Never Has A Superhero Film Divided The Masses Like ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’
I’ve spent the better half of 2016 defending ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ The crusade isn’t easy, but it became fun. The whole debate makes me wonder, do I like the film because I notoriously love “bad” movies or is it pretty great?
In the end, I settled on the latter.
‘Batman v Superman‘ could be one of the best comic book movies of all time. Before you click away, let me defend myself a little.
Below, I will break down all the points that make me believe Zack Snyder’s polarizing 2016 DC Extended Universe movie is a masterpiece!
The Story & Themes:
The lack of morality within the characters leads to an interesting discussion of good vs. evil. Both Batman and Superman are “heroes” but blur the lines of what a superhero should be. Can you do seemingly bad things for the sake of good? That’s one of the most poignant themes of ‘Batman v Superman.’
Never before have we seen such a morose Superman. Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) either spends his time sadly doing good things or cuddling up to Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in a bathtub. Everything comic book fans have come to know and love about the character shifts. ‘Batman v Superman‘ explores what happens when the boy scout Superman of the 1970’s has to live in the cynical 2016. Every time Superman tries to do good things, people question him. The media is continuously shown in the film to be harshly divided on how they feel. The Senate even gets involved after he makes a move that affects foreign affairs.
The things Superman once believed in get tested like never before.
This is a reflection of our times and American pop culture. Instead of the overwhelming fanfare, Superman once got, it’s replaced with the martyrdom of a hero. It’s the delicate cycle of fame, and it never stops until it’s too late.
It isn’t until death that people see how amazing he is. Especially Batman.
Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) realized that Superman was a hero and a human during the infamous Martha scene, but after Superman’s death, he began to blame himself. Does that an excuse him for killing bad guys in this film? No, but I believe it sets in motion what will be an epic redemption arc for Batman.
More so than any character, Batman works in 2016. Bruce Wayne’s swagger allows him to blend while he still manages to be Batman. This dual personality fits into the landscape of today’s society. There’s something thought-provoking about seeing the public persona of a celebrity used as a front to hide darkness. Bruce Wayne has been doing it for years and the times have finally caught up with him.
The Stylistic Choices of Zack Snyder:
During ‘Batman v Superman,’ there’s the Zack Snyder trademarks including slow-motion and snap zooms. Using both in his hyper-stylized universe never takes away from the viewing experience. I remember in film school that zooms are taught to be an amateur or dated move. It seems like Snyder knows how to use them. There’s something progressive on how he teams with his cinematographer Larry Fong that translates to visual storytelling. The behind-the-camera choices made in the film are there to push the story forward and still be entertaining to look at.
Another signature Zack Snyder technique is the use of color within the movie. There’s a complexity to how Snyder and Fong bring color to the forefront of ‘Batman v Superman.’ The beauty of their work goes down to how both Batman and Superman are filmed. Most, if not all, of Batman’s scenes, are dark and grim. On the other hand, Superman is much brighter. Those filming choices change as the characters grow. By the end of the film, we see Batman fully illuminated while Superman is last seen shrouded in darkness. Cliched but there’s thought behind it.
Throughout the film, there is also references to classic works of art. Snyder sneaks in nods to 18th-century paintings like Gustave Doré’s “Paradise Lost“ and Cleon Peterson’s “A Balance of Terror.” Rarely is there this level of art-minded filmmaking mixed into the world of superhero movies. Sometimes you can have style and substance.
The Comic Book Movie Black Sheep:
‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘ reminds me of that weird cousin you have in your family that talks about conspiracies and loves being the downer. Unlike the super cool older brother that is Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, it doesn’t seem to match up. And then putting it next to cheery youthful Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, ‘Batman v Superman‘ looks like an emo teenager.
But that adds to the charm. It’s firmly in the middle as something you will take too seriously and not seriously enough. It has heavy dramatic tones and political messages but isn’t afraid of comic book campiness.
I think a great physical example of this film is the black sheep of the superhero movie family is the character of Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg). The over-the-top, neurotic, millennial Lex Luthor feels ripped right out of Silicon Valley. I talked about fitting into 2016, but the character of Lex is dramatically changed to work in 2016. The villains of today aren’t these big hulking bullies but the repressed weirdos who can finally take out their revenge on “God.”
If you are firmly against ‘Batman v Superman,’ then I was never going to change your mind. But if you were ever on the fence about it, my hope is this op-ed would help show you a different side to the film.
The movie isn’t perfect, but that’s the beauty of it to me. They were never going for a seamless piece; it needed to be a little rough around the edges. Other brands worry about streamlined movies, but this showed that the DCEU isn’t afraid to get messy. Will Zack Snyder give into the critical & fan demands for ‘Justice League‘ or will the film continue this engrossing world he’s started?
Whether you love or hate Zack Snyder’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice,’ let me know how you feel in the comments!