was rather admirable in comparison to other comic book films.
Before I get into my defense of the film, first let me tell you a little about myself in hopes that you will take this article more seriously. I grew up in the small, sheltered and ultra-progressive community of Ashland, OR. Oregon is, for the most part, a very liberal state. My mother had three kids, a Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in Criminology and a Masters degree by the time she was 30. She is currently a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in the subjects of trauma and PTSD brought on by domestic abuse. My mother is also a professor who has taught classes ranging from "Psychology of Women" to "Women and PTSD". Suffice it to say, special attention was diverted to making sure that I grew up an empowered woman. I myself am on my way to a Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology. My point is, I was raised to rage against a patriarchal culture and I hope to continue that into my professional life.
Are you still reading? Half of you? A quarter? I'll take it. Let's go one by one starting with the most famous female superhero of all time, Wonder Woman. Warning: spoilers ahead.
In case you weren't aware, this is Wonder Woman's first appearance on the big screen. The actress' name is Gal Gadot, and just for the record, I was extremely opposed to her casting from the moment it was announced to the moment I bought my ticket. Like many others, I thought she was almost comically undersized. I was not expecting to be so readily won over by her. I assumed that if I was won over it would be begrudgingly, a result of frustrating acceptance of the world we live in. Boy, was I wrong.
Wonder Woman is first introduced in the form of her secret identity, Diana Prince. The moment the camera panned over her, I let out a strange little squeal, the likes of which I can't remember ever having produced. Yes, this jaded young feminist was won over after literally 3 seconds of seeing Gal Gadot on screen. It was Wonder Woman! It was really her! She doesn't say a word in her first scene. What she does do, however, is completely circumvent the stealth-efforts of Ben Affleck's brilliant Bruce Wayne. Diana's maneuver sets up an intriguing cat and mouse game that continues until its revealed that Diana Prince is not just any woman. She's Wonder Woman. Bruce initially underestimates her and he's made to eat his words when she shows up for the final battle and becomes what most would agree is the factor that tilts them to victory. Without Wonder Woman, Batman would have been burnt to a crisp and Superman wouldn't have been able to leave the fight long enough to save Lois. Gadot was every bit the Wonder Woman we deserved.
Next I'll talk about a female character who I thought was generally under-utilized: Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves.
I was surprised and very exited when it was announced the Hannibal actress would be portraying Lex Luthor's assistant, driver, and body guard- Mercy Graves. In the animated movies, it seemed that Mercy would get punched in the face at least once a scene. Whether it be from a robot or Harley Quinn, Mercy was constantly sacrificing her physical well being to protect Lex. That relationship was always curious to me. Why would Lex Luthor, a big/commanding guy in the animated films, hire a seemingly small woman as his sole bodyguard? I still have no idea. If someone remembers his motivation there please let me know in the comments. In any case, Mercy was still one of my favorite characters. The woman was constantly being pushed (or punched) down, but she always, ALWAYS got back up...Tao Okamoto's Mercy was blown up in Lex's terrorist attack half way through the movie. I'm mostly disappointed because I was looking forward to seeing her and Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn go head to head at some point. Okamoto is simply too talented an actress to be murdered after a single line, but I don't think she was killed because the director or writers or even Lex, for that matter, have something against women. She was killed because Lex is insane. Still, though, woefully underutilized.
Onto the next unfortunate victim of Lex Luthor's (Jesse Eisenberg) terrorist attack- Holly Hunter's Senator June Finch.
First off, yes I do find it ironic Holly Hunter's character is persecuting superheroes in BvS after she voiced Elastagirl/Mrs. Incredible in The Incredibles, a movie about persecuted and marginalized superheroes. But I digress...Senator Finch, a junior democratic senator from Kentucky, was tasked with chairing the committee looking into the aftermath of General Zod's (Michael Shannon) "visit" to Earth depicted in Man of Steel. Senator Finch is fearless. She's doesn't back down from confrontation, not from Superman and especially not from Lex Luthor. She's after truth, justice and the American way, and her campaign for a fair trial of Superman puts her in Lex's cross-hairs. Her refusal to yield to Lex's agenda is not a character flaw, and it certainly doesn't make her weak.
Martha Kent certainly had the most important name in BvS, but after Man of Steel she remains one of the most important characters as well.
What I love about Henry Cavill's DCU is that it focuses on the real world consequences of not only the presence of these celestial beings on Earth, but also the heroes' personal and psychological consequences as well. Clark Kent is a mama's boy. He has two people on the planet who love and accept him for who he is. Not just his fault's as a hero for the people, but also as a man. The Kent's took him in when he was defenseless. The gave him a home and a family and raised him like he was their own flesh and blood. Clark could not protect his father (Kevin Costner), in fact, he was specifically instructed not to, so it's natural that he would do everything in his power to keep his mother (Diane Lane) from harm. In Man of Steel, Martha told General Zod to "go to hell". In BvS, she made a joke about Batman to his face, and has stood up for her son at every crossroads throughout both films. Martha Kent is not a weak character, she is a loving mother.
and last but not least, my favorite comic book love interest, Lois Lane.
Look at the comics or the animated series. There is not a love interest more daring, dedicated or complex than Lois lane. They gave her a plot all her own in Batman V Superman because the character cannot sit still. She's ambitious. She LOVES her job. She loves Clark. She would do anything for him just as he would for her, but her lack of superpowers makes her naturally more susceptible to falling off helicopter pads. Her willingness to risk her own life to save Clark's is her strength, not her weakness. Growing up, Lois was my favorite superhero. I didn't realize until much later that most didn't consider her one.
Yes, she was used as a pawn, the script even said that. That's not Lois' problem, it's Superman's. In my opinion, she's a greater weakness for him than he is for her.
Many criticize this Lois, calling her actions "dumb". What did she do that was dumb? Threw the spear away? No, she threw it away because she didn't want it to be used against Superman...But also against Clark. What I love about Adams' portrayal is that Lois is in love with every part of the man of steel- both "Smallville" and the world famous superhero. Was it dumb when she dove back in the water? No. She put together two and two when she saw the sparks flying from the kryptonian ship. That's her being a reporter. She jumped in after it because, despite her lack of powers, she deeply and truly wishes to contribute. That's not stupidity, that's dedication. She's out of her league, (physically), the character always has been. What I love about Adams' Lois is that she doesn't think she is. She wants to help the man she loves no matter the cost.
Now, (as a woman) I really appreciate this even being a dialogue. I think that Snyder certainly made a statement when he cast Adams. She plays the headstrong yet often innocent but always fiercely loyal wife very well. Casting her said that this Lois & Clark would not be a sexy cat and mouse game that Bruce and Diana are playing. It would not be Dana Delany's biting sarcastic wit. Adams' Lois is Clark's Lois, not Superman's. At this point, I'm not sure showing a loving relationship like this one, even if it means Lois making some (at times) questionable decisions, is a terrible thing. I like the unified front they're putting up and I loved the moment when Batman is lowering Superman into Wonder Woman and Lois' arms. The look on Wonder Woman's face gives me hope for the future of the DCU in terms of how they will handle their female characters. There have been many incarnations where Lois and Wonder Woman did not get along. Where they were competing for Superman's affection. Instead what I see from Adams and Gadot is a deep respect and understanding. Female comic book characters, regardless of if they have superpowers or not, are in the minority, so it was deeply moving for me to see both Wonder Woman comforting Lois, and Lois and Martha able to feel the immensity of their loss together.
If you're interested in the larger issue of the lack of female representation in action films, click here