Rant: Why Batman V Superman is an Amazing Movie

01 - BvS Logo

So Batman V Superman got crapped on. Despite being insanely awesome, and
making a boatload of money, and seriously just being INSANELY AWESOME. I
just need to make one huge point before I say anything else. This is
putting aside my own biases and opinions (mostly)…

This is the ONLY live action DC movie that has gotten Batman right. THE
ONLY ONE. Sure, maybe you love the Nolan trilogy. Maybe you’re even
misguided enough to think that it’s the “definitive” Batman. You can think
that if you want, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. But the
fact is, Nolan’s movies were never meant to be comic accurate, and they
aren’t. They are a separate universe. They are Nolan’s VERSION of Gotham;
sort of a half-way-real version, like if Batman existed in the real world,
and if all of his gear and methods could be produced and explained with
modern, real science and technology, that’s where Nolan’s Batman lives. But
Snyder’s Batman is the REAL Batman. The Comic Book Batman:

-His suit is accurate (grey material with black cowl, cape, gauntlets and
boots, NOT black rubber or black full body armour);

-He can move like Batman (he is the only live action Batman who can move
like an actual martial artist; even Bale had the clunky, robotic movements,
even after his suit was upgraded to supposedly deal with his lack of
movement);

02 - Movement Comparison

-He is obsessive and single-minded (all the other Batmen were worried about
other crap like romance and other character’s drama, and were fairly
relaxed in their approach to crime fighting compared to the Comic Book
Batman and Affleck’s version);

-He has a history that is obviously rooted deeply in the comic book lore
(Robin has been killed, his suits and gear are weathered and well-used, the
Joker has obviously been plaguing Batman for a while, the Riddler’s
question marks show up)

03 - Robin

I’m gonna go through all the points that I keep seeing people bring up when
they talk about why they don’t like BvS, and rant about why I think they’re
wrong and just generally rant about how much I love the movie. So here,
from what I understand, are the biggest arguments against Batman V
Superman:

1: It’s “too dark”

04 - Too Dark

Now this one works on two levels. People thought it was both literally too
dark, i.e. there was not enough lighting to show what the characters were
doing; and it was thematically/emotionally too dark of a story for a
Superman sequel. Now, the first could be a legitimate complaint, if not for
the fact that Batman is famous for only appearing at night, in the shadows,
very much on purpose. The second point I think is incredibly closed minded
and is discarding basically all recent DC Comics’ history. DC is very dark
generally, and especially the comics that BvS is inspired by, so it stands
to reason that the film would be dark too. It also makes sense contextually
when you look at what Man Of Steel built up to in its narrative. Superman
was a vastly powerful being who was first indirectly responsible for Zod
showing up, and then directly responsible for destroying a lot of
Metropolis. He is not trusted by the American Government and the rest of
the world, and the movie ends with him having broken Zod’s neck.
Introducing a dark character like Batman into an already dark story is not
going to turn it into a comedy. If you’re expecting a light-hearted romp
through comic-book land, watch a Marvel movie. And while we’re on the
subject: DC IS NOT MARVEL. STOP COMPARING THEM. If you like Marvel, that’s
great. I do too. But please, stop expecting DC movies to follow in their
footsteps. Just because the formula Marvel employs works well for them, it
doesn’t mean it’ll work for Batman. It’s also incredibly frustrating
because the same people who condemn DC for not being light-hearted and
“Marvelly” enough are the people who are condemning DC for TRYING to
emulate Marvel. So basically, you’ve just arbitrarily decided that DC can
never win no matter what they do. If that’s the case, stop going to see
their movies and let people who will actually enjoy them go to see them.
It’s the same as the inevitable Nolanverse comparison; everyone gets angry
at any new version of Batman characters if it isn’t “as awesome” as Nolan’s
characters, but also shits on them for daring to compare themselves to
Nolan. But you’re the one making the comparison. If all you want is the
Nolan trilogy, then just watch that. But anyway, my point is that Batman is
a huge part of this movie, and Batman is dark. Deal with it.

2: Batman kills people

05 - No Killing

This one is interesting. At first, I was a little mortified that Batman was
indeed killing people. But the more I looked into this world that Snyder
has created, the more I became convinced that this is actually a realistic
and really interesting take on Bruce Wayne’s obsessive and brutal nature.
First, you have to realise that Bruce Wayne has devoted every single second
of his life to ending crime in Gotham since his parents were murdered.
Every single second that he is awake, he spends endlessly pursuing justice.
After a few years of this, a young kid comes along who has the potential to
become a great crime fighter. Bruce takes him in, trains him, and starts
teaming up with him out in the field. Eventually, the kid is murdered.
Batman was not fast enough, didn’t have the firepower, didn’t have the
conviction to kill the Joker before that moment, and it cost the life of
his partner whom he saw as a friend, a surrogate son, a member of his small
but irreplaceable family. His obsession, and all the effort, time, money,
and training he has gone through, were all for naught. He could not save a
boy from murder. The only thing that would have saved him was if the Joker
had himself been killed. The Joker, and all the other criminals in Gotham,
will keep pushing, keep killing, keep corrupting Batman’s city unless they
are stopped permanently. I bought the BvS Tech Manual as soon as it came
out, and it’s an amazing insight into the history of Snyder’s Batman.

One amazing thing I learned from it is that the Batwing was designed with a
two-seat cockpit. Soon after Robin dies, he replaces that second seat, that
literal empty space in his life, with weaponry. He replaces his aversion to
killing with the unfortunate certainty that it is what he will need to do
if he has any hopes of completing his mission. It takes the death of a
young boy to push Bruce Wayne over that edge, but it is something he has
always been close to. I want to quote a conversation between Batman and
Jason Todd, the comic book Robin who is murdered by the Joker and then
resurrected only to become an antagonist of Batman:

Jason: “I can forgive you for not saving me, Batman. But why, why on Earth,
is HE still alive?!” *points at the Joker*

Batman: “You don’t understand, Jason.”

Jason: “What, are you afraid it would be too difficult?”

Batman: “No. God, no! I’m afraid it would be too easy! I’m afraid that once
I start, I won’t be able to stop.”

That is paraphrased, obviously. My memory is not that great, but that’s the
gist of their conversation. Batman has always been on the more brutal side,
and he has killed people occasionally in his 75 year history. I think that
it fits the Snyder version of Batman and it makes a lot of sense given the
history hinted at in the film. It also lends context to his decision to
stop Superman by killing him instead of stopping him by other means.
Lastly, people seem to have completely overlooked/misunderstood Batman’s part of the story; This movie starts with him having lost his way, and his storyline is all about redemption and becoming a hero again. Snyder essentially played Batman as a villain in this movie. He is someone who has gotten so lost and consumed by his mission after 20 years of battling Gotham that he has stepped over the line and has resorted to killing people. You’ll also notice that the only people he kills in the movie are people who are literally trying to kill him first at the time (or who are threatening innocent people with death, like the flame-thrower dude with Martha Kent). So even for his lowered moral standards, he’s justified in stopping them the way he does. It’s only with Superman himself that Batman is considering cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder, and even that’s only because he’s dealt with psychopaths in crazy costumes for two decades now and understands the risks of letting them loose. He sees Superman the same way he sees the other supervillains of his world, and why shouldn’t he? Superman levelled half a city and then broke the neck of the second-last surviving Kryptonian in existence. So Batman finally makes the decision to kill someone pre-emptively instead of standing back waiting for another city to be levelled. It’s not until Batman has Superman literally under his boot heel with a spear at his face that he realises that Superman is just like him, just a man with extraordinary abilities trying to save as many people as possible, trying to be the best he can be. When Superman cries out “they’re gonna kill Martha!”, Batman realises that he is about to kill a living creature who has a family, and who is trying to fix his mistakes, and who is not evil. He realises in that moment that he’s on the wrong path. But even then, it’s difficult for him to break out of his deadly habits; He essentially kills all of the henchmen guarding Martha Kent in his effort to save her on Superman’s behalf. The seed of redemption had been planted, but it couldn’t flower until the death of Superman, when Batman realised that there was one less real “hero” in the world, and he would need to step up and properly change his ways to honour Superman’s memory.

It’s at this point that the Justice League is hinted at, and I think it’s really important that Batman reached his redemption before meeting the rest of the team, as he was always one of the more moral, ethical and level-headed members. Also, Batman realises that if he is the one who brings them all together, and since he has Lex’s research, he can keep an eye on all of the members of their new group and step in if any of them step over the line. This is a nice little set-up of the “Tower of Babel/Justice League: Doom” story line, and given the Flash’s interaction with Bruce in the cave, there’s also a hint of Injustice: Gods Among Us. I think those two story lines can mix well and would be very interesting to see in this version of DC.

[For anyone unfamiliar with the storylines I just mentioned, Tower Of Babel
(in the comics) and Justice League: Doom (in the animated movies) is about
someone stealing Batman’s last resort back-up plan research detailing how
to bring down every member of the Justice League and puts all of those
plans in motion, forcing Batman to try to undo all of the damage and
introducing tension and mistrust between the rest of the League and Batman.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is the video game where the Joker tricks Superman
into murdering Lois Lane and their unborn child. In a rage, Superman then
kills Joker and takes over the world, forcing humanity into a cease-fire,
zero tolerance, crime-free Totalitarian Dictatorship. The rest of the
Justice League splits up into two groups: those who believe Superman’s
actions are justified and who support his way of enforcing peace; and those
who disagree and believe freedom is as important as peace.]

3: Superman is “not inspiring enough”

Haha. Yeah, this is hilarious. So from what I’ve heard, a lot of people are
angry about the fact that Superman isn’t the perfect, morally upright boy
scout that he was in the old days of Comics when every hero was perfect in
every way. This complaint should have been abandoned even after Man Of
Steel. This version of Superman is complex. He is real. He struggles with
morality, just like anyone else. More, in fact, since he has more power to
act on his thoughts and feelings than any human. His adoptive parents
weren’t perfect, and never pretended to be, and it rubbed off on him. They
knew what was right, but they admitted that it’s more often the difficult
path compared to doing what’s “wrong”. Scenes like the conversation between
a young Clark and Jonathan Kent in MoS highlight this perfectly, and work
to foreshadow the kind of man Superman will be:

Clark: “What should I have done then, let them die?”

Jonathan: “I don’t know. Maybe.”

They have a discussion about how at that time, hiding who he really is is
more important than saving everyone and doing “the right thing”. This
cements in Clark a grey area in morality. He knows that sometimes, humans
can’t be saved from themselves. He knows that a lot of them hate him. He
knows that even the ones who don’t hate him want him to give up his
control. He is idolised, worshipped, hated, blamed, protested and taken to
court, all at the same time. On top of all that, he has lost his birth
parents and his entire home planet (without ever getting to meet them), His
adoptive father died so that he could protect his secret, and he has the
power to destroy the entire human race if he so chooses. He is struggling
with all of these things, and although he is a superhuman, he is
emotionally no different to a human being. He was raised from infancy by
humans among humans and his mind works the way a human’s does. Now, imagine
if you were given the powers of a God, and then immediately after that you
were forced to murder the only other God in existence, and then the entire
world bombarded you with pleas for help, hatred, worship and criminal
charges all at the same time. Would you be able to maintain a perfect moral
attitude and be a generous, perfect, inspiring, benevolent God/Superman to
all humans, all the time?

Thought not.

4: Lex Luthor is not Lex Luthor

06 - Lex

“Oh no, I’m TOTALLY Lex Luthor… I’m just different in every way.”

I actually have a theory about this one, but even if it’s not true, I still
like Jesse Eisenberg’s take on the character, if only because they still
kept the core of Lex’s character alive through his intimidating
intelligence and his Machiavellian manipulations of Batman and Superman. My
theory is that Jesse Eisenberg is not Lex Luthor, but is actually playing
the Riddler. There are two reasons for this: one is that Zack Snyder said
in an interview that he originally wanted the Riddler to have a major part
in the movie but rewrote it. The Second is that “Lex” is almost constantly
posing questions and riddles, is jittery and more focused on information
and riddles than people. Eisenberg’s performance is much closer to Riddler
than Luthor and on a side note, Eisenberg is actually playing Lex Luthor’s
son, not the classic Luthor that we know. This is another reason I could
see him being Riddler, because it could be an elaborate fake identity.
Maybe Lex never had a son. Maybe he did but Riddler killed him and took his
identity. Or maybe Jesse Eisenberg and Zack Snyder just have a different
idea of what Lex Luthor should be like. It’s also important to remember
that this is basically still Luthor’s origin story. He’s young, still had
his hair (until the end of the movie), and has only just been introduced to
Superman. I think we’re gonna see some insane stuff with his character in
the future, and it’s either gonna get WAY more Luthor-y, or it’s gonna be
revealed that he is indeed the Riddler playing everyone. Either way, I’m
keen.

5: Doomsday looks like a generic Orc/monster

Honestly, this one I totally agree with. Doomsday legitimately does look SO generic in this movie:

08 - Monster 1

Oh wait, that’s not Doomsday…

09 - Monster 2

Damn, still not Doomsday…

10 - Monster 3

Uhh…

11 - Monster 4

Is that him?

12 - Monster 5

Yes, finally! Oh, wait…

13 - Monster 6

Oh fuck it, whatever.

There was no reason at all to change the design of the character, especially since in this case they changed it to look more like every other orc/generic monster in every other recent movie instead of going in a unique direction and making it look awesome and different. Also having his origin changed so that he’s created by Lex is pretty weird too, but oh well. You win some, you lose some.

6: The Dream sequences are muddled/unclear

I only have one problem with the dream sequences, and that is that Bruce
Wayne’s post-apocalypse Darksied future dream had a weirdly prophetic and
uncannily specific quality to it. If it comes to pass that one of the
future Justice League or other DC movies contains that same stuff in a
future scene, I’m gonna have to call shenanigans; Bruce Wayne is not a
fortune teller, and randomly having a vision of the future which somehow
comes true is not a character trait you can explain away with the old
“because he’s Batman” excuse. I love the tortured psychological nightmares
Bruce has outside of the weird future one though, like the giant bat coming
out of his parent’s graves, the distorted dream version of the batcave
experience, and so on. Very cool and indicative of the darkness within
Bruce Wayne’s psyche.

I have a little more to say in defense of Batman V Superman: This is one of
the only superhero movies I’ve ever seen which made me feel like I was
actually reading a graphic novel. It IS a graphic novel, but on the big
screen. The story, the tone, the cinematography, the scope and character
design (other than Doomsday) are all spot on DC Comics. Finally seeing
Batman the way he’s supposed to be in live action was one of the greatest
cinematic experiences I’ve ever had.

Also, I touched on this briefly before, but I need to say it again because
it impressed me so much: One of the things this movie got perfectly right,
and the same thing that a lot of movies these days are sorely missing (what
with all the prequels and sequels and origin stories and reboots) is a
sense of mystery. Batman V Superman was confident enough as a film to leave
things unsaid. There is one other major film franchise which also achieved
this and is in fact celebrated for it: Star Wars. That’s right, I’m drawing
a clear and decisive parallel between this movie that everyone apparently
hated, and arguably the most beloved film franchise of all time. The
original trilogy contained a lot of characters, events and places that were
mentioned or briefly seen, and then never explored, and it piqued the
audiences interest so much that we obsessed over them and created actual
whole subcultures out of them. It also helped to instill a sense of
complexity, depth and realism in the fictional universe being explored.
Snyder has done the same thing with BvS. We see Robin’s empty suit
displayed as a memorial, with graffiti from the Joker, we hear Bruce Wayne
talk to Alfred about the effect Gotham has on people (“20 years in
Gotham… How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”) and we
even see a glimpse of the fact that Batman has already been through a lot
with his armour being scratched up and weathered prior to starting the
fight with Superman (similar to how Boba Fett’s armour was beaten and
weathered in Star Wars).

At the end of the day, all this movie did wrong is that it wasn’t the
perfect, ultimate, unachievably amazing movie that fans and critics were
demanding and imagining in their heads. The movie itself is great and is
exactly what it is supposed to be: a visually gorgeous tribute to comic
books and an imaginative and new retelling of a battle between two of DC
Comics’ biggest heroes.

Here’s a tip: Next time you go to see a movie that has characters you
really love and care about, try to remember that you’re not the only person
in the world. It is not YOUR movie. It is not YOUR version of these
characters. And, most importantly, it is not based on YOUR imagination or
preferences or expectations. There will be more Batman movies, and more
Superman movies, and they will be different each time and you will see all
of them. If you expect every one of them to be identical to your imagined
“perfect movie”, you will be disappointed every time. But if you go and see
it with an open mind, and embrace someone else’s perception of
Batman/Superman/whoever, you might actually enjoy yourself.

I certainly did.

 

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