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There is a tremendous amount of substance, controversy, and contention taking place that requires film and comic book fans alike to read into the darkness of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The new DC universe, the new DC film universe I should say, is officially alive.
If nothing else, love it or hate it, you have to admit that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice made a powerful statement to that effect.
It is alive.
First things first, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a Batman film.
I do not care what the title says, this film starts and ends with Batman.
Leaning heavily on the Frank Miller Dark Knight comic books, Ben Affleck’s Batman and Bruce Wayne are middle-aged, worn from two decades of battling Gotham’s goons and incredibly realistic for how the mentally disturbed dark knight still has nightmares over his parents’ killing, even though he has been serving the city in their name, pummeling criminals, for decades.
The man is tormented.
And he is a man. A rich man with martial arts skills and an engineer’s brain, but still a man.
There are even jokes between he and Alfred that play out well to harp on the aging effects.
At one point, while battling a bunch of thugs at once, Batman’s cape is grabbed tripping him up, which is a fantastic use of how a real world man would get hurt.
He is not Superman, who would not flinch if someone tugged on his cape.
Opening the movie is Bruce Wayne’s nightmare and more follow through the film that may allude to a possible alternate DC universe and storyline, akin to the Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline.
But that could be seeds for a Justice League 2 or 3 movie, not for the next film coming.
The dream sequences are a bit jarring and the first third of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bit clunky, in large part because of them.
But without the dreams, we do not get the brilliant portrayal of the tortured, smart, weathered, and paranoid Batman that carry throughout the flick.
Batman is a dark character and the movie, his movie, follows the blackest of these themes.
The Batman brand of justice is even made into a literal bat branding that he employs on the scum, the sex traffickers, which becomes a death sentence in prison.
And as an aside, folks, we also have the triumphant return of the Batwing!
There are those that despised the world of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice out of the gate, with Man of Steel, and those that have taken to the second installment in the DC ‘verse with equal rancor.
Some find Man of Steel to be the greatest Superman film to date, even over the Richard Donner cut of Superman II; but the point remains, the darker, more realistic take on Superman in a contemporary world set a precedent that is followed very closely by DC in their penultimate setup for assembling the Justice League.
In a world ripe with terrorists and inspired madmen and super villains, Superman does what he feels is right, but that cause an awful lot of controversy, as his interests are not necessarily the US’s interests, or any countries’ for that matter.
It is how our real world might look.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is dark and gritty and takes the modern world, which inches closer to a dystopia every day, to a grim place where a Superman can resemble a god and also strike fear for his sheer unlimited power, and a man dressed as a bat can haunt criminals in the city of Gotham, where villains are assembling their own powers (see Gotham: Rise of the Villains if you need further proof on film; it is a great show).
Batman is concerned over the sheer power of an alien and this is turned against him when Lex Luthor uses him to trap Superman.
Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are tremendous in their roles, but two actors stole the show in this film.
The first is the controversial casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor.
The snippets of his speeches in the trailers leading up to the movie make him out to be the most annoying of villains we could ever have hoped to endure for two and a half hours.
Well guess what, trailers often portray the best parts, making bad films look great, or in this case they took terrible spots, out of context, and did a bad job of portraying what was really exceptional acting of a great character.
Eisenberg was the best portrayal of Luthor on-screen.
He stole the show with his perfect combination of the comic book villain’s rise as a young, rich CEO, megalomaniac lusting for power and then completely unhinged by the rising of Superman, who is everything he wants to be but cannot be.
He abhors his humanity and wants to destroy anything he deems greater than himself.
He is funny, at times, but more unnerving and creepy and maniacal. His intelligence and madness feed off of each other and his serial killer coldness comes off in spades. He even goes so far as to scheme a suicide bombing of the US Capital Building.
He is evil and multi-dimensional, like in the comic books.
Too often Luthor was poorly portrayed by cardboard one-dimensional efforts showing a businessman, or a funnyman, sociopath with aspirations of world domination; Superman is merely there to thwart him . . . and this is boring.
What Eisenberg and director Zack Snyder do with the character is make Superman not just the cause of Batman’s unhinging but Lex’s as well.
The next actor to steal the show was Gal Gidot as Wonder Woman!
She kicks ass on so many levels, literally and metaphorically.
Throughout the film she is there trying to crack Luthor’s hold on her; she merely wants to blend in with humanity and ignore its troubles as she had done for a hundred years.
But once Doomsday arrives, she is compelled to break onto the scene and help save Batman and Superman’s lives.
Wonder Woman is nearly as powerful as Superman himself and has her traditional sword, shield and Lasso of Truth, which all prove pivotal in the final epic battle.
Her character sees a lot of screen time trying to blend in and hide, but her true nature comes from a temper that boils over and she jumps in to help the world that is in peril, and the boys poorly matched up against a foe that is far beyond even Batman and Superman alone to stop.
It was an amazing performance by Gidot.
In the end though, as is fitting, it is Superman’s sacrifice that takes down Doomsday.
And in a shocking surprise, the DC ‘verse played out Superman’s death.
Batman will have to take the lead on assembling the Justice League and protecting super heroes all over the globe, as another death adds another burden on his aging shoulders.
New threats will rise after all, as Luthor from prison reports to Batman with glee.
The Doomsday battle is grandiose, and I can forgive DC for having it end at night in Gotham, instead of in Metropolis during day.
That is a grimmer portrayal and befits a dark film.
They did, however, portray the infamous two-page spread of Jurgens and Breeding’s book, Superman 75, where Lois has the fallen hero in her arms, as tears rain down.
The funeral, and Lois getting her engagement ring posthumously, actually brought a tear to my eye.
Now the world must go on, for a time at least, without a Superman, and all hell will break loose.
I for one, hope the next Superman film features “The Rise of the Supermen” from the dozens of comic books following the Death of Superman, with four major Superman players (none of them Kent) and ultimately leads to Clark Kent’s rising from the dead; it is what hooked me into serialized stories in comics as a kid.
Justice League will have to make do without, as they often have in the books, and it will make for interesting world building in this new living DC ‘verse.
And again, Batman is the leader here, by default.
The next solo film for Batman may see the great writing of Affleck, but I hope it incorporates more of Frank Miller’s works.
Miller has already stated publicly he would like to see the female 13-year old Robin, Carrie Kelley, from The Dark Knight Returns on the screen, and wouldn't that be awesome?
In the bat cave, Robin’s suit is there, tagged up by the Joker, who has presumably already killed the male Robin (Jason Todd?) and possibly burned down Wayne Manor; will we see this played out from the “Death in the Family” comic book storyline in the movies?
Overall, DC accomplished a lot with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice even though it is a bit jarring and certainly very dark throughout.
DC has certainly distanced themselves from Marvel with a much more gritty and stained universe.
The writing of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is top notch and the lines are memorable.
But because of the sheer volume of character building and world building going on, this movie does not play out as the smooth A of say Man of Steel, or even the A+ of the first Avengers film.
It is certainly every bit as good, if not better than Avengers: Age of Ultron, for similar reasons of editing and clunkiness.
This movie is no Casablanca, but it is a damn good comic book movie. If you like classics, such as Tim Burton’s Batman and many of the other excellent comic book films, like Superman II: the Richard Donner Cut, then this is worth seeing, and it is worth re-watching.
Rune Works REVIEW Grade: B+
“Read Into the Darkness of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was written by R.J. Huneke.