Friday, 25 March 2016

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (a.k.a. The Rise of WonderBat)

Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Batman (Ben Affleck) at BvS

So I watched this highly-anticipated movie last night: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Tho I feel like I want to post the last summary of LOCH 1982, but I will defer it until tonight cos I want to get this one out of my head first. Not a lot of spoilers; more of character discussion. And remember: this is a DC movie. This is NOT a Marvel movie.

Now, BvS (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice) has been a long-anticipated movie and it’s always been the case of “whether DC will outdo Marvel” this time. To me, it’s never been about that. It’s about whether Warner Bros finally got it right to set up the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) for there are so many stories to tell from DC (and I mean the pre-new 52 DC which has our lovely Trinity acting as themselves, not the current hoohaa in the new 52 that I cannot recognise (okay, I love Azzarello’s Wonder Woman despite many of you not liking that version, but I hate the Finch’s WW to the core. The Finches just don’t get Diana). So when I came to the cinema, I tried not to hope that I would see a Marvel movie. The premiere goers have stated that this is a DC movie, not a Marvel movie, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of humour.  However, I was indeed hoping for a movie that stays true to the core characters of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, and lo and behold, I wasn’t disappointed.

True, BvS has its own league and flaws. The pacing at some places can be too slow for movie-goers used to the Marvel pacing. But it is exactly that: this movie is different from Marvel movies, and it’s good. Don’t get me wrong, I love Marvel. But I know now, I also love where the DCEU is going, and it’s a good feeling.

I don’t want to type a lot of spoilers here cos this blog is also read by fans who might want to see the movie. But I love the way they handled Bruce Wayne. I love the previous Batman version of Christian Bale, but I think Ben Affleck’s Batman is better. Like, it’s not that Bale’s Batman is not good; he was amazing. But Affleck’s Batman... there’s something still classy about this Batman despite him being jaded as well (The Dark Knight Returns with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman depicted a jaded Bruce Wayne as well, but I prefer the jaded Affleck version). I love Bruce’s interactions with Alfred Pennyworth, who is shown to be tech-savvy here, just as he should be. I like it that we see a Robin costume inside the Bat Cave, but we don’t know who it belongs to (Richard Grayson? Tim Drake? Jason Todd? Damian Wayne?).

I like it that Bruce was depicted waking up from a nightmare with a woman next to him, but he was so detached from that woman. Not ‘like-like’... but it’s pretty much what this version of Bruce Wayne would do, actually. He wouldn’t sleep around like Tony Stark pre-Pepper Potts (and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark!) but it’s plausible that Bruce would get a one-night stand or an unstable relationship with a woman, just because he was so hollow.

Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck)

Then came Diana Prince (later a.k.a. Wonder Woman) into a party Lex Luthor hosted where Bruce was also invited, and Bruce was mesmerised by her the second he saw her. She also glanced at him a bit too long for a normal glance. Those glances are not just ‘hey, you’re hot’ kinda glances. Those glances are more like ‘there’s something about this person that I’m curious about, that I’m intrigued about, and thus I want to know more about him/her’. Later, Bruce and Diana developed this kind of dance a la their Justice League Animated version... and I love Zack Snyder for giving us that!

A bit of WonderBat 101 for those unfamiliar with this ship... WonderBat ship is admittedly a relatively new ship, about 15 years old... but its seeds have been sown since the 1980s with the camaraderie between Batman/Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince/Diana of Themyscira. In early 2009, Greg Rucka even gave us this gift of Diana and Bruce kissing in the Blackest Night series. Then boom! The New 52 happened about five years ago, and Diana was paired up with Superman... oh because their uniforms are of the same colour, and they are super powered at the same level, and they can live for hundreds of years so why bother with Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane??  Obviously I am not a SuperWonder/SMWW shipper for I think the reasons are so shallow, but I’m not going to rant here. Yes, we’ve been oppressed under the DC SMWW tyrant for the past five years, but I’m glad many people see that SMWW just don’t work, and they start to change the direction. In short: I’ve got my WonderBat here, and I’m so happy.

And it’s not like Snyder et al shoved the ship down our throats like that. The interactions between Bruce and Diana were organic, natural. They were interested in each other, but they were also guarded because of their past experiences. Hence they ‘danced’ around each other. But there was one scene that I truly love... that was when Bruce found a photograph of Diana dating from November 1918 (Bruce sourced it from Lex Luthor’s secret files). Then and only then Bruce realised she was definitely not the run-of-the-mill woman he often encountered at parties. In a very poignant way, he sent Diana that photograph, warning her that Lex Luthor knew of her identity (and the identities of three other meta-humans). Bruce then also asked some follow up questions that made me realise that he was truly intrigued, mesmerised by her. And this is interesting, for many fans often accused BMWW ship as having WW fawning over Bruce whereas Bruce couldn’t really commit to anything. Well, here, Bruce was even more jaded than the usual version of Bruce Wayne... but he actually was totally interested in Diana. Totally. In his own subtle ways. In his protective ways. And Diana... with her previous experience with humankind, she was also a bit lost. She was interested in him, but she was a bit guarded as well. As the result, the dance.

Menalippe, Diana, Queen Hippolyta and Antiope (Diana's aunt) for the 2017 WW movie

About Wonder Woman herself; she was amazing. She was sassy, intelligent, a total ass-kicker, a total beauty. She was dangerous, but not the way Catwoman was dangerous to Batman (and I love Selina Kyle, and I even buy BMCW/BatCat romance, but BMWW surpasses that romance for me). Wonder Woman, Diana of Themyscira, is a dangerous woman because she is a born warrior. Yet she is also compassionate, or at least she knew where her priorities lie (I think we will see more of Diana’s compassions in her 2017 movie than this movie, but this is more due to the limited screen time Diana has, something I’m totally fine with). We fans were worried that Gal couldn’t fill in Lynda Carter’s shoes as Wonder Woman. When I saw Gal Gadot’s first photos as Wonder Woman, I realised that I didn’t really need to worry about that. Well, now after viewing BvS, I can safely say: she can fill in Lynda Carter’s shoes. She did. Admirably. Admittedly, Lynda Carter’s WW is the 80s WW, while Gal’s WW is the modern WW for modern audience. I can live with these two versions of WW. I LOVE these two versions of WW.

Now to the last of the Trinity (or the first one, or the middle one alphabetically, whatever). Superman here is not Christopher Reeves Superman. I miss that version of Superman. But perhaps this Superman cannot afford to be too goofy because of what had happened to him compared to the 1980s settings. I still hope tho that one day he could be more relaxed about who he is and what he represents on Earth, cos we do need an optimistic Superman (or, might as well replace it with Batman altogether). I like Henry Cavill, and I think he portrayed the vulnerable parts of Superman admirably. And this is where Amy Adam’s Lois Lane is very important. She is the anchor of Superman, of Clark Kent. Without her, Superman is lost. Yes true many people will question the necessity of one scene where Superman literally flew over to Lois just to say he had to do what he had to do, in front of a taxi driver... but I can see why this Superman needs to do that. He needs Lois. He needs this mortal woman to tell him that what he was going to do was the right thing. And that’s why this Superman wins me. Because he is practically a demigod who realises that he is better because of his relationship with a mortal Earth woman. He saves her time and again because without her, he’s lost. He saves her again and again because by doing so, he basically saves himself. And after all those destructive, shoved-down-our-throats SMWW stories DC had for the last five years, hearing Clark saying that he loved Lois, hearing Superman saying he needed Lois Lane, is a soothing balm for my heart indeed.

Speaking of Superman as a demi-god, I like the fact that he was almost mummified after the nuclear blast during the fight with Doomsday. I think that was neat. Okay, this is a major spoiler, but not as heavy as what happened later. Which I will not tell you, cos you need to see it for yourself.

Oh, Martha Kent also played a very important role in this movie. Not just as Clark Kent’s mother... but for someone else as well. Lois was also there for a purpose (well, many purposes), not just a damsel in distress. These two women bonded well, particularly during the last scene, and I actually cried...Diane Lane and Amy Adams were amazing. Oh, and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch was amazing too. The only woman I find being used as a decoration here was Okamoto Tao’s Mercy Gray. I mean, Mercy is a very effective, merciless assassin, but we didn’t get to see that much in this movie. In fact, I think she was ‘successfully’ disposed-off during the movie. Bugger...

Speaking of Mercy Gray, I have to talk about Lex Luthor as well then. Well, the Lex Luthor version I’m familiar with is the Michael Rosenbaum Lex Luthor from Smallville series. I love that version of Luthor because Michael showed his journey from being just a curious person into a villain. He actually had a reason to be a villain in Smallville. Yet, Jesse Eisenberg didn’t have seasons of series to develop his character. We were just presented with a motorbike-rider, ego-maniac, young brat Lex Luthor who liked baseball and so smart he could sniff the trails of some meta-humans before Bruce even realised that. So... I find Jesse’s version of Luthor lacking to my taste. Too maniac for my taste. But perhaps because I just compare him with Michael’s version. Perhaps I shouldn’t do that. Still, I think that the movie can be improved if we are shown why Lex hated Superman so much. Does he have the same motives with Bruce Wayne’s hatred? We know why Bruce hated Superman. But we have little clue why Lex hated Superman, other than he was taller and cuter than Lex...

But anyway. Despite all those flaws, I still love BvS. I think it’s a solid movie. Yes, the pacing is slow in the first 1/3 or so of the movie after the Metropolis flashback, but that was just the way Zack Snyder told his story. Again, this is not the way Joss Whedon told the story of the Avengers (and I love the first Avengers movie! – not so much of the Age of Ultron tho). This is the way Zack Snyder told a story, similar but better than the way he gave us Man of Steel. I will come for the second screening today or tomorrow, and perhaps the third one at the end of next week. I do need to save some money, but this movie is beautiful, I just want to watch it again.

By the way, I will say something that is considered blasphemy for DC fans here. If I am pressed to say which movie I like, this one or one of the Avengers movie, I will say that I still like Captain America: Winter Soldier better. However, I think it’s really more about the pacing of the story than character portrayal, for both BvS and CA:WS have contemporary social and political issues that truly resonate with modern life. In terms of the solidity of the characters, I love BvS. I can’t compare it with Marvel character depictions, cos I don’t read Marvel, but I can say that BvS pretty much stays in character with the Trinity and supporting cast. And for that, I thank Zack and Deborah Snyder et al, and I thank Ben, Henry and Gal for giving us our well-deserved Trinity.

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