Sunday, 3 April 2016

Batman V Superman








Hear that soundtrack music I have playing in the background?

Has a sort of intense dark foreboding feel to it that can't help but make you feel like something really important is on the line.  Combine that with an equally dark set design, compelling dialogue, a riveting story line and some of the best character development I've ever seen and you have a  masterpiece.

No i'm not talking about Batman V Superman!  I'm of course referring to one of the best movies of all time.  Christopher Nolans The Dark Knight.  A movie you can't help finding yourself comparing Batman V Superman to because you can tell that they were inspired and influenced by Nolans cinematic Gem.

It is an utmost travesty that Nolans name flashed onscreen in the opening credits to Batman V Superman as executive producer, as this films director, Zack Snyder, appeared to gut everything good from The Dark Knight and left us with this garbage heap of a mess in return.

Now before I get into this movies faults, of which there are many, I feel it is important to preface this with what I won't be critical of.

This is a superhero movie.  Super hero movies aren't exactly supposed to have the most believable stories.  In fact I believe this to be an intentional design to give comic book nerds an avenue to argue about meaningless nothingness like I do with politics and others do with sports teams.

For example a movie that pins a, for all intents and purposes, immortal superhero (Superman) vs a superhero that has no discernible powers (Batman) is laughable on its own.  But I've no doubt that there has been a many an argument that has ensued that Batman can beat Superman and how Clark Kents eye-wear absolutely constitutes a valid disguise.

No I won't be arguing about these types of complaints.  Comic book movies are supposed to be silly and I have no qualms over that.  I do however have many complaints over nearly every other aspect of this movie and I will get to them.

But first.

I, like many others i'm sure, am certainly getting comic book movie fatigue.

As such I did not go into this movie with very high expectations.  I thought the trailer was terrible and a movie released in March is never a good sign especially when originally slated for a July release as in the case of this film.
*Side Note*
Oscar nominated films are released just before the awards season before Christmas and blockbusters are released in summer and during Christmas.  After Christmas is a dumping ground of leftover movies that studios have little faith in and hope that this less competitive time will eek out a small profit instead of a huge loss during the highly competitive summer months 

There is clearly an over saturation of super hero movies and I can't wait for some new original movies to be created  But these movies are money makers and appear to be here to stay.  In fact Batman V Superman did its absolute best to lose money with an over inflated budget of $250 million in production and an additional $150 million in marketing.  But with a record breaking worldwide release of $450 million in just one week it looks like they are here to stay.

So without further ado lets examine this newest example of a film completely bankrupt of any originality.

Lets start with the cast and characters of the film.

After writing the previous sentence i've basicly been staring at my computer screen for 15 minutes trying to figure out how to proceed.

Why?

Because this movie was completely devoid of anything remotely resembling character development!

I want to try to give an idea of each of the characters of the film but there is no substance behind any of the characters.



Ben Affleck played batman.  He was neither good nor bad.  There was simply nothing going on here.  He rarely spoke and when he did it really only made the film worse.  This isn't Afflecks fault.  The script gave him nothing to go on.



Henry Cavill played Superman.  See previous paragraph for his characters synopsis.



This film had both Jeremy Irons, and Amy Adams both actors whom I love dearly.  They are brimming with talent and this film did nothing with it!



Adams played a completely helpless Lois Lane who was forever getting herself into trouble and relying on Superman to bale her out.  Have none of the creative minds behind this film seen the recent Disney films where woman are now being portrayed as strong independent woman?  It wouldn't have surprised me if Lois Lane would have tripped and fell into a puddle and succumbed to screaming for superman to save her lest she drown in a 1 inch puddle.



I suppose Gal Gadot as Wonderwoman was supposed to fill the role of the strong female but it was ruined by the one action scene she was in where she was at one point on the ground in her scantily clad uniform with her legs spread wide open.

Now i'm usually the one rolling my eyes at feminists claims of misogyny so if I found this movie a little over the top with the weak women then it has to be pretty bad.



But back to Jeremy Irons.  He was completely wasted as Alfred.  He, like Batman, had very few lines and was barely in the movie.  I'm not really sure what his role was but wish they had saved him to play a villain something that he is really meant for.



And finally we have Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luther.  His character actually did have personality but it was misplaced.

Lex Luther is supposed to be a supervillian of the highest intelligence.  Wheras Eisenberg played him as a madman psychopath closer to either the Joker or the Riddler.  Which would make sense in the Batman universe of villains who had been released from an actual insane asylum but Lex Luther is actually from Supermans neck of the woods and is a genius billionaire businessman.

Lets contrast this with Dark Knight shall we?

Christian Bale as possibly the best incarnation of Batman.

Michael Caine as a warm and nurturing overseer of Batman.  You can absolutely feel his love for the troubled hero.

Morgon Freeman as the moral compass for Batman.

Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal (not a useless female), and Aaron Eckhart all playing a sort of white knight morally pure characters attempting to fight evil without Batmans proclivity to fight evil with evil of his own.

And finally Heath Ledger with his Oscar winning performance as the Joker whos dedication to his craft may have led to his ultimate real life demise.

All of these characters had their own look and feel to them where they each contributed something unique to the story.




Batman V Superman had nothing!!!

Again I don't blame the actual actors.  Between Zack Snyder and the script they had absolutely nothing to work with.

Speaking of Zack Snyder.  I don't know why he went so wrong with this film.  He's directed 300, The Watchman and the remake to George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  All of which are very good films that utilized unique film techniques that crafted a Zack Snyder feel.

However it is as if he wanted to capitalize on those successful techniques by cramming them into every single take of this movie.

For example Zack Snyder is known for his slow motion scenes.  These are very effective when there is something either very important occurring or something beautiful to look at.  Here are examples from his films where this does work.


video


However in order to utilize this type of slow motion effectively the technique has to be used sparingly.  If you use them in nearly every single scene then it completely loses its impact, importance and relevance.  I swear he used slow motion when characters were walking down the street and ordering a coffee!

This caused the pacing of the film to slow down to an achingly slow crawl.  There was very little that actually happened in this movie (and we'll get to that) and yet it still ended up with a run time of 2 and a half hours.

Now Michael Bay and J J Abrams way overuses their patented lens flare technique.  But while this overuse begins to be a little silly and gratuitous at least it doesn't extend the runtime of their film by at least 30 minutes!

But seriously though, those lens flares are downright comical once you start noticing how often then are used.  Especially since they were considered defects and edited out originally.  It's just like you kids now adays with your camera filters.  Using all of the different settings to make your pictures all old timey looking.  Those are defects people!  I don't want to see your pictures all hazy and slightly yellowed out.  Can we not just use the normal settings to make pictures look as accurate as possible!  Just stop it!  But I digress..






 Another technique that Zack Snyder used that I actually hate in all forms of media and that is dream sequences.  I find they almost add nothing to the film and usually just leave the viewer confused as to what is going on as real dreams typically do.  This film had multiple dream sequences, and considering the plot didn't make much sense to begin with, really just hurt the film.  I think he may even have used a dream within a dream sequence.  Maybe it's just me.  Does anybody like dream sequences?  But hey at least dream sequences are usually in slow motion so it allowed him to slow down the film even more.

A close cousin to dream sequences is the flash back where we get to go back in time to an earlier moment to explain to the viewer how we ended up where we are today.  I'm actually fine with flash backs.  However in this case we flashed back to Batmans origin for the hundredth time.  Do we need to see him as a boy and his parents dying in every single movie he is in.  Does Hollywood really hate his parents so much that they are now the most killed people in cinematic history.  Again.  This movie was 2 hours long.  We all know Batmans origin at this point can we not cut this out and attempt to trim some of this movie to a more respectable length?

And why was this movie so long?  Nothing happened in this movie.  The plot was incredibly thin and what existed made absolutely no sense.  Usually I lead off a movie blog with a brief synopsis of the film.  I actually tried to do that but realized that this movie had nearly no plot.  So lucky for me I don't have to worry about spoiling this film as there is nothing to spoil.  Except for maybe the end.  Which I do plan to spoil because it also bears criticizing.  But don't worry i'll give a heads up before I do that :).

So to begin with.  The title is very misleading.  It's called Batman V Superman.  This should lead you to believe that this movie is about Batman fighting Superman.  When in reality there was maybe 5-10 minutes of them actually duking it out and then they mysteriously and abruptly become best friends.

The film is basically about the world turning against Superman.  Both Lex Luthor and Batman want superman dead because they both view him as a threat.  Lex Luthor views him as a threat to his own super villian aspirations whereas Batman views him as a threat to mankind.

This movie picks up where Superman: Man of Steel left off where Batman witnessed the absolute power that Superman yields.  As a result Batman believes that Superman in his absolute strength could wipe out all of humanity and even if there was just a 1% chance that he would be inclined to do so it was Batmans duty to kill him for the sake of the human race.

This actually does make quite a bit of sense.  Batman is the type of superhero that does bad things in order to prevent even worse things from occuring.  In fact it is this moral flexibility that Batman yields that actually has Superman (in his moral absolutism) attempt to shut Batman down for good.

Let me geek out over this for a moment.  The reason I do not like Superman is that he is arrogant in his near perfect.  It is really easy to be morally pure when nothing can stop you and you have super powers that can turn back time.  Batman as a mere mortal does what he has to do in order to stem the tide of darkness that is always plaguing Gotham.  Sure if he could fly and pick up all those bad guys and drop em off at the precinct he would.  But he hasn't been blessed with your immortality Superman Okay?!  So glad Batman kicked your ass this movie....



Ok that might of been the one thing I liked about this movie but again i'm digressing.

Because the plot has Batman viewing Superman as an existential threat to mankind and seeks to kill him as a result.  Yet just as he has the opportunity to do so he doesn't.  Why?  Because their mother has the same name!  Superman splurts out his mothers name (because he is trying to save her) and Batman get confused because that is his mothers name too.  And his quick and near total rage to kill superman subsides.  Just because they both have a mother named Martha.

Here's the thing.  This should have made Batman more inclined to kill Superman.  Superman would have done whatever it took to save his mother.  Who knows what that could have resulted in.  Maybe the downfall of mankind?  Doesn't this make Superman more of a threat and considering Batman was willing to kill him without any hint of superman's ill intent this part of the movie made no sense.  And incredibly anticlimactic.

Like I said the movie was predicated on the notion that it was Batman V Superman and yet this movie had an hour and a half build up to a 10 minute fight scene that abruptly ended nonsensically.

There is nearly no plot whatsoever and yet the entire tone of the film leeds us to believe that something really important is going on.  From the constant slow motion sequences, the foreboding soundtrack and the entirely too dark set pieces it was as if some great threat was threatening humanity.  But there wasn't really any real danger or threat throughout this whole film.

And let me talk briefly about the dark set design.  It was shot in a very similar way to Dark Knight.  As in there was pretty well no sunlight and every scene seemed to be devoid of any lighting fixtures.  This worked in Dark Knight because there actually was a criminal mastermind (Joker) who was instilling Chaos throughout Gotham and the entire city was in grave danger.  Meanwhile Harvey Dent was the sole morally pure figure in the city and we watched as he struggled to remain pure despite great adversity.  We cared about Gotham, we cared about Harvey Dent.  I did not give a shit about anybody or anything in this soulless piss poor excuse of a film!

Now it may seem unfair that I am comparing this movie to the Dark Knight.  But heres the thing.  If you are going to make 397 Batman films they will of course be compared to one another and Dark Knight is the shining example of perfection.

Also if you are going to make this many comic book films you are going to have to find a way to produce a unique product otherwise they will all be the same and the audience will get bored.






Tim Burtons previous Batman films were great.  It had the standard blend of comedy and darkness to it that defines Burtons works.  They were really fun films.

In contrast Nolan made purely dark serious films that worked in that capacity.

Then you have Marvel doing their own thing which is basically a young teen boys dream which is just pure action and funny films.

All 3 of these approaches have worked in their own way.

Zack Snyder had no real distinct feel to his film and I only found him attempting, and failing, at adopting from other peoples techniques.

For example.  This movie actually picked up a bit (and I mean a little bit) after Batman and Superman made up.  The movies tone switched from a deeply serious film to the characters making self referential jokes that are hallmarks of the Marvel films.

If they had kept this tone throughout the film, sticking with comedy and ditching the needless darkness, it may have been a better movie.  Sure they would have been sell outs by copying Marvel, but at least it would have been an enjoyable film.  Clearly Zack Snyder has no real capacity for his own direction so might as well copy the masters at Marvel who somehow manage to produce 3 or so films a year without having its audience get bored.

And Zack Snyder isn't all bad.  He just really blew it with this movie.  He proven in the past that he can make some really artful and beautiful scenes.  He actually had one very well done scene at the end of the film which I am about to spoil right now.  It's not really a big spoiler but the decision to click that Show button is your call.




At the end of the film Superman sacrifices himself (in another absurdly nonsensical convoluted scene where he really didn't have to) in order to take out Doomsday a near invincible foe created by Lex Luthor. Where Zack Snyder excells is the funeral scene where his slow motion and attention to details really is effective. At least it would have been if we thought for one second that Superman had died. Since we know he didn't this only added an additional 20 minutes to a film that was already unnecessarily long. It actually would have made more sense to add this to the beginning of the next film to avoid treating its audience for fools by attempting to extract sorrow during this scene. .




So that's my review and here's the thing.  I like movies.  Actually I love them.  I have been waiting for a while to have a movie inspire me to write a blog where i'm not ranting and raving.  They just never came.  I've had decent movies but none that has wowed me.  So instead I find a movie that was on the other end of the scale that was just begging to be torn apart.

That being said I love movies so much I can even derive pleasure from this garbage heap.  Especially since I saw it in the theater.

I love the whole movie going experience.  I love the plume of the marijuana cloud you have to navigate through upon entering the theater.

I love seeing a $250 million dollar film on a cheapie $7 tuesday night.

I love bypassing the egregiously expensive food counters while wearing suspiciously baggy clothing that are certainly not stuffed with goods from the dollar store that is conveniently located right next to the theater.

I love the obnoxious teenagers making way too much noise and laughing way too much (might be a correlation with the weed).

I love the battle of the armrest with a random moviegoer at the busier showings and also really love seeing a movie that has been out for quite some time so have the entire theater to myself.

I especially loved the couple next to me in this film that (like me) have the balls to open up caned beverages with that loud pop in the theater announcing our disobedience to all.  But these two took it up a notch and were consuming 40 ounce beers.

See i'm not a crochety, grumpy old man.  I just demand more from my films.  There was no redeeming features in this movie.

However the movie I saw prior to this was 10 Cloverfield lane.  Doesn't really need to be seen in theaters, and I suspect most wont like it.  However it does have a high rating and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Just didn't have enough material to write a blog on :).

So do yourself a favor.  10 Cloverfield has been out a while.  Hit up a dollar store, get yourself a 40, hotbox with those delinquents outside the building and enjoy an empty theater just for you and ditch this film.