The Dark Knight, RETURNS with a BANG, BOOM, POW; Wonder Woman arrives, fashionably late as you’d expect from the world’s most iconic and coolest female superhero; but this emerging Superman may have you humming, “will the REAL Man of Steel, please stand-up.”
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) has had everyone approaching with caution. Yes there are all those trimmings from The Dark Knight Returns (the comic book that this film is loosely based), yes there’s the introduction of Lex Luthor, albeit a younger, Facebook generation version of Superman’s arch-nemesis; and of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world … WONDER WOMAN waltzes into BvS and people had to clamp a lid down on their excitement. We would not be ‘honey dicked’ into that pre Man of Steel state once again.
In the wake of the devastation caused by Zod’s attack on Metropolis, Superman (Henry Cavill) is a figure that’s both loved and feared. Political committees are formed to discuss his responsibility in the fallout and young tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is trying to manipulate the political power brokers into granting him up close and personal access to the remains of Kryptonian machinery. Meanwhile, a newly stirred Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) investigates if this seemingly invincible alien “bleeds” when he’s distracted by the alluring Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), slinking around Luthor for her own purposes.
Chris Terrio is really the hero of this entire production. While it’s likely that comic book adaptation extraordinaire David Goyer, along for the ride since Man of Steel (and story writer of The Dark Knight Trilogy), set the template for what Snyder and co. wanted see on screen, it’s Terrio’s ability to be working at multiple cooking stations to fast track the realisation of the DC universe on screen. Wrangling together the mythologies of the DC holy trinity so we could see them on screen together really is a feat when you’re abandoning the tried and true Marvel prototype of (literally) assembling characters into event pictures. I think in the wake of BvS we’re going to look at Man of Steel in a much more favourable light. Out of context, the final hellish destruction of Metropolis feels like it’s trivialising the deaths of millions of people. The opening of the film designed to merge the worlds of this new god and the Batman by making him invested in the human price for Kryptonian carnage. Whether it’s an “auto-correct” response to the millions of voices crying out, or simply “all part of the plan,” it has the desired effect. Affleck comes to life as both Bruce Wayne and Batman, the world of Gotham (now Metropolis’ sister city) along with Alfred you just hit the ground running. Terrio also loves getting his hands on Lawrence Fishburne’s Perry White, hammering Clarke (Cavill) for not following instructions and being “country,” and continuously questioning his whereabouts to his colleagues.
Zach Snyder finally has the script to compliment and give substance to his natural style. From the presentation of the Batman’s origin, which to be fair has been done to bloody death, feels fresh and vibrant when he’s crafting the context of the Batman that inhabits this emerging DC Universe. The opening alternative perspective of the climax events of Man of Steel carries a hefty emotional weight. The drained colour palette that they’ve established for the DC films is really suited to Gotham and Batman. The Batman choreography is tremendous. There’s a terrifying snake like quality about the way he moves to strike fear into police and criminals alike. Creating tension between Batman and Superman when they get physical, instead of it feeling like a fly v fly swatter is excellent. And the chaotic final act of BvS does a much better job balancing the humongous scope of meta-humans and alien mutations facing off and shaking the earth to its core with the grounding of fragile human characters in the middle of the chaos. The eye laser quotient is high; the air shakes with the earth shattering power of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman’s face off against Doomsday.
For all that’s wrong with Man of Steel, Hans Zimmer’s score made you soar. It made you feel like you’re swelling with power, charged by the yellow sun and warmed by that ‘Smallville’ goodness to stand for something. BvS sees those essential piano notes clash with the sorrowful strings of Gotham and the pulsating frenzy of electronic beats that Junkie XL brought to Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a great fusion of styles.
While one of the BvS incredible accomplishments is its ability to balance epic scope of this instant event picture, one of the symptoms of something this sprawling is that you are invariably drawn into some characters and not others. Getting a new, interesting and well-crafted Batman haunted by visions, nightmares and perhaps premonitions of the eventual DC multiverse meant that every time he was on screen I was mesmerised. Every frame that Gal Gadot is on screen as Wonder Woman or Diana you’re drawn to her. Although her other male counterparts are like locomotives to this super heroic pissing contest, sorry gladiatorial face-off, she has an air of cool that says ‘I’m not bothered.’
Henry Cavill’s Superman is the weakest character of the film and that’s largely due to how he’s being built in the DC cinematic universe. Man of Steel is about the awakening of power and whether he should fight. IN BvS we approach phenomenal power colliding with humanity; like a god learning to crawl in the universe and messing up the order of things. He’s constantly being challenged with small scale human needs and desires (Lois Lane, vigilante justice of the Batman and his enduring connection with his earthly mother Martha [Diane Lane)]). I think for a lot of people, at varying levels of ‘geekery’, this Superman is not what they envisage when they imagined the Man of Steel. Christopher Reeves broke the mould in Richard Donner original Superman, both as Clarke Kent and tights wearing alter ego. In comic books, Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman redefined the character in a profound way, elevating him to the status of a ‘God’ and then contrasting his detachment from humanity through his implicit connection to humanity. While perhaps that’s what they’re attempting in a larger sense with the character of Superman, he’s not solidified for a symbol of hope, and the inherent goodness that you’d expect from someone with profound intergalactic knowledge hasn’t been realised in the character yet. That makes Amy Adams, a great piece of casting as Lois Lane in Man of Steel that continues in BvS, all the more vital to the character of Superman. Adams can’t hide her melancholy or awareness that the cosy little life that she and Clark have made for each other is as fleeting as a dream.
Ben Affleck is (part of) the reason to see this film. The untimely passing of the titanic Heath Ledger, Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale and their team approached Batman with a desire for closure. 8 years pass between the end of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; and we’re cheated of a Batman in his prime. The beginning of the series though worked to add texture between crime alley and a signal flying in the sky. We arrive at a fully fleshed out and weathered Batman; comfortable in both the skin of Bruce Wayne’s public persona and donning garb that realises Frank Miller’s vision of the Dark Knight. Affleck is a towering brut; a fierce and terrifying swarm to the criminal underworld. He’s got those wonderful toys, but they feel less like gadgets and more like an arsenal used to crush crooks in their tracks. Snyder also takes us in the bowels of the new Bat cave and we see Mr Affleck in the Bat-hurt locker torturing his body to make himself a battering ram. He absolutely nails the performance and the unquenchable fever of the character to stand up to the foes of Gotham; Viva la Batfleck.
Gal Gadot is the (other part of the) reason to see this film. Apart from an incredible beauty, that would more than likely give you a speech impediment if you spoke to her, she just glides through the events of the film with her own agenda, one step ahead of even the world’s greatest detective. Seeing Gadot don the armour and get to show off her warrior prowess on the big screen is huge highlight. It’s a great appetiser to *fingers crossed* the Wonder Woman film that the character deserves. The interplay between the wise eternal qualities of Gadot’s Diana/Wonder Woman, the war weary pragmatism of Affleck’s Bruce/Batman and the infinitely powerful and yet philosophical fragility of Superman interlocks beautifully.
Orchestrating the chaos is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, who feels more The Social Network than property mogul. The early stages of the film are where he shines. His wealth allows him a seat at the table and his company’s technology allows for some great exchanges with Holly Hunter’s Senator and Adams’ Lois; there are numerous scenes where madness sets in that take him slightly off the reservation in the worst possible way.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice defies the odds and delivers a terrific entree to the DC Movie Universe and the emergence of the Justice League. While it’s still a case of searching for Superman, a fully realised Batman and Wonder Woman are there to hold Clark’s hand.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Scoot McNairy, Callan Mulvey, Tao Okamoto
Ben Affleck … Bruce Wayne / Batman
Henry Cavill … Clark Kent / Superman
Amy Adams … Lois
Jesse Eisenberg … Lex Luthor
Diane Lane … Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne … Perry White
Jeremy Irons … Alfred
Holly Hunter … Senator Finch
Gal Gadot … Diana Prince / Wonder Woman
Scoot McNairy … Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey … Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto … Mercy Graves