Friday, 25 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. Within Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It's up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis. 

This DC new extended universe is as loud and glossy as you'd expect from a Zack Snyder production. In fact Snyder long awaited Batman v Superman may be the closest thing fangirls and fanboys will ever get to their childhood playground dreams, with these two movies squished into one. Both setting up a plausible conflict between the two superheroes and shifting pieces into place for future sequels and spin-offs. It's a film with a lot on its mind. As well as being the introduction to the DC cinematic universe and embracing the new, financially lucrative Marvel-inspired reality of shared-universe blockbuster filmmaking, it does a little more creating a darker and more mature environment. 

The main issue facing the writers of a superhero smackdown like this, is concocting a reason why. Two titans of the pop culture will, we are assured, rearranged city streets with each other's faces. And once it arrives, the fight is a tightly choreographed treat. That Wagnerian final battle is exactly what you want in a film called "Batman v Superman". 

Let's address fans number one fear: Ben Affleck as Batman. I was one of those people who genuinely thought since day one that he would be great, so let me tell you that he is a solid successor to Christian Bale, even if he's a better Bruce Wayne than Batman. He (literally) killed it! He was phenomenal, his Bruce Wayne is interesting, investing, I cared about him, I was behind him and I completely understood why he disliked Superman. Batman never looked more badass in a movie. Henry Cavill works as per usual perfectly as the man of steel. Gal Gadot is fantastic as Wonder Woman. Her appearance in this movie is brief but crowd-pleasing as a lot of people were excited to see her show up and kick some ass (myself included). Last but not least, I was really anticipating Jeremy Irons as Alfred and he was also brilliant. 

However, I do have a problem with Lois Lane character, this film as Man of Steel before, has a hard time making her relevant, especially in the third act. She has an object, she gets rid of it, then she has to get the object back, then she gets trapped and she's a damsel in distress. She goes back and forth between being a character that deserves to be in this film and a character that is just there because she's Lois Lane. Plus, the solemn, grandiose atmosphere is disrupted by Lex Luthor, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg and his over-the-top performance. He might as well be wearing a buzzing sign around his neck that says "Crazy Villain". I don't know if it worked for me, he's a good actor and there were moments when he did a pretty good job but overall the performance was just fine where it could have been a lot better. He's so intensely annoying that very early on, you wish Batman and Superman would just patch up their differences and join forces to put up the squarely rascal out of his, and our, misery. For a film so concerned with its character's inner lives, there's a fundamental disconnect going on here - sometime enough to make you yearn for the lighter touch of the Marvel films.    

Snyder applied the degree of visual polish that the contemporary superhero movie demands. He's one of the most interesting visual directors working today and he already did legitimately great work in movies such as 300 or Watchmen. Though modulation, economics and nuance may not be Snyder thing. At least his movies always look like a billion buck. And this one does too. The action is distinctive, particularly during the build up to the main event. There's something about Snyder's visual style, his penchant for hard-hitting violence and his willingness to embrace ridiculous that is quite compelling. This film is filled with motion heavy sequences rich in light and colour, Batman v Superman doesn't lack for inspired visuals. The palette is rich with engaging contrasts. One of my favourite being Superman drifting in space against a rainbow coloured Earth. 

Snyder gives Bruce Wayne's defining childhood trauma the haunting visual power of a primal myth. Now the question is: at this point in Hollywood's superhero cycle is that really enough? In fact, filmmakers nowadays are so concerned to expand a movie and especially superhero movies to a whole universe that they forget to create good stand alone movie. In this film, at last it's here, amid the fight between two legends that the movie discovers its awesomeness. Which is why it's a shame that Snyder feels the need to throw in a Hulking-city-smashing monster afterwards. A climax to a climax, it's CGI overkill, making for a generic denouement. This film is not perfect, it has a lot of problems, mostly narrative and story based as Zack Snyder seems to have a hard time balancing his story with amazing visuals. This movie genuinely feels like two different movies. The first one being very mature, almost like a political thriller with the whole controversy surrounding Superman, which feels very realistic and very grounded. But all of a sudden, the film blows up and it becomes this gigantic sci-fi extravaganza with lazy introduction to the Justice League. 

Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice starts off as an intriguing meditation about two superheroes discovering an all-too-human emotion: hatred out of fear of the unknown. Then almost two hours later the film is very far from that, but at the same time somewhere familiar. All in all, job done, just about.

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