Batman

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Year: 2016
Directed By: Zak Snyder
Written By: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is not nearly as bad as it was received when it became the expensive flop of the summer. After my initial viewing of the movie I completely agreed with the poor reviews. It took a while for my disappointment to simmer down and now that it has I can watch the movie more objectively. I have found that it holds up better after multiple viewings, especially with the extended cut. That is not to say that this movie did things right and there is plenty wrong with the film, but there is still enough to build on and hopefully Warner Brothers learns from its mistakes and starts to do better as they work to build a DC Extended Universe.

The big problem this movie faced was the fact that it was coming late to the cinematic universe party. Marvel on the other hand has an eight year head start and they are weaving together characters with phenomenal success in the MCU. More importantly Marvel is making incredible movies that are regularly surprising the audiences. Specifically, they are finding great success with relatively unknown characters like Guardians of the Galaxy or Ant-ManBoth of which had no business being so successful but they were just that good. In their effort to compete with Marvel this movie failed miserably but the dice has been rolled and there is no turning back now. The DCEU is here and it is going to grow. The studio is scrambling to right all the wrongs and only time will tell if they are successful in that endeavor.

To discuss this movie I think the best way to do it is going over what was right and what was wrong with the movie. So without further adieu:

What they did right

Batman

This is the trickiest part because they were recreating a character that has been recreated more than any other on the big screen. That being said they were most successful with this rendition. I was very against the casting of Ben Affleck when the news initially dropped but I think he gave us one of the finer versions of the character. I liked the older Batman modeled after Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Affleck pulled it off well. As Batman he was excellent in utilizing tools and tech to take out bad guys. One of the greatest scenes in the movie wasn’t the fight between Batman and Superman but the rescue of Martha Kent. I loved when he dismantles all the guns from above while all the criminals think he is still below. As a human Batman has to be a step ahead of everyone he faces and we see his preparation in this movie. When Superman shows up Batman is ready for him with a variety of weapons designed to hurt the Kryptonian God, and he ultimately wins the fight because he is prepared. The difference in Batman and Superman is that Batman is actually a fighter, Superman is simply so superpowered nobody can stop him. When the odds are leveled out it is easy for Batman to pummel Superman because Superman always relies on his powers. I think Ben Affleck’s Batman is easily the best thing this new DCEU has going for it so far.

The Cinematography

Say what you will about Zak Snyder, and I have said plenty, but the man is an artist behind camera. I felt he was really the wrong choice to direct this movie but one thing you can’t take away from him is everything is aesthetically pleasing. Synder movies may suffer in several categories but at the very least it will look really good. This movie looks awesome and that is a reflection of Synder.

Wonder Woman

While she doesn’t play the largest part in the movie the introduction of the character was really cool. Gal Gadot looks stunning in her combat gear and she shows up ready to fight. I like that they didn’t waste any time with character set up, simply having her in the mix was a good idea and kept the film shorter. The early looks at the coming Wonder Woman movie have all been really cool and that movie is shaping up to possibly get the DCEU back on the right track. This movie introduced us to her as a powerful warrior that we will all be interested to learn more about when her solo film hits theaters.

The Destruction of Metropolis from Bruce Wayne’s Point of View

This was a really great way to start the movie because it flipped what we had already seen in Man of Steel and it showed us what that fight with Zod was like from the ground level. Superman may have saved the day but a lot of innocent people got killed in the process. Bruce Wayne is badass driving through the destruction of the city and he is heroic when people are in danger. This scene also gives us a clear idea of why Batman does not like Superman. He is emotionally invested in the fight having lost so many employees due to the destruction of Wayne Tower.

Knightmare

I don’t know how much of this is actual foreshadowing but Batman’s apocalyptic nightmare is one of the coolest parts of the movie. Superman’s own private army that bows down to him is really cool and more importantly an evil Superman proves to be really badass. Unmasking Batman before ripping his heart out of his chest. The scene is also really important for setting things up in the DC Extended Universe. It shows the Omega symbol that alludes to the coming of super villain Darkseid as well as giving us a glimpse of the Parademons who fight alongside Superman’s private army. It’s also great to see Batman going full commando as he shoots and beats up several people. Afterwards the appearance of The Flash is also significant. I cannot imagine that Superman is actually being set up to be a bad guy but if he is then we got a small taste of what it would be like and it was delectable.

What they did wrong

Lex Luthor

This is my biggest problem casting wise. While Affleck was able to live up to the greats that came before him I just don’t think Jesse Eisenberg did so. I think his hipster Lex Luthor is a poor villain for such formidable foes and I don’t think he lives up to the Luthor’s we saw from either Gene Hackman or Kevin Spacey. He is too young for one and seems too erratic. To be the man of superb intelligence he wasn’t calculating enough, and had no intimidation factor whatsoever. What’s up with him blowing up Mercy Graves when he’s trying to set up Superman? Even in the end when he looks truer to the character having his head shaved he doesn’t measure up. Instead of looking like an imprisoned Luthor he looks like a pipsqueak neo nazi being threatened by Batman. They should have cast someone larger, and someone we could buy into as the mastermind behind bringing down Superman.

Superman

He is just really lacking character in this movie. He spends all his time obsessing over Batman and completely doesn’t notice he is being set up as a villain to the public. His girlfriend is even investigating everything Luthor is into yet he stills seems aloof and disinterested in the real threat to him. The fight seemed ultimately unnecessary too when it plays out. He starts by trying to reason with Batman but so quickly goes to fighting him. Batman has obviously showed up to fight, it just seems he could have shown more restraint given the circumstances. I didn’t really like how the whole fight was set up anyway. There just could have been a real reason for them to come to blows and not over a misunderstanding involving his mother.

Martha

“WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME!!!” This was a weak end to a weak fight. I’ll get to my problems with the fighting choreography in a minute but here you have these two guys actually trying to kill each other one minute and the next minute they’re buddies. “Oh you’re Mom’s named Martha? So was mine, let’s not fight anymore.” It just didn’t make any sense and the writing is really the flaw.

The Fight Choreography

I think this is one of the most important aspects to any film and the only time they did well in this movie was when Batman fights in the warehouse to save Superman’s mother. The fight between Batman and Superman was not awful but it wasn’t as cool as it could have been either. When it came to the battle at the end against Doomsday I felt like I was trying to watch a Michael Bay film. There’s just too much going on and it’s hard to absorb. Marvel does a lot of things right and one of the most important things they do right is their fights are always awesome. A good fight scene can make or break something, especially a movie about super heroes duking it out. Captain America: Civil War for example was full of fantastic fighting, with real reason behind it too mind you.

The Killing Bat

I didn’t have a problem with it, but the Batman purist out there were screaming about all the people Batman kills in this movie. Traditionally that is the one thing that separates Batman from his villains. He doesn’t kill people and he doesn’t go too far. That’s not the Batman we see in this movie who has no problem killing anybody in a variety of ways. The ones he doesn’t kill he brands, giving Lex Luthor an opportunity to make him look like even more of a killer. In the extended cut you can see that the guys getting locked up with the bat brand are being targeted by killers paid off by Luthor. An even greater affront to the purist may be Batman’s use of a gun. In that awesome Knightmare sequence Batman uses a couple different guns when he goes commando and starts killing big time. Batman is a character that walks a fine line between good guy and bad guy. He fights for good but as a vigilante he is just as much a criminal as the men he fights. Not killing is the one thing that separates him from them. In this movie he actually qualifies as a murderer and that’s a problem.

The Death of Superman

It’s too soon to play out the death of Superman plain and simple. We haven’t had enough time to become emotionally attached to the character for one. Another is it really doesn’t make sense how he would come back to life even though we all know he will. General Zod didn’t come back to life after Superman broke his neck so why would Superman be able to survive being gouged by Doomsday? I think they could have easily made a climax that didn’t involve killing off such an important character. Doomsday clearly isn’t capable of flight in this movie, only jumping really high and far. So why not end it with Superman punching him deep into space after a big and epic fight. That would at least allow for the eventual return of the villain. Killing him off instead was an empty gesture, especially after he failed to impress in this movie. I think it’s obvious to all there will be a return of the character sometime during the Justice League and the inevitability of that only makes it all the more fruitless to have done.

Cutting Steppenwolf

If you shoot a scene that builds to the next movie and alludes to the villain our heroes will unite against why cut it? I think this was a ridiculous thing to cut from the movie. It couldn’t have been due to time restraints because the scene is very short. Certainly they could have cut a Perry White or Lois Lane scene instead. The scene not only gives a rudimentary glance at the next villain but it suggests what he is coming after by the three Mother Boxes floating in front of him. I think the extended cut of the movie is a better version but this was the only scene I felt really should have been part of the theatrical release.

Conclusion

The DCEU passed the point of no return long before this movie came out so there is no turning back and no rebooting here. The movie made a pile of money but it hardly got the return the studio was hoping for. It was released in late March to get a jump on the summer movie season but instead of owning the box office during that time it was topped in week three by Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss. That was just embarrassing, and it never would have happened on Christopher Nolan‘s watch. The studio has clearly felt the negative response the movie received and they are working to fix the problems for the future. Only time will tell but I hope they get it right. It could and should be a lot of fun to see these new characters brought to the big screen.

There is no arguing that this could have been a better movie but I think time will prove that it was good enough. If Warner Brothers can get it together and make some solid movies for the DCEU then all the things wrong with this movie won’t matter. They swung for the rafters but barely made it to first base at this first at bat. They’ll need to knock us out of the park with the Justice League, and the sooner we get a solo Batman with Ben Affleck the better.

Hope hangs in the balance as we wait for what else is in store for the budding DCEU. I will admit that the trailers for both Wonder Woman and Justice League looked really cool and got me excited for what is to come. This movie will serve as a trial and error process if they are able to make those movies work.

I think this movie is worth your time but if you are going to watch it I would suggest the extended cut. It gives the movie more depth and a little bit more understanding about why Superman and Batman have such a problem with each other. It also gives you a really cool glimpse at what else Lex Luthor is doing inside the Kryptonian ship. In the end when he is screaming at Batman about the coming threat there is context to go by. The extended cut of the movie is easily worth your time even with the added time stretching it to just over three hours long.

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Ben Affleck as Batman?

Since news dropped that Batman would be featured in the next Superman movie I have been filled with excitement and anticipation.  When that ridiculous rumor that Christian Bale had been offered $50 million to reprise the role got started I was hopeful despite knowing better.  That’s far and away more money than any actor has ever been offered to play any role and it was just wishful thinking.  I never really expected Bale to come back to the role but I was certain that the casting would be great.  Far too much hinges on who is chosen because it’s not just about the Superman sequel, it’s about The Justice League. Warner Brothers has to be smart about how they eventually bring all these characters together and they have already made many costly mistakes.  With one character franchise already failing miserably (Green Lantern) and allowing their most successful character franchise to finish and not be incorporated they are already at a disadvantage. Choosing a new Batman was necessary under the circumstances but was not a decision to be made lightly.  When I woke up this morning and saw the news of Ben Affleck being cast I literally wanted to go into a dark room and hide from the world.

I am literally depressed by this development because it crushes all the hope and optimism I had invested in this movie.  All I want to know is who the hell thought this was a good idea? I know that Affleck has made a nice comeback and showed promise behind the camera but what has he ever done as an actor to garner this kind of significant role? I read this article about how they wanted an older and wiser Batman and an actor with the “acting chops” to pull off the role.  Which one of those qualifies Affleck? Not only has he never come off as wise but who in the world thinks Affleck has “acting chops?” I remember a time when the best role he could get was a small part in Smokin’ Aces, and he got killed thirty minutes into that movie.  I also remember the last time Affleck tried to pull off a superhero and destroyed what might have otherwise been a promising franchise.  I also remember the things I heard about that role including the fact that against the norm Affleck opted to wear shoulder pads in lieu of bulking up for the role.  I literally think this is the worst decision with the Batman character since George Clooney was cast in the role.  I don’t think Affleck will be as bad as Clooney was but I do think he has the potential to challenge Clooney for worst Batman ever.

Something I think is really important to consider about Batman is that the lower half of his face is all that is visible when he is in costume.  This is what made Michael Keaton the best Batman because if nothing else the man had the right mouth and jaw line for the part. My only hang-up with Christian Bale as Batman was that he had no upper lip.  Batman with no upper lip looked silly but the movies were so good they made up for it.  All I can think of now is that enormous chin Ben Affleck has and how stupid it will look jutting out from under the Batman cowl.

I have no reason at all to think I am alone in my outrage at this decision so please someone back me up here.  This is the worst right? Is there any hope at all to be had in the potential this movie did have? I read many supportive comments this morning and was shocked.  I know Affleck has found great success as a director and respect him for it but we can’t let that blind us from the truth.  He is and never has been a good actor and his track record offers absolutely nothing acting wise to explain this decision. So please sound off in comments and let me know if I am right or wrong on this.  I need hope if there is any left to be had because all of mine is gone now.

The Dark Knight

Year: 2008
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: David S. Goyer, Jonathon Nolan, and Christopher Nolan

RYAN’S REVIEW

A good sequel should be a bigger and better version of the original.  One would think that Batman Begins would present a challenge because it was such a great film in its own right.  It seems small in hindsight now, and that’s why The Dark Knight is so great.  It’s so overwhelmingly awesome that you forget how great the first film was.  Christopher Nolan has been on fire and this movie was just another great movie he’s made along the way.  Every movie he has made has been incredible, the only reason this movie was so much more successful was because people love Batman, just as people love Spiderman.  The reboot of Spiderman will probably make just as much money as the original trilogy when it is all said and done.

I remember when I heard Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker I could not believe it.  I had been hoping for Paul Bettany who had been rumored for the role and had just played a great villain in The Da Vinci Code.  Brokeback Mountain dominated jokes and cultural references around the time of the announcement so the choice wasn’t well received all around.  Then his death came out of no where only months before release, it was so sudden, it was almost too hard to believe it was true.  Then his performance hit the theater screens and he went from the Brokeback Mountain guy to a legend, a martyr for the movie industry just as James Dean was.  He received a post-mortem Academy Award that was well deserved but he probably never would have received had he lived. Heath Ledger was one of the greatest bad guys of all time, he actually scared me with his portrayal of the Joker, it was the master stroke of his career.  His death is unfortunate for many reasons but especially for this franchise because Nolan could have made this movie another 10 times with Ledger and Bale again and again and it would have continued to be incredible.

Ledger was so good in this movie that his performance tends to make you forget how good everyone else was. Bale is great again as Bruce Wayne and Batman, his Batman voice was again criticized. Maggie Gyllenhaal filled in nicely for Katie Holmes who turned down more money to reprise the role. Aaron Eckhart was great as Harvey Dent and then later as Two-Face. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all return to their respective roles. It is easy for actors to shine when they are part of something so great.  The Dark Knight is such an all around good film, and as always it starts with a great story.  The Nolans and Goyer came up with a great idea and they packed it full of action from beginning to end.  Nolan has a great talent for making something look and feel R-rated without it being so.  His movies have little profanity and little graphic violence. The consequences in all are great and the violence is there but it isn’t graphic.  No doubt that is a skill Warner Brothers has noticed and will continue taking advantage of for as long as possible.

You don’t need me to tell you that this movie was great, no doubt you have already heard that from others.  If you haven’t seen it you should see this and its predecessor.  They are both great films and I look forward to the closing of the trilogy.  The early teaser for next summer’s finale is short but offers a lot to look forward to.  Bane is the villain seen in the trailer, played by Tom Hardy.  The third installment will also feature Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard in roles that are probably misinformation.  Most likely they are playing the son and daughter of the villains in the first film, Carmine Falcone and Rhas Al Ghul. No matter who they are I have no doubt that Nolan will impress us again with his third Batman film. Liam Neeson is rumored to have a cameo return to the franchise which should make my wife happy.  Either way Rhas Al Ghul will return, Josh Pence has been cast as a younger version of the character, giving merit to the notion that Marion Cotillard is actually playing Talia Al Ghul. I have added the teaser trailer to this post following Amber’s review, if you haven’t seen it yet then definitely check it out.  The Dark Knight Rises will be awesome.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I LOVE this movie. This was a no questions asked, we are going to the theater on opening day to see this movie. The hype was already crazy for the movie because of the death of Heath Ledger. What a sad story. If he could have only seen what an amazing job he did all put together. He was one of the scariest bad guys of all times, hands down. If you didn’t know who he was before the film, I very much doubt you could have guessed it was him during the movie. This role, in my opinion, was his greatest. It was intense and thorough and he played the role with such precision.

The story line is very strong and leaves you wanting more in the end. The makeup was out of control amazing, especially for two-face. I know they probably used some computer animation for that, but still I thought it was believable and by far the craziest two-face I have ever seen.

My one and only problem for this entire film is the Batman voice that Christian Bale uses. I am not picking on him, it is true that I am not his biggest fan, but c’mon…that Batman voice was WAY to over the top, I really hope that he tones it down for the next one.This movie is worth watching over and over, and you can bet your bottom dollar we will be in line opening night for the next installment. I am becoming a Christopher Nolan believer.

NEXT MOVIE: Beetle Juice (1988)

Batman (1989)

Year: 1989
Directed By: Tim Burton
Written By: San Hamm

RYAN’S REVIEW

Now this is more like it, Batman the way he is supposed to be portrayed.  I don’t know what they were thinking in the 60s, but they weren’t taking the character or genre seriously.  Batman isn’t a know it all do-gooder in a costume, he is a dark and haunted character that breaks the law in order to enforce it.  Batman is a good guy, but he is one of those “the ends justify the means” kind of guys which makes him more of a good guy/bad guy hero.  One thing is for certain and that is that Warner Brothers loves making movies about him, they have made both good and bad decisions about the franchise. By next summer there will have been seven live action Batman films from the studio over the past 23 years, and that wouldn’t have been possible if this movie wasn’t awesome. Batman has a great suit in this film, the Batman emblem on his chest is my favorite, I’ve always like the yellow and black best.  The Batmobile is totally badass, with a shield and the ability to be voice operated from anywhere.  The action figures and accessory toys from this film where what I played with as a 5-7 year old in the late 80s early 90s so I can assure you, all the bat gadgets were awesome.  With so many different incarnations of the character there has always been specific emphasis on how Batman, the Batmobile, Bruce Wayne, and certain other recurring aspects of the series differ from one another.  Some Batman films failed, but this one didn’t, this one set the bar high for the franchise.

Tim Burton was at his best when he made this movie, also making Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands in the years before and after.  I am a Tim Burton fan and I am a big fan of his two Batman films.  He has such an interesting ability to be both dark and colorful at the same time.  The choice of Michael Keaton to play Batman was apparently criticized but I still think he has been the best actor to play the role.  Christian Bale is great in the newer movies, but Bale has no upper lip, something important when only the lower half of your face is visible in the costume.  I doubt I would have loved the choice of Keaton in 1989 myself but having grown up with him as Batman I tend to be more accepting and think of it as the role he was made for. I have never been a Jack Nicholson fan, with few exceptions and this movie is not one of them.  I know Nicholson is legendary for the amount of money he made on this film but even before The Dark Knight I didn’t really think he was suited well for the part.  He was old even back in 1989 at 52 years old, I tend to think the Joker should be young.  You can’t cast an old man who shows his age and the ageless arch-enemy of Batman.  I know I am in the minority on this issue though, Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker made him a legend just as much as the money he made on the movie did.  I don’t think Kim Basinger was anything special in this movie but she didn’t have to be either.  It’s a rule of thumb that a comic book film must have a hot chick/love interest.  Kim Basinger served those purposes perfectly as she was in her youthful prime and on the way to a much more successful career. I don’t usually mention the musical score of a movie but Danny Elfman’s score for this movie deserves special mention.  The musical score for any movie should set the mood and guide the viewer through the movie.  The music should counter balance with the scenes to invoke the right emotion or build anticipation.  The score of this movie does both those things and more, Danny Elfman is a great composer.

I have been a little overly interested in Batman lately as my anticipation for the long-awaited Dark Knight Rises continues to build.  Over this summer I have read several Batman graphic novels actually including Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and The Long Halloween.  The middle two are exceptionally well done and I would suggest them to anybody because they are awesome.  I have developed a new appreciation for the character and have really high hopes for Christopher Nolan’s next installment.  I’m afraid that the newer Batman films have been so good that they make this one and its sequels forgettable, but I hope that’s not the case.  This movie is a classic, a great Batman film, and the beginning of a long-standing franchise.  It is worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Doesn’t Michael Keaton make and incredibly sexy Batman? I mean, I get it…he is no Christian Bale (whom I apparently am the only non-fan of), but for me, I just get giggly whenever I hear him say “I am Batman” for the first time. Does anyone remember when Michael Keaton was the “it” guy in Hollywood? Younger generations may not, but I do. I was younger, but I remember. Wow, that never really went anywhere did it. This Batman movie was the first in this series and I think it played as a catalyst for serious comic book movies. It did for me anyway.

This Batman movie actually won an oscar for Best Art/Set Direction. I think that suits a Tim Burton film to a tee, don’t you. The plot of this film is intriguing, I believe because Jack Nicholson is just so damn scary. I don’t think I would ever want to run into him somewhere, especially after seeing him as the joker. Anything I see him in I automatically revert back to him as the Joker. Scary. I give this film two of my thumbs up and I think you should definitely watch it if you like Batman and comic book movies. These are original and beautifully directed, so check them out.

NEXT MOVIE: Batman Returns (1992)

Batman (1966)

Year: 1966
Directed By: Leslie H. Martinson
Written By: Lorenzo Semple Jr

RYAN’S REVIEW

Watching this movie you can see that being a successful crime fighter is all in the preparation.  Some might laugh at the guy who packs Shark Repellent Bat Spray when he goes into the field, but it comes in handy when you are hanging from the Bat Ladder with a shark attached to your leg. You have to be ready, you never know when your enemies  will fill a shark with dynamite and send it after you. As Batman said himself, “Some people hold nothing sacred.” What I love most about Adam West as Batman is that he is just a guy in a suit.  He isn’t muscular or even vaguely athletic, just a middle-aged guy dressed up in a costume with a utility belt that carries everything. At one point Burt Ward, as Robin, yells “Holy Long John Silver Batman!”, not to mention we own the Holy Special Edition Batman edition of the film.  This movie uses great adjectives during the fight scenes including “Ka-Pow” and “Ker-Sploosh.”  To think that people didn’t take comic book films seriously for so long is just puzzling right?

Nevertheless this movie is awesome.  It is absolutely out of control on all kinds of different levels but that’s what makes it great.  If you haven’t seen this movie then you probably don’t really get many of the jokes on Family Guy.  Amber and I used to watch this movie in college and laugh the whole time, I’m sure you would enjoy it just as much. Amber is out-of-town and can’t review this movie.  It’s not really a serious film and I just wanted to get it out-of-the-way.  After all, it is the first of six Batman films.  That being all live action Batman movies with the exception of the mega failure Batman & Robin (1997). 

NEXT MOVIE: Batman (1989)