Batman V Superman: Better than I expected

Let me preface this with I do not actually read comic books. I don’t know what is canon or what is not. I do not know whether or not they kept anything from the previous  Batman movies or not. I don’t know Wonder Woman’s back story, or if the little snippet of the Flash we see was the same guy from the TV show or not.

For that matter, I’m not exactly a DC fan. Not that I don’t like DC, just that all I know of either Marvel or DC comes from the movies, and frankly, I feel that Marvel does a better job with the movies while DC does better with the television shows. Or at least they did. Marvel is catching up quick, I think. Netflix’s Jessica Jones was spectacular! I binge watched the whole first season in a day!

My interest in these movies is based on character arcs and story lines in the film, and whether or not it is a film that lends itself well to a post date movie discussion. Not that people do that anymore. It seems we really are becoming lazy in our film watching, though I did have a brief discussion with my date, The Bartender, before we ended our beautiful love affair in the worst way possible.

But the movie cannot be blamed for that. Please be aware that I am incapable of doing a Spoiler free review, but I will try to leave some of the big twists out. So from this point forward, I will be reviewing Batman Vs Superman, and there WILL be…

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One of my students had seen it the night before at a midnight screening (which meant he was exhausted in class the next day), and so I went into this thinking it wasn’t going to be very good. He told me he didn’t like the story, but then he knows more about the comics than I do, in fact he’s one of my experts that I go to for comic book knowledge, so I didn’t think it would be very good.

I knew to expect a different kind of movie because Man of Steel brought us a different kind of Superman. Superman has always been the Captain America type character, the guy who did the right thing, the Boy Scout, the totally good guy who doesn’t kill or hurt people. In Man of Steel we see him kill Zod, so all the rules have been kind of thrown out the window. I had no idea what to expect.

So the big question: Is this movie any good?

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I liked it; the Bartender (who actually prefers DC to Marvel) did not.

I was impressed with the characterization. I bought the story-line. I liked the new quirky almost Joker-like Lex Luthor. I enjoyed the new grittier Batman. I absolutely love every outfit that Wonder Woman wore; in fact the Bartender and I both drooled at her outfit when she runs into Bruce Wayne in a museum, though perhaps we were drooling for different reasons.

Most notably, I was very happy to see that they did not, in fact, bring ALL the new Justice League characters into the fight. With all the hype about Jason Mamoa playing Aquaman and the fact that he would in fact be in this film, I was slightly terrified that this would be DC’s attempt at an Avengers movie without any of the back story that was necessary for the Avengers to work.

So everyone gets the gist of the storyline from the trailers. This is a thing I hate about how we do trailers now, a lot of the really cool scenes are taken from the movie and plopped into the trailers, thus ruining a great deal of the shock and surprise that would make the movie better. Like seeing Wonder Woman (played by the gorgeous Gal Gadot) and her shield in the trailer so we aren’t worried when we see Batman about to be roasted by the Doomsday monster because we already know she’s coming to save the day.

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, the gist of the movie is this: Superman (played by Henry Cavill) has created a great deal of destruction which has made him not entirely popular with some people (sounds similar to the Civil War premise…). One of those people happens to be Batman (played by Ben Affleck), and in this movie, Batman has lost a lot of his innocence, breaking some of his own rules, and actually killing and maiming people to get to his goal. While Batman doesn’t trust Superman’s power, Superman doesn’t like Batman’s method, and as their distrust of one another grows, a powerful, yet crazy individual brings them together so that they will fight.

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Enter Lex Luthor (played by Jesse Eisenberg), who also doesn’t trust Superman’s power, and we find out a little bit about why. He seems to have some serious psychological issues, thus adding to his inherently Joker-like qualities. He is whimsical and yet more focused than the Joker, and definitely more strategic, but equally as crazy. He orchestrates huge schemes in order to achieve his ends, and there are some… I wouldn’t call them plot holes exactly. They are more logic leaps that have to be made to understand that some of what he’s doing is because he is so very intelligent that he sees possibilities that no one else had.

Like how he manages to get the necessary tools (and knowledge) to create the Doomsday monster in the first place.

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The necessary logic leap issue is one of my two biggest complaints: I have no sense of time in this movie. There’s no way to gauge if this is taking days or weeks or months or a year to plan all this. The character’s outfits are, in true Comic fashion (I assume), chosen almost like uniforms so that you can identify the characters, but it makes it almost impossible to tell if they’ve even changed clothes (except Lex, who is eccentric enough it doesn’t help) and so impossible to tell what day it is.

Plus, with it taking place in the bright city of Metropolis versus the dark city of Gotham, there’s no real way to distinguish time either. You get the sense of day and night,but it could just be the difference in the cities. Plus, because they are cities and there is little nature, there are no seasons, but my logic tells me that it’s got to take a few months to orchestrate the entire thing.

Lex’s master scheme is probably my favorite part of this movie. I am pretty sure I would have figured it out on my own, but because I don’t know a lot about DC, I have to admit I watched a video with some interesting insights about this movie, and it was suggested that Lex is the one who might bring the two together like he says in the trailer… and well, yeah, that’s true.

Lex not only plants the idea that there’s some sort of top secret arms dealer in the port of Gotham (or somesuch), but he also plays off of Batman’s distrust of Superman, though it is kind of hinted at that perhaps he didn’t realize just how intense that distrust was until he blew up some people and made it look like maybe Superman did it. That was the catalyst that pushes Bruce Wayne/Batman over the edge. He achieves this by telling Bruce he let his family die, as a man Bruce saves in the beginning (during a flashback to the Zod attacks) is blown up, and actually is himself the bomb. The man was a previous Wayne Enterprise employee, one Wallace (Wally) Keefe (played by Scoot McNairy).

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There is some really heavy play on the importance of family and love in this film, which is part of the reason why I think it is a good date movie. We find out (and again, I don’t know if this is correct as far as the comics go) that Superman’s and Batman’s mothers have the same name. It is the one place where Lex’s plan goes awry. He knew enough about Bruce’s issues as an orphan to play those issues against him, but when he tries to use Superman’s similar orphan issues (sort of) to get Superman to kill Batman, he doesn’t take into account that this plan might backfire and unite them.

This was one of the interesting things I liked about the Lex character, but that was completely unexplained, though there is a little hint of it which is what will lead to the creation of the Justice League. Lex definitely knew the secret identities of Superman and Batman. He also had started a database of “Metahumans,” which included video of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg.

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Just enough to get the notice of Batman, who stole the info from Lex, only to have it stolen and then later returned by Wonder Woman.

I was pretty sure that DC was more adamant about the whole secret identity thing than Marvel, so this is a curious development that definitely makes Lex someone that EVERYONE should be watching. Speaking of, when he is finally caught at the end (another thing that wasn’t entirely explained), and gets his bald head makeover, we don’t actually know where he’s been locked up, but as he gets a visit from Batman, I wonder if it’s in Arkham.

I get the distinct impression that DC is definitely attempting the interwoven story-lines that Marvel has made so famous. Not only do we have it here, with the origin stories (or at least separate movies) for the new Justice League characters, but there seem to be some hints that this movie and Suicide Squad cross a little. Like when we see the Robin suit with a message presumably from the Joker, for example.

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If Suicide Squad is connected to this film, I wonder if we’ll see a cameo of Lex as he escapes Arkham in Suicide Squad. Some fan theories suggest that the Joker will take over Arkham, and this is suggested by some scenes in the trailers, apparently.

And whatever the flying things are in Batman’s dream/vision seem apparently allude to a future movie as well. The Bartender was supposed to tell me what they were, but that didn’t quite happen. Over at Geekritique, he says they foreshadow Darkeseid’s arrival… I don’t know who that is either. But Geekritique makes a good point: why is Batman the one getting the visions?

Speaking of, I had no idea who the guy was that was telling him that Lois Lane was the key until I read Geekritque’s review. I assumed it was some sort of vision like the later dream with the flying things, and I have to admit it did strike me as strange that Batman was getting visions at all.

That’s still not my other big complaint.

My biggest complaint is that the graphics for the big fight scene with Doomsday were awful! It was too fast, too dark, and looked too CGI. In this day and age, with motion capture and all that other stuff, there is no reason why that scene should have looked like a poorly done scene from one of the Arkham games with other DC characters just thrown in.

Only when the heroes are standing still does it look good.

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I could accept that Lex had information about Metahumans, complete with logos. I could accept that Lex was some psychotic version of the Joker with a science degree and more focus. I could even accept that he was able to take control of Zod’s ship by slicing off Zod’s fingertips with a krypton scalpel… Yeah, that happened. I’ll even buy that for some strange reason, the guy who was trying to kill Superman because he was a God, might actually use Zod’s ship (which it conveniently tells us has an archive of thousands of worlds) to contact other more dangerous aliens and bring them to Earth. It’s strange, but given his fascination with Superman and his need to have a couple of contingency plans to destroy him, I’ll buy it, even though it does make Lex even more Joker-like than I already thought.

I can buy all of that, but I can’t suspend my disbelief when watching that fight scene. Those aren’t real people. It’s CGI. Yeah we saw Batman do some amazing stuff in the movie, but he’s supposed to be an aging Batman. Everything, everyone moves too fast and too fluidly for that fight scene to be anything but CGI. It looks like, as I said, a poorly done video game.

So, overall, I did enjoy the movie. I liked the characters, even though I do see Lex Luthor being more crazy than we’ve seen him in past incarnations of the character (again from what I know of the movies and shows).

I even can get behind the big twist ending… somewhat. I am curious to see how they handle that, and that is one spoiler I’m just not comfortable putting in words.

Was it a good date movie? I think so. I think there’s adequate material for a good intellectual discussion. In fact there may be too much. I haven’t even discussed the importance of Lois Lane, or the intricacies of the artwork in various scenes, or the new look of the kryptonite (which I think is sufficiently badass and looks more realistic than the traditional emerald crystal look).

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I definitely am intrigued with how this is setting up the DC Universe. Whereas Marvel started with the origin stories to set up the Universe and then brought them together, only to add new characters insanely quickly, DC is doing it the other way around. DC has introduced the idea that there will be a group, which helps to build the buy in, I think. And there are so many little hints throughout the film.

I was disappointed to see this movie got such mixed reviews, including, apparently a pretty poor rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which can be the kiss of death for a movie. I feel a little sorry for Ben Affleck, who I think was hoping to make his great superhero comeback after his Daredevil attempt, which is part of Marvel. I think he expected that he would make for an awesome Batman the way that Ryan Reynolds (who tried to be a part of the DC universe as Green Lantern) was able to make a superhero comeback as Deadpool.

Sorry Ben, you did a good job, and it was better than the early reviews are giving it, but, even though it will probably take a few views to actually get it all, I’m not likely to see it in the theater again. I didn’t like it that much.

But I’m definitely glad I saw it in the theater and definitely recommend you go see it in the theater as well. Something would be lost watching it for the first time on a small screen.

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2 thoughts on “Batman V Superman: Better than I expected

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