Get out now if you don’t want spoilers to one of 2016’s biggest pop culture phenomena, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
3, 2, 1, CLEAR.
“I LIKE THIS MOVIE, IN SPITE OF ITSELF.” – KEVIN SMITH ON FAT MAN ON BATMAN… PRETTY MUCH HOW LI’L GRIPES FEELS, AS WELL.
THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. It is not even a recap. These are just LI’L GRIPES‘ preliminary thoughts mentally recorded while watching this hyped-ad-nauseum blockbuster. It was Lillian and her official comic-book consultant, Joe (@Sheeplovr on Twitter and Instagram) in an IMAX theater (sorry, eardrums). We avoided the less-than-tepid reviews circulating the Internet (we just knew it was less-than-tepid at a 29% positive consensus on Rotten Tomatoes), as we wanted a completely fresh outlook when we actually laid eyes upon the finished product… which leads us to our first point:
- MARVEL OWNS THE ART OF SUSPENSE: If you insist on pitting Marvel against DC cinematic universes, Marvel does win big in the trailer column. The BvS trailers gave a scene from EVERY FIVE MINUTES of the film away. It’s bad enough that we knew Wonder Woman will step in at some point to assist the titular heroes who why are they fighting again? … But it’s even worse that we got a clear glimpse of the third-act showdown against Doomsday, one of Superman’s biggest villains, in the friggin’ trailers!
- DC, please see “Captain America: Civil War” for how to make a trailer that gives away enough Easter Eggs from the film without revealing the actual, unfolding plot, especially not the third friggin’ act.
- THIS MOVIE OPENS STROOOOONG: And we don’t mean the title sequence featuring, yet again, a younger Bruce Wayne’s parents being gunned down in front of him. HEY, MAGGIE FROM THE WALKING DEAD PLAYS MARTHA WAYNE!
No, we mean the replay of the final battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) in Metropolis from this film’s precursor, Man of Steel, as told from the ground… from Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck)’s perspective.
We are big fans of the film and TV trope of playing the same scene again from a different POV and it is used here with great emotional heft (we see Zod’s World Engine ship severing a giant skyscraper full of people, which, it turns out, is Bruce Wayne-owned. Furthermore, we get to see, right off the (ha-ha) bat, Bruce amidst full-throttle heroics, running into falling buildings to save civilians, armor-free, from collapsing beams and debris.
WE ARE BIG FANS OF THE TROPE OF PLAYING THE SAME SCENE AGAIN FROM A DIFFERENT POV AND IT IS USED HERE WITH GREAT EMOTIONAL HEFT.
Batfleck as he watches Zod and Superman tear Metropolis apart
- OK, BATFLECK KILLED IT: At this point, we have to applaud Ben Affleck’s nuanced performance as an older, more cynical Bruce Wayne/Batman. He could have easily phoned in an one-note performance, speaking in a grizzled voice the entire film and grunting here and there, but Affleck really dove into his character and he deserves critical praise for his performance alone.
- DREAM SEQUENCES ARE KING: This movie, from the puzzling beginning shot of a young Bruce Wayne being levitated by bats in that infamous well, utilizes dream sequences heavily and perhaps too indulgently. It does allow for a very sinister alt-reality scenario, though, in which parademons, at a ruthless Superman’s behest, have captured Batfleck in some kind of dungeon.
Superman’s soldiers bearing his logo
Batman being overpowered by Superman’s Parademon forces in his nightmare.
- YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE IS KING? The Judeo-Christian God: SOMEBODY MAKE A SUPERCUT OF HOW MANY TIMES THE WORD “GOD” WAS USED IN THIS FILM. My God, are people in this film the praying type (down to a close-up shot of Martha Kent’s crucifix necklace)!
- SO MANY SCENES COULD HAVE BEEN SHORTER: Lois Lane’s scenes are all too long. Jesus, Zack Snyder, we appreciate the effort to make a non-superhero figure as integral to the plot as the powered ones, but we all know Lois should be ornamental in a movie heavily featuring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman! Africa? That bathtub scene? Not the point of this movie!
Along with that, all Lex Luthor scenes were draaaaaaaged out. Why did they tell Jesse Eisenberg to go Full Schizoid with the Lex Luthor character? We could have easily done without the weird tics they inserted into this rendition of Lex.
- EASTER EGG! MERCY GRAVES! Speaking of Lex, we were happy to see they included his fiercely loyal personal assistant, Mercy Graves, from the comics in a non-ham-fisted way. We are doubly happy they cast an Asian actress- supermodel Tao Okamoto– in the traditionally Caucasian role without raising a big fuss over the switch-up.
Mercy Graves and Lex Luthor in their animated renditions
Mercy Graves as played by Okamoto in BvS
- WONDER WOMAN = ACE IN THE HOLE: Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Israeli beauty Gal Gadot) worked exactly as well as the movie intended her to work. She, not Batman or Superman, received an applause break from our packed theater in one particularly dramatic scene.
They nailed her–everything from her otherworldly background (“This isn’t the first time I’ve killed things from other worlds.” EASTER EGG! Hades!) to her shrugging off Doomsday knocking her down like it ain’t no thang to her mesmerizingly posh civilian wardrobe (more on that below) was ****ing AWESOME. GEEK-RRIFIC. THANK YOU, WONDER WOMAN, THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU.
- OK, OK, DC. YOU GOT OUR MONEY: By having it very obviously pointed out to us (down to each superhero’s emblem) the other members of the soon-to-be-assembled Justice League, coupled with Wonder Woman’s successful introduction into the DC Cinematic Universe, we as an audience will be going to see those forthcoming movies, regardless of reviews.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and The Flash (Ezra Miller)
- WELL, HOLD THE PHONE: Lil still resents DC for not, as Marvel so savvily does, connecting their TV properties directly to their cinematic ones, i.e. NOT having the universally-beloved Grant Gustin, who plays Barry/The Flash on CW‘s The Flash, play Barry Allen/The Flash in the Justice League films! Why not?! You would have made us and super-fan Kevin Smith, as well as a whole lot of other critics, VERY happy.
Happiness is not Batman v. Superman‘s endgame, as Kevin Smith also noted on his podcast, Fat Man on Batman (Download it for free on iTunes. As fellow comic-book geeks, we appreciate the utter and complete lack of cynicism on his show). It is clear that DC and director Zack Snyder are sticking to their firmly gloom-and-doom vision for this universe of the Justice League heroes.
WHICH IS FINE. WE LIKE SUPERHEROES. THE WORLD STILL LIKES SUPERHEROES.
WE WILL ALL BE THERE FOR THE SUBSEQUENT FILMS. YOU’VE WON THIS ONE, DC.