Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

It's Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rambling about one of the many movies I own.  Time to bust out one of the most talked-about movies of this time last year (but not in a good way), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  This is in my notes at August 14, 2016.

Batman v Superman.  *sigh*

My reaction to Batman v Superman was the same as to The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  They got *way* ambitious in their world-building.  They threw everything in there (including the kitchen sink, as they joke about in the bonus features), in the hopes that it would entice people into coming back for a new cinematic expanded universe.  But instead, people got lost in the jumble and walked out going, "Huh?"

Don't get me wrong, there are parts of a good Superman movie in there.  There are parts of a good Batman movie in there.  There are parts of a good "Batman meets Superman" movie in there.  But there's just so much. 

Let's look at Superman's arch-enemy, Lex Luthor, as the prime example.  When Luthor is monologuing to Superman to get Superman and Batman to fight, he says, "I learned that, if God is all powerful, he cannot be all good, and if he is all good, he cannot be all-powerful."  Luthor is out to take Superman down a peg.  Like Batman, Luthor believes that Superman can go evil at any moment, and therefore must be destroyed.  That is actually a great motivation for Lex Luthor.  But his plot to do so gets so ridiculously over-complicated that you walk out going, "Huh?"

And enough has been said about Jesse Eisenburg's tick-filled, quirky take on Lex Luthor.  As I've blogged many times before, I yearn for the cold, calculating Lex Luthor that we've seen on TV, in cartoons, and in the comics for 30 years now.  But no, when it comes to movies, everyone always remembers Gene Hackman going campy in the Richard Donner films, so now Lex Luthor has to be wacky. 

Luthor manipulating Batman and Superman to take each other down is a great idea.  Luthor creating Doomsday to take down Superman is a great idea.  But both?  At the same time?  As I said, too much. 

But there is lots of good.  There was much annoyance at the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman, but he is so good.  This is a world-weary Batman.  He's been it at for 20 years, they mention in the dialogue, and he's starting to wonder how much good he's doing.  It's a take we haven't seen.  Director Zack Snyder said his main inspiration was the legendary graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, and it shows.  This Batman is brutal.  He shows no qualms in violating Batman's famous "no guns" rule, with a turret right there on the front of the Batmobile.  But we don't get Frank Miller's classic loophole of "Rubber bullets.  Honest."  Which is why it was also criticized for its brutal depiction of Batman. 

And the dream sequences.  So many dream sequences.  I remember sarcastically saying to a friend on Facebook when the film came out, "But why wouldn't they have dream sequences?  Don't you remember?  Confusing dream sequences that did nothing but set up the rest of the cinematic universe was everyone's favourite part of Avengers: Age of Ultron!" 

But back to the good.  Wonder Woman.  She doesn't have much to do, but damn.  It is so good to see the big three of DC Comics together on the big screen. 

In case you're wondering, "Did he watch the theatrical version or that R-rated 'Ultimate Version?'"  Well, I watched both.  The Ultimate Version is better in that it does provide a little more much needed exposition.  We get the continued investigation into that incident in the Middle East that Superman interferes in, and, well, just really starts turning up public dissent towards Superman.  *spoiler warning*  It was all a plot by Lex Luthor to stir up that dissent.  Again, great idea on its own.  But as one of a dozen plot threads in this movie, it's a bit much. 

We get to see Clark Kent doing some investigative reporting into the activities of Batman, which really helps to build Superman's growing mistrust of Batman.  In the theatrical version, Batman branding criminals is a relatively new thing, and he's only done it to about two or three people.  In the Ultimate Edition, he's been doing it for a while now, and there's dozens that have been beaten to death in prison because of that brand.  It the wife of one of Batman's branded victims telling Clark Kent that the only thing that Batman answers to is a fist that inspires Superman to rip the roof of the Batmobile and declare, "The Bat is dead.  Next time they shine your light in the sky, don't answer it." 

So, yeah.  In the Ultimate Edition, things make more sense, but it doesn't explain everything, as some have said. 

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice bit off more than it could chew when it was decided to be the start of the DC Cinematic Universe.  If they just focused on Superman and making it Man of Steel 2, it would have been a lot better.

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