Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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

Inevitably (one more time) political allegory of post-9/11 anger, tribalism, chaos- Dawn of Justice opens by establishing two images and so linking them- bloodied beads falling in slow-motion, and a ground-level perspective to Superman's shortcomings in his first outing as flawed god in Man of Steel. That first image initially registers for its surface function and then repeats itself into a kind of slow-mo heartbreaking significance- think the appearance of Chief Keef's ad-lib (the constant) bang bang in Ain't Missing You and how it resonates differently within variable contexts. The latter is complex as it allows us to (perhaps for the first time) sympathise with Superman's efforts while Wayne takes on our feelings of disappointment and betrayal and becomes plagued by them. Both lead to trauma and the first declaration of the death of the new god. Eisenberg's insufferable Zuckerberg/Shkreli parody tech-bro makes the second, for in the absence of all meaning god works invisibly through the ideologies of capital (specifically the military-industrial complex). The existence of something Good threatens to shatter the illusion of the present-as-inevitable, picking the scab of the so-called End of History. It begins with that same 9/11 allegory and rather than moving away from it, begins asking more questions. Its argument: we can do better than this.

Snyder denounces Nolan's neoconservative hero and paints Batman as surely most of us see him- at best a sad veteran with PTSD, and otherwise a xenophobic, angry fascist maniacally branding those he deems criminal, and working with the police to terrorise the poor (see Clark's visit to Gotham for a sudden dip into horror cinema). The director also paces Dawn of Justice in a similarly frenetic manner to The Dark Knight, although he maps icons, events, and conflicts with the precision of George Lucas' experimental Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith prequels. Where The Dark Knight felt incompetent, this one feels like something more than a linear action film, its visual (rather than strictly verbal) storytelling and density of symbols and references making for a grandiose, albeit flawed tapestry of emotions, ideas, and arguments. When he restrains himself Snyder shoots with an editorial eye, arranging people and spaces as shapes and then making the most of the possibilities of fully artificial light- if he decides that split-lighting is necessary to communicate inner conflict (and the lit part of the face needs to be (for some reason) e.g. green), he will make it so with or without a logical light (and colour) source. When the balance between photography and painting shifts toward the latter, Dawn of Justice erupts into full-blown abstraction. That this happens during fights (and the bead ad-lib) reminds us that this is a battle of faith and ideas, and regardless of how the viewer feels about this, the film is interspersed with bodies against bodies as well. These scenes are as ugly as Snyder can make them (sluggish, aching), and for the first time in 20 years Batman is given a coherent filmic space in which he can don his blackshirt and inflict some horror.

-I blindly watched the Ultimate Cut assuming the difference in content would be minimal, but have just spent the last few minutes reading about what was removed for the theatrical cut. If you've not seen the Ultimate Cut, I recommend you do so! Not only does the theatrical cut remove some details that are integral to the film's thematic and even narrative purpose, but it takes out some of the most bizarro avant-garde sequences which add to its maniacal charm

-Crying Michael Caine is out, sexy Alfred forever and ever

-Like some others, I will take this passionate mess over the 'well-crafted' banality of an MCU production any day

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