Batman V Superman: The (Relatively) Spoiler-Free Gizmodo Australia Review

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice doesn't give the audience much credit, and that's where the main problem lies. The "aha" moments are there and they are good, but as we've worked them out, they are laid out for us. And in case we missed it, everything is spelled out for us again. Obvious music signals Something Very Important is happening, which is then repeated, slow motion, shown from a different angle, another flashback — there, do you get it? Do you get it yet?

Yeah, we got it — can you stop now? I want to like your movie.

Image: Roadshow Films

Batman V Superman is at its core a Superman movie, and setting up the characters to be evenly balanced presented an emotional back-and-forth throughout the film. Not just in a physical sense, but in terms of who the audience was rooting for. I conducted a quick survey in my cinema before the film started, and an overwhelming majority were there for Bats. The Supes fans were minimal. Making this audience care about Clark’s adventures was always going to be an uphill battle once you've thrown Bruce into the mix.

Setting The Themes

The first few scenes of the film see us switch from destruction in Metropolis to a dusty desert in Africa. This is where we have our first meeting with Lois Lane, who asserts "I’m not a lady, I’m a journalist" as though the two are mutually exclusive.

From this encounter we start to see the (what could have been) subtle themes impregnate themselves throughout the film. "Ignorance is not the same as innocence" is thrown at Lois here, and later at Superman, as the discussion of innocence and cruelty and gods and devils reaches and then runs away with its potential, leaving the audience in mourning for its return.

Although he only ever wants to help people, we know this because everyone around him says so. He never really gets a chance to speak for himself on the matter. Superman is learning you can't please everyone as we start to hear from people who have been directly negatively affected by his actions. "The world has been so wrapped up in what Superman can do, no one stopped to think about what he should do," is the point raised and debated in all forms of the media, while Clark watches on. He just wants to do the right thing, doesn't want anyone to get hurt, but someone always seems to, somehow. You feel for him here, you get it. He’s touted as a god, a false god, a man above the law — for how do you rule the gods?

As Batman is battling his own demons, he and Superman are eventually woven together into a distractingly CGI-heavy battle as the discussions of devils and gods ring in their ears and they attempt to wreck minimal havoc on civilians.

Bruce/Bats

Batman V Superman opens with what is the strongest part of the film — Batman. The origin story of The Bat is one that has been told and retold for the last 75-plus years. It's unavoidable when introducing the character, and is an opportunity to set the tone for Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. Recognising the audience is likely to be familiar with the tragedy of Thomas, Martha and the trauma it inflicts on young Bruce, the choice to utilise an opening credits scene as a refresher was a less tiresome option, and beautifully done.

The next time we see Bruce is during a 9/11-esque scene of destruction in Metropolis that has him dodging the dust and rubble to save Wayne Enterprises employees and random civilians from the havoc on the ground. Looking up to the sky, we see the cause — Superman. Bruce is firmly established in this one moment as being resentful of having to clean up after Superman's mess.

May I just say, without a hint of irony, that Ben Affleck's jaw plays a spectacular Bruce Wayne. It’s like something lifted straight out of the pages of a comic book. Glorious. And his posture? Superb. The man is built. He walks like Bruce, talks like Bruce, and his interactions with Alfred are perfection. #TeamBatfleck

With Wayne Manor abandoned and derelict, he lives in the house from Ex-Machina (well, it looks like it), downs a glass of wine from the night before for breakfast, yet can still hit a truck tyre with a sledgehammer (which is obviously an impressive thing or we wouldn't have a workout montage including it, right?) Said workout montage also included chin-ups with giant weight chained to his legs. It aims to drive home that Bruce wasn't gifted with anything. He's worked for his skills.

Image: Roadshow

Bruce's alter ego seems to be going through some tough times. It’s not clear what has happened to the Batman, but he's gone full rogue. His introduction is something out of a horror film. He is not only literally branding people (which causes them to be beat up — or killed — in prison) but he is also straight up killing them himself. His body count in this film is unprecedented for the character. The weary and jaded Alfred — played beautifully by Jeremy Irons — attempts to address this with a link between Superman's presence and how the questioning of that "turns good men cruel".

He has so many Batsuits in this film, and he'll be dammed if he won’t have a different fighting style for each of them. In the bigger armoured suits his movements are powerful, slow, deliberate — juggernaut-like, with the camera panning slowly to catch every moment. In the lighter, close fitting more flexible suits he takes on faster, striking, swift movements and our view of the action takes on the same tone. His moves are borrowed from the Arkham games, and it works so well.

If this movie was nothing but Batfleck in different batsuits in a continual montage of fight scenes, I’d be happy. I even don’t mind his signature drumming music.

The Babyfaced Villan

Then we get to Alexander "Lex" Luthor, a caricature of a youthful Silicon Valley success story. You'll know when he’s around by the shrieking violin music. On the surface, he seems to be a classic, outdated "Hello I am on the autism spectrum also super intelligent LOOK AT HOW ECCENTRIC I AM" trope.

Looking a little deeper, I think I saw glimpses of a genuine struggle. Someone really, really trying to be a good villain whilst forever living in his father’s shadow. Whether that was Lex himself or Jesse Eisenberg playing him, I am yet to work out.

Let's Talk About Wonder Woman

I’m just going to come out and say this. The idea that Diana Prince could walk into a room full of socialites in a glittering backless gown and blend in is flat out ludicrous, yet that is exactly what happens in Batman V Superman. "Pretty girl" is the first thing said of her by Bruce, after the pair had a few moments of borderline-sultry eye contact. I’m sorry, what? No. Wonder Woman is not a girl. Wonder Woman is a powerhouse. The woman is an Amazon. Depending on her origin story, she’s a demi-god. This may have been an attempt to establish Bruce’s character, but in doing so dismissed the absolute presence Diana brings to a room.

And what is she doing now? Is she a spy? Is she a secret agent? Does she just rock up to parties to get what she needs, then go back home to snuggle in her cardigan in front of her laptop? It's great that we have met her but we really needed more to go on here.

I think the biggest disappointment with Diana came from her lack of true character. When we think about the character traits you associate with Wonder Woman — strength, compassion, empathy, generosity, always seeing the good in people — it does appear this film chose to focus on the first to the detriment of the rest. She was played as mysterious, alluring, flirtatious, even selfish — and I was left confused. Diana Prince is not a femme fatale. Diana Prince is a woman with a heart of gold and a need to do good in the world. And Diana Prince would never compare herself to other women in a disparaging way, Amazonian or not.

She kicks some serious butt in battle. That is the bare minimum we needed from Wonder Woman in this film, and we got it. Her appearance on screen, accompanied by her signature 80's glam rock guitar riff (who okayed that?), elicited genuine cheers from the audience, and gave me actual goosebumps.

This is the first time we have had Wonder Woman on the big screen, and there's a lot riding on how she is portrayed. This may be causing me to be harsher than I'd like to be, but I think these points are worth bringing up.

There is one moment in the midst of a fight where she falls to the ground. The audience is treated to a crotch shot, splayed legs, and a cheeky smirk on her face and she revs back up to get in there and fight some more, because this is the extent of her persona in battle. Later when Diana explains her absence by saying she gave up on the world of men, while Bruce assures her there is good in the world. For me, these two moments are pretty big clues pointing towards a complete lack of understanding within this film as to what Wonder Woman is all about.

What gives me hope is that Patty Jenkins (the director of the standalone Wonder Woman film) seems to have a much better grasp on who Diana is, based on interviews she has given.

In short, Batman V Superman is a Superman movie that should have been a Batman movie and needed a brutal hand in the edit suite — one that flows well instead of the jumpy nonsensical mess we have been left with. Giving the majority of the pivotal scenes a good edit — they were all about 30 seconds too long — would have given them a very different outcome to this film. They had every opportunity to be effective, but were held back by a lack of complete subtlety. There are the frustrations that come with being a mega-fan of something that hasn't been executed perfectly, but the film is inherently watchable. There are laugh out loud moments and some great action scenes.

I wanted to be blown away by this film. But I can’t help but feel we could have skipped this whole thing and just gone straight into The Justice League.


Comments

    Wasn't this set in an alternative universe to the other Batman or Superman universes?
    If so shouldn't that be taken into account. Let's face it the idea that Batman would even have a chance at hurting Superman is farcical in the first place.

    Last edited 25/03/16 12:54 pm

      Let's face it the idea that Batman would even have a chance at hurting Superman is farcical in the first place.

      The movie did a great job in this regard, the fight between the two was totally believable.

        Not a massive spoiler to suggest that Kryptonite might be involved...

      I haven't seen it, but my understanding is it is set in the same universe as Man of Steel, but not the same universe that the Dark Knight trilogy occupied.

      I don't read comic books, but some co-workers have told me the Superman and Batman rivalry goes way back and Batman is often competitive due to him deploying tactics other than brute strength.

      first of all its a reboot, so completely unrelated

      second of all DC follows a multiple universe idea anyway. So its totally plausible that every iteration of batman youve seen all exist and are real and dont contradict or supercede each other. They are just alternate realities.

      A really good example is Flash and super girl tv series. Flash travels to a different universe to meet super girl, whom we all normally expect to exist in the same universe. This gives plausibility as to why a tv superman is different to a movie superman

      and why we have a TV grant guston flash and a different flash for the movies currently. Different universes

    Way to reduce Ben Affleck to an object and make judgements based purely on his looks. I'm sure he'd be over the moon to hear that it wasn't his 20 years acting experience that impressed you, but his chin and build! You make no similar comments about the appearance of the actress that plays Wonder Woman.

      Did you miss this bit:"He walks like Bruce, talks like Bruce, and his interactions with Alfred are perfection. #TeamBatfleck"?

      Since Batman's physicality was a strong focus during the film -- in an attempt to show him as a fair match for Superman, I felt it appropriate to comment on.

      Valid points about not mentioning his acting skills enough, though. I thought that it was covered in the rest of the Bats/Bruce section, but clearly I didn't focus on it enough.

        Yeah, dunno what guesty's talkin' about; your description of Battfleck's performance actually made me decide to go catch it tonight, and I'm now of the opinion that this is the best Batman we've seen on screen yet.

        This incarnation of bats wasn't the walking ball of angst that Bale played. He's older, and he's over it. He moves with purpose and confidence that's all about what the military describes as, 'controlled aggression'. There's a maturity and frankness there which has been lacking in all the other movies. When Alfred arches a metaphorical eyebrow at Bruce's dismissal of '20 years of fighting crime', Bruce's response is perfect. "Criminals are like weeds. You pull 'em up, more grow right back in their place." I suspect it's possibly the first admission we've ever seen that he's not labouring under some kind of 'make a difference' delusion and is fully aware of - and fine with - the fact that he's just doing some very intense gardening.
        Also, how telling is it that the cop sees that it's Batman and straight-up opens fire with a shotgun? That's some real next-level police/vigilante tension.

        I didn't even believe that Michael Caine could be beat as Alfred, but Irons smashed it. The two of them working like a well-oiled machine with minimal residual tension? Perfect.

        (Also, I can't believe it took this movie to come up with the voice synthesizer to avoid the oft-lampooned absurdity of torturing your vocal cords for 'batman voice'.)

        Last edited 26/03/16 2:19 am

    In short, Batman V Superman is a Superman movie that should have been a Batman movie

    Nailed it.

    When has a "vs" movie ever been decent (Alien v predator, Jason v Freddy etc etc)?

    Also kind of sounds like the biggest thing that annoyed the reviewer in Superman v Batman was the portrayal of Wonder woman...........

    I always assumed this would be:
    - Mediocre cash grab
    - DC's first response to a Justice League team up film
    - Introduction of new characters/franchises, $$$

    Based on the few reviews I've seen so far my assumptions have been correct. I'm still keen to go out and see this but it sucks that I know it won't be that great. Looks like we'll be seeing more and more DC films ala the Marvel machine. I've already stopped seeing all of the "comic" movies because they thrashed the formula so hard.

    Just had a look at all of the upcoming comic movies, and out of 64 the ones I'm looking forward to are:
    - Chew
    - Captain America: Civil War
    - Preacher
    - Sandman
    - Guardians of the Galaxy 2
    - Mild interest in the new Flash movie (annoyed Grant Gustin isn't doing it but still keen).

    Last edited 25/03/16 3:59 pm

      I'm a huge Wonder Woman fan, having read almost every single one of her comics -- so I had a lot of thoughts on her characterisation :)

      Captain America vs Iron Man: Dawn of Civil War

        Shouldn't that be "

        Captain Batman Vs Super Iron Man: Dawn of Civil War Justice"?

        Movie isn't out yet, and there's no "vs" in the title.... it's "Captain America: Civil War".

        Comparing trailers, Civil war looks like it'll be more entertaining but I'll compare once I've seen both of them.

      Holy crap, Chew is getting an adaptation?! That's the best news I've heard this year. :)
      omg, I just looked up the cast list. That's amazing.

      (Also, yes. Annoyed that Grant Gustin isn't doing the movie flash. That is a real shame. I dunno who is, but not having TV flash is a loss.)

      Last edited 26/03/16 2:43 am

        Yeah, I understand the reasoning logistically and direction wise. It would be a stretch to do the TV series and the film side by side. They're also keeping the film world separate from the tv world, so I guess it's a nice way of having two ecosystems as well...... I hope Gustin goes onto good things though, he's done a 10/10 job with the Flash.

        And yep, chew.... I haven't read much but I love what I have. Fully solidifies that well written content is always a solid base for tv/film. My friends were going on about GoT in 2006 and I was like... yeah yeah fantasy nerds. Then the walking dead came out and friends were like.... you have to read this, yeah yeah zombie nerds. Around the same time they told me about chew, I actually listened at that point hah.

        Compare TWD/GoT to something like Heroes, which actually had a half decent start and plush production budget. The whole show is fragmented and disjointed because the writing was massively off point. If they had fleshed out a few seasons from the beginning then things would have linked up and made sense. Only Lost can YOLO a tv series week to week.

    Really good review. On-point from paragraph one and onward, and vague enough to be spoiler-free whilst still covering the important areas.

    Only thing that makes me shrug is Wonder Woman. I have no real investment in the character - probably the most I've ever read of her was from the Injustice game's companion comic, so I couldn't see anything wrong with the portrayal. Godot really showed her as a powerful player with her own agenda who ended up eye-rolling and sighing at the obligation to go do something annoying but right.

    That scene with her checking out the news on the plane? Her expression reminded me of how I feel when I see stuff wrong at work that's I probably could ignore because it's going to mean shit-tonnes of work, AND pushing my other work more behind than it is... but I've seen it, I poked around to see how bad it was (like an idiot), and now I can't in good conscience pretend I didn't, and leave it for someone else to find and fix.
    If that's what they're going for with Wonder Woman's attitude toward the world, I'm totally on board.

    What would be interesting would be these major franchises foregoing the "origin story" in their movies.
    Whilst we sometimes need to know the background and origin of the characters wouldn't it be possible to use the Trailers, Teasers, Internet and other Media to educate us about these people?
    A montage of Batman's history, reaction to the destruction of Metropolis and foundation story could be in Batman's Teaser
    A montage of the idolisation that followed his reveal in Man of Steel could be Superman's Teaser.
    The website and Internet could contain releases from Lois and The Daily Planet to give some foundation to other people and events that we need to know about.
    Make the Movie an event and use their Social Media staff to build the hype.
    etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

      You can't win or rely on the audiences intelligence. I have read a lot of comments of people complaining that Batman is bitter and gruff. So we pick up with a veteran batman and people complain he has the backstory history that precedes that. The film even establishes this quite well.

      Things like his parents death, it's a central point to Batman's journey back from the dark path he's been on. So you do need to show it. Yet then some people complain it's shown, missing the importance this has on his arc. As they missed his character arc. Even though it's clearly shown.

      Sadly the biggest takeaway from this film is that a large amount of the audience want everything to be surface level. This is trying to explore more themes and character with too much subtlety. A lot of complaints on character and plot are addressed in the film. It's just spelt out entirely for you.

      It's not even deep or subtle. It just blows my mind how so many people look at the dead Robin's suit on display in the Batcave. Look at Bruce's life. The burnt out mansion. Him projecting himself onto Superman, talking about it with Alfred. Good men going bad, you can't stay good and so forth. The news reports of Batman's violence escalating. Yet not at all put any of this together to understand what is going on. How this works into him having lost his humanity and then finding it again in Superman.

      The film also does a lot of parallels between what we see of Clark and Bruce. For one example Clark comes home to Lois to have a romantic night, cook dinner, shag in a bathtub. Bruce wakes up in a bed with a girl, can barely look at her and leaves. This isn't even subtle yet people can't put two and two together about what is happening. The implications for both the characters, especially at an important part of the film.

      Nah a lot of people seem incapable to view it in any other way than the surface level of what is happening at that moment.

      Then they just bitch when it's pointed out that they missed someone. Personally the film has flaws, I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. However I really do think over time and hopefully after the directors cut people will appreciate it a lot more.

        People hate the movie because there are more plot holes in it than a sponge cake, the characters are all useless, the heroes are the same invincible person dressed in different costumes, and the middle of the film is LITERALLY 100% franchise product placement.

    I saw this movie last night. It goes down on my list as one of the worst movies of the decade, right down there with Cloud Atlas.

      @timdavid
      I didn't like Batman V Superman either, but Cloud Atlas was simply brilliant.

      There's no taste in this world! :P

        That's what I reckon! haha, no taste at all.

        Last edited 29/03/16 10:25 am

    Saw the movie and loved it. I was nervous it'd be bad. I'm with the 70% of viewers on rotten tomatoes that liked it. Forget the review, keep a open mind. See how you go.

    This is a good movie but not a great movie. I enjoyed it and don't regret for a second paying to see it. Ben Affleck is really good as batman and does what is needed to convey where batman is at and why he chooses to battle superman. Going into the movie I couldn't think how the showdown between batman and superman could be handled convincingly but they do a good job in the setup and execution.

    I was initially puzzled by yet again showing the the origin of batman but it is obviously there to tie into the battle later on. Still, maybe too much time was spent covering old ground. I think Rae focuses too much of the review on Wonder Woman. Obviously she has a keen interest in the character but this was just a brief intro. All the back story will be covered in the stand alone movie.

    Lex Luther was just plain annoying. In my view his character was the weakest. The doomsday battle degenerated into a stereotypical monster destroying a city. Very loud and over the top. I also didn't like how batman and superman became best friends so quickly.

    So, far from perfect but solid and enjoyable and certainly better that what the haters have been posting.

      I agree with you on almost everything there. It was definitely a good movie, not a great one.
      Lex was definitely infuriating.
      However Batman's motives to hunt down Superman seemed a bit too extreme/out of character. ...and I still can't stand New Flash #notmyflash . I just can't see guy as the Flash. Admittedly I didn't think Gustin would be a good choice either but have totally been wrong on that.
      Lastly, Cyborg's "origin" bit was weak.
      ...and what's with all the stuff in the movies that wasn't explained for the casual viewers (mother boxes, parademons, Darkseid etc).

    good fight in between god and man ... the ending is not the ending ... is just the beginning of a new story

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