Mitchel Waite © 2020

Tag : Superman

Batman v Superman [2016] Review

It’s no secret that I have a bias towards #TeamBatman. As someone said to me after asking my opinion of the film; even if Batman just sat silently on a chair in a room, I would have liked it.

The Good

When Ben Affleck was cast at the caped crusader, for a moment I thought it was an April fools’ joke. After his unfavourable turn in 2003’s ‘Daredevil’ I was surprised to think that he would want to tread in this territory again, and that studios would take the risk to cast him. I had faith though; this Batman would reflect more of Frank Miller’s mature, grizzled and vengeful ‘Dark Knight Returns’ Batman. Affleck has had a dark and angry side to some of his roles; he made the character his own and pushed the envelope further than I expected. Batman was much more demonic than what we’ve seen on film before; hiding in the shadows and aggressively beating criminals to a pulp. There’s clear influences from his fighting style in the Frank Miller comics and the fantastic ‘Arkham’ video game series. Batman stabs, kills and snaps bones; this has polarised the internet, who firmly believe that killing is against Batman’s moral code. As a Batman fan this didn’t offend me; it’s another interpretation of the character, just like how Frank Miller interpreted it, and just like how Tim Burton did too (he changed the suit, changed the origin, and mounted machine gun canons to the front of the Batmobile…). This is a gritty movie and quite a hard action film, certainly setting a different tone to the light-hearted moments of Marvel. Even from the opening origin of Bruce Wayne’s parents being murdered, the gunshots from the steely Colt .45 are painful and brutish to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the action toned up for the R-rated cut that’s rumoured to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray, rather than it just throwing in some extra profanities. Even for a PG-13 the envelope is pushed. Snyder has made a film for the fans and I have to applaud him on pushing this through.

Zack Snyder is a great action director. BvS feels fresh amongst the director’s back catalogue. We’re thrown in to a thrilling opening sequence set amongst the ‘world engine fight’ from ‘Man Of Steel’, and from the lucid white title card we feel how alien the arrival of the man from Krypton is (more so than MoS). The film feels quite kinetic, and Snyder’s visual style is perfect for this, but the trade-off is that it feels like there is just a shoe string of a plot thread. It’s lots of small visual sequences stitched together with some exposition. The visual style is great and cut together quite well with the pulsing soundtrack.

The other part of the holy trinity, Wonder Woman, was probably the best female superhero I’ve seen on screen yet. Gal Gadot was commanding and confident; I thought she was fantastic. Jesse Eisenberg was surprisingly terrifying as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons was also a great version of Bruce Wayne’s butler/guardian/foster father and Batman’s quartermaster.

There are some really interesting questions for debate raised in the film but they didn’t really get followed up. What should a superhero’s duty be? What effect does a Jesus-like alien from another planet have on the human psyche; a species who believed that they were the only special and self-aware entity in the universe?

The Bad

The lack of a coherent plot thread is the real villain, and you can feel the difficult task that the editor had. There are some moments, such as Bruce Wayne’s Darkseid dream sequence, that even to someone familiar with the universe seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Snyder and the writers seem to have planned the movie (and perhaps filmed it, given the time it has take for it to arrive on our screens) in spread out chunks and encountered problems in the editing room. There’s no doubt that Warner Bros. got it hands involved and forced too much in to the movie in the pressure to build the DC Universe, but after a second viewing I feel that Snyder actually handled it all quite well. There’s a lot crammed in to this movie and it can be quite exhausting once the final credits roll. Jesse Eisenberg was surprisingly terrifying as Lex Luthor, but I never really caught his motivations of setting up the two titular protagonists, other than that he was a bad seed. Plus, we lingered on Granny’s Peach Tea a bit too long…

For all that Zack Snyder is a comic book fan and did a great job bringing ‘Watchmen’ to the screen, I don’t think that he fully understands why we love(d) the character of Superman. I was sold on the angle that was taken with ‘Man Of Steel’ of portraying him as an alien with a constant inner torment of who he should be in life (should he follow the life of his Earth foster dad from Kansas, or the destiny of his biological father from Krypton?). This was a major focus in the teaser trailers that got me really excited, but it was never really developed in the final film. The long and short of it is that Superman is actually quite boring; audiences can no longer relate to him because he’s indestructible unless there’s some handy Kryptonite around. The Christopher Reeve era was no doubt a high point in the character’s screen career, but the character was still fresh back in the 1970s. Snyder was brave to ‘kill off’ Superman at the end of the film but you always know that he’s going to come back. Someone needs to be braver with defining Superman for a 21st century audience and re-writing the rules for his character. He needs to be more vulnerable and shock us. I don’t think that killing Zod had the desired impact the writer’s thought it would. They also need to be realise one of the key reasons why we love Superman; because he can fly. What’s at the top of many childhood superpower wish lists? The audience got to fly with Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh in ‘Superman Returns’, and even Dean Cain in ‘The New Adventures Of Superman’. As much as Henry Cavill embodies the character we’ve yet to join him in the sky as he’s taking ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ a bit too literally. This surprises me given the amount of stylised slo-mo trademarking in the director’s filmography. Just a final dig whilst we’re on Superman; the hammy dialogue of Superman whilst he had Batman’s iron foot on his throat could have been improved just a little bit….(“Martha….Save……Her!”).

We went to Picturehouse Central to see a 35mm screening, but it was blurry and out of focus around the edges of the screen. The Picturehouse manager tried to blame it on the print. I’m aware it’s difficult with digital projectors, but 35mm is a selling point and people pay specifically to see it in this format (in this case, £18 per ticket – ouch). He was on the defensive, but after a little more persistence we managed to get 2 free tickets (beautiful cinema though – great sound system too in screen 1).

Finally, the trailer revealed way too much. Doomsday should have been the film’s ace card.

…..and The Verdict

A superhero action film I was expecting, and a superhero action film is what I got. I knew going in that it wouldn’t be in the same league as the entries of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but Ben Affleck & Zack Snyder’s iteration of Batman was thrilling and refreshing to watch. Better than ‘Man Of Steel’ but could do with more heart.

 

UPDATE (July 8th 2016): Just watched the 3 hour Ultimate cut. It presented a better moral conflict of Superman, more depth, more mean Batfleck and less confusion! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Featured image © Warner Bros. and DC.

Zack Snyder Reveals New Batmobile and Batsuit

O-M-G! (regulate breathing). Zack Snyder has revealed the new Batmobile and Ben Affleck’s Batman on Twitter. Both are different to the Frank Miller grey/black suit and tank I was expecting, but the Nolan/Burton combination that it appears to be looks awesome! There even seems to be a drop of Schumacher’s Batman Forever in the vehicle too. The suit looks less reliant on armour now and more fabric, suggesting a physically stronger Batman this time around. This makes sense given he will be going toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Batfleck looks mean and moody too.

 

 

As an avid Burton and Nolan Batman fan, everything so far looks positively exciting. I still have some hesitation over Wonder Woman and Cyborg being thrown in to the mix for the Justice League link. However, based on these updates I’m warming to the idea.

Shooting with the cast has been rumoured to have kicked-off this week. May 2016 couldn’t come round any sooner.

Man Of Steel

Man Of Steel [2013]

Why the world needs Superman.

Krypton’s greatest son has dropped back into our box offices this weekend with an almighty sonic boom. Zack Snyder is behind the lens, along with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer on executive producing and writing duties. Whilst the film takes a much more darker and sombre tone to it’s predecessors, what it loses in bravado it certainly makes up for in scale. Right from the very moment to opening titles dissolve we are thrown into a doomed distant planet of Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) realises his people’s fate and decides to launch his newly born son, the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries, to the distant safety of Earth. Along with baby Kal-El he includes the planet’s genetic codex, an item which General Zod (Michael Shannon) seeks to acquire for his own gain once he escapes the destructing planet. Zod and his team are apprehended as they watch Kal-El’s pod launch and are banished to the Phantom Zone. The pod escapes as Krypton implodes and hurtles toward Earth, crash landing in Kansas to be found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and, well, you know the rest…

This films starts very strong. Other directors of summer blockbusters have attempted to throw the audience in without a chance to breathe, but Zack Snyder achieves this effortlessly. No stranger to the action or comic book adaptation, he presents glimpse of Krypton not given the right amount of screen time it deserves before in the Hollywood exports. Every child of Krypton is genetically created with a pre-determined purpose in an organic chamber, but Kal-El is the first natural birth to occur on the planet in centuries. He is free to determine his own path and have a luxury that no other Kryptonian has; choice. We get a chance to understand where the Man of Steel hails from and what he seeks to understand, and it’s a thrilling and emotional sequence by the time he leaves the doomed fate of his parents behind. However, Snyder only likes to allow the audience a brief amount of screen time to try and catch their breath.

The non-linear plot that follows certainly has the benefit of avoiding all of the rudimentary origin stories that we’ve seen before. Screen time isn’t wasted with the Kent’s discovering Kal-El’s crashed pod once again. I’m a big fan of this method of story telling as it engages the audience so much more; we’re given pieces of a puzzle to put together. Clark Kent/Superman is such a fascinating character to study. He’s torn between two personas from two very different, but good willed, father figures. The Clark side has been raised as a farm boy with high moral values and to hide his superhuman powers for the greater good, whilst the undiscovered Kal-El side is intriguing but advised to use the god-like powers to lead mankind. It’s nature versus nurture. Which father figure does he lean toward more? Was his real father a good character or bad, and is his DNA coded for the same future? Clark seeks to know himself and whilst roaming the earth as a nomad, he feels that finding his people will answer the questions that have been plaguing him for so long. For me, the heart strings were tugged when Jor-El made the hard decision of letting Kal-El go, and Jonathan Kent doing the same during the tornado sequence. This film is as much about ‘what a father is’ as well as discovering who you are. It’s quite fitting that the film was released on the same weekend as Father’s Day here in the UK.

Henry Cavill brings the gravitas and responsibility that the role requires. He stands tall and you can sense his goodwill and empathy, and he physically embodies the Superman physique. Hats off to his dedication and the fact that no smoke and mirror “ab suits” were needed. The suit itself looks great in the muted dark colours, with notable influences from the Action Comics style. Amy Adams shines as Lois Lane, playing here as ballsy as the character has always been. I was really disappointed with the character in Superman Returns, I thought she was more Mary-Jane Watson than a go-getter Pulitzer prize-winning reporter. Although the real stand out performance is Michael Shannon as General Zod, whom he plays with pure and absolute conviction. Every line spoken by Shannon has a feeling of serious intent behind it. His message demanding the surrender of Kal-El was a brief switch in genre to horror and very effective. Antje Traue is also beautifully menacing as Zod’s second in command, Faora, and is reminiscent of Blade Runner’s Pris and X-Men’s Mystique as statuesquely dangerous.

The Terence Malick-inspired macro shots work beautifully during Clark’s early years and really ground the character. There’s also an echo of the Dr. Manhattan imagery from Watchmen (Snyder’s 2009 superhero magnum opus), when Lois and Kal-El are standing opposite each in the desert. Man of Steel is also action-heavy as you’d quite rightly expect from Zack Snyder, and there is a slight feeling of CGI overdose as you near the end of the 148 minutes. The scale of this movie is HUGE and quite rightly so. I wasn’t keen on seeing yet another finale of a city under attack but it somehow manages to create more destruction. Think of the formula for the Metropolis showdown as Matrix Revolutions + Transformers 3 + Avengers Assemble. Kal-El is thrown through an entire block of skyscrapers and the screen is painted with rubble and explosions. As for the somewhat controversial ending with instead Zod kneeling before Superman, I thought it was surprising and intriguing. Superman doesn’t kill, but why? He was forced into a corner by Zod and is immediately haunted by the decision.

I was worried that the pressure of a DC Universe film would intrude on the individualistic story of the film. I prayed to God that there wouldn’t be an end credits sequence like the Marvel films, but I thought the subtle DC easter eggs were well placed (such as the Wayne Enterprises satellite and the Lex Corp tanker/building). The closing scenes of the Kent’s proudly watching a young Clark play around in a red cape, and present day Clark embarking on his induction at the Daily Planet (along with the perfect “Welcome to the Planet” line) was inspiring with Hans Zimmer’s score pounding in the background. Man Of Steel isn’t quite the in-depth character and morality study a lot of us hoped for, but it is a valiant entry amongst the ocean of Superman interpretations. I’m already looking forward to the sequel.