Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – Spoiler Review

I promised that I would do a detailed and spoilery review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so this is it. If you haven’t seen the movie, stay away from this review as far as possible.
Before I begin, I’m gonna get it out of my chest that this movie is suffering from what I would call “Internet Extremism”. The critics when given too much power when they judge something on the internet went way too far with their reviews, and with that influencing a huge amount of fans and audience to be overly and unreasonably harsh on the movie. I personally have read a lot of critiques on what make the movie bad, and while some of them are fair, a lot of professional reviewers from the press (rottentomatoes, imbd, metacritics, etc) gave the movie the absolutely questionable score of 1/10 or 1/5, together with words like “mess”, “garbage”, “trash”, etc. I’m gonna go ahead and say up front that if you have even a tiny amount of respect for the craft of cinema itself, or if you’re actually a serious and professional critic with just a little knowledge of movie making, you’ll realize and appreciate all the great things that Zack Snyder achieved with this movie, even if you don’t like it. Because cinematically speaking, the movie has done some fantastic work which I’ll mention.

There are so many amazing things about this movie objectively that if you just know about anything cinematic, you’ll have to appreciate: The amazing cinematography, the fight scenes, the score, the cast, and most importantly, comicbook accurate. Other things like story, editing, or how some characters are portrayed are all debatable, which I’m not gonna mention in here. Because I don’t know about you guys, but a good movie has to balance equally ALL of these elements, so even if one or two of them may be a little bit weaker (subjectively of course), it cannot by any reach make it even that close to the kind of score the “critics” are giving Batman v Superman.
Cinematography: Of course, it’s Zack Snyder, the master of cinematic himself. Every single frame in Batman v Superman can be paused and made into a beautiful painting with perfect storytelling worthy composition, perspective, movements, lighting, colors, etc. Snyder understands cinema, and he has this amazing attention to detail every time he crafts a scene. Throughout the movie, there are so many scenes that holds so much levity and weight just because how beautifully crafted and how they bring the characters to us. Whenever the situation calls for it, Snyder gives us a shot that feels importance just by a really carefully chosen camera angle and movements while everything else like lights, colors, etc, all work together in perfect harmony. Case in point: the opening scene with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. We’ve seen this moment so many times before both in live-action and in animation, but I’ve never had so much emotion watching it like in BvS, just because of how well all the shots are put together, how well they were shot, how well the choices were made of the composition and the slow-motion only works FOR the scene to make it even stronger and heavier. The whole scene is without dialogue but man how it was convincing and satisfying to watch. Then come the scenes of Superman’s deeds around the world. Man, you cannot in your good conscience say that these scenes were not amazing. Superman saving a girl and being reached like a god among people wearing costumes for the Dia de los muertos in Mexico, Superman destroying a Russian rocket, pulling the wreckage of a ship, and flying above people looking for help in a flood. Then we have the fight scenes between Batman and Superman, the warehouse fight of Batman, the final fight scene and the image of Superman finally killing Doomsday. These are all if not beautiful paintings by themselves then I don’t know what. And for me, that’s one of the most important things about cinema: Wonderful and beautiful shots with really careful compositions.
Of course speaking of beautiful cinematography in Snyder’s film, one HAS to talk about the fight scenes, which is one of the strongest things about him. The fight scenes are amazing. Every punch, every throw down was really carefully planned and choreographed to give the audience the best nerdgasm possible. I love all the fight scenes in this movie, 3 of which were most memorable: Batman vs Superman, Batman fight in the warehouse, and Doomsday fight. The fight between Batman and Superman was nothing short of iconic since almost everything was straight off the comicbook pages of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”, or if you watched the cartoon version, you’ll know what I mean. But more than that, whatever choice Snyder made, it made the whole thing so much better: The first punch Superman threw after he was exposed to Kryptonite was blocked by Batman – absolutely perfect timing on both the actors, the camera moves, and the composition of the scene. The shot where Superman was punched repeatedly until he slowly recovered his power and Batman’s fist was morph and made a clanking sound – the message is so clear and witty without having any of them saying a word: we know Batman is fucked at that particular moment. But the most famous shot was the side-way punch that Batman delivered to Superman’s face, I literally got goosebumps watching that shot and felt giddy like a kid seeing how it’s exactly like in The Dark Knight Returns. When Batman fights the thugs in the warehouse to save Martha Kent, the only thing I could think of is the Arkham game series. From his fighting style to his stealth techniques, everything can be found in these games, which I’ll have to mention, is beloved by most fans. The choreography in this particular fight is perfect, every punch, every kick, every cut scene was timing to perfection, making the whole thing just like a dance between Batman and his enemies. Not only that, the moment when Batman said “I believe you” to the Russian mobster is also straight from The Dark Knight Returns. Then when Doomsday was wreaking havoc all over the city, Wonder Woman was put in the spotlight after her impressive entrance. From then on, every time Wonder Woman appears on screen, she shines like a burning fire, and not without the perfect choices Snyder made for her scenes. The way the camera moves every time she moves makes the whole fight and herself that much more powerful. This is exactly where I love Zack Snyder, because he knows how to handle heavy fight scenes with several characters involved and make them beautiful, clear, and impressive to the eyes. I really like how he’s evolved from relying on slow motion to these fast paced fights where the characters are super powerful and still manage to make the action fresh.
The beautiful cinematography and the awesome fight scenes were only so much more enhanced because of the beautifully haunting score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. The music was so iconic and makes the characters so much more memorable because the timing for it was spot on. The entire opening scene with the death of the Waynes was probably the best one since the whole scene work together harmoniously with the music, and “hauntingly emotional” is the only appropriate word that I can come up with. The Wonder Woman theme song which sounds a lot like tribal war drums won the 2nd place for me in the movie. Because the moment she appears, and the music cues, your heart pumps, and goose bumps rise. At least that’s what me and a lot of other people feel watching the movie, you may disagree, but your opinion doesn’t make the movie. I also really dig the “operatic” tone that Hans and Junkie put into several parts of the score, especially for Lex Luthor. The character of Luthor in this movie is a complex one and a very unconventional version of him compared to what we’ve had before in movies, but the music kinda ties him together to create this incredibly multidimensional feeling whenever he appears on screen. You can almost see through into his psyche just listen to the music, especially during the part when he was demanding the senator to get access to Zod’s body and the Kryptonian ship – I absolutely LOVED this part, also because of the clever editing that lays out his process and character in a really menacing manner. Batman, aside from the amazing one during the opening sequence, has several wonderful pieces throughout the movie that describe perfectly this emotional core of the character, while at the same time gives this eerily darkness of the vigilante. I used to LOVE the score in Nolan’s trilogy, but I’m gonna lie if I say I don’t dig this way more than that, because this feels so much more personal and true to who the character actually is. And the beautiful Man of Steel score is still amazing in this movie when it gets to harmonize with the others in this movie. LOVED it.
Now to the most important part, the thing that fanboys care for the most in any comic book movie ever: Is it comic accurate? I can recall to several other movies being trashed solely for NOT being comic accurate enough, but now that this movie is probably one of the most accurate to comic movie ever, it is STILL hated. Ben Affleck’s Batman is probably THE best live action Batman ever put on screen in history, not only because of his near perfect portrayal of Bruce Wayne that harkens back to the amazing Bruce Timm’s animated series, not even because of his wonderful fight scenes that makes all the other Batmen look bad since it’s so alike to the beloved Arkham video games, and it’s not the awesome, absolutely correct but still freaking badass costumes he wears that almost brought directly from the pages of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. No, not because of any of that, but because for the first time in history, Batman is ACTUALLY a detective. His whole story arc in the movie, aside from his philosophical conflict with Superman, IS a freaking detective film about him following the trails, figuring out clues, finding and exposing the truth about The White Portugese, which later on we found out to be Lex’s ship that brought the Kryptonite back from the Indian Sea. This is the Batman I know and love, this is exactly why DC is short for Detective Comics. Because he’s not a superhero with a fancy suit or superpower that can burn the world, he’s not even a brute whose only tactic is to beat the fuck out of the criminals and ask them “Where is she?” in a cancer-y voice (I’m looking at Christian Bale), he’s deeply and profoundly THE best detective in the world. So far, none of the previous Batman films managed to do this justice about the most important aspect about Batman aside from the Bruce Timm’s animated series. And this movie reflects a lot of that from Timm’s vision for the character. Not to mention several other amazing moments like when he was spotted by that one cop and disappeared, literally like a bat, or when he calmly said “I believe you” to the Russian mobster and then proceeded to take him down while still managed to save Martha Kent. Speaking of Martha Kent, damn, I cried, yes sir, I cried, when Clark said her name out loud because he didn’t want to expose himself (duh, like he always does), and Batman was suddenly attacked by a surge of traumatic memory about his mom. The music was on cue, and it struck something in me that couldn’t hold my tears back, and I mean, I did it twice because I’ve seen the movie twice. I cried twice at this particular scene. And also because I’ve always known their moms share the same name, but never I’ve seen that fact being put to such emotional and good use like that. At that moment, it’s not just because Bruce was reminded of his mother, he also saw something in the fallen god before him that he hasn’t considered before: This is a person, who has a human connection, a family, a mom with a name, and not a ruthless “god” above detached from the world, nor is he an alien from another planet who doesn’t care for anyone. That is the moment Bruce showed his weakness, and not Clark, and that’s why Batman is so awesome in this movie.
And then we have Superman, the same Superman people kept criticizing from Man of Steel for not being just a straight up “good guy”, for not “caring enough”. Oh well, guess what, he did, a lot, except for the fact that instead of being loved by the public unconditionally like in the comics and in the cartoons, his existence is being questioned, exactly like how the world – our world is treating immigrants right at this moment. Batman speaks the one thing that has been debated to death for the last few years, and is exactly what has helped Donald Trump to come this far in the election race: “If there’s just a one percent chance he’s our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute, and we’re gonna have to destroy him.” No, Batman is not Donald Trump in this movie, but the idea was put into his mind and manipulated both by his personal experience and Lex Luthor – who’s the real equivalence of the Trump. Why did he have such an extreme idea about Superman you ask? Because from where he was standing, which was all the way on the ground, in the rubble of Metropolis and his own building, while holding on to an innocent little girl who lost her mom, where one of his employee lost his legs, way too far from the action in the sky between the “aliens” to actually know who’s the good and who’s the bad. He only saw one thing, the same thing a huge number of Metropolis citizens saw that day: The aliens are responsible for this destruction, and they are the same, they are all dangerous and out of control. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds Superman does, there will always be a Wallace Keefe, people will always protest and make everything into political. Now if you changed all “Kryptonians” and “Superman” into “Muslim”, what do you get? And how does an immigrant feel when they see this type of “opinion” being praised, spread, propagated, and shoved down his throat EVERY SINGLE DAY, how would he feel like? Yeah, may be what you see is a comic book character that you loved growing up, I see a person that me and many others can relate to inside and out, with all the doubts, with all the conflicts in his mind, with all the guilt on his shoulder for everything people are blaming on him (both in the movie world and out), with all the pressure of representing a whole race, a whole nation, never stop trying to prove himself to the world, to America about who he actually is. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is fundamentally HUMAN. Because someone who is JUST GOOD TO THE CORE, that is God, and that is NOT Superman. Henry Cavill’s Superman wasn’t good because of his super powers or how fast he flies, he’s good because he couldn’t help it but stop following the suspicious billionaire to fly all the way to Mexico to rescue ONE girl from a fire, he’s good because he tried to reason with Batman throughout the fight, and never pulled any decisively lethal force against him, even though his mother’s life is on the line, because he tried to say his mother’s name instead of saying “save my mom” to ask for Batman’s help while still trying to hold on to his secret identity, because right at the moment of Doomsday’s birth, he saved Lex Luthor despite all the horrible things this guy did to him, because despite all the controversy he’s facing from the rest of the world, he cares that someone in Gotham is hurting people and needed to be confronted, that either Clark Kent or Superman has to ask for justice, because he still asks his mom’s for advices when he’s still in doubt, and he’s willing to face his own responsibility by presenting at the Capitol. And ultimately, he’s the exact Superman that we know and love from the comic books, because he put himself in pain, and then sacrificed his own life to save a world that was still doubting his existence. Deep down, under that S logo and the tight suit, he’s still that little confused kid from Kansas who listens to his pa and ma. THAT is fundamentally and profoundly Superman – a person, a human, a good one, not a perfect god.
We didn’t get to see a lot from Wonder Woman, but from everything we’ve seen of her, she’s perfect. She’s mysterious, she’s a femme fatale, she’s powerful, and she’s imposing. I find it really confusing and weird that everybody seems to focus a lot of attention to her body to be not muscular enough, some even said that her breasts are not big enough (?). Why? Her original appearance in the comics was not muscular, and she is not muscular in most of the comic book versions that I’ve seen, as well as the animated versions. She’s only buff in a few modern iteration of the character, and somehow people think this is how she’s “supposed” to look like? You do understand her power doesn’t come from muscles, don’t you? You do understand that a woman’s power doesn’t have anything to do with the image of her body, don’t you? Every time she shows up, especially when she fell down from the sky and blocked Doomsday beam to save Batman. The music was right on time to make the moment fantastic, everyone in the theatre applauded both times I went to see the movie. Her costume, her fighting techniques, her essence, everything gives off this power that can’t be taken lightly. And Lex Luthor by Jesse Eisenberg, I was pleasantly surprise. His approach to the character is really unconventional, but for me, it was pretty convincing. This is not the first time he acts like this, there’s and edge of psychotic mixed with a menacing aura, which I think worked well with this version of the character. Also, his plan is actually pretty clever since it plays on not complexity of the situation, but mostly relies on the emotional bases of both Batman and Superman. That proves his genius.
About the story, I explained a little bit above, Zack Snyder brought to us this conflict supposedly between Batman and Superman, but it’s in fact between two very different political point of view: Batman, and with him a large portion of the population sees Superman and the rest of the Kryptonians from down below, far away from the actual fight, and all he knows is this devastation upon his world was brought by the aliens from high above. For Batman, Wallace, and a lot of Superman haters, it’s personal, and they need a target to blame, just like how Alfred said: “That’s how it starts, the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel”. That’s how it looks like from their perspective, they’re not terrible people, but personal lost has made them angry, broken, and paranoid. It’s not that different from our own society and how people actually think. For Superman, like I mentioned above, he’s the immigrant, and he’s facing the prosecution from his adopted world for the violent acts of his own people, no matter how much good he does every day to save the world. Have you considered it from the mindset of someone like him and see how it feels like? That’s what Superman in this movie was going through, and still, in the end, he still sacrifices himself to save the world. If that’s not what’s directly relevant to our current state of the world right now, I don’t know what is.
I can go on even more on the great things in this movie, hell, I think I can write a whole book on how good this movie and Man of Steel is, but it’s been quite long already, so I’m gonna wrap it up here. In short, if I can say this many good things about this movie, hell, I, my girlfriend, and my roommates were on the edge of our seat the whole movie, with our hearts pumping like crazy from excitement, and actually shed tears watching the death of Superman and his funeral, then how can it be THAT bad? Trash? No, you just feel the need to have the power to drag other people’s joy down, or you focus way too much on looking for what’s good and what’s bad about the movie that you forget to actually enjoy what it has to offer, or may be, I’m just a dumb person who likes a shitty movie, but I know you don’t mean that, or may be you do, who knows, right? Believe me, I can agree and respect if you don’t like the movie for several reasons, you totally have all the rights to express your feelings and your valid (if fair) critiques, and I can see those reasons as clear as you do, but aside from a few jump cuts that were not very smooth, the rest are entirely subjective opinions, and NOT FACTS. Saying or even thinking that this movie is bad while ignoring a fact that a lot of people, and I mean intelligent people (that if you have any fundamental respect for others) liked it for very very very valid reasons, doesn’t make you a better person, or doesn’t make you look like you “understands” the art of cinema more than anyone else. And like I said, Zack Snyder and his crew once again is suffering from a very unjustified, overly harsh, and overall just unprofessional attitude from Hollywood with people bashing his movie as if there’s NOTHING good to appreciate.

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