BvS: Revisited

In the spring of 1977, I was just home from college and looking for something to do in the then small town of Manassas, Viriginia. I looked through the paper and saw an ad for a new science fiction movie called Star Wars and reached out to a friend about maybe going to check it out. But here’s the thing: I hadn’t heard anything about it and judging from the poorly drawn ad in the newspaper, I was under the impression that it was one of those awful Japanese imports like The Green Slime. The only thing my friend Sam and I loved more than badly dubbed Japanese SciFi with visible string special effects was badly dubbed Kung Fu movies.

Needless to say, when that Star Destroyer passed overhead, I realized we were in for something else entirely.

The reason I mention that story (which I tell way too often) is because it’s a scenario that is impossible today. Whenever a movie of any size comes out, we are inundated on every platform with opinions and information and trailers and reviews. It is very hard to go into a movie with an open mind anymore and this was especially true of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Now I’ve said before that when I decide I want to see a movie, I impose an all-platform media blackout. I don’t watch the trailers, read the tweets, peruse the blog posts, listen to my coworkers or anything else until I’ve had a chance to see the movie with fresh eyes. Even so, some stuff always gets in and if that stuff is bad then I start to let more stuff in.

This is exactly what happened with Suicide Squad, a movie I still haven’t seen. The idea of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn alone was enough to make me mark my calendar for opening day and turn off all other sources of information. But then news of Jared Leto’s crazy behavior on set leaked through and then I learned Will Smith was in it, and then came the re-shoots and the pushed release date, and then I just read everything that came out about it. Yep, still haven’t seen it.

With BvS, I didn’t even care enough to turn off the feeds. I’ve always thought Batman squaring off with Superman was a stupid idea best suited for preteen arguments in tree houses. I thought, if I go see this at all, I will be high as a kite and in it for the giggles. I ended up going because it was movie day and nothing else was playing.

When people asked me if I liked it, I told them I did not. When they asked me why, I didn’t have an answer. I’ve now watched it three times in an effort to come up with that answer.

Potential spoilers for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice follow.

First of all, let me say that this is not a bad movie. It’s actually a very good movie, a very smart movie, with a few flaws that came into theaters trailing a lot of baggage. With time between the storm of its release and a few more chances to see it, I’ve come up with the answer to the question, “Did you like it?”

Yes. Most of it.

I love the opening for several reasons. It’s an answer to the failure of the dreadful ending of Man of Steel. Bruce Wayne looks on from a distance as the Titans of Krypton battle it out in a crowded city, taking the lives of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of innocent bystanders, some of them Wayne Industries employees. It’s a heart wrenching callback to that long day in September of 2001. And for every American who has a burning hatred in their heart for the Jihadists who brought down those towers, there’s also a clear understanding of what Bruce Wayne is feeling for Superman in that moment. It’s also a qualified, viable reason for the superhero of vengeance to take aim at the superhero of justice.

 

I like Ben Affleck’s older, more cynical and world weary batman. I hope he continues to play the character, as this is a version we haven’t seen on the silver screen yet. I like Jeremy Irons as a younger, more kinetic Alfred. And I like that the too oft repeated story of Batman’s parents is told in a few flashbacks.

I like Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I like the vulnerability that she brings out in Superman. She humanizes him the way Zoe Saldana’s Uhura humanized Spok in the Star Trek reboot. When you’ve got a story as superhero heavy as this one, you need a humanizing element and she and Diane Lane (as Martha Kent) accomplish this with subtle, informed performances.

I am so excited by Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman that I’m actually looking forward to seeing her movie. Remember, I grew up with the lame Wonder Woman who was the Justice League’s secretary in the comics and played for corn on TV by Lynda Carter. She was and has always been the second lamest hero next to Aquaman — who, by the way, looks awesome as portrayed by Jason Momoa.

I also liked her introduction in this movie. I know some people found her presence extraneous, but I did not. With the two extremes of justice on the one hand and vengeance on the other, the story needed a balancing fulcrum in the middle and Wonder Woman played that part perfectly.

I liked Doomsday. When you’ve got that many superheroes on one side, you need something terrible on the other and Doomsday fits that bill very well. The final battle is epic, exciting, free of citizen deaths and generally shows off all the characters’ super traits beautifully. Bravo.

So, that’s what I liked, which is basically everything except the turd in the punch bowl, Lex Luthor. Or rather the character choices made by Jesse Eisenberg (or maybe handed down by Zack Snyder, who knows?) in the role of Lex Luthor. The hippy-dippy tech billionaire seemed like a rejected version of the Joker. His actions seemed unmotivated and his manipulations of our flawed government all too realistic for a fantasy film.

I’m a big Jesse Eisenberg fan. He’s excellent in most everything he’s in. And, while it is true that someone needs to find an inventive way to reboot the Lex Luthor character a la Heath Ledger’s Joker,  this is not it. He stinks up every scene he’s in and let’s the air out of the drama whenever he’s involved.

Speaking of Ledger, maybe it was his boffo, daring turn as the Joker that inspired Leto and Eisenberg to make the choices they did, basically sending them farther over the edge into the abyss of unbelievability.

In the end, this is a good movie with a lot to enjoy (along with a few small but glaring flaws to ignore) . It’s also probably a must see if you’re going to enjoy the Wonder Woman and Justice League movies coming soon to a theater near you.

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