Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★★

The most revelatory rewatch of 2017 for me, with the Ultimate Edition doing the lord’s work in increasing an already miraculously brisk 2.5-hour runtime by 30 minutes and bumping the rating from PG-13 to R. A completely transcendent melodrama where everything is widescreen emotion expressed in vignette, the moral and political dimensions of its titular characters distilled or exploded (take your pick) in sequences that jetset around as hyperreal money-shots, the soundtrack anchoring seemingly disparate scenes together to create a thematic coherence out of its epic melodrama, chunking the film together into fifteen or twenty minute mini-movements of horror, extreme violence, whip-cracking action, tenderness, isolation, with a similarly hyperreal construction, these ludicrously perfect story beats, that enhances the heroic quality of its spectacle. Bruce racing toward a city on fire, saving a young girl stranded at a literal ground zero, a horse inching its way past in a dead quiet fog. Superman as savior. Eisenberg’s perverted porting of his Zuckerberg character rendering Luthor as insane tech messiah, so concerned with bending both mortals and immortals to his will that he’s seen communing with some sort of DC elder god in desperate final act; terrorism as good business, free enterprise acting as deep state narrative manipulator, the logical terminus of capitalism in Batman and Luthor.

This isn’t without faults, but they’re easily forgiven. For the sake of argument, much of the conflict that surrounds Superman could be dealt with if he sat down to explain that he’s not omnipotent; this fundamental misunderstanding seems to follow him everywhere. The resolution of the Batman / Superman fight does seem half-baked, as does the kinship between the two men that follows. Elsewhere, however, the melodrama is part of the act and it amplifies the tragedy. This is subtle like a hammer and I love it for that.

That’s also why it’s hard to articulate its moral and political dimensions. This isn’t an academically compelling film. Rather, it’s the loudness of its emotions, the richness of its visuals, and the verve of its action that makes it so compelling. It’s also the uncanny logic of construction. As stated, the film employs a technique that Snyder seems to have learned while filming Watchmen (no doubt there enforced by the discrete nature of its twelve-issue comic book construction): micro-acts that sequence disparate scenes into a unique emotional whole, the composition of which often feels avant garde. The battle of Man of Steel seen from the ground as metropolitan homeland terrorism, tracing the literal fallout of that battle to some island in the Indian Ocean where a piece of kryptonite is unearthed by locals to be sold to first-world corporations, moving next to the desert where a third-world militia cites US-led drone attacks against its people as a sort of moral imperative to act, and finally ending in Gotham’s inner-city where Batman is brutalizing criminals with the tacit acceptance of an inadequate police force. Subtle? Fuck no. But these are threads I wouldn’t expect any other superhero movie to bother teasing out, nor would I ever expect the teasing to be done with such aplomb. Its success, and therefore its triumph, is in visualizing its warring ideologies, the action/reaction, not as academia, but as experienced emotion across the globe.

One final thing: I can’t believe I have to defend any Batman movie that includes a dream sequence where Batman emerges from a bunker overlooking a desert metropolis that’s been set ablaze by horrible future machinery, looking down upon some PMC convoy through broken binoculars and wearing a ratty leather duster, culminating in a rotating asskicking oner as he’s double-crossed by imperialist Superman soldiers, and finally being awoken by a time-traveling Flash who’s only able to deliver a cryptic premonition of future conflict, but uh, here I am. This movie fucking owns.

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