So Batman v Superman just came out and I’m going to talk about it, but to get the full picture we have to go back and look at
Chances are, you already know a good deal of this, but bear with me while I take you through the history of the two ever-youthful grandfathers of modern superheroes. Superman’s first published appearance was in a prose story in a science fiction magazine called Reign of the Superman in 1933, but he did not get his big break until 1938 when, after 5 years of failing to pitch the Superman character elsewhere Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold the character to Detective Comics Inc, who then made the character the cover star of Action Comics #1. Other notable appearances in this issue were Zatara, father of prominent DC Comics character Zatanna and Tex Thompson…err, Mr America, who, despite appearing 3 whole years before the Captain of the same name has not quite had the same lasting appeal. Superman himself in this issue was quite a different beast from the one appearing in this film. There is no mention of Krypton, he has only been sent from a non-descript planet. He is turned in to an orphanage, rather than being raised by Jon and Martha Kent. He could not fly and was only indestructible to “anything less than a bursting shell”. The character we know today did not truly appear until Summer 1939’s Superman #1 where those absent elements were added. The characters’ on-screen presence began with George Reeves’ TV stint as the character in the 1951 series Adventures of Superman. It planted the character in the public consciousness before the character who defined the superhero comic book defined the superhero movie in 1978 with Superman: The Movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve (no relation to George Reeves). The film captured imaginations worldwide with its revolutionary (at the time) special effects that “made you believe a man could fly” and of course the oh-so-iconic John Williams score. The series then took several….questionable turns after Superman II before making a true return in 2013’s Man of Steel starring Henry Cavill as the man himself. The movie had a few things rough around the edges but showed true promise for the future. While questioning that future Zack Snyder and DC thought of something to add to the sequel. That something, or rather someone was…
Batman. The caped crusader first appeared in Detective Comics #27, where he wore purple gloves and killed without remorse. He led to a huge spike in the comics’ sales and was given his own book, the first issue of which included several things that define the dark knight to this day. His adversaries The Joker and Catwoman, as well as his origin story that you have doubtlessly seen countless times in film, television and even other comic books. Batman first came to screens in 1943 with Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft portraying the dynamic duo in the film serial, which had them face off against the villainous…Dr Daka? Not really an abundance of reference material there. Grant Morrison wasn’t even going there. The film had a sequel but we will now move on to one of the more iconic Batmen of the screen, 1966’s Batman TV show and movie (released shortly after the first series’ ending) was for a good time the most famous rendition of Batman and one that was somewhat unfairly maligned for not being a fair representation of the character.. The character went through several rebirths in the comics and finally, in 1989 a film came out to somewhat reflect this. TIm Burton’s Batman gave the character a darker edge while still being reasonably silly, this carried on to Batman Returns with the most perfect casting in the history of film, I am of course talking about Danny DeVito as the Penguin. And frankly, he’d still be perfect so get on that Mr. Affleck. We know you’re making that film. Just make it with this lovely little goblin man as The Penguin. Batman Forever…continued? the series with a new director and man in the cowl. Joel Schumacher is a pretty good director, but these are not pretty good films. I can take Forever for its campiness, Jim Carrey and Seal, but Batman and Robin is a step too far. The movie-going public seemed to agree, and the series vanished for several years. WB tried to bring it back with a variety of projects that were ultimately cancelled, like the earlier Ivan Reitman film starring Bill Murray as Batman and David Bowie as the Joker which was cancelled way back in 1985. These newer attempts included Joel Schumacher’s The Dark Knight Returns, which would’ve been entertaining at the very least, a Batman Beyond adaptation, Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre Batman: Year One pitch which involved a poverty-stricken Bruce Wayne taken in by a mechanic named Big Al. This project, which Frank Miller thought went over the line, was dropped for Batman vs Superman. Don’t worry, we didn’t skip anything. The 2004 project would’ve revolved around a loose continuation of the Burton/Schumacher films where the Joker kills Batman’s bride to be in the middle of their wedding. This resulted in Superman having to hold back Batman and being blamed for her death by Batman, which lead to their confrontation. In this film, Superman would have been played by Josh Hartnett, while Batman would’ve been played by Christian Bale, a descision that carried over into Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film Batman Begins. In my opinion the best Batman film as of March 24th 2016 but we’ll see how that goes. Nolan’s trilogy is the definitive take on the character for many. Just not me. Ok now hear me out please I’m so sorry. I feel the series takes the realism a bit too far, losing a lot of what makes Batman great. He’s not a man walking among gods, he’s a man walking above other men. He’s not the world’s greatest detective, he’s got people for that. To me, Nolan’s take on the character is a bit too grounded. I rarely get the sense that Bale’s Batman is the smartest man in the room and he solves his problems with punches too much. I think they’re fine films, I just can’t get behind that aspect. The series is (almost) universally loved and set high standards for the next cinematic appearance of the caped crusader after the trilogy ended with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises
The two characters have been intrinsically linked since their inception. Batman was created in direct response to Superman, to give the Detective Comics book its own similar figurehead to the Man of Tomorrow. The characters have shared many books together, from World’s Finest Comics and Justice Society of America in the Golden Age to Batman/Superman and Justice League today. The two are amazing friends, wait, that’s the other guy. Super friends, that’s the one I guess. Superman, in most adaptations is perhaps one of the only people Batman really trusts. Ignore the Kryptonite in his basement, that’s for when the mind controllers come knocking. I do just wish they could’ve met on screen under these terms…
SO HOW IS IT
Batman v Superman is a very strange film. The film is perhaps best described with its parallels to the performance of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor within the film. It’s offbeat and a little disjointed and just different enough some people will absolutely hate it. I didn’t though. Batman v Superman has problems with pacing, with scenes flashing up seemingly at random with no rhyme or reason to their order. The film takes a solid few minutes in the middle to show you a few Justice League teasers with no relation to the story. It is incredibly lazy filmmaking the way this was done but I took the bait hook line and sinker. It was on par with the scene in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 where all of the Spider-Man villains’ equipment is in a basement in Oscorp for some reason but I liked this. As lazily inserted as the teasers are I think they’re very well done and it did get me, somewhat more cautiously, excited for Justice League next year. The film’s cast is almost impeccable. Ben Affleck finally plays the superhero he has had in him since 2003. He perfectly captured Bruce Wayne, regardless of his direction or script. I cannot wait to see what he does under his own direction and script. Gal Gadot embodies Wonder Woman perfectly in her admittedly short screen time, the character is a highlight of every scene she is in and her theme is top class, letting JunkieXL stretch his Mad Max muscle a little. Jeremy Irons plays what I think is without a doubt the best on-screen Alfred. It is played somewhat differently to how those Nolanites out there came to expect from Michael Caine but I feel it is much closer to the somewhat sassier Alfred of the comics and animated shows. Henry Cavill still shows promise of a Superman to surpass Reeve, but I feel direction holds him back. Those who thought Man of Steel was “not my Superman” will have less problems than they did there with this film, though some scenes may still leave them asking questions. Amy Adams as Lois Lane continues to be somewhat wasted, it is still a mystery whether it’s down to acting, directing or no-one at Warner seeming to be able to write the character properly. As mentioned before I believe Eisenberg as Luthor will be a very divisive element. He plays a very new take on the character and many seem to find it irritating. Personally, I think that was the point. At times I was reminded of Thomas Middleditch’s performance as Richard Hendricks in Silicon Valley, bratty, compulsive and calculating, he is an evolved Lex Luthor representing today’s not quite as big men at the top. Your mileage may vary.
The film looks very nice. The opening scene takes a scene that has been done countless times before and gives us without a doubt the best version yet. The team of Zack Snyder and Larry Fong can do nothing if not make films that look fantastic. It is a welcome change of pace from the constant big budget TV movie stylings of Marvel Studios’ regular outputs. The pieces of a fantastic film are all there. Though perhaps it may be a few too many. There was a “leaked” image last year that suggested the film would be split into two parts and we all scoffed at it, correctly assuming it to be fake but would it have been so bad? The film does already feel like a few films jammed into one. A sequel to Man of Steel, a Batman movie and a Justice League prequel. It functions decently as all of those but you have to wonder if they’d have been better served on their own.
My biggest question going into this movie after reading the reviews was not “Who will Win?”, it was “Could it possibly be THAT bad?”. The answer, I think, is no. Is it perfect? No, but only two films are. Is it fantastic? No, but it does have some great parts. Is it awful? No, but there’s plenty wrong with it. Who is to blame? Zack Snyder? Chris Terrio? Ben Affleck? Devin Faraci? Christopher Nolan? Joel Schumacher? Richard Pryor? Frank Miller? JJ Abrams? Kevin Feige? Mark Millar? The Estate of Bob Kane? Warner Bros Executives? That crafty old rapscallion David S Goyer? Who really knows?
In the end, I enjoyed the film a great deal but recognised enough problems that I’m not sure how easy it will be for others to enjoy it. Do I think you should see it? Maybe. Do you like DC Comics and don’t hate Zack Snyder? Then totally. Are you bored, want to go see a movie but you’ve already seen Zootopia 4 times? Yeah, go ahead. Do you have a furry friend who keeps asking you to see Zootopia with him? See this instead to annoy them, that’s what I’m doing.