This isn’t going to make me popular.
Batman v Superman (henceforth BvS – fewer keystrokes and all) caused a pretty big shit storm when it was released earlier in this year.
It universally critically panned. Got countless fans enraged. Fucked with the comics waaaay too much. And is generally considered to have been a commercial failure.
In spite of all this, I’m one of the six people who liked.
In fact, really liked it.
I get it. That’s a pretty controversial statement. Liking something that everyone hated? Who’s this hipster trying to fool?
I mean it. None of those things in the news, forums or beer hall rants managed to detract me from the fact that I not only enjoyed the movie, but thought after walking out at the end (and still think today) that it was one of the better superhero movies of recent years.
Maybe that’s just it. We’re supposed to judge movies based on what the end product is, and not necessarily on the conversation surrounding it.
Blah blah blah pretentiousness. Okay, fine.
I’m not going to argue that the movie was flawless, or that the theatrical cut of the movie even made a whole lot of sense when we stopped to think about it, or any of that nonsense. Rather, I’m going to list out the reasons why I truly appreciate what this movie was trying to do (and in some respects, succeeded).
It was dark.
A war criminal holds Superman’s adoptive mother hostage with a flamethrower. Batman kills a motherfucker (and then many more – see below) and then nearly murders the other male lead. Shit got real.
From what I read from reviews by film goers and critics alike, the darkness was one of the main problems with the film. There was little joy, little jump up and clap your hands moments in here. But that segues into my next point:
It had the courage to do something different.
For better or worse BvS wasn’t your average superhero movie. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
It even handles its major themes in notably different ways. Especially when it came to the way it portrayed violence on screen.
There’s nothing glorious or praiseworthy about violence or vigilantism.
Perhaps what I noticed the most out of all the themes and ideas in this one was the the way it approached violence.
Unlike virtually all superhero movies, where they give a flimsy argument for justice-as-violence, or glorify good guys killing bad guys (“the best way to stop a bad guy with a super power is a good guy with a super power”), it does the opposite.
There were no scenes where the heroes paused in the middle of a life or death moment to joke about how many people they killed (please arrest Lord of the Rings), talked about their sex life or added any other of those sometimes amusing but ultimately contrived little bits to liven things up.
Not that I think of it, I kinda have to give BvS credit for making violence – conflict, in any form – an ugly matter. Violence isn’t romantic, nor is it just. It’s personal, it’s dirty and it you do things you soon regret.
Hell, Batman even kills people in this one. So much for his “no killing” rule. However, it makes sense in this universe (as it did in many other iterations where the Dark Knight did kill his opponents… such as in the Killing Joke). The one distinction here with other films is that the mass killing of “bad guys” by the hero which we so commonly see isn’t a fun filler, it’s a terrible moment.
This is perhaps all the more important considering that vigilantism and the glorification of violence seems to be all the rage these days in the media, movies and games. But really, those are just ugly, angry things at the end of the day.
It wasn’t another fucking origin story.
I hate origin stories. I can’t bear the thought of watching anymore movies with titles that use the words “origin”, “rising”, “awakening”, or [insert word that means first of trilogy here]. I really can’t. I’ve seen dozens already. They even made one with Dracula. Did the world need that? Thank God that phase is started to be done with.
Though we did see the initiating event in Bruce Wayne’s trajectory towards superherodom (with his parent’s murder), the movie didn’t spend 45 minutes learning to become a hero and then another
As well, while one could argue this was in fact a Justice League origin story, thank God we didn’t have to deal with another movie where four uncanny heroes have to overcome their zany differences before becoming best buds (here’s looking at you Fantastic Four).
It had more crazy, bold and interesting ideas stuffed into it than the usual superhero flick.
Visions of the future where Superman rules a Trumpian-authoritarian wasteland. Cryptic messages on Robin’s costume (where is he, by the way?). Tired old home maker Alfred wishing Bruce would just tie the knot and get those kids on the way. Insane dreams with demons clawing their way out of gravestones. The Flash going back in time to warn Bruce Wayne of dire portents (and having the Flash played by a LGBT Jewish actor better known for rom coms). Holy crap!
The big problem here isn’t that these were bad ideas, but that there were too many ideas. Alas, too much of a good thing often leads to a bad thing, and they really only made the movie more confusing. But I don’t feel I can chide some writers for at least thinking up awesome ideas and trying to weave them together coherently (regardless of the turnout)
It had a strong (in both senses of the word) female character.
Wonder Woman was awesome. It’s hard to disagree. Unless you’re an asshole.
But seriously, Gal Gadot gave us a female superhero who – even while wearing the equivalent of a swimsuit and mini skirt – wasn’t reduced into a sexual object. In fact, she wasn’t even reduced to an object *period*. She was also basically promoted to a lead character in the final act as a bonus.
Was her character perfect? Not quite. She had some of the same vague motivations as everyone else (but she had motivations like, you know, a human and not a pretty lamp). Even better, her motivations were separate to the male leads – and didn’t directly involve or pertain to them as men, or her as a woman.
It was beautifully shot.
A lot of superhero movies are so lazily shot that they are downright ugly.
I mean, they have competent camera crews and well-educated DOPs at the reigns, and some decent action sequences but how many shots really stand out as shots? Did Iron Man 1-3 have shots that matched the action in terms of amazement? Is there one moment from Green Lantern that stands out as anything other than ugly?
That’s not to say all superhero movies have lazy story-boarding. We see some great camera work and cinematography every now and then, and particularly in the two Avengers movies, but BvS really raised the bar in this department.
I feel confident in saying that BvS was actually (and surprisingly) beautiful to look at times. From all the macro shots to the hyper stylized slow-motion there were some seriously artsy moments in this movie (the opening murder of the Wayne parents and the funeral at the end are two big winners in the cinematography department). Even the shades of grey and the colour palette did a great job of adding to the somber mood of the movie – as opposed to taking away or distracting (not a lot of lens flares in this one).