Dawn of the Golden Age of Superhero Movies.
…if Jesus was alive today and walked on water, it would be instantly on YouTube… And the first Comment would be: “Fag.”
— Bill Maher.
There is a scene in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE where Batman turns a corner in his Batmobile and runs headlong into Superman blocking him in the street. Superman stands calmly, not moved one iota as the Batmobile slams into him and ricochets to a halt. All is quiet, somber, dark, as Batman slowly rises from the cockpit, to confront a grim Superman now standing on the Batmobile’s hood. There it is — a scene envisioned from all our childhoods: the two greatest superheroes the world has ever known, face to face in living, breathing, shining reality.
These are the First Heroes, the OG’s, from the Golden Age of Comics. Supers, which were paper and colored ink, now flesh and sinew – incarnate after 80 years of expectancy. At last on the big screen in darkness and badassery. These were never just cartoon characters – they were archetypes; historical memes that represented the highest aspirations of humankind; ultimately, they were more than just brains and brawn, but the epitome of each. These beings guided us through the uncertainty of puberty, forged our visions of adulthood, infected our notions of morality. Like the God of Abraham breathing life into the mud of Adam, DC Comics and director Zack Snyder have hewn from the pages of past summers, the gods who made us the men we are today.
And instead of delving into this sincere movie’s deeper layers, the uneducated, short-attention-span lunkheads have chosen to knee-jerk and bitch-fit in ignorant spasm, focusing on the obvious lesser faults in this fantasy script, like it’s an historical document that needs to conform to real world rules. They’re all just JELLY that they didn’t make this movie first!
And I wept as my childhood slapped me in the face. I wept for all the times I tied a towel around my neck and swished around the backyard. I wept as this cinematic tableau authentically depicted what was buried under the rubble of my adult brain. And I wept because, no matter the quality, no matter the blood and bone expended in the cauldron of creation, the first Comment will always be – “fag.”
Batman battles Superman for destroying Metropolis while he was trying to save it, and destroys Metropolis while he’s trying to save it by battling Superman.
It’s the darkest superhero movie ever made. DC Comics has outdone Marvel and any other contenders (like HANCOCK, DARKMAN, THE CROW, et al) in creating an almost disturbing adventure that delves deep into the minds of two distraught men. The gravitas here stems not from the usual childish punching between good and evil, but in that age-old adage about great power spawning great responsibility. And it goes further, into the Shakespearean, “Heavy lies the head that wears the crown.” (Henry The Fourth Part 2, Act 3:1.)
We’ve all grown up with the notion that having super powers (or being in Batman’s realm of tasty gadgets and optimum training) would be peachy keen. But the abilities of these two men are a curse, a burden, and weigh on them morally for their limitations. For all his seemingly limitless abilities, Superman knows his power is finite. He cannot save everyone; he is not omniscient. In messianic scenes, we see him performing incredible feats of strength and bravery, yet behind his furrowed brow, he mourns for those he could not save; he does not embrace the joyous/evangelical reaching out to touch the hem of his cape; his visage is steeped in sadness and self-doubt.
And Batman, who donned the cowl of a bat to strike fear into the hearts of wrongdoers, realizes the new top dog is far more fearful, for his capacity to “burn down the world” in an eyeblink. To put it simply: it’s a dick thing. In a world where Gotham and Metropolis are across the bay from each other, Batman is so threatened by Superman, he steps over the moral lines he set for himself, just to match that terrifying killing power – resorting to branding criminals like cattle, then outright murdering them. When Alfred muses to Bruce about “everything changing” and “the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel”, he is not talking about super criminals – he is talking about Bruce!
Also, just before Alfred subtly chides him, Bruce says, “We’re criminals, Alfred! We’ve always been criminals.” Did we hear that correctly?! Batman admits openly he is an outlaw, and is not self-deluding that his righteousness outweighs his illegality!
These pathological insecurities are woven so deep into the fabric of this tale that it totally loses the lunkheads. Where’s the colorful quipping? Where’s the simplistic punching of bad guys? Where’s the “fun” in being super? I don’t get it. I know, I’ll whine like every other beanstem on social media because I’m not used to a superhero movie forcing me to use my brain that’s been turned to pulp by Reality TV.
I think I’ll type “fag” in the Comments section…
There are real world repercussions. This movie addresses the massive collateral damage in its predecessor, MAN OF STEEL (2013). The city of Metropolis won’t stand for Superman’s decisions on how he wields his powers, and the plot foreshadows the dilemma in the upcoming Marvel production, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR – on how to regulate superheroes and their deeds. Batman, battling his own demons and critics in pushing his vigilantism to murder, takes it upon himself to regulate Superman.
A friend of mine is always reminding me superhero movies are, in essence, “kid’s movies.” Not any more. When we see a clothed Clark Kent climb into a tub playfully with a naked Lois Lane (living together like a well-adjusted couple), we realize – this is an adult rendering. (There are also rumors of an R-rated version of the film, available only on Blu-Ray – which is not, disappointingly, for the purpose of revealing more tey-tey, but to include more violence). So put on your thinking cap and your big boy pants or get the fuck out.
Even you got too old to die young.
— Alfred, to Bruce Wayne.
Ben Affleck is Batman. First comment: fag.
After the internet explodes due to this casting choice, Affleck turns out to be nothing short of brilliant! Bringing a grizzled, cynical brutality to his Batman, even closer to Frank Miller’s envisioning of the Dark Knight than Christian Bale’s interpretation; a rugged, unapologetic continuance of this character. (We even see the voice modulator that makes Batman’s voice raspy – which might explain why Christian Bale said, “So that’s how it feels” in that rasp, when he didn’t need to because no one was listening).
Affleck (who was Superman in HOLLYWOODLAND! – where he dated Diane Lane, Superman’s mother here!) embodies exactly the type of vicious vigilante we saw in KICK-ASS. Remember that scene in the warehouse where Nic Cage’s Big Daddy – looking decidedly like the caped crusader – kicks and kills his way through a bunch of henchmen? And I yearned for DC to step up and make the Batman look as dynamic and lethal. Here is that dance of death. It’s thrilling to see such real world violence at last in these “kid’s movies.” Our heroes are back, and badder than ever. This ain’t your granddaddy’s Batusi, this ain’t your daddy’s Mr. Mom, Hell, this ain’t even Christian Bale’s Dark Knight. It’s Frank Miller’s nightmare vision realized in murderous Bat-Kwon-Do.
We probably know better, as an audience, the death of Batman’s parents, than the death of loved ones we know.
— Kevin Smith, director.
And in Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne, Affleck brings a sadness and resignation. We feel that child who witnessed his parents being slain. And – lest we forget – here’s that origin story YET AGAIN! But it’s recreated for a very important plot jolt later, as we see Bruce’s father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) utter his wife’s name with his dying breath, “Martha…”
Henry Cavill is Superman/Clark Kent. And he can do no wrong, as actor or character, embodying the perfection of Nietzsche’s Űbermensch (the “over-man,” the next step in human evolution, acting as his own god, without the constraints of religion, giving himself morality and value as he sees fit. Ironically, the opposite of the Űbermensch is Jesus Christ – but that’s who Superman is modeled after!). Is there some kind of physics law that states a man can’t possibly be that handsome? So flawless he’s swaying the evolutionary scales so that us natchell-born cucumbers can never mate again and pass on our genes…
Amy Adams is Lois Lane, lubricious hairstyle and a voice like she’s speaking through the finest Baccarat crystal; Supe’s live-in girlfriend and Daily Planet reporter, who earns her paycheck here not reporting one single thing. Laurence Fishburne is hilarious in a few key moments as editor Perry White: “‘Crime Wave in Gotham’! Other breaking news: ‘Water, wet’!”
Jeremy Irons is impertinent and sarcastic as Bruce’s faithful liege; the best Alfred yet, not only for his imperiousness and biting wit, but for the content of his discourse.
Diane Lane is Martha Kent, Supe’s strong mother, who rescinds Glenn Ford’s bullshit from SUPERMAN (“You’ve got a purpose, and it ain’t scoring touchdowns”), with her own advice on Clark’s duty to humanity, “You don’t owe these people anything!” I LOVE this contravening of maudlin canon! It’s all these small concepts that add up to this movie being better than its small faults.
And Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent makes a cameo so moving, it reduces us to tears in five minutes screentime. It’s a wonder the government aren’t using him as a lethal weapon on the front lines in Afghanistan, making the enemy weep themselves to surrender. In a quasi-dream, he advises doubtful Clark on the cruel kindness of saving one thing at the expense of another; that something must die for something else to live. And he caps it with, “I miss you, son.” Clark: “I miss you too, dad.” Oh sweet Jesus, I am a blithering wreck! If I ever take a Method Acting class, I’ll know what to think about when I need to cry like a baby-man.
Costner, Fishburne and Irons prove that adage, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” These three GIANTS overwhelm their few minutes screentime with depth, personality, humor and empathy, as if they were the focus of the tale!
And in another stunt-casting coup – Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Superman’s nemesis since comic books were invented. Eisenberg ain’t your daddy’s Luthor; he’s Zuckerberg-as-Joker, a shifty-limbed, loquacious super-genius, who is practically an ally to Batman here, in that he wants a preemptive strike on Superman before Superman can destroy the world. It is his Machiavellian plan that sets in motion “Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham.”
A senate committee (led by Holly Hunter) wants to bore Superman into submission with hearings and edicts (red tape v red cape?), and won’t grant Luthor permission to build kryptonite weapons fused with the DNA of the deceased Zod (Michael Shannon), for fear it might get interesting. “Don’t build a weapon of assassination, and call it deterrence.”
Luthor discovers that Zod’s cells degenerate when exposed to kryptonite – a scientific reason for Superman’s weakness, rather than just, “Pieces of his home planet make him weak.”
Cameos aplenty: Andrew Sullivan, Nancy Grace, Anderson Cooper, Neil deGrasse Tyson (oh yes!), with Charlie Rose asking the right question of the committee, “Are you comfortable saying to a grieving parent, ‘Superman could’ve saved your child but on principle, we did not want him to act’? Senator: “I’m saying he shouldn’t act unilaterally.” Typical politician asshat. (When that building is falling on you, Senator, I hope your red tape is all in order before Superman can be granted a senatorial injunction to save you.) When weighing the pros and cons, Superman’s deeds – unlike any god’s – are demonstrably beneficial. How can anyone mistake his averting tragedies as enmity? One word: Republicans.
When Luthor masterminds an explosion that destroys that committee, I’m not cheering for eeevil, or for the deaths of the innocents in the courtroom, but I am sure as shit cheering for the deaths of those politicians.
Title card: Mankind is introduced to the Superman.
Opening scenes of BATMAN V SUPERMAN draw on the last scenes of MAN OF STEEL, during the destruction of Metropolis. This time, as seen from the ground. Two small figures battle in the thundering skies (Superman and General Zod), as buildings topple around them. We see a man desperately navigating the shuddering streets, and we mark the true measure of heroism as he runs toward the danger to save others. The man is Bruce Wayne, trying to save people in his crumbling Wayne Foundation building. He looks up at the inhuman figures rending the world, pure hatred in his eyes.
Thus the plot is set in motion, and the reasons why these two heroes fight is quite compelling. Batman plots to preemptively destroy “the alien”: “If there is a one percent chance he is our enemy we have to take it as an absolute certainty…” And Superman, who can admittedly crush Batman easily, enhanced suit and all (with the gentlemen’s agreement that he never lasers Batty’s mouth opening), doesn’t do so because he was only blackmailed into fighting Batman over the life of his mother. The script is well crafted by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, each line of delicious dialogue heavy with portent. [See POFFY SEZ: The writers behind the stories that other writers take credit for.]
As everyone knows by now, the reason they STOP fighting seems weak at first blush. Batman, with his various kryptonite tchotchkes, has brought Superman down, and is about to spear him through the heart with a krypto-spear when Superman – with his dying breath – just like Bruce’s father – mumbles “…Martha…”
And the Bat pauses: “WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?!”
One would think the viewers best suited to understand this reversal would be the truest fans; those who know Batman’s OCD; the ones who understand how driven/damaged a soul must be to dress as a bat to combat crime; the viewers who would comprehend how something as small as his mother’s name would adversely affect the fearful Bat Man. Nope. First comment: fag.
Like the movie, this plot point is not as simplistic as the lunkheads would have us believe. “Martha” is the wedge that opens a broader cave-in for Batman. With that plea from the man of steel to “save Martha,” Batman realizes Superman is an empathetic being, with family and human values. After all, Batman was driven to destroy Superman because he believed Superman lacked humanity; that the coldness of his alien heart might cause him to destroy Earth without even the barest moral twinge, not through malignancy, but because he was incapable of feeling at all. Hearing that Superman cared for someone else – with the added jolt of her name being Martha! – stayed Batman’s hand. This alien could discern; this being had a moral compass, this man was human after all.
Heated talk of devils falling from the sky, gods ascending from the depths. “Maybe he’s not a devil or Jesus character; maybe he’s just a guy trying to do the right thing.” Messianic, magisterial, epic in darkness, pain, moral ambiguity. Our Heroes are born anew, Movie Maniacs! Cherish them.
It is no secret BATMAN V SUPERMAN is opening up the DC Universe to spinoffs and sequels, thus the teases of The Flash (a time-travel mishap), Aquaman (mighty Jason Momoa wielding a trident underwater!), some guy whose symbol I don’t recognize and–
Wonder Woman! If the sight of bulked-up Ben Batman and square-jawed Super Cavill isn’t enough to keep everyone’s panties pouting, here comes the smooth-skinned Amazonian princess to finish the job. Her superhero name is never mentioned, and she is teased in an ominous old photo from 1918 Belgium – yet we all know who the luscious Gal Gadot is playing. An immortal warrior from a distant past, moving amongst modern mortals like a wet dream.
Luthor forges a Kryptonian abomination called Doomsday (we know him best from that limited 1992 comic series, The Death Of Superman), and in a lightning strike of mini-skirted glory, the enigmatic Wonder Woman appears, thighs akimbo, shield aloft, “W” symbol placed discreetly over her vagina, flanked by Superman and Batman.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing? The Holy Trinity of DC! Superman. Batman. Wonder Woman Wagina. Together on the silver screen at long last. Once again, step outside your social media clique of closeted dipshittery and bear witness! How many decades have we waited for this?! When Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream…” he might just have been talking about this moment in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.
And if this scene doesn’t move you to slapping yourself with your childhood towel —