“Batman V Superman” has arrived but it’s not receiving a warm welcome.
With a $250 million dollar budget and an A-List cast, “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” has arrived to a not so welcoming number of negative reviews. While I would agree that the film does have its flaws, I think that many of those flaws have fallen under a more stringent form of scrutiny than other films would receive. I’m not praising this as the greatest superhero film ever (it’s not) but when it comes to some of the justification for negative reviews, I feel it’s a bit unsubstantiated. Let’s cover some of the reasons why.
1. Preemptive judgement made before seeing the film
In my opinion, this is why the film has fallen under so much scrutiny. I’ve never seen so many people make prejudicial opinions about a film before they’ve even seen it. On top of that, some have even resorted to their own form of cinematic bigotry that if applied to social issues would make Donald Trump squirm with discomfort.
I get that someone may not share your opinion and you may not share mine, but until you’ve seen a film you honestly have no grounds for an opinion versus someone who has experienced something in its entirety. And unfortunately, this established, negative predisposition towards “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” is setting one up for failure regardless of whether or not the film is good or bad. I liked the film overall but even I know it’s not good enough to change the opinion of someone wanting to hate it as they walk into the theater.
2. Superman is too dark
No…Batman is too dark and Superman is just in his world. Regardless of how you may take this film, this IS a Batman film. He opens the film, he has the majority of screen time, a majority of the scenes are at night, and the biggest battles take place in Gotham. You might say this film is too dark and you don’t like the way Superman is being portrayed but there isn’t much variation from how he would be portrayed in a Batman titled comic book. No it’s not “World’s Finest” and probably closer to “Dark Knight Returns” but this is Superman as seen by Batman.
Everything that Superman does is reactionary to his environment. He takes on a brutal vigilante (Batman) and a maniacal rich boy (Lex Luthor) and both have few limits in regards to what they’re capable of, just like in the comics. But regardless of what happens, Superman shows restraint.
Click to reveal spoilers that supplement this point
When Batman continually shoots Kryptonite at him, he doesn’t react by killing Batman, he even states that he’s holding back. When Lex throws Lois from a building, he still insists on taking Lex to jail. Finally when Lex unleashes Doomsday, Superman blocks Doomsday from punching Lex then takes the battle to space. And when the U.S. thinks it’s a good idea to fire a nuke at both of them, what does Superman do? He holds onto Doomsday ready to die for Earth. Only as a last resort (yet again) does he resort to killing a mindless creature set on destroying everything and in turn, sacrifices himself for his planet.
3. It’s too different from the comic books
Is it really? This is a film about two of the most iconic characters in the world with history that dates back decades before Spider-Man was even introduced by Marvel. Throughout their span of almost a century there have been a variety of stories introduced that have changed the characters for both better and worse. I will say that this version of Lex Luthor is more than a bit off from what we know but the headliner characters are essentially stolen from the pages of the comics.
Reiterating what I stated earlier, “Batman V Superman” is a Batman film and it pulls most of its inspiration from “The Dark Knight Returns” from Frank Miller. Batman’s age, his build, his costume, and even the battle with Superman are almost straight from the pages of this book. Even the weapons used against Superman and the punches thrown seem like they are cinematically transcribed from paper to live action events. So if you’re not a fan of this Frank Miller story then I would understand why you felt cheated out of your own conceptualized vision of Batman from other sources. But with so much to choose from and a storyline that is highly regarded as one of the essential Batman reads, I understand why they chose this route. Just as Christopher Nolan chose Frank Miller as inspiration for his version of Batman.
The other source that they loosely pulled from was “Superman: Red Son” which obviously inspired the Batman “Knightmare” costume in his “wasteland vision” in the film and as seen in the trailers. This comic also depicted a much harsher Superman (as seen in Batman’s vision in “BvS”) due to Superman being raised in the Soviet Union. This vision may seem blasphemous to fans of the wholesome nature of Superman but keep in mind, this is a dream from the mind of Batman. This is not Superman, this is just how Batman views him at this point in the film.
Finally comes the creation of/battle with Doomsday. This comes from from the Dan Jurgens storyline “The Death of Superman” where Superman finally meets his match and ultimately his own demise. Since this takes place at the end of “Batman V Superman” I can’t reveal too much but I will say that the parallels between the comic and the film are apparent. Even the origin of Doomsday runs fluid with the process of his creation as described in the comics. The major difference this time around is that it’s not just Superman battling Doomsday but also Batman and Wonder Woman.
Click to reveal spoilers that supplement this point
To correlate things further, there are a number of scenes taken from “Death of Superman.” As Superman dies while killing Doomsday, Lois is there to hold his body in her arms while crying. And the funeral at the end shows a coffin and funeral procession much like the one held for Superman in the comics. The story in the comics is that Superman is depleted of energy and is not really dead but needs to replenish from sunlight. Being in the coffin, Superman is kept out of the light thereby keeping him from rejuvenating. As a comic book fan, I thought the film was subtly creative as to how it showed this aspect.
After Superman is hit with the nuke, we see him lifeless in space. But as the sun peers from behind Earth and shines upon him, he is brought to life once more. The final battle with Doomsday takes place at night which would keep Superman out of the sunlight he needs. We then see the funeral which takes place on an overcast day almost completely absent of sunlight as well. Many may think that this is Snyder’s way of painting an unnecessarily dark picture for the film, but I see it as a logical reason as to why Superman has not come back to life but will in a future film. The final bounce of dirt upon Clark’s coffin foreshadows his return.
These are three separate, highly acclaimed storylines that have a prominent place in the Batman/Superman universe. While only one of these stories may be canon (“Death of Superman”), “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” does pull from well known stories that have been widely accepted by the fanbase.
4. The hatred of Zack Snyder
This is supplementary to the “preemptive judgement” point but critics can’t seem to steer away from Zack Snyder’s style of filmmaking. I agree he’s not usually a storyteller. His visual concepts even share the same kind of negative connotations that we get from a Michael Bay film. But just like Michael Bay, Zack Snyder might have a decent film to his name like “The Rock.”
I touched upon the hatred of Snyder a long time ago in a piece I wrote about the hatred of “Man of Steel” and that tends to hold true today with the reviews pouring in for “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” If you’re looking for Snyder’s signature in the film, you’ll find it and associate it with your feelings towards him. Just like you would find the signature of Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, George Lucas, Darrin Aronofsky, or Danny Boyle in their films.
I’m not advocating for Zack Snyder to be held in high regards among these other prestigious directors. But I do think that if Snyder’s name was out of our minds when viewing the film, then “Batman V Superman” wouldn’t be considered worse than Bicentennial Man per Rotten Tomatoes.
Your opinion is yours and yours alone. I’m not asking you to change it nor am I asking you to accept mine. But what I am asking for (outside of “Batman V Superman”) is to leave your bias at the door when seeing a film and I promise it will be a much more fulfilling experience. I’m sure any film critic could see how someone could dislike any movie but hatred usually spawns from passion, not logic. Every film deserves a fair chance.