Batman vs. Superman: Who Won?

It helps going into the theater with low expectations, especially when the concessions worker handing you popcorn has only the phrase “it could have been better” to offer when you realize the next 2 1/2 hours and $8.74 of your life might have been better spent elsewhere.

Perhaps diehard DC Comics fans, or just average moviegoers anticipated Zack Snyder’s latest film to hit theaters. With all of the negative attention surrounding this film (Sad Affleck, that Rotten Tomatoes score, and who could forget DC surrendering its original set theater release date to Civil War?), I couldn’t possibly rev myself up enough to even fake excitement to see this film. I anticipated some mild entertainment at best, but I think what made me really want to see the movie was curiosity.

Curious about how 32-year-old Jesse Eisenberg would fare as Lex Luthor. Or how Wonder Woman would be making her first live appearance in film in the form of Gal Gadot. Or if Amy Adams might actually step up to the plate and give us a performance worthy of the character she’s portraying (spoiler alert: she didn’t).

The best way to judge this Batman vs. Superman is to determine the winners and losers, like the format MSN presents those of the GOP debates. Shall we begin?

Winners

Hans Zimmer

Music Composition may not be the hottest topic discussed among friends, even in major film nerd circles. But Hans Zimmer has established himself as a household name. And while he lent his talents to Christopher Nolan’s batman films that were suits those films, he creates a score for Batman vs. Superman that transcends the film, making some wonder why he would agree to a project so unworthy of his talents.

Wonder Woman / Gal Gadot

In some respects, Ms. Gadot could pose as a loser. It’s not her performance that’s lacking as much as her limited screen time. Batman vs. Superman was in desperate need for a strong female character, and we get way too little of her. She brings the only element of mystery to the screen, and gets placed in scenes only when the script demands her presence.

Joker from The Dark Knight

Jesse Eisenberg didn’t play the typical Lex Luthor many filmgoers aren used to seeing. And that’s OK. Technically, he doesn’t make this list, and it’s not for giving us a bad performance. In many respects, he made the movie slightly more bearable to sit through. Apparently Zack Snyder likes to borrow from preceding Batman films. And while this isn’t a sin committed on screen, it reveals a lack of originality. Presenting the villain as maniacal, interesting, “thinks 10 steps ahead of heroes,” character, what we’re getting is a tiny version of the Joker character in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The main difference is that in this adaptation, Jesse Eisenberg is playing the only intelligent primary character in the film.

Marvel

Marvel’s reasons for winning are twofold. One, DC Comics lacks a foundation, for all of the Superman and Batman movies made over the past two decades. The people at Marvel thought things through before laying out their foundation, bringing their ideas to screen, and showing moviegoers that superhero movies didn’t have to be boring. They could be funny, interesting, compelling, and completely ridiculous, all at the same time. And in the end, we care about the characters because we’ve gotten to know them after seeing them in multiple successful films, both with critics and viewers. Two, Batman vs. Superman’s lackluster performance at the box office has proven that if it attempted to compete with Captain America: Civil War, well, you already know the end of this sentence.

Iron Man

If there’s something Batman vs. Superman prevailed at, it was borrowing from its predecessors as well as its enemies. And this isn’t a bad move when making a movie. It’s arguably smarter. So how does Iron Man benefit overall? If you compare the dynamics of Tony Stark coming into leadership with Batman vs. Superman’s Bruce Wayne helming the ship of the Justice League, you’ll notice similarities. Earlier adaptations of Iron Man don’t always portray the snarky billionaire as the original leader of the Avengers, but the first Iron Man film and Robert Downy Jr changed all of that. RDJ might be the oldest of the gang, but he fits that leadership model, even if Captain America was the more common leader in both the comics and cartoons of the past. And then you have Ben Affleck playing Grandpa Batman, posing as a leader for the Justice League, a group that doesn’t really play by the same rules Batman does. So for this Superman “sequel,” we get Ben Affleck handed top billing, attempts to recreate the beginning scenes in Batman Begins, and an aged, washed-up version of Batman claiming the leadership position for the next gang of crime-fighting superheroes. Tony Stark 1, Bruce Wayne 0.

Harry Lennix

Because he has to make this list. Any other person who’s a fan of his (he’s rocking on The Blacklist right now) would be happy to see him hit the big screen again.

Batman and Superman’s grandparents

Thank God they both named their daughters “Martha.” Imagine Batman needing an additional reason to not hear out Superman!

Richard Roeper, the film critic

OK, I know what you’re thinking . . . he wrote some awesome review for the film, right? Actually, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t checked it out yet. But if you ever make it the theater before the previews, you get to see those other previews about upcoming TV shows, or interviews with actors. And there’s this neat miniseries to preview on AMC featuring Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, one of whom plays a character named “Richard Roper.” You can’t pay for that good of marketing, am I right?

Sad Affleck

Because it’s Sad Affleck.

Losers

Ben Affleck

This was a given, right? I’ll save you some reading time and just ask one question: what happened to the guy who gave us Argo?

Lois Lane

What happened to this great female character? I think Amy Adams is a great actress, but she really doesn’t play the strong character Lois Lane was written as. In this film adaptation, we get a weak, helpless woman who resorts to relying on Superman to rescue her every time she makes a thoughtless mistake. Is there a petition to hire Erica Durance? Or maybe just some new writers?

Batman and Superman

Where’s a hero to root for when you have two guys whining over the other making him look bad? Oh right, there’s Grant Gustin from The Flash (tsk, tsk, Zack).

Final Thoughts

There are actually some positive things to say about this film. It really wasn’t all bad. I thought the special effects were great. Visually, it’s a powerful film. And it brings up some very thoughtful ideas about how the world views a higher being, a god, and how it affects their worldview. I wish Batman vs. Superman would have dug deeper into this idea, because we might have gotten a superhero film that was more than subpar.

Who do you declare the winner and loser for Batman vs. Superman? What did you think of the movie?

AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?