Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)


I was always going to see it (twice, in fact) and while I wasn’t a fan of Man of Steel, I enjoyed Batman v Superman; I know, such a contrary Mary! Chin Dimple needed a little more to do, Batfleck was pretty good, and Wonder Woman didn’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, it was ludicrous in parts but…oh it’s probably best you just have a read:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens with the same devastation that ended 2013’s Man of Steel, as Supes (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) threw down and battled, wreaking destruction upon Metropolis’ skyline. Only this time, it is seen from the vantage point of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), choppered in from neighbouring Gotham City to watch helplessly as his employees are trapped and ultimately killed in the fallout.

It goes to explain away some of his contempt for the Kryptonian but only ever-so slightly. Yet again, we are treated to the now inevitable flashback to Bruce’s parents and their murder, except now they’re played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan, and it’s 1981. There’s another bat sequence too. Necessary? Not remotely but it serves as a heavy-handed reminder that the two main things still driving Bruce are vengeance and fear. Clark is still working at the Daily Planet, loving/saving Lois (Amy Adams) and generally wondering whether Superman can actually exist in a world that doesn’t really know if it wants him or outside of Lois, he really wants it. He also finds himself judging the Bat’s from of vigilante justice. Eventually both are brought together by scheming sycophant Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) at the opening of a library, no less. Also in attendance is a mystery lady – could she be Wonder Woman? Of course she is, we’ve all seen the trailer.

The action flits between Gotham, Metropolis, the Indian Ocean, Africa and Bruce’s subconscious, all within the first hour or so. Sadly, this lack of focus remains as more subplots give way to some convolution and a few bloated set-pieces, in addition to some rather inexplicable moments which do not serve the overarching plot and feel wholly out of place. For example, Lois having a bath, or a sweaty Bruce hitting a large tyre with a sledge hammer and even the deceased Jonathan Kent atop a snowy mountain are head-scratchers and deserved to have seen the cutting room floor.

Usually, a superhero’s popularity depends upon the context of time and perhaps, due to the darkness of the world as it is, gives way to audiences wanting to see the character as he was – namely the Reeve guise; bumbling geek Clark and the heroic, always got a smile for everyone, Kal-El – or as he is on the page. Snyder has instead used 9/11, terrorism and illegal aliens and has the film(s) reflect this dark, angry, miserable and political world we inhabit. Apparently, in an attempt to ground Superman in some sort of reality; an alien from an extinct planet, who can fly, is indestructible save for interaction with a glowing green rock, and shoots lasers from his eyes… Can he ever really be that realistic? An audience doesn’t need to delve too far to see the potential allegorical readings, they are all fairly obvious.

On the one hand, I miss the red pants, and the confident, almost care-free caped chappy who didn’t really seem to have a temper and was a friend to everyone. Yet on the other, a change is as good as a rest, it worked (mostly) for Batman. The Superman of my childhood is still accessible, and this is the franchise which will see WW onscreen for the very first time so why wouldn’t I give it the benefit of the doubt? Cavill’s Superman is at odds with his alien heritage and human one – as his mother states “you don’t owe the world a thing” but then, when it comes down to it, it is his human side which is the most affected when Luthor finally reveals his play and ultimately his alien self/limitations which helps destroy him. Reeve, interviewed in 1987, told future inheritors of the cape to never lose the humanity of him; “to forget he can fly; [his] super strength. He’s a gentleman.” Cavill’s is a gentlemen but it has to be on his terms and the humanity is there but it has taken a film and a half to uncover it, little to no smiles, and a human Bat to help.

This Bruce is older, greying at the temples, grizzled, tired and so, very angry. There is a ruthlessness to the incarnation; Affleck is actually very good and the irony is, murderous intent aside, this Bruce needs Superman to give his life some (re)purpose. Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is a younger, more sardonic Pennyworth who seems to have less faith in his billionaire brat and wearily (often sarkily) mutters under his breath a lot of the time. The hallucinations/dream sequences (one too many if you ask me) can be read as an alcoholic’s delusions but then a fleeting face from the future may prove integral to the next film but, yes you’ve guessed it, slightly unclear. I like this Bruce. Yes, he’s different, just like all the other actors who have portrayed him, there’s a fury to this one that it great to watch if a little at times growling, ragey and largely unexplained.

As is Luthor’s motive in proceedings – he want Kryptonite for assassination purposes and access to the crash site and Zod’s remains. Why does he need Batman for that? Eisenberg seems to channel Edward Nygma via Mark Zuckerberg – if you’re going to give us Lex then do so, not some weird, obnoxious Riddler-hybrid. He’s a sociopathic teenager hell bent on destroying the one man getting more attention than him. Yes, he’s a villain but he’s irritating rather than intimidating; he is more memorable than Spacey’s turn but not sure how high a bar that is to set, and the hair – why? It’s more distracting than the weird noises he makes.

Which brings me to Wonder Woman, a character I adore, and finally, she’s here. She’s not given nearly enough screen-time, nor given enough dialogue and my expectations were not particularly high following Gadot’s casting but her presence gave me a buzz, people even clapped in my screening for her. I haven’t been lucky enough to see an evolution of character or multiple versions of WW and so, I was happy with the little I saw. She kicks Doomsday’s derriere and seems to thoroughly enjoy doing it and as for the Turkish Airlines bit, SHE GOT OFF THE PLANE (phew) presumably to fly her own invisible one…. But not before she sums up the entire film (and perhaps fanboy-dom in general) in one snarky sentence – about little boys and their lack of inclination to share.

The supporting cast are fine, no real standouts. Callan Mulvey is now Russian arms dealer Anatoli Knyazev, last seen as Jack Rollins in The Winter Soldier (and you thought there could be no DC and Marvel crossovers). Fishburne is back as Perry White and far more flamboyant than the MoS version, Holly Hunter is great as Senator June Finch, who stands in the way of Luthor Jr but whose senate spiel is pointless. “We know what Superman can do” Do we, really? “We haven’t considered what he should do.” What does that even mean? Run every potential saving by the US government? Say, “okay I’ll help those people over there but not those here”? Wait for a phone-call on a flashing red telephone…oh wait. The word unilateral is thrown about several times which is exasperating; as if Superman saving folk is somehow a selfish act. Diane Lane and Amy Adams are, for the most part, bait, or perhaps I’m being unfair. Adams is definitely stronger in her performance here but I am yet to be convinced by her Lois and then there’s all that running about amid rubble and destruction and swimming… all in heels.

Snyder has always been commended for his visuals and there is a depletion of colour (not always as depressing at it sounds) with red, white and blue colour motifs dotted throughout and Affleck’s batsuit appears to riff off of Adam West’s outfit with the black on grey. There are nostalgic nods but let’s face it, these aren’t the characters we grew up with, and as the last week or so have shown, few seem willing to welcome change. I really liked the intertextual links and the Justice LeagueEaster eggs (although, shoehorned isn’t the word) and, obscurely, The Wizard of Oz. It is referenced multiple times and I’m still contemplating why. Perhaps, it is tenuous commentary on American commerce or Lex requires courage, Bruce a brain and Clark a heart and then there’s Dorothy, the infamous orphan as all of our boys here. Plus, 1939, the year of the film’s release and the year Batman was created and joined him in the DC universe and there’s even a witch, sort of but I digress.

By the time the big face off presents itself, it’s not quite worth the wait, actually a little dull and oh so futile but Luthor is the puppet master. When both titular characters realise they should be working together, it should be joyous and not just that they realise they both have mothers named Martha. The score is a little hit-and-miss, Zimmer is renowned for big anthems and when the two titans do finally square up, I was expecting fireworks, not just a damn squib. Lex’s theme (The Red Capes Are Coming) is a standout as is Wonder Woman’s (Is She With You?), that electric cello is really quite something.

All in all, Dawn of Justice plays with some heavy themes; democracy, xenophobia, terrorism – not so terribly far removed from the world we live in, Snyder is determined to make the world as realistic as possible yet removes most of the fun. Truth, Justice and the American way – this *is* the America of today but it all feels too horribly realistic and befuddling – I would have liked Kal to be the beacon of hope his birth parents intended him to be, not least to give Henry Cavill a bit more to do. The religious imagery is still there, Superman is the Messiah (and a very miserable boy) just as in MoS: God v Man, etcetera. There are a multitude of questions and it is left up to the audience to decipher the mess (small children may have difficulty) yet there is levity, nowhere near enough but present.

I’ve accepted the lack of comic-book iconography in Synder’s interpretation and it’s only a little thing but would it hurt Supes to smile? I enjoyed more than I loathed, however, there is just one death that was a little too calculated even for me… Zack, you meanie.


75 Years is a Really Long Time…


Footage has been released!

No, I’m not talking about the dreary looking Batman Vs. Superman, within which there is some nonsense about whether Supes bleeds, some fighting presumably instigated by a small bewigged Luthor, people getting angsty, etc. until they make nice and play with that woman with the shield, who, by the way isn’t “with” either of them. I am, of course, talking about said (wonder) woman and no, I’m not going to analyse the footage. At least not exhaustively because let’s face it, somebody will have done so already and either offered some salient points,  snark and anger or deluded optimism.


For the record, I sit somewhere in the middle. I think I’ve made my feelings on the character, casting, and the 75 year hiatus between comic inception to big screen heard. Following the release of footage, which is seconds long (by the way) and yet again released on the coat-tails or rather, I should say, flowing capes of the men in the DC universe. DC comic writer Geoff Johns, Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Patty Jenkins all offer up some spiel over the snippets. Good, bully for them but at the end of the day it is those few shots that I am most interested in. Yes, they’re dark and swift but I was (briefly) giddy and determined to show anybody who showed the remotest interest. Johns describes WW as an Amazon Warrior charged with protecting “man’s” world, a corner of the internet seethed – he shouldn’t have said man he should have said humanity. In the original comics, it was man’s world. Themyscira is an island housed solely by women (why do you think WW was made of clay? No sperm producers). Also, he then describes it as ‘our’ world.


All of the other titbits of information…feminist cultural icon (check)…stands for equality (check)… are followed by Patty who declares Wonder Woman to be “good and kind and loving, yet none of it negates her power”. Yeah, Ms. Jenkins gets it – another corner of the internet eye-rolled, female superheroes don’t have to be loving, good and kind. No, they don’t but Wonder Woman IS. That’s kind of the point; she was Marston’s utopian vision of a strong, good woman who is all for equality and love, ooh and also not a misandrist just because she can kick your arse.

Ah, her arse. That came up too apparently, she’s sexualised in those few short seconds, the camera held at butt-level. Having rewatched a good half a dozen times, I don’t see it. The camera angle is low, sure (I would suggest that is because she’s a Goddess, we’re mere mortals looking upon her/up at her) but her entire body is in frame and she’s active, ferociously so and I just don’t register a scopophilic gaze but then, my gaze tends to be female and I’m not objectifying her.

I love the fact that a few seconds of film can produce such disparagement but I’ll be damned if I let it ruin the experience for me.


Open Letter to DC

WW by Darwyn Cooke '08

In case anybody missed it, I adore Wonder Woman. I love what she stands for and let’s face it female superheroes are pretty rare not least because they tend not to get a shot at the big screen. Times be a’changing with the pencilled-in film releases of WW, Captain Marvel, and Supergirl on the small screen. I wrote to DC (in one of those attention-seeking, open letter type things) outlining why Wonder Woman is integral to DC but also, more importantly, why the film needs to be done right…

Dear DC,

It is only logical (and fair) that the third major player in the League and indeed the DC Universe gets their standalone origin film. I am, of course, referring to Wonder Woman and now, it appears I am getting my wish albeit in the most bizarre order imaginably. It has been 74 years without so much as an attempt and yet we have had a substantial tally of Superman (6) and Batman (7) films. So, forgive me for being somewhat pessimistic. A Wonder Woman genesis film has been expected nay deserved for a very long time but she gets described as “controversial” and “complicated”. And? Show me a woman who is not.

Created in 1941 (following appearances by Superman in ’38 and Batman in ’39) by William Moulton Marston; I know, I know A MAN but a progressive feminist who created the character as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman”. A woman who he believed should rule the world. He saw a great deal of potential in the women’s movement, surrounded himself with strong, intelligent women, hell, he even believed that by 2037 the world would be governed by a Matriarchy. He reckoned that while the feminine archetype lacked “force, strength and power” girls wouldn’t want to be girls or submissive. “The obvious remedy [was] to create a feminine character with the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” (WMM, 1943)

One can argue that the man was wrong, although it is 2015 and do we not have the same issues surrounding gender on film? I could argue that he had a slight preoccupation with bondage (he was also a huge fan of the truth too). This was an academic who shared his marital home and life with a MA graduate wife and PhD educated mistress, transgressive sexuality pervaded his personal life, why not his work? Patriarchy is the oppressor to which Wonder Woman is enslaved after leaving Themyscira and is often bound – sometimes figuratively – nearly always literally, forced into passivity by the ties/rope/chain that binds before breaking loose and reciprocating with her lasso. Yes, Moulton Marston’s idealistic feminism is problematic, he believed in domination and sexual enslavement but I digress, I’m sure you’re not even considering *that* type of storyline…

Word on the grapevine is that a big action film is not on the cards, you want a more character-driven piece and the search for a male lead/love interest is currently taking place. Rumours have it that you don’t want a strong feminist message…erm, an Amazonian woman-of-steel born from clay outside of the restrictive realms of patriarchy who lived, for most of her life, on a Utopian island devoid of men. You don’t see this as problematic? Hold on. Forgive me. I forget, you are using the New 52 storyline so her origins have been revised so she is now the daughter of Zeus (ugh). I remember that time when Superman and Batman’s origin story was revised and changed. Oh no wait…

I often get asked why. Why do I idolise her, why her above the others? For the record, I love all those other guys too but there will always be a special place in my heart for Wonder Woman. I like what she stands for: strength, intelligence, capability, kindness, wisdom, confidence, courage, sisterhood. Plus, her costume’s really cool; dressed in the red, white and blue standard of freedom and democracy. Batman isn’t the only one with an arsenal of goodies, she wears a tiara which is razor-sharp and can be hurled like a boomerang, the bracelets at the wrist can deflect bullets and serve as a reminder of the shackles once worn when the Amazons were the prisoners of Ares. She carries Hestia’s golden Lasso of Truth; tiny chain-links with limitless length, indestructibility and of course, anybody bound in it are compelled to tell the truth. The lady has the ability to fly (although not soar high), can spin at blurring speed – usually to shed her civvies – is able to communicate with most animals and beasts and has numerous vehicles at her disposal, all invisible.

Not to mention that fact that she is just as physically strong and special as Supes. Their similarities are actually hard to ignore. They are both on Earth separated from their familial roots both have an alias to protect and while they don’t fully comprehend the planet they inhabit they wish to shield and, wherever possible, protect the humans living on it. Yet still she has not been immortalised on the big screen but Superman’s genesis gets regurgitated every decade or so. Why am I telling you all of this when you gave her a home in 1941? Because I don’t want you to forget that there is more to her than just a pretty face.

She will, as it has been made very apparent, make an appearance in Dawn of Justice in the form of Fast and Furious alum Gal Gadot (I’m still in denial about that) before FINALLY getting her own film. The pre-production of which has been hmm, interesting to say the least; female director, no script, creative differences, new female director, six scripts…Why does it need a female director? Well, why not? And hey, DC, if you’re struggling with the script, why not ask Dr. George Miller, he could teach all of you a thing or two about writing a woman. Just don’t fall into the trap Marvel did with Elektra. Good grief that film sucked.

We all know female heroes (some super, some not) are not quite as scarce as they once were; however, they still get a raw-deal. The Age of Ultron / Black Widow storyline furore will attest to this or the severe lack of female-led merchandise which fails to adorn toyshop shelves and don’t get me started on the slut-shaming or name-calling on/offscreen. Supergirl’s even getting in on the (TV) action albeit in a seemingly cutesy way. I get it. I do. Too many females transgressing the boundaries of the norm have and will continue to cause issues for some. It will encourage women wanting to be women and expecting the world, just as Gloria Steinem said, to change for them.

Perhaps, a decent depiction of the Amazonian attesting to the strength and influence of the feminine archetype will be a huge commercial success? Or perhaps, in spite of Joss Whedon’s utter condemnation of the notion that (some) men aren’t interested in the exploits of female she-roes, there is actually some truth in it? No, that can’t be right, not given the popularity of the likes of BuffyAlien and Terminator franchises and HAVE YOU SEEN Max Mad: Fury Road? Furiosa (Charlize Theron) proves that she can fight toe-to-toe with any man and still be hard, vulnerable and feminine.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. As you will know Wonder Woman’s current filmic/televisual legacy is largely fan-made. There is that animated film from 2009 which is really rather good and the (now) kitsch and fabulously camp television series made in the 70s which ran for three seasons and saw former Miss USA, Lynda Carter, don the girdle and fight for our rights in satin tights. She was wonderful in it; strong, fearless, savvy, intelligent and beautiful, a Goddess on Earth instilling hope and convincing the world of compassion, humility and generosity – all the while kicking ass. Carter is 63 now and will forever be a wonder woman but it’s time for a change, the character needs to be brought into the twenty-first century while still retaining her roots. David E. Kelley did attempt it in 2011 with Adrianne Palicki in the titular role. Elizabeth Hurley was the villain along with a supporting cast that included Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms. His pilot was never optioned probably due to the hideous SFX, tacky PVC-costume, or the fact that he portrayed the peace-loving princess as a sexually frustrated spinster who curls up in front of The Notebook and obsesses over her Facebook profile when she’s not ripping out people’s throats. As soon as Diana pulls out the merchandise and dolls at a board meeting, it all gets a little too meta.

I think the point I’m trying to make is I really love Wonder Woman. I have seen a billionaire playboy take to the sky dressed as a giant bat, I’ve witnessed a super alien male don a red cape and protect a city and now I want to see an Amazonian, wearing a tiara attempting to educate mankind. It is time for her to have a go at saving the world.

Please DC, don’t eff it up.


A Fan