"Batman v Superman" is much more than a cheap, exciting, popcorn flick. It has layers upon layers of subtext and nuance, something these films are generally devoid of. If you are of the mind that superhero movies need to be "fun" or that they are only "cheap entertainment," then this movie isn't for you. If, however, you're willing to explore what the genre could be, and not only what it has been - something the comic books have been exploring for decades - then there may be something here for you.
"Batman v Superman" follows on from the events from "Man of Steel," although it's mentioned that two years have passed since Superman's fight with General Zod and the near-destruction of Metropolis. It's been said that "Batman v Superman" isn't a sequel to "Man of Steel," but I disagree. The events of that film have a profound lead-in to the events of this one.
It's revealed that Bruce Wayne was present in Metropolis during the battle and many of his friends were killed when Superman and Zod took out a Wayne Industries office building, prompting Batman's mistrust of Superman and his power. That does beg the question as to why it took Batman two whole years to do anything about the "Superman threat," and that is a question that goes unanswered.
Likewise, Superman begins to learn of Batman and his brutality - like physically branding criminals with a bat-emblem - and he feels as though that brand of "justice" shouldn't be allowed to run rampant. These feuding ideologies are ultimately what lead to the titular battle in which Batman dons an extremely Frank Miller-inspired suit of armor.
The entire movie, in fact, is very much an adaptation of Frank Miller's version of the Dark Knight from the graphic novels "Batman: Year One," "All-Star Batman and Robin" and most apparently "The Dark Knight Returns." The latter being Miller's first work on the character.
Admittedly, it's Frank Miller's influence that may cause the most division among the audience. Miller's Batman is a bit of a bastard, and all of that is present in Ben Affleck's performance of the character. In that, Miller's Batman can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow. He's not a nice person, and for a lot of people that can come off as unsettling.
This isn't the first Batman film to take inspiration from Frank Miller. Both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan drew heavily from Miller's work when crafting their respective translations of the character. Here, however, it is almost straight Frank Miller with no chaser.
"Batman v Superman" doesn't just adopt a tone - and costumes - from Miller, but many scenes are panels pulled straight from "The Dark Knight Returns" and plopped onto the screen. This was something that director Zack Snyder did so well with "Watchmen," and he does it just as well here. While "Batman v Superman" is in no way an adaptation of "Dark Knight," anyone who has read the graphic novel will be delighted with some of the shots and scenes that were culled from the book.
The movie isn't without it's share of faults. Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor jumps out as a big one. He is probably the worst version of the character to be done in film or television. Eisenberg plays the Luthor character as though he were playing the Joker or the Riddler, and that just isn't Lex Luthor. Luthor should be brilliant and cunning, not psychotic and crazy.
There are also several parts in the film where it feels like something is missing. This is, of course, because it is. In order to secure its PG-13 rating and to keep the run time reasonable, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 minutes were excised from the final film. While the film still makes sense without this footage, one could definitely see where it should probably be. Warner Bros. has announced that this 30 minutes of footage will be restored to the film for its home video release in July.
The bottom line is that "Batman v Superman" is a very good film. It borders on near perfect, if you're looking for something outside the normal superhero movie genre. If you're a fan of Frank Miller's Dark Knight - or if you're a fan of Marvel's "Daredevil" series on Netflix, which also draws heavily from Frank Miller's work on that character - this is a must-see.
If you just want to see a movie where two superheroes punch each other in the face, wait for "Civil War."
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