When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, I was undeniably a “DC kid.” While I had an appreciation for MARVEL’s stable of heroes including Spider-man and Captain America (and the SECRET WARS toys were way cool), my allegiance was planted firmly with the residents of Metropolis and Gotham City, and all of their counterparts living within the pages of DC Comics.
Reruns of the 1966 BATMAN aired regularly on Channel 32 in Chicago, while the SUPER FRIENDS cartoon fueled my desire to get my parents to buy me more of Kenner’s SUPER POWERS Collection action figures. Christopher Reeve’s SUPERMAN films were a regular viewing staple, with the under-appreciated SUPERMAN III and the fairly bad SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE watched more times than they should’ve been, thanks to HBO. When it comes to the source material – the actual comics, it was John Byrne’s 1986 MAN OF STEEL that truly hooked me with it’s then-more grown-up portrayal of the character. Superman was my #1 for a few years, and then the summer of 1989 came around and Tim Burton’s BATMAN hit the screen, and ever since it’s been The Caped Crusader as my #1, with “The Big Blue Boy Scout” as #2.
As an adult, I’ve been there right with everyone else in appreciating how well-handled the MARVEL Cinematic Universe has been cared for at Disney, and while their 13-strong film series continues to grow, my heart is still with Batman and Superman…
A Spoiler-Free Review of BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, brought to you by Fandango Family
With BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (BVS from here), audiences have been promised a clash on a level of which has never been seen – prompting many to question “why would they be fighting in the first place?” While the friendly brotherhood of The Justice League might be the first thing that comes to mind, perhaps followed by the WORLD’S FINEST team-up comics that DC published from the 1940s-1970s, these guys have often been depicted in conflict with each other, mostly over moral ideology. BVS presents us with a legitimate reason for the “Son of Krypton” and “Bat of Gotham” (as Jesse Eisenberg’s young Alexander Luthor would call them) to despise each other.
That reasoning is directly tied to the reality in which these characters inhabit – one that is undeniably informed by the real world circa 2016. This is a Post-9/11 reality that is propelled by the ending of the MAN OF STEEL (MOS from here), and the social ramifications of the death and destruction that occurred due to an alien battle in the skies above Metropolis. That battle and the damage in its wake was in large part a criticism of MOS, but one I didn’t buy into. It served the story, and was believable. While even THE AVENGERS had a NYC-destroying Alien invasion, what happened on the DC side just felt far more damaging and real.
“Who is responsible?” Is a looming question, and one both asked and answered by Senator Finch (Holly Hunter) in a series of hearings meant to decide what the United States (and the World at large) should do with Superman (Henry Cavill)… an individual with God-like powers who is roaming unchecked. He is both worshipped and feared as a deity, while the very human Batman (played to perfection by Ben Affleck) is referred to as “The Devil,” even by those who he has “saved.” It’s all about perception.
Bruce Wayne/Batman blames Superman for “bringing the war to us,” while Clark Kent/Superman believes that the “Bat vigilante” is “a terror,” warning him that “the next time they shine your light (Batsignal), don’t come.” Two men playing by completely different rules, yet both just trying to do the right thing.
At the center of the battle is Luthor, the son of “the Lex before the Corp,” and a version of a familiar character that has been modernized as a mad scientist mixed with a dash of both Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban. He knows just how to pit our two gladiators against one another, and he functions as the perfect puppet master to do so. I’m not giving anything away that’s not already present in the film’s marketing to say that Luthor has a trick up his sleeve with the creation of Doomsday (who I believe should’ve been saved for an in-film reveal), again a new spin on a familiar character – the one who famously appeared in the 1992 “Death of Superman” comics.
It’s against Doomsday that Superman and Batman must join forces, coming together with the enigmatic Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot is excellent in this role) to take on a greater force than either of them has ever faced in the past, and one that each is incapable of taking on alone.
Indeed, if this is the “Dawn,” we do get hints of The Justice League that’s soon to come, albeit in very small glimpses. There is so much going on in this 2½ hour film that it could be, and will be discussed and broken down for a long time. There are numerous dream sequences and hints of terrors yet to come, plenty of social commentary, and all of the action that you would expect.
In our case, we saw the film in 4DX at Marcus Theatres’ Gurnee Cinema, one of just three 4DX screens in North America (the others are at Regal locations in L.A. and NYC). This fully-immersive experience creates the sensation of being “in the film,” at BVS is the perfect showcase of that technology, making for an exciting, exhilarating, and nearly exhausting experience driven by motion, wind, fog, mist, scent and lighting FX. The Batmobile chase is worth the price of admission on its own.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE is one of 2016’s must-see movie events, a modern superhero epic that must be experienced on the big screen.
It is absolutely not for kids, however.
At our sold-out 4DX screening, my wife and I were quite surprised at how many little kids were there – including a girl that was maybe six, seated with her dad just a few spots away from us. There were a lot of kids, and I cannot stress enough that this is not for them, despite all the cool toys that are out there, many of which we have.
Naysayers have pointed to the bleakness of this DC Extended Universe (DCEU) as a bad thing, but it’s one that feels completely appropriate to me in terms of the story being told. As Bruce Wayne says at one point, “Maybe it’s the Gotham City in me…”, a line I can equate to “Maybe it’s the Chicago in me,” because the Gotham and Metropolis that Zack Snyder has created feel comfortable, yet unsettling in a very familiar way.
One of the beautiful things about these characters is how they work in many different ways, from cute and campy to serious and deadly. What we’re seeing here is the latter, a Batman and Superman (and Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman) that are primed for a grown-up audience. (4/5)
Violence/scare factor: BVS is a frightening film on many levels, with violence and disturbing imagery that unfortunately reflects the real world in which we live. There is peril for all of our heroes, death, destruction, and some ultimately scary things for young children (including actual children in danger!). While I have seen more violent films (and don’t mind it), the PG-13 rating is in-place here for very good reason, and the already-confirmed R-rated home video cut should be an indicator that BVS is on the harder end of the PG-13 spectrum. Indeed, our heroes do kill the bad guys (something I’m fine with), and actions have consequences. (5/5)
Sex/Romance: When it comes to romance, there’s a spot where Clark joins Lois in the bath tub (he’s fully clothed) in a playful scene, along with a few kisses here and there. On a more serious note, sexual predators are addressed, as is human trafficking. Batman has become particularly sensitive to those issues, and makes a point of branding offenders with a hot Bat Symbol, a mark called out as a “death sentence” once said scumbags wind up behind bars. “New rules?,” asks Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Justice, indeed. (3/5)
Bad language: As eluded to in some of the trailers, there’s a shot where Batman is piloting the Batwing into a crash-landing that sends him sliding into a building. Upon opening the cockpit, Doomsday is headed toward him and he says “Oh, s***.” I would, too. (1/5)
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE – Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Oscar winner Ben Affleck (“Argo”) as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) as Superman/Clark Kent, along with Oscar nominees Amy Adams (“American Hustle,” “Man of Steel”) as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) as Lex Luthor, Diane Lane (“Unfaithful,” “Man of Steel”) as Martha Kent, and Laurence Fishburne (“What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Man of Steel”) as Perry White; Oscar winners Jeremy Irons (“Reversal of Fortune”) as Alfred, and Holly Hunter (“The Piano”) as Senator Finch; and Gal Gadot (the “Fast and Furious” films) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.
Now playing in theaters everywhere. Get tickets now via Fandango.
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