Monday, 8 August 2016

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

I might as well fess up now before it becomes a problem later, I quite liked this film. It sits among other things like post-2000 Simpsons and the 2015 Muppets TV series as things that are critically panned but I will will argue for regardless. I'm still going to blast it though, as while I enjoyed the film it still has big massive inescapable flaws.

For me this film was all about performance and style. It has the dark and brooding atmosphere you would expect from a Batman film, mixed with the clear cut psychology you might expect from a Superman film. Director Zack Snyder may have taken a beating for his previous films, but I felt like he did a great job recreating a Nolan Batman film in fast forward.

The big inescapable flaw is that the films structure is a bit of a nightmare. It feels like a three act structure is thrown out of the window in favour of something much less organised. Until the amazing battle where the two heroes clash it feels like no scene lasts longer than three minutes before cutting to something completely different Monty Python style. I hated this. It annoyed me greatly but I recognised that it was vital to setting up the payoff later on. I do think they could have been a bit better organised, and that this film plays better with a captive cinema audience than the ADD home movie crowd. Because the plot moves on so fast it would be easy to read a text and miss something important but subtle. Many of these brief scenes felt like they could have been fleshed out more or combined, to the point where you could have fit a whole film in to prevent the massive amount of storytelling required in the early stages, or perhaps tell part of the setup through clever internet marketing like The Dark Knight did. This film is essentially a direct sequel to Man of Steel, and so the lack of explanation for Supermans motivation is even more baffling given that Batman is muscling in on his franchise but seems to get more screen time. Its almost as if Superman isn't that interesting... To me the biggest flaw of this film is that they have an hour to create a feud out of nothing but a concept, and while it is a creative concept it does fall short. I enjoyed the story from Bruce Wayne's perspective. He witnesses the fallout of Man of Steel's climax first hand and saw many people he knew die. We rarely if ever see the mass destruction of a superhero battle from this angle, and this felt refreshing. While I enjoyed the story from Bruce's side, Supermans part of the feud feels like it lacks the foundations to justify the clash later on, but what a clash it is. I can't entirely blame this film though, as Batman has always had more depth, and will always be a more fleshed out character than Superman, despite Clark Kent getting a one film head start. To speak in gaudy franchise terms, a setup film for this would have done wonders.

Many people's complaint with the film is the same as it was with The Amazing Spiderman 2, a film that references the ill fated Sinister Six movie far too much. There is a fair amount of setup to the inescapable Justice League franchise. To be honest as a casual fan who likes Batman and tolerates everything else, I had to have this explained to me afterwards. I was vaguely aware of Aquaman and The Flash, but had no idea who Cyborg was, and frankly am still not. To my mind it is up to the film to explain this to me, not assume that I know already or that my friend sitting next to me will know. I also don't have much knowledge of Wonder Woman, much less that I knew she existed in the film (I went in blind as I always try to). I enjoyed her role however and she added to the story productively, not seeming to be thrown in for gratuitous reasons beyond sequel peddling.

While I'm on performances a lot has been made of Jesse Eisenberg's turn as Lex Luthor Jr. I used to hate Jesse Eisenberg with a passion, and this is the film that turned my perception of him upside down. I have since enjoyed him in End of The Tour, and I don't think I would have even watched that if he hadn't impressed me here. He strikes me as an evil genius with an accent of Batman villain madness and obsession. Again I am not speaking with any knowledge of the Lex Luthor than a more seasoned comic fan might, but I enjoyed the performance and await the next phase of the character.

For me the inevitable battle was the highlight of the film. Despite a sketchy build up the irresistible force meeting the immovable object certainly didn't disappoint me. I also enjoyed the additional clash with Doomsday, despite the quick cutting resulting in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) being underwater long enough to kill off eight of her nine lives yet somehow surviving. Before I watched the film I was made slightly hesitant by Amy Adams being so highly billed but I enjoyed her performance and how she was kept important throughout the story, even during the final battle. While I'm gushing about performances Ben Affleck made a great Batman, that is one thing everyone seems to agree on. He portrays a grizzled veteran, a much older and disillusioned version of the character never seen before in a major film. His character is reminiscent of The Dark Knight Returns (1986) graphic novel, and the films plot loosely eludes to this book several times. I also enjoyed Henry Cavil as Superman. Given that I couldn't finish Man of Steel for being bored to tears, I saw very little of his version, but I was pleased to see so much of Superman being Superman in this film. I was very happy to see plenty of both heroes being their cooler selves, and not two hours of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

So we go back to the remedy. How could this film have been "saved"? The simple answer is that sadly, it couldn't. I can understand why many people didn't like Batman vs Superman. My theory is that part of the reason I was able to enjoy it is that I didn't really care about it until right before I sat in the cinema seat. I'm not interested in Marvel beyond Spiderman or until recently Guardians of the Galaxy, and I don't really know much about DC beyond Batman and his rouges gallery. I also noted that I tried to watch Man of Steel, but I just couldn't finish it due to the desperate attempt to push a back story rather than show anything to get excited about. What I'm trying to say is that as far as comic books go, I'm pretty much a casual fan, and I enjoyed this film as such. That being said I totally understand how you could have anticipated this film for years and found it to be a letdown in the end. Some people have been anticipating this film since I Am Legend (2007) cheekily referenced it. I watched this film with a friend who had been waiting, and I think if I had waited anxiously for Batman vs Superman, I might have felt let down as he said he did when the credits rolled. Incidentally, there is no post credit sequence. We waited until I got bored and googled it.

I also feel like there is another lesson here, metashitic is bad for you. This film has been mostly panned by proper critics, but audiences still turned out in droves to see it. I don't know how many of those droves liked what they saw, but I definitely did. I implore you to think for yourself in regards to this film, especially if like me you couldn't name the Justice League or Avengers if a gun was held to your temple. I enjoyed this film. You might enjoy it too if you give it a chance. I've also heard that the home release extended cut is much better, and I can believe that with the extra time it is given. This film has proved to be divisive, and it seems to me to be a division of superfans vs fans. I like this film, and I look forward to seeing Afflecks next appearance as Batman in Suicide Squad, as critically divisive as that might be...

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