Today, I’m proud to be a Superman fan. Today, I’m proud to be a Batman fan. Today, I’m a fan of Wonder Woman for the first time. Today is the day I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
I will be the first to admit that I hated, absolutely fucking hated, Man of Steel. It was drab, devoid of colour and humour and had destruction on a scale that I personally though excessive and gratuitous. Then there was director Zack Snyder who kept going on about how he stands by all the wrong choices he’s made and would – in fact – elaborate on those wrong decisions in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because apparently, there’s a plan.
I was worried that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice would suck. After having seen it, I can say the following things:
- Zack Snyder understands the character of Superman
- Zack Snyder hates the character of Superman
- Zack Snyder is also not very fond of where we are at as a society
- Zack Snyder knows exactly what he is doing and has known all along
- I owe Zack Snyder an apology
The fact that Snyder hates Superman is crucial to the story of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as is his hatred of current society. Because if Snyder didn’t feel so strongly about these two things, he would not have been able to pull this one off.
For comic book fans, here’s a comparison: It’s well known that author Garth Ennis doesn’t like superheroes in the way that he hates their being on a pedestal. This irreverence towards heroes enables him to write some of the most beautiful and hard-hitting stories in all of comics.
Zack Snyder is the same, as are writers David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio. Today, for the first time, I saw why Christopher Nolan was still part of the DC Cinematic Universe.
A World Post-Superman
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens on the day Superman (Henry Cavill) reveals himself to the world by killing Zod (Michael Shannon) and levelling at least half of Metropolis. But instead of focusing on the action that we saw at the end of Man of Steel we follow Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) racing towards one of his many office buildings, trying to save as many as he can. An employee named Jack dies and even though we as an audience don’t know who this Jack is, we care, because a completely powerless Bruce Wayne cares.
The massive destruction in Man of Steel suddenly gets faces. We’re no longer just glancing over it. We’re in the middle of it, as bystanders. We are helpless while two people with powers beyond our imagination duke it out and destroy all that we hold dear and take for granted. The fact that they can level our world if they choose so is driven home in a very effective and visceral way.
As such, it’s not surprising that the movie that follows isn’t some action slugfest, but one during which we have to ask ourselves a number of rather uncomfortable questions. Because, here’s the thing: None of the sides in the movie are wrong.
- Wouldn’t it be prudent to have a defense against Superman should he go rogue?
- Shouldn’t he answer to someone?
- Is he really this nice?
- Can we trust him? Why should we? Why can’t we?
We as an audience, we trust Superman. We’ve believed in him since we were children and our parents told us about the Man of Steel for the first time. But what if we didn’t have that? What if there suddenly was a flying man who can level a city in half an hour and then would more or less inform us that he’s the good guy? What would that do to us? If he really is the good guy, then the bad guys must be even worse. And if he lies, we’re screwed regardless. Should we be afraid? Should we hail him as our savior? And – perhaps most importantly – are we as a world ready to accept something so powerful?
These are the questions that are tackled in Batman v Superman and I hope that this gives you a bit of an insight into how this film can redeem Man of Steel.
Three Crazies and Wonder Woman
When you have stories where characters aren’t just responsible for their own actions, but to carry an idea, then you need strong actors. In Batman v Superman, these actors are Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot. They manage to drive all the points home that need to be driven home in this movie. While Cavill’s Superman is an idealistic world-improver who is very naive and somewhat stupid, Affleck’s Batman is a hate-filled, brutal and cynical man who is ultimately very, very scared. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is terrified and manipulative and really, really evil. Meanwhile Gadot’s Wonder Woman manages to keep her disdain for humanity in its current form barely in check while still believing in the good of mankind. It is only the machinations of Lex Luthor that ultimately erase the battle lines between these three characters.
And when these battle lines between the heroes are erased, it’s on. In a stunningly beautiful fight against Doomsday, the three show what each hero can do. What makes this incredibly beautiful fight stand out is the fact that the three heroes have massively different fighting styles. Everything Batman does is against and despite his fear. Superman fights with concern for life and somewhat timidly. And here’s where Wonder Woman steals the show. She is relentless. She has a sword, she has a shield, she has no fear, no hesitation and no mercy. She just lets loose on Doomsday, leaving the other two heroes to scheme, plan and whatever it is they do. When she gets knocked down, she gets up again immediately to bring more pain to Doomsday. It is beautiful.
It’s not just the gorgeous costumes or the spectacular effects that manage to look as realistic as it gets when you talk about a five meter tall monster fighting a flying man. But you could take a screenshot every five seconds and hang it up as a poster on your wall.
What is also outstanding is the sound design. Not just the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg aka. Junkie XL who managed to give Wonder Woman an amazing theme, but also the sounds of things. This was apparent even in Man of Steel where the Kryptonian Drilling Machine Thing makes a very peculiar and amazing noise. In this one, the outstanding sounds are made by Batman’s plane.
A Solid Universe
With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zack Snyder and his crew finally show us the full vision of their universe. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s not about politics or machinations of people. The DC Cinematic Universe is about people. About our hopes, about our fears, about our beliefs. And it works. We’re not to like the destruction we saw in Man of Steel, we’re not to trust Superman blindly, we’re not to trust anyone but we’re free to do so if we so choose. That’s what the DC Cinematic Universe is about.
And if Snyder and his crew can keep this up, I am so game. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens in Swiss cinemas later this week. Go see it!