Is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice That Bad? - IMBOLDN
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I’m not a comic book fan per se, but I am a huge fan of movies that are based on comic books. With so much material to work with in the comic book universe, it would be criminal for the creators to struggle landing on a good story. This is not to say that all films based on comic books have been successful; Ben Affleck’s last outing as a superhero was almost universally panned as being one the worst, while I’ve had to really try hard to remember the suppressed disaster that was the Green Lantern. The fact that there’s a lot of material to work with is a blessing and a curse; you have to make the fan boys happy by cramming in as much easter eggs and references into a two hour film, while at the same time coming up with an original story that isn’t a flat out copy of its inspirational material. It’s especially difficult when you’re working with such beloved characters like Batman and Superman, with a rich history, years of retelling of origins, and precedents of successful and unsuccessful adaptations.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opened last weekend breaking records left and right. Despite the sheer amount of negative reviews, it proved once again that there’s no such thing as bad publicity by raking in enormous amounts of cash. I watched the movie without prejudice, purposefully avoiding any reviews or comments. That’s not to say that I didn’t have my own concerns, one of which was the enormity of what the film had taken on for itself; by pitting two iconic characters against each other, I was afraid it might feel crowded and forced. I purposefully set very low expectations, not because I didn’t have confidence in the filmmakers or DC, but rather because I didn’t want to build up my expectations only to be let down by two of my favorite superheroes.

First off, the new Batman was never going to be able to live up to the stellar Dark Knight trilogy that Christopher Nolan has built up during his helm as director. While we’ve gotten accustomed to Marvel’s approach with their somewhat campy and cartoon-like story and portrayal of their heroes, Nolan has made us expect more when it comes to anything that involves Batman. His story had a clear idea that was told throughout the entirety of each film, riding of any unnecessary story and embellishments for a pure storytelling experience. In comparison, there’s a lot going on with Dawn of Justice. Desperately trying to play catch up to what Marvel has established with its Avengers franchise, which by the way took five films to build up to, DC is doings its best to get its Justice League films up to speed as soon as possible. When you’re desperately trying to replicate your competitor’s formula for success, some things are bound to go wrong.

For instance, there are characters that are unnecessary to the plot. Their placement in the film feels forced and some scenes were deliberately in the film just for the sake of setting up future characters, taking away from the momentum of the story. However, being the optimist that I am, it didn’t bother me as much, as it was also one of those things that reminded me that this new DC universe will hopefully be a coherent one. With so much material to work with and so many characters to introduce, some parts of the film felt like a bit of a mess, but a glorious mess nonetheless.

Jessie Eisenberg gives us a new take on Lex Luthor; a much younger villain that was intended to be more appropriate for today’s world. Previous portrayals of Lex Luthor felt like what Donald Trump has become in 2016, while the idea of Eisenberg’s Luthor is more relevant as a villain in today’s world. However, it was difficult to relate to his character, as the story didn’t leave much room for more detailed exploration. From his long hair and flamboyant outfits, there was a hint of the Joker from the Dark Knight, which added to the edginess of the character, but also felt unoriginal. Despite these shortcomings, I would say that this version of Lex Luthor served its purpose, given how most villains in movies are portrayed as being a world-domination-obsessed one dimensional evil beings and I look forward to seeing his character more fleshed out in future installments.

It was a mess, a glorious mess at that, but a mess that was fascinating to watch.

After the film had ended, I walked away feeling like I enjoyed the it. It wasn’t perfect; far from it, but it’s undeserving of all the negative reviews it’s been getting from so many film critics. It set a lofty goal for itself and walked away having achieved quite a bit. It was a mess, a glorious mess at that, but a mess that was fascinating to watch. I’ve also become somewhat tired of the colorful and cartoon-like approach Marvel has taken with the Avengers, having gotten to the point of feeling sickly. In comparison, DC’s darker and grittier tones still feel more grounded. The film was a story about dark and twisted souls, to the point where it almost felt inappropriate for children, making it feel more real. There’s no doubt that if the filmmakers had been more modest about their goals and the story they wanted to tell, it would have come out as being a more coherent and better film. Having said that, I’m still finding myself looking forward to how the expanded DC universe plays out on future installments.