“Batman v Superman” – five things that worked


Now that the dust has settled on “Batman v Superman,” the critical consensus is to rip it apart. Based on the best audience monitor, the box office numbers, the movie is a raging success with $420.1 million worldwide.

There is a good chance that the high attendance was due to the event aspect of the movie. I mean, this is the first time Batman and Superman have appeared together on screen, unusual for characters who’ve been around since 1939 and 1938 respectively. Not to mention the first time Wonder Woman, who celebrates her seventy-fifth anniversary this year, has appeared on screen.

Ever.

This article isn’t about all that hoopla, just wanted to set context. Because “Batman v Superman,” though ripped by critics and a selection of fanboys, is not a great movie. It’s not even a good one. But it’s not a “Superman IV” or “Batman and Robin,” just for the simple fact it tried to be something more than just a comic book movie.

Just sucks that whereas Christopher Nolan, an executive producer on this one, could handle that type of movie with “The Dark Knight.” Director Zack Snyder and Nolan’s writer David Goyer couldn’t even with the help of Oscar winner (“Argo”) Chris Terrio.

(An aside – Akiva Goldsman won the Oscar for writing “A Beautiful Mind.” He also wrote “Batman and Robin.”)

And there are five things that actually worked in the movie. Let’s check them out.

BTW – major spoiler. You’ve been warned.

5. Introducing the Justice League

Besides the titular fight, the entire purpose of this film was to introduce the members of DC Comic’s most valuable players, the Justice League. Hell, it’s right there in the subtitle: “Dawn of Justice.” It makes sense that villain Lex Luthor, already paranoid because of Superman’s arrival, would keep tabs on other metahumans in existence. It also makes sense that Batman would stumble on the info.

What may not make sense is why Batman didn’t have this info himself if he’s so worried about some god-like power stepping into the world. In the movie’s defense, we’ll say that the other future Leaguers — Cyborg, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the Flash — didn’t want to be found and hadn’t begun super-heroic careers.

In Wonder Woman’s case, she had a career, but disappeared. I’m sure they’ll deal with this in her solo movie.

Admittedly, the insertion of the scene in which Wonder Woman looks over the JL files is extraneous to the movie proper. This is just another element forced upon the film at the request of the studio.

Perhaps without all this filler, Snyder and company could have crafted a leaner movie. At least they handled the insertion logically, if not fluently.

 4. Killing Superman

Death of Superman in "Batman v Superman"

(C) Warner Bros

My biggest problem with both of Snyder’s entries in the DC Cinematic Universe has been his depiction of Superman. I come from the generation who believed a man could fly.

For all of Man of Steel Superman’s talk of hope, I just didn’t believe this Man of Steel version of Superman believed his own hope hype.

If I wanted a brooding hero, I’d go to Batman. Superman is the lighter, more positive hero. Snyder never gives us that. I guess that’s the character arc Snyder wanted, but you’re not guaranteed a high number of Superman films.

Speed thing up already!

With Superman dead and respected (something I still have issue with as presented, but whatever), the people of this universe can see the need for others like him. Who better to gather those forces than the one person who isn’t super-powered — Batman.

Obviously Superman will return post “Batman v Superman.” Hopefully when he does he’ll see that the world appreciates him, allowing him to show that Christopher Reeve-style hope and positiveness and be a hell of a lot less “moody millennial.”

3. Knightmares

Though I could have lived without the opening flashback to Batman’s origin, the other Knightmares (as the fanboys are calling them) worked to characterize Batman’s fears. It’s nice to see him haunted by something other than his parent’s death, and the Knightmares explained his motivation to defend the world against Superman.

Now that one with the Flash warning him that “Lois is the key” one? Chalk that up to Snyder needing to drop bombs for future movies in “Batman v Superman.” The problem with this Easter egg is since it had no relation to anything else going on and — I’ll stop.

Positive thoughts.

The Knightmares tie into —

2. Batffleck

It’s kinda hard to screw up Batman. Just brood. George Clooney didn’t, he failed. Ben Affleck did, he gets a pass. Affleck also settled nicely into the physique and the playboy Bruce Wayne aspects of the character. He also got to display Batman’s preparedness in all situations.

Affleck’s Batman feels interesting enough to want to see a series of films with him. Having to share screen time hampered what could be as psychologically interesting a character as Nolan’s Christian Bale-fueled interpretation of the Dark Knight.

1. Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in "Batman v Superman"

(C) Warner Bros

The reason Wonder Woman worked so well is that she’s the only character in the movie having a bit of fun, seeing her powers not as a burden but as a privilege.

She’s not bogged down by all the “what does it mean to be a hero?” philosophy that, while interesting, is never really addressed in the movie’s narrative.

Wonder Woman is her own person, not taking crap from anyone (even Batman!) and closer to the feminist icon her creator William Moulton Marston intended her to be (and before feminism was a thing too!).

It also helps that Gal Gadot has a better handle on the character than her director Snyder. Here’s to hoping her solo feature director Patty Jenkins let’s Gadot continue to roll like that.

Final thoughts on “Batman v Superman”

So yeah, I had to dig deep to pull these elements out. It would have been easier to write a “20 things that sucked in” article. But I want to show that even in the pit of mediocrity, we can learn something and move on.

Hopefully Snyder and Terrio don’t think the B.O. numbers are a sign of consent from audiences. The film did have a 55% drop off in attendance from Friday t0 Sunday — and that can’t all be people staying in Sunday for Easter. “Fantastic Four,” by comparison, only had a 48% drop.

Hopefully Snyder and Terrio will learn from critical and audience grievances and improve their technique for “Justice League,” because we’re stuck with their talents for another two movies.

Agree? Disagree? Just want to vent? Write in the comments below.

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