Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has been called the worst superhero movie of all time and the greatest superhero movie of all time. It has also been called everything in between. I saw it on Sunday, three days after its early Thursday release and was able to avoid spoilers, but I couldn’t avoid the hatred that grew online and the heated battle between the people who loved it and the people who hated it.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not just the film critics who hated the movie. Also, contrary to popular belief, not all critics hated it. I sure as hell didn’t.
Batman V Superman starts out with yet another in the endless re-telling of Batman’s story, including the never ending breaking of Martha Wayne’s pearl necklace. We then got a very comic-bookish image of young Bruce Wayne falling into the hole and this time the bats circled him, rising him from the hole. I am guessing it was a nightmare or hallucination, but the movie never lets us know.
That is where I think so many people grew to hate Batman V Superman. It didn’t paint by numbers and explain everything, and people felt betrayed that it made us figure some of the things out on our own. However, the other area that people hated was the portrayal of Superman. I didn’t and I will tell you why.
There are spoilers here for the movie.
Man of Steel divided audiences and a lot of the hatred for that movie centered around the fact that they made a Superman story too dark, and there was a ton of deaths during the war between Superman and General Zod. Superman knew that people died, and when he killed Zod, I felt that changed him. I also felt it was needed.
Look, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and while people love Christopher Reeve, over the years people grew to hate Superman, calling him the Big Blue Boy Scout. People hated his inept goodness and purity and when Zack Snyder brought us a more conflicted Superman, people wanted the Superman they originally hated back. Honestly, a conflicted Superman is much more interesting. Throughout Batman V Superman, the Man of Steel had no idea what his place in the world was.
By the time Batman V Superman started, people loved him, but just as many grew to fear him. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. In a direct call to the comics, Superman went to Africa to save Lois Lane and the U.S. government reprimanded him for it because he represents the United States, whether he likes it or not. Instead of denouncing his citizenship in the movie, like he did in the comics, he simply went to talk to the Senate about the incident.
Bad things happened. Superman has no idea what he is supposed to do in this world since this world has no idea what they want from their heroes. Just like in most comics these days, the government is also against superheroes. It is happening again this summer in Marvel’s Civil War. Hell, it happened in the beloved cartoon Justice League: Unlimited. The fact that it happened in Batman V Superman, it made Superman interesting for the first time ever.
The bad guys?
After the destruction of Metropolis, Lex Luthor stepped up and helped rebuild it. However, that wasn’t all he was doing. He spent two years planning the destruction of Superman. The brilliance of the movie, which some people hated, is that it never slammed us over the head with that fact. Think about this. Luthor spent two years destroying the life of one single Wayne Enterprise employee who lost his legs, just to turn him into a living bomb. The best thing is that Luthor didn’t gloat about it. He just did it and moved on.
I didn’t like Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in Batman V Superman any more than most people, but I thought the portrayal of Luthor as a man determined to destroy Superman, only to be defeated by his own arrogance in thinking he wouldn’t get caught, was great. Sure, he made stupid mistakes that led authorities, as well as Batman and Wonder Woman, straight to him, but that is classic Luthor arrogance. Put anyone else in that role (like say Bryan Cranston), and it is perfect.
Unless, they were shooting for Alexander Luthor from Earth 3. He looked a lot more like that character than the regular Lex.
As for Batman, Ben Affleck is the best Batman in a long time. I loved Christian Bale. I loved Val Kilmer. I loved Lego Batman. Affleck is right up there with them. The hand-to-hand fights were intense and great. Honestly, as great as Christopher Nolan’s Batman moves were, he never did shoot good action. When it came to the Batman fighting in Batman V Superman, Snyder did a great job. The car chase scene was amazing too. I hear people complaining about Batman killing, but I don’t think he killed any more people than he did in previous Batman movies.
What about Batman?
I loved Bruce Wayne during the destruction of Metropolis. He lost friends and employees when Superman and Zod destroyed the city. That was enough to show him that someone like Superman is dangerous. I don’t think he should have jumped to the “I must kill Superman to save the world” way of thinking, but when it came time, he couldn’t do it. He would have, and that would have destroyed any honor that Batman ever had, but when he heard the name “Martha,” he realized that Superman was not some emotionless God, but a real person. That is what snapped Batman out of the murderous phase, and that was very well done.
Wonder Woman kicked ass.
I don’t have much more to say that that. People who complained about Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman were wrong. Honestly, her facial expressions during the fight with Doomsday sold her to me, hook, line and sinker.
That final fight with Doomsday is where things went wrong in Batman V Superman. That fight was so similar to the Incredible Hulk’s final battle with Abomination, except that it happened in a vacant lot that Batman was smart enough to lead Doomsday to, instead of in a busy street in the Hulk movie, where lots of people probably died. The fight was too much for the senses though, and it really is the same thing that hurts all Marvel movies as well – there is just too much going on in the “Boss Battle.”
I also think that showing Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg in the scene where Wonder Woman was watching the footage Lux Luthor gathered was just lip service to future movies. However, while that is probably true, I do like how it showed that, over the years, Luthor did his homework and he knows a lot about the heroes of the world.
So, at the end of the day, I really liked Batman V Superman. There are some movies where I liked them when I saw it, but then when I thought about it, I liked them less. This movie was the opposite. I watched it and thought it was good. The more I think about it, the more I like it. There is so much stuff under the hood here. There are great homages to Injustuce: Gods Among Us and Superman: Red Son (both in the Batman nightmare scene), The Dark Knight Returns, Death of Superman, and so many more. This was a movie that, as a comic book fan, I really liked.
So, who was right – the haters or the people praising the movie as the best ever? They are both right, in the fact that everyone looks at a movie in a different way and expects different things from the movies. They are both also wrong. This is not the worst movie ever, because it was a load of fun and was a great “comic book movie.” It is not the best ever, because it still suffers problems in the final battle and the portrayal of Lex Luthor, but those problems are not bad enough to damn this movie.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy or The Avengers, but it is better than the Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 2, and two out of the four original Superman movies. It’s actually a really interesting movie for people who give it a chance.