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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Batman v Superman - Dawn Of Justice, Ultimate Edition (2016)

My race through the Snyderverse continues with probably its most divisive entry, but for all its faults (and they are plentiful), Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice - in all its three-hour, ultimate edition glory - is a surprisingly good superhero movie.

The further we get from the initial hullaballoo around this film, and the more times I watch it, the more I find I get from it.

Like Man of Steel, it suffers from some egregious missteps that, as with the original curate's egg, were allowed by many to spoil the enjoyment of the whole.

But as I grow older, that one troublesome dialogue exchange that spawned a million memes (which we will get to later), doesn't bother me so much. Yes, it's still a dreadfully contorted - and unconvincing - exchange, but is, ultimately, small potatoes in a bombastic three-hour film.

A deranged Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) turns the world against Superman (Henry Cavill), then engineers a fight between the Son of Krypton and Batman (Ben Affleck), before unleashing a CGI Kryptonian monster, Doomsday, on Metropolis for reasons that aren't exactly explained.

Jesse Eisenberg is a fantastic actor and his young Luthor blends the modern age comic book take on the character with the mad scientist version in the older comics - with a heavy emphasis on the "mad" part.

I think we're supposed to take it that Lex is jealous of Superman's powers, but, despite his Machiavellian machinations, the one part of his scheme that is never truly made clear is his motivation.

While Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne/Batman is impressive, the stand-out character of Dawn Of Justice is Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman.

Although her presence is only slightly more justified here than Spider-Man's introduction in 2016's Captain America: Civil Warher grin-inducing impact on the audience is about the same.

Her all-too-brief appearances are certainly helped by the incredible Wonder Woman theme performed by cellist Tina Guo, that still make me tingle with geeky excitement every time I hear it.

There are a couple of sequences that felt superfluous, when looked at just in the context of BvS.

However, knowing now that these were planting seeds for the Zack Snyder's Justice League movie (we shall ignore the Josstice League iteration, even though officially it remains the canon version of the film for the DCEU), we can appreciate that moments like Batman's striking 'vision' of the future, complete with Darkseid mise-en-scène and parademons are more than just great fan service

When BvS was first release, I read a number of industry people championing director Zack Snyder's love of comics, which is as nebulous a comment as saying someone "loves books", but whatever the truth of the matter it's clear that he just doesn't really get Superman.

Snyder is on record as saying he likes dark comics with sex and violence in them. And, while I suspect he may have been 'playing this up' for the expected shock value, that just isn't my (and a lot of people's) idea of Superman.

As, hopefully, you read earlier today, I enjoyed his Man Of Steel as spectacle, but it didn't deliver a Superman that I recognised or could relate to.

While still quite moody here, Superman is certainly given the space to become a bit more like his positive and heroic comic book portrayal.

His Clark Kent alter ego shines (despite butting heads with a a very negative Perry White in Laurence Fishburne), but Synder's penchant for darker, anti-heroes comes to the fore in his presentation of Batman.

Again, a lot is left unexplained (Batman's been operating in Gotham for 20 years but the Daily Planet is unaware of him? Why - oh why - does he go round branding villains?), but he's got the tech, the brains, the charisma, and the drive to bring the Dark Knight to life.

One of the positive things about Batman v Superman is that it doesn't try to obfuscate the 'secret identities' of its leads for the audience, it's just a given that Bruce Wayne is Batman, Diana Prince is Wonder Woman, Clark Kent is Superman etc, without trying to explain it all (again).

Like Man of Steel, this initially appears to be a triumph of spectacle, but, again, in Batman v Superman (the Ultimate Edition anyway) we have a story that justifies the action and - generally - everyone stays reasonably true to the comic book source material.

However, rising above all the plot holes and strange character choices, the most awful, groan-worthy moment in the whole script is the "Martha" moment.

I'll be honest, if I'd tried to present that - with a straight face - in one of my scripts at university I'd have been laughed off my Scriptwriting degree course.

There was enough cheese in that scene to choke all the mice in North America. Especially coming in such a "serious" and "realistic" take on the superhero genre, it totally takes you out of the moment.

It's bizarre that amidst all the explosions and property damage, all the spectacular superheroics and tension, the line that stays with you - because it grates so much - is something so mundane and corny.

But that aside (and it could so easily have been avoided by changing the line to something about his "mother", which Bruce would have reacted to in much the same wayBatman v Superman - Dawn Of Justice is definitely a step in the right direction from Man of Steel and paves the way for today's highly anticipated Zack Snyder's Justice League.

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Black Widow (2021) + Shangi-Chi (2021) + Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) + The Batman (2022)

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