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Would we call the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reviews mixed?
No, I think we’d have to call them roundly terrible and, while the film is making money, it is not going to be the financial beast for which Warner Bros was hoping. It doesn’t seem that the company is altering its ambitious DC Comics movie plans (and Forbes has a great article on why this doesn’t need to happen, but an change in financial expectations does) for which I am glad. I really liked Batman v Superman and I am looking forward to Wonder Woman, Justice League and solo films featuring the characters (especially the rumored Ben Affleck Batman solo movies).
I am surprised at the amount of “ink” that Batman v Superman continues to generate. The idea that no publicity is bad publicity is one thing, but there seems to me to be a shocking amount of vitriol directed at the movie. If it was so terrible as most seem to believe, so mishandled and so offensive, why are people still writing about it? Move on to the next thing (Civil War anyone?) and leave it alone.
I do understand that these characters are beloved and this is a movie that had a lot riding on it. For those reasons alone, it should generate conversation. I am simply surprised by the glee I sense in many of the scathing reviews and commentaries. I am surprised by the joy I gather some are taking in trashing the film, the filmmaker, the cast and just about anything associated with Batman v Superman.
Unlike reactions to Avengers and, more recently, The Force Awakens – many were rooting for these movies to be good – a loud segment of the internet and movie critics seemed to be rooting for this movie to be bad.
Not everyone who didn’t like Batman v Superman falls into this camp and reasonable people can disagree over whether or not they liked the movie, what they liked about it and what turned them off, but common themes in critiques have surfaced that really bother me. Comments like these hold Batman v Superman to a level of critique other films of the superhero genre don’t seem to have to endure.
Here are 3 of my least favorite cases-in-point and, needless to say, there are SPOILERS aplenty from here on out:
1. Superman doesn’t act like a hero
Can we please acknowledge that Batman v Superman is the final act of Superman’s origin story? This is ironic, I know, as he dies in the conclusion of the film, but the movie presents a Superman still learning the ropes and learning his place. He is a different Superman than he was in Man of Steel, but he still doesn’t quite know who he what he should be doing in the world. He is not, throughout most of the film, as unflinchingly heroic as many want their Superman to be but he becomes that hero in two very telling scenes at the film’s end.
First, when Lex Luthor brings Doomsday to life, the monster’s first act is to take a killing stroke at its creator. Superman blocks the blow without hesitation, a clearly selfless (he’s just been told the creature is a Kryptonian nightmare and can kill him) and heroic (Luthor has, in the last 60 minutes, pushed Lois Lane off a building and threatened the life of Superman’s mother) act.
Second, Superman sacrifices himself to save the world from Doomsday, a monster he understands is his responsibility. He doesn’t leave the situation to chance. He acts with no regard to his safety and, in fact, acts knowing he’s likely to die from his actions.
This sounds pretty heroic to me.
2. Batman kills – other movie Batmans haven’t
Let’s be honest, Ben Affleck’s Batman isn’t the first movie Batman to kill. He’s not even the first movie Batman to outfit his vehicles with guns. No, that honor goes to Michael Keaton’s Batman whose Batwing had twin mounted machine guns which the hero used liberally in the climax of 1989’s Batman. And, though it is sacrilege to say anything negative about the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, I will note that Batman’s logic of “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” employed throughout those films is really, really flimsy.
What I will say is that Batman v Superman‘s Batman does kill more than all of his cinematic predecessors combined. There is no doubt about that. I don’t love a Batman who kills but, in the world created for Batman v Superman, a world where Batman has lost a Robin, has been fighting crime for 20 years and feels he’s changed nothing and has now encountered a being whose he existence he perceives as a threat to humanity, I understand this dark choice. I understand this character who brands some of the criminals he encounters and isn’t particularly concerned about their well being going up against them in battle.
Further, I think the movie suggests that the Batman we encounter at the end of the film has rethought that dark choice. When he says he failed Superman in life but won’t fail him in death and when he doesn’t brand Lex Luthor, we are presented with a Batman who is changing his ways.
By-the-way, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow kill. They kill real good. I understand and am pleased that people hold the character of Batman to a different standard, but that standard is a bit unfair, isn’t it? Where’s the moral outrage over the collateral damage on villains the Avengers wreck?
3. Batman’s “dreams” make no sense
Hmmm. Okay, whose dreams do make sense? I believe the dreams are not supposed to make literal sense. They are supposed to illustrate the character’s state of mind. He’s terrified of Superman’s power and preoccupied with obtaining the kryptonite to do stop him in the Superman as fascist dream. He’s thinking about the last twenty years being empty and believes he’s failed his parents (especially his mother – his father’s last word “Martha” suggests his father failed his mother, too, and Bruce’s mother is on his mind a lot in the movie) in that he sees the results of his crime fighting as essentially meaningless. Both of these dreams indicate emotion and state of mind, both critical to the movie, by-the-way, and are not literal.
There are two other things to note and they are related: Batman has a dream (vision?) of the Flash who seems to be traveling through time to issue a warning to Bruce about the future and that future seems to include the villain Darkseid – we see his omega symbol on the ground in the Knightmare dream sequence, we see Mother Box technology in the Cyborg scene and we hear Lex Luthor reference a Darkseid sounding threat at the end of the movie.
Are these elements integral to the proceedings in Batman v Superman? No, they are not and, perhaps, that’s why some have reacted so strongly to them. Would they have been better as Marvel movie-like post credit scenes? Perhaps,though I can see that Warner Bros may have tried to avoid that very comparison by placing them within the content of the film. Would critics have been as hard on them for making little sense if they were post credit sequences? Yes, I think so.
These scenes make just as much sense as the Thanos sequence (Avengers), the Collector sequence (Thor: The Dark World) and the Apocalypse (X-Men: Days of Future Past) sequences and those scenes didn’t receive the nearly the level of scrutiny as these have. In fact, these sequences were primarily praised for being cool.
Is the reaction just about the scenes’ placement within Batman v Superman? Maybe. Maybe… but I doubt it.
Coming soon… Batman v Superman v Reviews PART 2 of 3