Whatever your opinion maybe, this movie stirred the very soul of the audience, whether for provoking absolute disgust, resound delight or something in between. I don’t expect you to share my view of the film, but if you are a lover of great stories and wish to join in civil, yet meaningful, discussion, by all means read on…
The first time I saw it, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it. After all how could the entire internet be wrong? On my second view I was sure I liked it. On my third time I knew I loved the film. On my fourth time I ranked it as one of the best, if not the best, comic book movie I ever saw (and I’ve seen pretty much all of them and loved most).
Why you ask? Why I will tell…
First of all, let me say this, the movie is something else. For better or for worse, it is a big departure from the traditional comic book movie. I now applaud the bold direction of Zack Snyder, in doing a film that transverses genres and breaks the “comic book movie barrier” to place itself, even if sometimes uncomfortably, among other types of stories. From a political thriller, to a criminal thriller, to a mythological adaptation, to an investigative journalism drama, to, finally, a comic book movie, it takes itself more seriously and starts to tell a different story than the ones traditionally associated with the genre. Much like when the term Graphic Novel appeared to separate a different way of storytelling in Comic Books, so this movie is a Graphic Motion Picture. A monumentally different pace, cinematography the likes never before seen in a movie, a soundtrack that is as grand as any opera and lines to stick with you across a lifetime. The, perhaps, only thing I would change about the movie is the title. For this epic narrative is not only about Batman v Superman, but truly about the Men of Tomorrow (Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor). But I don’t get to make all these statements without giving you some sort of explanation, so let’s dive into the story. Be warned, spoilers ahead.
It starts of with “a beautiful lie”… Perhaps no three word sentence has better defined the caped crusader’s crusade. You watch the Waynes’ murder, the descant of young Bruce into darkness and his rise by becoming the Bat. All this in (almost) frame for frame adaptation of the graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns”. The song, the poem, it fills the audience with the emotion needed to understand the journey we are about to take. But Bruce warns you, it’s all just a beautiful lie. Someone, somewhere wounded the man who thought he could not be hurt. And worse… He was hurt just as much as when his parents died. Then war came to Metropolis, and the Bat was broken as he watched, powerlessly, two titans shred the city apart. Make no mistake, that is what you will see in this movie, a broken Batman. Snyder did warn us about that. And even though he is broken, he might just be the best on-screen Batman interpretation yet (warehouse fight scene, Bruce-Alfred chemistry, brooding Batfleck, I’m looking at all of you).
It will be hard not to keep coming back to this, since the cinematography of this movie was in itself like watching art come alive, but the sheer power of the urban destruction is enough to make you feel for Metropolis, and imagine their panic to be the size of 9/11.
Next you have the desert… An all to much familiar setting as a rogue army, ruling with an iron fist, is endorsed by private contractors, in Africa. The rhythm of the story picks up, and you almost lose track of yourself as Jimmy Olsen is introduced as working for the CIA, and gets unceremoniously shot right after, and Lois Lane get’s taken hostage. No, Snyder is not afraid to hit where it hurts. All in all, it’s a job for Superman and while the private contractors abandon the place and their supposed leader, Kal-El arrives in time to save Lois. Here there is room for criticism as Superman drives the man that was holding Lois at gun-point through several walls. No man could survive that, so if that really really bothers you, you may as well stop now, the rest of the movie is no different.
There may be no such thing as rightful killing, but there is justified killing. Whether talking about Batman or Superman, they both have killed before, even in live action. A writer came up with the no-killing rule, long after the two characters were established… So it makes sense to me that another writer can surpass it, in favour of more realism. For if we allow our police officers, our military (any civilian really) the use of lethal force when their life or the life of an innocent is directly threatened by another person, it would be “a little hypocritical” to hold other heroes to a different standard, if they cannot help it. But this is a whole another debate, so let’s move on.
I won’t be doing a shot by shot analysis, no matter how much I wanted to to. Maybe when the film comes out in Blu-Ray…
We do get to see Clark Kent being Clark Kent to a distraught Lois Lane. Both dealing with the consequences of their actions in the desert.
Then we get to see what I strongly believe to be the best introduction to Batman ever made. This Bat is feared by everyone! [I don’t think he can, realisticly, be only feared by criminals, because, even if people believe the Dark Knight is good and stands for justice, he will always be a very dangerous man.] He is the closest thing a man could be to a demon, and he is rightly feared as such, both by those he saves as those he apprehends. That is one of the many tragedies of the Batman.
Bruce then arrives at the batcave, and Ben Affleck just kills it, as the last Wayne.”We are criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals.” This line for me tells me everything I need to know about the Batman (again, direct adaptation from the graphic novel). He acts outside the law, and answers to no one but himself. He’s violent, dangerous and a borderline sociopath. Like Sherlock Holmes said, one well-known character Batman takes inspiration from – “Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.”
The third and final leading man we meet is Lex Luthor. In the comics Lex started out as a mad scientist who hated the man of steel. The stories that were compelling about the character turned him, however, into the archetypal villain of the 20th century, a businessman. This is but the facade, since Lex is continuously depicted as one of the most brilliant scientist/inventors ever to grace the Earth. He was portrayed like the millionaire of the 20th century, a strong yet charming mogul, apparently a generous philanthropist. Armed with a business suit this was the man our fathers, and their fathers, would entrust with an investment. Our Luthor however is a bit different… The core, the mad brilliant man who loathes the man of steel stays the same. The facade, however, has changed. One could say Luthor is now the millionaire (or billionaire) of the 21st century. An eccentric tech-driven rich boy, a brilliant mind, with a quirky but indomitable personality, this Luthor is a truly Machiavellian villain. He convinces you that all he wants is not to see a tyrant in power again… However his motivation is solemnly revealed in his abrupt speech at his party: “The bittersweet pain among men is having knowledge with no power because… because that is paradoxical” Lex has all the knowledge he could ask for, not only by accessing the kryptonian scout ship but by knowing both of the identities and lives of the other two leading characters! And of course several other characters as teased with the “Metahuman thesis”. But he has no power to face this one god, Superman… So he creates two monsters. He “creates” a twisted Bat by playing on Bruces’s grief, fear and feeling of powerlessness, and he creates the kryptonian atrocity known as Doomsday.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, and since I could talk about this movie all day, let’s just mention the Capitol Hill scene. It’s perfectly played out… When Superman finally has the chance to speak, to tell the world his side of the story, Lex silences him for good. All that while disposing of the Senator which opposes him, provoking mass fear of what was the symbol of hope, and enticing the Bat to fight. Superman can only stand shocked and helpless on top of Capitol Hill.
Honourable mention: the dialogues between the Senator from Kentucky and Lex Luthor, are pure awesomeness.
Side note: I wish I could own a painting of Superman walking up the stairs of the capitol. The shot of the red cape contrasting with the burned white of the buildings and the black of the police, all complete with the protesters’ signs, is one of the most beautiful images on film I ever saw.
For the sake of not righting an entire book on this analysis, I’ll move on to the next breath-taking scene. Well the entire movie has a pace that leaves you a little short for breath… But the scene when Lex is atop the Lexcorp tower, and all his plans come to fruition… Jesse Eisenberg shows us a true Maestro playing his orchestra to perfect tune. The dialogue between Jesse and Henry Cavill is nothing short of amazing. The existential questions it raises, the clear drive of both characters, it remains to me one of the greatest scenes of this movie.
Then there is the fight. The fight to end all fights, man vs god, black vs blue, and all that. Superman is true to himself, trying to talk to Bruce, trying to reason with him. Even with his mother’s life threatened he tries to get the Bat, a man he has never trusted, to help him, so he can save both of them. [A better service than the novel Dark Knight Returns ever did to the Man of Steel, in my humble opinion.] The fight is better seen than read so I will not describe it. The ending though. I’ve seen so much written about it that I have to give my two cents on the subject.
“Save Martha!” the Man of Steel cried out!
I’ve read as much as anybody about this scene. To me it strikes a cord, in perfect sync with this movie’s melody. How would you react if the man who you loath, who you hate… A man who is unknown to you, who you feel nothing but rage for, a man you don’t even consider a man… And after two years, has you are finally about to kill him, he screams for you to save a woman, a woman who has your mother’s name. Would that not give you time to pause? Consider that this was also his father’s dying words. His father was a good man… This alien, in his deathbed just wanted to save another person. No plea for mercy, no attempt to escape, to overpower him… Just… “Save Martha!”. They may not have been friends after that but it was enough for Bruce Wayne to realize how broken he’d become, how wrong he was. Finally, in Clark’s defeat, Bruce was also defeated. For even though the Batman can take on anybody, he will not take on an innocent man.
Here all the different genres of the film end and finally it becomes a comic book movie. Clark returns to Lex, without killing the Bat. The Bat saves Martha. And Lex finally reveals is plan for killing the man of steel… The devil is born.
One of the best comic book fights, in my opinion, ensues. Wonder Woman shows up in battle armour, and it’s just as iconic, as warrior-like as you’d like. The music, the cinematography, the lines, the fight… Everything is in place and the Trinity comes to the big screen in a spectacular showdown between them and an unkillable monster.
I’ll end this here, just in case anyone who hasn’t watched is still reading… (Why would you still be reading??)
What makes the movie great, something truly special, is that after the plight of these three man I described it has 5 other amazing subplots. You have a criminal thriller with the Batman and the White Portuguese, you have an investigative journalism film with Lois Lane trying to get to the bottom of a conspiracy to frame Superman, you have a fallout movie/political thriller, with a crippled victim of the Battle of Metropolis, who is but a pawn of the scheming billionaire who opposes a junior Senator. Oh if I had the time I would tell you all about them…
All this set to the background of a mythological struggle that poses so many existential questions.
If nothing else, trust me on this… The movie is worth checking it out for yourself. Just remember you won’t be listening the pop music or even rock and roll, maybe something more on the lines of a Grand Opera.
All in all, I would rate this movie as 9.2/10.
Whether you agree or disagree comment your opinion below. Just be sure to read the full article.
P.S.: Regarding the knightmare scene, the one with the flying demons and the evil Superman… My interpretation of that, is it is there to show us how powerless Bruce feels, how much he fears Superman, how much he hates him. The confusing part is Flash’s fault, because while trying to warn Bruce Wayne he put there so many teasers for Justice League it was hard get the full picture. (Yes this is a criticism, and yes this movies has flaws. I just didn’t feel like pointing out all of them, because of the amount of incredibly excessive negativity surrounding this movie).
P.P.S.: The one thing I would have done differently is to end the movie on the Lex Luthor’s upside-down painting. The “he’s not dead scene” could have been a post-post-credit scene (when all the people are almost gone), or just remove it completely.
P.P.P.S.: Hope I can at least help you enjoy this movie!
On superhero mythology my focus is on DC and their amazing roster of complex characters, who I feel can truly represent the best (and worst) of humanity. The symbolism and the strong, dramatic stories, with actual consequences, are what holds me to DC Comics' Movies. But don't be fooled, I'm a Marvel fan too.
If I had to pick one comic book character it would be Superman!
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