the future of DC movies

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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