I’m going to start this by explaining about any review you read of a film, don’t take anyone’s word for it. There’s only going to be the slightest hint of spoilage in this review. I’m going to try and explain my opinion without revealing too much detail.
The critics of this latest DC film have been all over it, like vultures on a carcass. Well, I’m not a vulture, and the latest film directed by Zack Snyder, isn’t an old dead carcass. It’s far from that, and if you insist these iconic comic characters must conform to an older style of behavior, you’re going to be disappointed. They may resemble and look vaguely like what you remember from comics or older movies, but as suggested in this movie, this isn’t 1938.
From the moment this film starts, you’re shown images, ever so briefly of a familiar Batman childhood traumatic experience. If you saw the others, dating back to Tim Burton’s film, you know the story. This is there for a reason, and if you’re quick to criticize why it’s included, then you’re missing a larger point. I’ll explain that later. Just know this about this particular film, it’s not your Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan version of Batman. It’s also not your Richard Donner or Bryan Singer Superman movie. This is a movie that stands on it’s own, whether you like it or not, this is a solid story with bold themes and excellent cinematography. What Zack Snyder does with this movie is eschew the chains of past actors and authors. As good as Christopher Reeve was, Henry Cavill has crafted an image which he now owns. He’s not just the red – white – blue boyscout set out for truth, justice, yada-yada-yada.
After those brief introductory moments of a childhood Bruce Wayne, there’s a lot going to happen and you better set down the popcorn, and strap yourself in, because this is not only a fast journey, it’s also intense. Here’s where I really have to give credit to Zack Snyder, because he’s taken a big risk in telling a set of stories, condensed, modified, and brought together to create highly developed imagery backed by an equally intense musical score from Hans Zimmer. I’ve read the criticism, which I shouldn’t have before I saw the film; they say he combined too many story elements. This could also be viewed as part of its strength. Each of the film’s participants contributed in a meaningful way. It’s not a Sean Connery 007, it’s more like a Daniel Craig film.
Zack Snyder wants you to understand this film on several levels. Sure, there’s the obvious titled physical confrontation between Batman and Superman, but he’s introducing us to the idea there’s a lot more to this world than just one or two exceptional people. Batman being the least among equals, possessing no super powers, his role is a subset of the entire movie. An excellent subset I might add, because Ben Affleck nails his dual role.
The introduction of Wonder Woman in this movie, isn’t news to the audience, or a way just to introduce another meta-human. She’s integral to the plot, and if you look at these players, as individuals, not just a timed screen presence, you can see the most interesting aspects of this drama.
Allow me to step back for a writers moment. Just accept this as a way of explaining how well crafted this film is when you look at it in the context of graphic novels (comics). I was one of those youth who read and possessed many of the 1st Marvel Comics dating back to the early 60’s. They were imaginative and drawn in colorful action poses for the era. What attracted myself and many other young people to Marvel at that time, was the introduction of the characters having real personal problems. I’m not talking about acne or dating, they had serious character flaws, and these imperfections showed frailties and a sense of reality for the reader. DC Comics, continued to turn out strong characters, but they were barely two-dimensional. For this reason alone, I think that explains the success of the Batman TV show of the 1960’s. Even young people saw this show as stupid, cartoon characters. I think the creators saw comics as serial nonsense and decided to make fun of it through campy behavior.
For a number of decades afterwards, it seemed no created TV or film could adapt the comics essential fantasy, drama, and core plot lines, without looking plain stupid. Hats off to Richard Donner and Tim Burton for making a strong popular showing, but aside from a lack of today’s technology, they failed to transcend simple child like stories. I think the big break came when Sam Raimi introduced us to his version of Spiderman (2002). That was soon followed by Jon Favreau directing Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (2008). Audiences went to these films in vast numbers, and for the most part, the follow up films were successful. Then, almost everyone explained frustration with the 2007 release of Spiderman 3. No longer was there a story with singular continuity of a villain. Now there were several villains, and the biggest faux pas, the brief but silly Peter Parker dance moves. Sony dropped Raimi and after a pause, rebooted that franchise. Frankly I’m more exhausted from the reboots.
Zack Snyder and company have developed a complex drama, and taking a page out the early Marvel handbook, given us extraordinary insight on how these main characters think. Unlike simpler, earlier, graphic novels brought to film, he’s assuming there’s enough for younger people and the older comic book fan. He’s allowed the writing and fast pace imaging to weave an intelligent story. All people, no matter if they’re “super heroes” or villains have a background story. There’s recognition of the emotional complexity and the trauma of former conflicts for both protagonists. The casualties are real, not brushed away or watered down as if they don’t matter. Any active combat military veteran recognizes they don’t know all the reasons why they’re in the conflict. Each one has their own purpose for their presence in the confrontation. Even their reactions afterwards, aren’t the same. The film helps the viewer see some of that inner turmoil from each persons perspective.
Two people can share the same experience but have an entirely different reaction and memory of the events. Examining the individuals past experience, especially in their formative years, coupled with present time, gives each person a unique perspective. When you know Bruce Wayne suffers from a traumatic & turbulent childhood, Clark Kent comes from a stable Midwestern background, and Diana Prince is a much older and perhaps wiser soul, then the multiple stories coming together shared through each person’s eyes, becomes much more flavorful and interesting.
Speaking of flavorful, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Lex Luthor as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, and frankly I went in with the idea this is going to be another Jim Carey (Ridler) act. Wrong! Why? Once again we’re reminded of Zack Snyders revision of a very well known and established villain. This is someone who is intelligent, willing to use that intelligence to intimidate and be disarming. We see the beginning of a young psychopath, with all of the money to back up his quest to humble those he feels have too much power. Oddly enough, in his own twisted mind, he can never acquire too much for himself. If people insist on wanting a young person to play the same role the way it’s been done before, get over it, this isn’t your grandfather’s Buick.
The final confrontation is through a creation of Lex Luthor, in a last ditch effort to gain the upper hand over Superman and anyone else bold enough to get in his way. This not only creates another conflict, it opens the door to what each of these super heroes begin to realize, there are many battles which lay ahead. This is where we see Wonder Woman in her full regalia, and the theater audience cheered when she joined in. Her back story is of someone much older than either Batman & Superman, and we see snippets of how her experience has taught her to remain in the background, avoid conflict when possible, find a way to cooperate. This is another example of the sophisticated underpinnings infused throughout this film.
I give this film a 9 out of 10 stars, because of it’s sophisticated, multiple complex stories woven well together and a critical examination into the psyche of each of the main players. This isn’t your casual, short attention span film. Watch carefully and enjoy! I know I will have to go back a second time just to see how much more I can pick up from the various things hinted, as well as the main story.