I saw Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) last night.*
I won’t bore you with how long I’ve been waiting for DC Comics to have a shared cinematic universe. Nor will I tell you how disappointed I was when the original Batman/Superman film from the early 2000s was canned… And what a tease it was to see the alleged logo pop up years later on a billboard in a scene in I Am Legend.
Here’s what I will say…
First, I refuse to spoil the movie. The filmmakers did a tremendous amount of work to keep some pretty major twists and turns off the internet. I respect that. Our screening was preceded by a video message from Zack Snyder saying how hard they worked to keep the secrets a secret… And that those who haven’t seen the movie yet deserve the same spoiler-free experience we were getting. Fair enough, right?
So, if you want to know exactly what happens, this is not the review for you. (That will come next week when we have an in-depth discussion about BvS.)
With that said, let’s talk about BvS.
There’s a huge focus on perspectives. Most of the film is told from Batman’s perspective. Sort of. There are Ben Affleck voiceovers. But this isn’t a Batman movie. It’s not even really a Superman movie. It’s more of a DCU movie. It lays the groundwork for the greater universe to come, and it does so in a way that makes a lot of sense.
The film does a great job of humanizing the aftermath of Superman’s battle with Zod from the end of Man of Steel. You see pain and loss rather than just destruction. And from the ground, it’s a lot easier to hold Superman responsible for the mayhem. Despite the statue of Superman built to commemorate the battle of Metropolis, Superman is widely seen as a threat.
This is the prevailing public opinion throughout the film. And it’s why they needed Batman in the film to be able to tell the story effectively.
In Gotham, Batman is ruthless. The events which transpired in Metropolis have changed him. Every move he makes has a heightened sense of urgency. He has to be ready should Superman bring destruction and chaos again.
When we are introduced to Batman, he’s indirectly hunting Superman. He’s letting others lead him to the one thing which, hypothetically, would help him beat Superman half to death in a fist fight.
Batman sees having a weapon to turn against Superman as a form of insurance. In other words, it’s hardly a schoolyard fight. Not at first anyway.
The introduction of Diana Prince, who we later see as Wonder Woman, is handled very well. She’s mysterious, she’s powerful, she’s resourceful, and she’s sexy enough to attract attention from the right people.
This brings to mind a side plot which is explored later in the film. After all, it’s not exactly a spoiler that we are headed for a Justice League movie in 2017. So with that in mind, just know that other hypothetical introductions are handled with just as much care. In fact, I was most surprised by who is doing the introducing.
Speaking of being surprised, Lex Luthor is an unexpected highlight in this film. He’s every bit as awkward as the trailers suggest. But there’s much more to this character than that. Underneath his social quirks and insecure body language is a calculated, cunning, and downright evil bastard.
By the end of the film, there is nothing cute or likable about him. He’s the Lex you know and love to hate.
Alfred on the other hand, while colder than past versions, still comes off as ultimately concerned for Bruce. But with more biting sarcasm and overt judgment. Alfred has a ‘tude, and it’s actually pretty funny.
Another thing? This is not a comedy. Nobody eats Shawarma in an after-credits scene. (There is NO stinger or mid-credits scene. Go home.) There are like two jokes in the movie, and you saw one of them in the trailer.
Getting into the setup for the titular battle, it’s not exactly what you’d expect. And I can’t really tell you about it without giving it away. I will say, however, that the reason for the clash is emotionally compelling and does not have a clear-cut protagonist.
The team Batman folks, like yours truly, may find themselves rooting against Batman. Same goes for the Superman fan club. They won’t want him to beat Batman. Every attack distracts them from a bigger, more serious threat at hand. One which they can only defeat by working together.
Let’s talk about the big mutant in the room… Doomsday. Yes, he’s in it. Yes, his creation is complicated (and, frankly, one of the low points of the movie). And no, I can’t tell you anything else. But, if you listen to the Everything Actioncast… Just know we called it months ago. (I’m not talking about the “spikes,” either.)
So how does it end?
That one is tough to navigate without spoilers. The final battle is epic and visually exciting. I saw it in IMAX, and it was spectacular. I imagine heads may explode when seeing it in IMAX 3D. The characters’ story arcs are all satisfyingly resolved. And though it raises far more questions than it answers, the ending will leave you with your jaw on the floor.
Final thoughts? I was not blown away by BvS. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it, because I did. Here’s the thing… This movie is a prologue. A launching pad for the DC cinematic universe. And they’ve done a hell of a job.
I’ll put it to you like this… People thought Batman Begins was pretty damn good. But it paled in comparison by the time The Dark Knight came around.
I think that’s where we’re headed.
*And by the way, if you don’t believe I saw it… I can tell you there’s a hilariously awkward product placement for Diet Dr. Pepper that is super uncomfortable and distracting. Turkish Airlines has a strong cameo, too.