Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Double-Feature: Batman v. Superman, Reviewed

Let me begin by just saying this: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a good film.


This is probably not much of a surprise to most people, and certainly in keeping with the movie's dismal Rotten Tomatoes rating of 28%. It takes far too long to get underway, is almost brutally cynical in its outlook, and is dour and almost devoid of idealism, which sadly, may be the new defining characteristics of the DC Cinematic Universe. Plot holes abound, and like a horror movie, smart people have to act stupidly in order to move the story ahead.


Would that this was the worst of it, but no; worst of all is the casual disregard it has for almost all of the legendary characters they use.


Batman is embittered and borderline paranoid (which is not too much of a stretch), but also far more ruthless than his comics incarnation, branding his bat-symbol into the flesh of the worst of his adversaries, and firing machine guns indiscriminately from both his air and ground vehicles.


Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, has all but given up on journalism in favour of advertising, actively urging Clark Kent not to pursue news stories in favour of a sports piece.


Martha Kent, Clark's mother, suggests her son hang up the cape if people don't appreciate him.


Lex Luthor, the archetypal Superman villain, has no real reason for hating Superman to the degree he does, but is willing to through almost the entirety of his resources into destroying him. There is no apparent endgame, no hidden agenda, he is just willing to do the unthinkable in pursuit of his goal, because that is what Lex Luthor does.


And Superman himself, though he is treated more as a plot device than an actual character, remains aloof and indifferent through most of the movie.


As the director and chief visionary of the DCCU, I want to hang a lot of the blame for this film's missteps on Zack Snyder, but in retrospect, I wonder if the screenwriters, David Goyer and Christ Terrio, deserve the lion's share. The terrible characterizations, tepid first act, and pointless and confusing dream sequences are certainly more their product than Snyder's.


Frankly, the ultimate responsibility for my dislike of the film probably lies elsewhere, and might not even rest with a person, but some agglomeration of executives at Time-Warner, owners of both DC Comics and Warner Studios. In the same way that some discharitable souls describe a camel as 'a horse designed by committee' (which is not terribly fair to camels but exceedingly generous to many committees), my gut instinct is that the filmmakers were asked to help birth an entertainment Frankenstein's monster.


They needed to deliver a summer tentpole movie (in the spring) that incorporates elements from two of the most influential and best selling comics ever published: The Death of Superman, and The Dark Knight Returns. Added to this was the requirement to softly reboot the Batman franchise that was so ably closed off by Christopher Nolan, AND to lay the foundations for a new Justice League movie series. It's a lot to ask for, frankly, and I should state that it is not a complete failure.


Surprisingly, Ben Affleck turns out to have been a great choice as Batman. He brings an intense physicality and intimidation to the role, and in costume is a virtual incarnation of the latter-day Batman portrayed in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Best of all, he brings that same intensity to Bruce Wayne, but coupled with compassion. Affleck is able to portray a haunted playboy with a secret life that echoes the same sort of real-life stunt casting that got us Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.


Likewise, Gal Gadot makes a credible and formidable Wonder Woman, even if her role in this film is fairly minimal. If the only thing BvS did was whet my appetite for her own upcoming feature, I wouldn't feel my time was wasted.


For all his faults, Zack Snyder is a wonderfully creative director, and the fight(s) that make up almost the entirety of the third act of the movie are imaginative and well done. Even some of the quieter moments are well handled, but the highlight for me was Batman taking on a score of gunmen in a warehouse using a combat style that was part jiu-jitsu, part pro wrestling, and 100% comic book.


Too much of any bad thing is rarely good though, so by the time Jesse Eisenberg's Asberger-y Lex Luthor figures out how to sic a Kryptonian cave troll (Doomsday) on our heroes, it's tough to get excited at yet another CGI chain explosion. The best part was listening to background characters explaining how most of the buildings impacted by the slugfest were empty, and obvious response to the distaste audiences have developed for wholesale city wreckage.


I will give the filmmakers kudos for having the guts to muck with the status quo, however, and the fact that such a film managed to surprise me at least a little bit has to be worth something.


In the end, BvS is worth seeing if you have a vested interest in the characters in it, as I do, or if you are curious where DC might be taking their properties in a Marvel-style shared universe. It is also worthwhile if you want nothing more than the tights and fights that comics are famous for. Those looking for something with a little more depth are advised to give this one a miss.



I recently came across the two cereal flavours tied into this movie, and gave them both a try this morning.


Not unlike the movie they emulate, the cereals' real triumph is in packaging; colourful boxes with textured logos depicting the iconic bat and Superman's diamond. The edible portion shares this predilection, enabling the fast-breaker to enjoy chocolate strawberry bats or caramel crunch super-emblems.


The chocolate flavour is dark, almost bitter, countered somewhat by the sweetness of the strawberry. The fruity aroma brings mixed emotions as at once I realize I am enjoying a chemical cocktail only tangentially related to organic matter, but nostalgically whisked back to the FrankenBerries of my childhood.


Superman's diamonds are a bit more biscuitty in texture, with a more subtle flavour than I anticipated; less like the centre of a Caramilk, and more reminiscent of dulce de leche.


Ultimately I expect to mix the cereals in a 50/50 blend and top them with sliced bananas, but at this point, the cereals reflect the movie once again, and I find myself preferring the Batman portion.


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