Sunday, March 27, 2016

Batman Vs. Superman review: The dark before the dawn

Batman Vs. Superman review: The dark before the dawn
by rick olivares

I was looking forward to Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. After all, why should Marvel have all the fun? It would be just as cool to have a Justice League film of which BvS — as how we will call Dawn of Justice from here on — serves as the set up. 

I grew up reading Superboy and the Legion of the Super-Heroes, Batman, the Justice League of America, Mister Miracle, the Teen Titans, and the All-Star Squadron. Even up to today, the JLA and to a certain extent, Batman are staples of my comic book reading. It was only very recently that I dropped a lot of DC titles because of disenchantment over the general direction. Nevertheless, I had high hopes considering I was expecting director Zack Snyder to build on the gains of Man of Steel for all its flaws.

Furthermore, I was thinking that since these Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were big names even before the dawn of the Marvel Comics-verse in the 1960s (although Captain America was around during World War II), it would be the equivalent of re-uniting Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie all over again. I was excited but had some trepidation in me after seeing the trailers.

After the film, my worst fears were confirmed -- BvS struggles to fly and it does on certain scenes but it ultimately crash lands. And badly. And I feel bad. The Batman Begins by Christopher Nolan is arguably the best superhero film ever. I liked the succeeding Batman films but I grew weary after a while. It was like watching one extinction event after another. Man of Steel felt that way and more so with BvS.

I can, however, accept the grim and gritty, except the film overall has so many holes as if someone perforated a water tower and its badly leaking from every which angle.

Before I pick it apart, did I like anything?

Of course, I am taking it back. Ben Affleck is not bad as an older Dark Knight. He’s all right.

When Gal Gadot finally appears in her Wonder Woman attire, its a serendipitous moment. A ray of light in an otherwise dark film.

There are the Easter Eggs such Batman grabbing the thug through the wall and firing a M-60 sub-machine gun that is straight out of the seminal The Dark Knight Returns, the para-demons of Apokolips that foreshadows the threat of Darkseid, the Flash appearing to Batman that is a scene from arguably the best ever event maxi-series in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

That’s it.

Here’s how I will pick its plot apart.

From the opening sequence that is another recounting of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the dark tone is set. And it doesn’t let up one bit.

The world is still dealing with the fallout from the battle of the Kryptonians that turns Metropolis into a war zone. Batman looks at Superman was a frightening force that can destroy the world. Superman struggles to comprehend that lack of trust and climate of fear. Lex Luthor cannot stand their goody goodness and concocts a plot to destroy them. The two titans fight then Lois Lane intercedes and Batman foolishly realizes he’s been had. Before they can apprehend Luthor, the Doomsday creature attacks. That finally draws out Wonder Woman from hiding for a climactic battle.

Why the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents for the intro? Just to connect the “Martha” Wayne to the Kent?

Why can’t DC get Lex Luthor right? In the first Superman film, he was a buffoon wearing a wig! Now, he’s acting like the Joker from The Killing Joke. Luthor isn’t psychotic. He’s a shrewd, calculating, and evil man. He is too smart to be doing the actual dirty work like shoving Lois Lane off a high-rise heli-pad.

Why are there so many flashbacks or dream sequences?

As much as I love that Bruce has this dream/vision where he’s confronted with this figure who is the Flash caught in some vortex isn’t this contrived? What? To say that Superman will go rogue one day? I blame all this Batman versus Superman crap on Frank Miller. 

If you read that great story, Kingdom Come, after Lois Lane passes away and more violent heroes supplant the older generation, Superman retires to the quiet life of a farmer in Kansas. Dave Gibbons and Steve Rude got it right as well in that three-issue limited series from the 1990s, “World’s Finest."

Another of those dream sequences is when Superman is atop a snowy mountain where his late father, Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) speaks to him. Ah, why atop a snowy peak? Shouldn’t it have been more apropos in the fields of Kansas?

Why is Perry White asking one of his top reporters in Clark Kent to write about a sports story? Was it a slow news day? Anyone who works in a newspaper knows that you don’t assign a sports story to a hard news reporter. Conversely, you don’t ask a sportswriter to cover Washington DC politics. As Perry says, no one is buying papers anymore. No wonder.

Why is it that Lex Luthor has all these files on metahumans and Bruce Wayne doesn’t? He’s 20 years into his career as the Batman and for a man who supposedly monitors the world, how could he have missed these metahumans? 

If there’s a climate of fear about Superman, why does he insist on hovering around like he’s a god? This clearly was lifted from that great story, Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. That was also repeated in Ross’ Peace On Earth oversized graphic novel. He should be trying to win their hearts and minds.

How could a man get inside a Senate hearing with a bomb inside his wheelchair? Wasn’t it inspected? Why weren’t there any dogs on sight to sniff it out? Why did Senator Finch sound incoherent? Was she drugged? We can surmise that? 

The fight between Batman and Superman could have been avoided. Despite the destruction of Metropolis, Bruce would have known that Superman is not a threat. He is supposed to be a detective in some ways so why didn’t he investigate the causes of the Senate bombing before coming to the conclusion that Superman is a danger?
Furthermore, why didn’t Clark reveal the blackmail in detail? Yes, he tried but again… a lot could have been avoided had they talked? And that brings me back when Superman stopped Batman from chasing the mercenaries who were bringing the Kryptonite from the White Portuguese freighter to the Lex Corp offices? He stopped Batman but not the guys with the MBT LAW (Main Battle Tank Light Anti-Tank Weapon)?

Why is Lois Lane in the scene of every battle? Why didn’t Superman save Martha Kent? Why leave Batman to do it? It took Batman some minutes to take down the thugs. Superman could have swooped in and saved Martha Kent in one pass then leave Batman to break some bones and re-arrange some faces.

Why is Diana Prince in Metropolis? She obviously knows the connection between Bruce Wayne and Batman. And she was in an old photo? And she was out to get that photo that Luthor has of her? It isn’t like it’s of TMZ material. Then she’s leaving Gotham and then has a change of heart to help out Batman and Superman?

When Doomsday fires this energy blast towards Batman, Wonder Woman deflects this with her bracelets? it wasn’t like Doomsday fired some bullets or a laser beam. It was an energy blast that was massive and it gets deflected by her bracelets? It would have been more plausible for her to use her shield.

How did the world at large know that Luthor was behind the creation of Doomsday? It doesn’t make sense that Superman was given a heroes burial. After all, he was previously suspected of bombing the Senate hearing. Who had a bird’s eye view of the battle with Doomsday when everything in the vicinity was razed? There was even more death and destruction. I think it would be more plausible for people to say that there was another Kryptonian creature on the rampage.

Why is Gotham just across the river from Metropolis? What is this — the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul?

Why did Batman visit Luthor in jail? To brand a wall with the Bat-sign?

Because of the plot holes, I find the moving from one scene to another haphazard and bewildering. It stops the film from being an enjoyable experience. 

The fundamental shift in DC is the darker tone. This is best encapsulated in the inter-company crossover JLA?Avengers from 2003.

In the first issue of that great series by writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez who had long and lauded stints on both Avengers and JLA titles, Superman says when he arrived on Marvel’s Earth, “This world! It’s lush, it’s alive — there are here too, from what we’ve discovered. How can they allow this? How can they stand for it? Don’t they care?”

Before that, the JLA witnesses the cowering masses singing praises to the tyrant, Dr. Doom. They find the destruction on Genosha following the events of “E is for Extinction” in New X-Men, and the Punisher taking down some criminals. 

When the Avengers travel to the JLA’s Earth, they wonder at the museum dedicated to the Flash and the outpouring of love for the heroes. That causes Captain America to remark, “Justice — this isn’t justice! Look around — this is their city, it wasn’t built by men. They must own this world, like little tin gods demanding the public’s adoration instead of protecting its freedoms.”

The shoe is on the other foot now. Marvel with its real life feel but with far sunnier skies while DC is all grim and gritty.

I liked BvS. It’s not great. It’s good. The potential unrealized especially with such a powerhouse cast, but the promise remains unsullied. 

The title of Dawn of Justice is wrong, it should have been The Dark Before the Dawn.

But go see it. It’s still not bad. It could have been the best ever though.

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