Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★½

Let's ALSO take this brief, yet much needed moment to publicly apologise to Zack Snyder

Having just watched the ultimate edition of “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice”, I now have a newfound respect for editors and visionaries.

In my review of the theatrical I was not exactly kind. I called it the “amateur Jackson Pollack painting” of cinema. I said it felt like two people directed it. Affleck ghost directing “Batfleck Rises”, the lead up to his solo film, and Snyder “Superman & Friends! The Birth of Nuclear-Man”, a slashed together mess with no clear vision. A train wreck. A straight up disappointment. I still call the theatrical these things today… and to Zack Snyder I would like to apologise. With all my heart. Apologise for saying it was him “at his most self-indulgent”, because by being forced to remove just 30 minutes of footage at the request of his producers, this surprisingly gorgeous vision was corrupted. The same way his 2009 “Watchmen” was corrupted. Leaving many fans anticipating this movie to high heaven disappointed, calling for his head and firing off the upcoming “Justice League”. All of that. Snyder was the Miles Teller from Whiplash. Who got hit in a car crash, bleeding from all sides, and still showed up to play even when he couldn't. That version was not for our eyes, and for this new version seeing the light of day I wish Snyder all the best.

The true version of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a perfect film. Perry White is still running the cartoon version of a newspaper business. The infamous Martha scene, while still solid to me, isn’t as effective as it should be. However this is entirely different than it’s theatrical version. Where that film was an incohesive “bang crash kaboom” slap dash to make a cinematic universe, Snyder’s film here is more so a mystery. A gradual build up of two iconic heroes who are vastly different, who handle each other in different ways, and each have a different view of justice. Superman the liberator. The savior that’s stepped into a corrupt, terrorist ridden, post patriot act drone warfare world, that wants to save everybody. The boy scout that steps into the battlefield, and even with the strength of a tank, is not perfect. Who is not always all powerful, unable to turn back time and save that one family that slipped his sight, yet in his heart of hearts tries to be all good. Even when the human world see’s his faults and ignores his selflessness, ignorant to the lives he saved that same day blood was spilled. In the ultimate edition we see Superman as that liberator. Who, yes, threw a terrorist through the wall, but attends to the crying women and children running from the captivity that same man held them in. Who were sure to be executed in the inferno of an American drone missile Superman himself prevented. Superman is finally shown in the spotlight as the symbol for hope. The almost perfect deus ex machina to our human conduct. I even caught Superman smiling this time, which was a welcome change. We saw some of that in “Man of Steel” briefly, with the tearing woman trapped underneath rubble, holding hands alongside Perry White both sure of their impending deaths, before Superman destroyed some big giant gravity device or whatever on the other side of the world, which admittedly is very touching, but those moments were few and far between. Superman never realising the actions he just took that saved a sure to be dead woman and man’s life. Focused more on subduing Zod, and the protection of Lois and his mother, while the rest of the humans are important, but not as important. Here it earns us buying into Superman’s selflessness. Even for how brief these moments are, Superman’s attention is on everyone. Lois Lane (the chemistry between them so much better here), the African society, Nancy fucking Grace who hails him as the devil on Fox News, all their lives are valued under the eyes of Superman. His human side slips in of course, nearing lashing out at the very idea of his family threatened, making him tangible, but it also manages to show even in a world as broken as our own, that symbol of hope can exist and achieve things. Just not as perfectly as a Richard Donner time traveler Superman can. It’s more nuanced. More human.

On the flipside is Batman. The monster that hunts monsters. Who values human life… just not all human life. Who sees a mailed fist to the jaw and branding as a reasonable punishment for sex slave trafficking, and to be honest, rightly so. Our symbol of fear going to work, giving the good men turned cruel a taste of their own medicine… maybe so much medicine those same men may overdose. Becoming the very same hero left unchecked he proclaims Superman to be. Dick Cheney spitting “even a 1% chance” speeches, ready to go to war. Ben Affleck is still fucking gorgeous as Batman, and with his chemistry alongside Jeremy Irons the Bruce & Alfred Comedy Hour is only strengthened. It’s much more interesting when these symbols are shown just doing what they do. Contrasting one another with a great flowing storytelling, showing the dark and lights acts towards justice that either just thrive and fail. Throughout all of this a minor but great portrayal of Wonder Woman from the lovely Gal Gadot, and a mystery afoot as Lex Luthor schemes his way into all of their psychology. Thanks to careful Littlefinger like four steps ahead planning (and admittedly some luck you’re going to have to suspend some disbelief to be fully satisfied with), that leads to our superheroes at each other’s throats in a cohesive, exciting, manipulative way. Mixing a conflict of ideology with a conflict of deception and communication (or lack thereof), since as a citizen informs a reporting Clark Kent “There’s no talking to the Batman… the only way he will listen is with a fist”. With carte blanche and free storytelling reign, Snyder, David S. Goyer, Chris Terrio (and I still suspect the heavy influence of confessed comic book geek Affleck) there’s a seriousness and thought brought to these characters. Who would never fight unless forced into the bitter anger state of them thinking the other doesn’t value innocent lives as much as they do. Unless blood was being poured thanks to their existence. Lex this biblical apocalypse loving fanatic wanting to see man trump god, and god defeated by the devil, clearly having loose wires in his fundamentalist head. Jesse Eisenberg, with just a bit more footage, is less Jim Carrey Riddler from Batman Forever, and more so Jim Carrey if an almost-Nolan director let him play a vicious, fun, almost unstable but methodical Luthor. The performance is much better. I would prefer Cranston, but this is something.

I can’t speak on it tying into the DC cinematic universe. We’ll have to wait to see how that turns out, but its existence here is definitely less jarring. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice definitely lives up to its title this time. The visuals and set pieces are gorgeous of course, but the ideological warfare, seeing this evil, political plan unfold, kind of knowing where it’s going, with a great cast of characters playing their part, saying to yourself “No, Superman is a good person! Stop it Batman!”, that’s where the fun is. Especially when the details start to click, the pace feels seamless and you actually care for both sides. No orange slices after a vicious brawl here, people.

This is the kind of film dreams are made of. Is it a perfect dream? No. But you will feel blessed to have it. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a prestige picture, and Snyder, with just 30 extra goddamn minutes, has truly brought us justice...

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