By Jeanne Tan (17A01B), Sabariesh Ilankathir (17A13A) and Andrew Atang Hidajat (17S03I)
This article may contain spoilers! If you have not watched the film, do be aware of this.
“Tell me, do you bleed?”
If the reactions from this movie have left you wondering about the fate of Batman v. Superman, answer is no. This movie has not been bleeding despite the repeated attacks from its critics.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been a subject of much discussion. Since its release, fans have heralded it as a definitive introduction to the DC cinematic universe while critics have tried to burn it at the stake. It has been raking in huge box office numbers, enjoying the fourth-biggest global opening in box office history, while being slammed by critics as yet another mediocre film, holding a roughly 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics say it is too dark and convoluted, while fans have been hailing it as a love letter to the comics fans from DC. And despite the bad publicity it has been getting from the critics and the “Sad Affleck” memes spreading across the Internet like wildfire, audience reviews still rate the movie at around 75%.
So what’s the truth here? Raffles Press is here with a multi-faceted analysis of the movie, on why Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice so easy to love but also so easy to hate.
Audience members who have looked forward to seeing a whole film dedicated to the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel brawling may be disappointed, for the epic duo only fought for 24 minutes, out of the film’s two and a half hour screen time. The movie spends much of its time on the “Dawn of Justice” half of the title, setting the stage for the upcoming Justice League film, due for release in 2018.
The convoluted editing style and overall busy nature of the film may put off those accustomed to more straightforward superhero movies. Fans praise director Zack Snyder’s clear attempts in this movie to imitate the comic book style of delivery, with the quick scene transitions and parallel plot lines and large cast, but in the end the film lacked a central focus. While we can appreciate the attempt made with the pacing and editing, it did feel incoherent and difficult to follow, which robbed some scenes of their potential for greatness.
The fundamental problem with the script is reflected in the title. The film already took upon itself the gargantuan task of setting up two iconic heroes and pitting them against each other. On top of everything else it had to set up, it felt crowded.
Nevertheless, the plot was constantly engaging, if not utterly thrilling, and one cannot leave it without feeling completely pumped for the future of the DCEU.
However, regardless of one’s opinions about this motion picture, one cannot deny that it was spellbinding in terms of cinematography. Zack Snyder has a clear love for classically beautiful camera shots.
The well-worn Batman origin story was told briefly but beautifully, setting up the darkness of the scene against the dazzling lights of Gotham. Zack Snyder is also clearly very much a fan of the source material, as there were many shots which one could have taken straight from a DC comic book.
Also worthy of praise was the use of IMAX (an acronym for Image Maximum, which is a type of film format) allowed for larger, crisper images clearly made to be marvelled at; perhaps a little dark and desaturated, but that was in line with DC’s preference for darker themes.
The fight scenes, too, were spectacular. While some may have found them chaotic and unnecessarily prolonged, they showcased the two superheroes’ combat prowess brilliantly — Superman with his enormous strength, and Batman with his resourcefulness. The brevity of the fight scenes was an obvious and understandable response to previous complaints about Man of Steel (2013), the prequel of this movie, which had had a painfully lengthy one.
The final battle with Doomsday (a monstrous creature released by supervillain Lex Luthor) was the culmination of all the grand action scenes, with the Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) standing side by side, preparing themselves to face said beast as Wonder Woman let out a battle cry that gave us the goose bumps. That Trinity scene may have lacked context due to their lack of interaction beforehand, but it certainly managed to convey the majesty that the DC heroes possess.
God versus Man. Day versus Night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. The showdown the world has been waiting for. This movie spent a long time setting up Batman’s character, as he’s the one audiences haven’t seen before. But that doesn’t stop it from building on the budding hero we saw in Man of Steel.
Superman seemed quite alien in this movie. While traditionally portrayed as a ‘boy scout’ character, this Superman is far less morally pure. In this movie, he’s mostly presented through the eyes of the people around him; we only see his human side in his scenes with Lois Lane, which seem oddly sandwiched in and dampened the entire effect. However it really built on the theme of his alienness making him fundamentally separate from humankind, as compared to the very human Batman. And Batman (dubbed by fans as Batfleck) is very human indeed. The movie arguably spends more time on Bruce Wayne than Batman, showing the battle-hardened crusader twenty years on from every other Batman film you may have seen. He’s dark, he’s jaded, and he’s brutal. There’s a lot of contention surrounding the choice to make him wield guns and kill, and whether or not one is able to suspend disbelief and just go along with it will make or break his character for you.
Both these characters were compellingly introduced, and it’s a fan’s dream to watch them go toe-to-toe. But we much prefer to see them fight alongside each other rather than against.
For all the people disappointed at Jesse Eisenberg’s lack of baldness, his hair isn’t the only thing that’s a problem. His motives were somewhat ambiguous throughout, and while his weak justifications made some excellent points about real-life military deterrence, the acting just didn’t come together very well. But the overall effect is suitably terrifying for a villain, and the progression of his character leaves one very much anticipating his character’s future development
In DC’s defense, some credit is due as well. There was visible effort to give Lois Lane agency and smarts befitting her job as a journalist, and she spent most of the plot miles ahead of the other characters, and in heels no less! But unfortunately, she and Superman’s mother, Martha Kent, were perhaps too often used as human bait.
But there’s one lady nobody will be calling a damsel in distress any time, ever. DC beat everyone else to the chase by finally introducing their iconic female superhero, Wonder Woman. (She’ll be getting her own movie next year – DC just moved up the release date by a month to June 2, 2017!) She was only introduced very briefly, but Israeli actress Gal Gadot did a fantastic job playing this character, and even the worst of critics come out proclaiming their love.
To back up the main cast, there were strong performances all around from supporting characters. Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch was a standout: her acting was absolutely spot on and her character served very much as a grounding element in the film. Alfred was the perfect counterpart to the brooding Batman, and Mercy Graves was equal parts terrifying and stunning as Lex Luthor’s bodyguard and assistant. The brief, very-much-shoehorned-in teases of the Justice League characters were riveting, and seeing this fresh take on these classic comic book characters leaves you feeling more pumped than ever.
In all, Batman V Superman is one part Man of Steel sequel, one part epic fan fulfilment, and one part a setup for the the entire DC Extended Universe. As a standalone, it leaves the audience with mixed impressions. Despite outstanding cinematography, gorgeous settings, and wonderfully complex fighting scenes, the plot incoherence and inconsistent characterisation are some of the flaws which marred the movie’s overall potential. But at the end of the day, fans did get what they were wishing for—an epic showdown between two of the most prominent superheroes in existence—and more, as the stage has now been set for other heroes to join in the fight against evil. And we won’t have to wait long, with Suicide Squad coming out in August and a long stretch of movies on the way!
So tell us: did your eyes bleed?