Movies

Movie Review – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

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batman-vs-superman-posterI was one of those who sang heavenly praises for “Man of Steel.”  Grandeur and epic, it’s also deep and personal. The vast scope, intense and extensive battles, modernized suit, extravagant visual effects and thunderous score were amazing, but it’s the powerfully realistic story that makes this Superman (Henry Cavill, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E“) relatable and thus an enduring superhero. The closing scene was perfect and showed great promise of what’s to come.

That promising ending didn’t exactly materialize the right way, however.  Here’s why.  Unlike other solo superhero movies, the Zack Snyder-directed “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is not really a sequel to the Superman story.  It’s more like a Batman (Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl,” “Argo“) redux and certainly a prelude to Justice League.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having such movie.  DC’s archrival, Marvel, is doing it this year with the third installment of Captain America, “Civil War,” stuffing it with members of the Avengers and looking like a continuation of last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”  But the difference is each Marvel superhero has firmly established its origin story, character, growth and journey before getting thrown into a superhero ensemble.  In the case of Captain America, the second installment, “Captain America: The Winter’s Soldier” is one of the best superhero movies of all time.

In other words, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” should be made, but it’s too soon at this juncture and at the expense of the real “Man of Steel 2.”  I would have loved to see Superman fleshed out as a character, continuing to find his own footing first, adjusting and learning to the awkward life of Clark Kent the journalist, growing into his romance with Lois Lane (Amy Adams, “American Hustle,” “Leap Year“), facing his own enemy, and so on.  Instead, we’ve got a time jump.  Clark Kent has been at the Daily Planet for a while, and he and Lois have a domestic comfort level of as a couple.  Moments of conflict speed through in flashing fragments.  We’re more or less told or things are implied rather than shown.

And unlike sunnier Marvel movies, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is dark and dour through and through.  When done right, gritty is great.  Nobody could forget “The Dark Knight.”  But an entire grimness is combined with the lack of proper storytelling and development, the film just feels rushed and somber.

That said, there’s still plenty to enjoy.  There’s something thrilling about witnessing the superhero trinity – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman – standing side by side, and knowing the Justice will come into fruition.  It’s only a matter of time; a few major characters from the future ensemble appear in a flash here.

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” begins with the massive collateral damage resulting from the clash of the Kyrptonians, Superman and General Zod, in “Man of Steel.”  It is actually refreshing to take this into account.  Most superhero movies have their heroes go to war and leave destructions in their wake, without a mention of the toll it takes on society.  These actions have consequences, impacting real people.

The terror, desperation and anger are seen through the eyes of Bruce Wayne.  Wayne Tower crumbles and casualties abound in front of him, and there’s absolutely nothing he could do about it.  He may be Batman, but at the end of the day, he’s just a man and mere mortal.

One of the opening scenes also introduces us to the core of Batman, through the senseless murder of his parents in the alley, thrusting him to the care of the family’s trusted butler, Alfred (Jeremy Iron).  When Superman comes into existence, this Batman has been a veteran of the streets, a violent vigilante who brands his criminal captures with iron marks.

Capturing criminals is an endless work; when one goes down, another comes up.   Disillusioned Bruce feels that he has a higher mission, reigning in Superman.  True, Superman saves the world, on the other hand, General Zod and crew would not have brought the war to Earth if not because of him. And with the collapse of the Wayne Tower, he suffers a personal loss as well.  Superman, with his godlike powers, could wipe out the human race and a thus a threat that must be eradicated.

The cynical society catches on too and is divided into smear campaigners and savior worshippers.  There are incidents where Superman was framed and thought to deliberately cause deaths.  A political hearing is held for Superman to answer for his actions.  There are those who think that Superman should not be left unchecked and acts unilaterally.

In the background,  a manic Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, “Now You See Me,”  “The Social Network“) is taking advantage of the highly charged temperature.  He masterminds a plan that gains insight into Superman’s history and uses Batman’s misdirected fear and resolute to hold the greatest gladiator match in history.

To those skeptics who believe there would never be a fair fight between Batman and Superman, you’re partially right.  However, it is believable the way the scenes play out here.  This is a determined Batman who devises a meticulous plan and pulls out all the stops to level the field.  And Superman has his hands tight because of Lex’s devious scheme; he tries to hold back in the beginning, to his detriment.  It’s a brutal fight; one you thought you’d never see.

The turning point, which turns Batman around, comes unexpectedly and quickly.  Some may surmise that it’s a gimmick, but it actually make sense.  The resolution ties into Batman’s haunting memory of his childhood and humanization of Superman in his mind.

Last but not least, the most famous female superhero, Wonder Woman, makes a striking entrance (enhanced by a dramatic score) after her curious appearance as her alter-ego, Diana Prince.  Gal Gadot (“Fast and Furious” series) looks fantastic as a warrior princess and fights credibly.  She more than holds her own in the trinity’s battle against Doomsday, a visual blast.  It would be great to see her story explored in the standalone “Wonder Woman” movie next summer, June 23, 2017.

The movie ends with extended scenes of a twist, although thankfully not without an assurance that Justice League will indeed be happening.  It may not be “Man of Steel 2,” but “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a story about how legends collide, set aside their differences, and unite to save the world.  In this sense, it’s a wish fulfilled.  The “Justice League Part One” will be released on November 17, 2017.

Copyright (c) 2016.  Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven(sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com.

"Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at indotransserv@gmail.com."

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