Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – And how it didn’t suck.

Batman v Superman Poster

Last weekend I went to see Batman V Superman. This was a week after it was released and I had heard, read, and watched countless negative reviews of the film at the time. In spite of all of that I figured being the huge comic book nerd that I am I would give it a watch and judge for myself. I went in expecting the worst, and when it was all said and done, I thought it was a pretty good. I certainly wouldn’t call it bad, and let me explain why. This article is going to have spoilers, so be forewarned before you read on.

Young Bruce Wayne

Now before I get into all the good things, it does have its flaws. Choosing to treat the audience as equals, and setting that bar low in the form of a viewer who needs to be retold the origin of Batman again for the 10th time I would say is pointless. We all know Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot during a robbery when he is a child. He has some trauma involving bats (though these days it has drifted far from it’s origins), and takes up the persona of Batman to fight the forces of evil in Gotham city. So it’s a little patronizing to have that visually explained to us, in slow motion, several times in the film. Here’s the thing about that though; it fits with the story. If it seems out of place in the whole of the narrative it should have been cut, but thematically it fits in there. They maybe don’t need to drill it as much as they did, but that’s not the same as saying it should have been cut all together.

Superman Saves

One of the biggest complaints I have heard about the film is how dark it is. How the characters brood for the entire film, and it doesn’t ever have uplifting moments, or comedic banter between the characters. It’s just a dark movie in tone from start to finish. So many fans have criticized this that DC and Warner are now doing $10 million dollars worth of reshoots to the upcoming Suicide Squad movie to make it less dark and add in some comedy. Thing is, there’s nothing wrong with Batman v Superman being a dark movie, at all. Look at the source material it’s pulling from like Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns. You don’t hear anyone complaining about how somber a tale that is. In fact that story is what got Batman back to his roots as an ass kicking violent crime fighter.

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns
Batman takes on Superman in Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns

And yes, this movie Batman is much darker a character than you’ve seen before, and yes he fatally injures criminals and kills a few. For those of you saying “that’s wrong, it goes against his whole code”, you’re right. The film even acknowledges this a few times. One of which is the speech Alfred gives at the beginning of the film “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel”. He’s talking about Bruce, and Bruce knows it. What you have to remember is this isn’t Batman in his early days, he’s been fighting crime for 20-30 years by the time we see him in this film. The events of Man of Steel have changed him for sure, but we also see the broken costume of Jason Todd. Something has clearly happened to this Batman to bring him to this point, and his character has to deal with the realization of who he has become and what he can do to right his wrongs at the end of the film.

The film is dark, and the characters are brooding, as they should be. This is not a light-hearted Marvel movie, and I think that’s the main problem right there. Marvel Studios has established a clear set of rules for how to make a Marvel movie, and DC isn’t following them here, and they are right not to. If you walk into the theatre expecting to see that same formula you’ve seen in Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Not all comic characters are created equal.

Batfleck

The acting isn’t bad either. I mean, no one is going to win an Oscar for his or her performance in this film, but you don’t go into a comic book movie expecting to see award winning acting in the first place. Ben Affleck does a good job of playing Bruce Wayne, especially this older more worn down version of him. He even does a great job as the chin of Batman. Yes you don’t see him as batman for a lot of the film, but you don’t need to. Batman is there when he needs to be, and Bruce Wayne is there to move the plot forward to its not just Batman smashing things. I think we’re all glad that Batman isn’t doing the grumbly voice thing anymore, lets just be thankful for that.

Superman

In same vein, Henry Cavill is still doing a very good Superman and a reasonable Clarke Kent. I do like that at the end of the movie it’s revealed that he is Superman however, because both of Cavill’s characters looked pretty much identical. Also since in this Universe Kent is dating Lois Lane, it would start to be very fishy that Superman was always there to save Kent’s girlfriend. Both Cavill and Affleck have a good chemistry on screen as well, it’s quirky when then meet at Luthor’s party, it’s tense when they meet as heroes, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Lex Luthor

Speaking of fuss, Jesse Eisenberg. MANY people hate his performance as Lex Luthor. When I say many, I mean most of the reviews I have read slam him for his performance. Comparing it to his over the top character acting in The Social Network. I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but I think he was fantastic. I like how his character of the evil genius is played out and written. He has the darkness inside of the Kevin Spacey Luthor from Superman Returns, the eccentricity of Gene Hackman from the original 1978 film, and something unique on top of it all. I really think Eisenberg owned his character in this movie. To the eccentric and over the top way he plays the character, I think that’s totally valid for depicting the character from the comics. What you have to remember is Lex doesn’t just hate Superman, he hates the power and respect he has, and in the end wants all of that for himself. Luthor is an evil genius with emphasis on both words, and Eisenberg plays him beautifully showing us that his Luthor is so brilliant, and has such a lust for power and to be right, that it drives him near mad.

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Gal Gadot on the other hand I take slight issue with. I think the character she played is great and the direction she was given was correct. Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince (her alias) is supposed to have been someone who left her people to explore the world of man. For the little we see her in this film she ticks off all the character boxes. She is called Diana Prince, has her stolen gauntlets, and lasso (and in keeping with the comics she has a sword) and for whatever reason she has a shield. In true fashion of her people, the Amazons, she has a lust for conflict which is seen in the fight with Doomsday. There really isn’t too much more to say about her and that’s my issue with Gadot’s portrayal of her. Wonder Woman in this film seems very one dimensional, as if Gadot were simply taking stage direction and has no idea what this character is about.

Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa I have literally nothing to say about as both Cyborg and Aqua Man respectively. They were in the movie for all of 2 minutes. Which, to be critical of one thing, maybe we could have seen 20 seconds less of Aqua Man just floating around doing nothing at all staring at the camera.

Not The Flash
Ezra Miller as the worst cast Flash ever.

Ezra Miller as The Flash on the other hand… What the fuck was that?! Alright Brian Singer, I understand you want to cast someone new as the flash and not use the actor from the TV series. Fine. And alright, you for some reason want him to be non-canon and not have blond hair, sure. But the guy you cast looks like he woke up late the morning of the shoot, and he was out the night before at the hippy commune you found him at. Would it have killed you to give him a haircut and a shave before he played the iconic character in two different scenes? Maybe at least given him a hat or hide his curly man bun? I don’t know who this Flash is, but he’s not Jay Garrick, Barry Allen or Wally West. Ezra Miller is such a poor choice for this role it honesty looks like he showed up for the wrong audition, no one was paying attention that day, and Singer gave him the part by accident and for whatever reason refuses to admit it was a mistake. Maybe Miller has a “no take-backsies” clause in his contract? I don’t have any issue with the two scenes he’s in; I even think the look into the possible future akin to Flashpoint from the comics was well done. Just… why does he have long hair and a goatee?! Fuck.

Doomsday

Let me finish with Doomsday and final thoughts. A lot of views think this movie is too long, and the Doomsday storyline could have happened in another film making this movie just about Batman and Superman. It could have happened that way, but what you have to keep in mind is the lost time DC and Warner are trying to make up for in this film. In the 2.5 hours that the movie takes to watch, they successfully get you ready for the next few DC movies to come. Adding Doomsday at the end sets us up for the next Superman film. And they did a pretty good job of incorporating Doomsday into the movie. Have the people who complained about him being at the end read the comic in which he was introduced? Issue after issue where they don’t tell you who he is and he makes his way to meet Superman and the long drawn out fight to the death they have? I like how condensed they made it, and I thought it brought a very solid conclusion to the film. Yes, it’s weird that the fight starts with that moment when Sups and Batman realize their mother had the same name. That whoever wrote that dialog should be fired. Yes, it’s weird Batman drew Doomsday all the way back to Gotham just to get the kryptonite spear instead of just going and getting it himself. But the fight itself was cool, and that’s the point. It hit all the key parts of the story and looked awesome. And for all you haters that said, “it looked just like they were fighting The Hulk”, yes, yes it did. That’s because Doomsday is pretty much the same character in terms of design and smashing things.

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This was a good film, and it ticked all the boxes. It was true to the comics as best it can be. It set us up for a decent looking DC long running cinematic universe. It has some great special effects and fight scenes, and it had a story which sets us up for the next few films. In the same vein that Marvel has been building up to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, all in one film this movie set up DC for what will be a pretty awesome battle with Darkseid and this War World. Which is kind of funny to me because I always kind of thought Darkseid and Thanos looked really similar and kind of act like the same character in the comics. This movie was good. What it was was not a Marvel movie, it’s a new departure into a serious cinematic universe. If you really hated the film, maybe it’s because you went into it with all the wrong expectations.

 

 

Detective Comics – The Road to Rebirth

DC Rebirth

I’ve been a comic book fan for decades. More than fan even, if you ask my friends or family comics have become a sort of obsession for me over the years. And it’s with this otherwise useless knowledge of the history of comics that I will now write about the absurdly poor state DC comics has found themselves in, and how they are going to try and solve it all with what they are calling Rebirth.

If you’re new to DC, or comics in general then I feel sorry for you. This is a poor time to be picking up the hobby, especially if you are interested in the popular DC side of things like Batman, Superman or any of their mainstays really. Before we talk about the deformity that is the current DC universe lets look back a little at how they got where they are.

Detective_Comics_27

From the 1930’s to 40’s Detective Comics had some real hits under their belt. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash to name a few. Post WWII they thought it would be a good idea to try and reinvent some of those characters, under the supervision of Editor Julius Schwartz in 1950 they started a new comic called DC Showcase. A place to try out new ideas, if they didn’t like them they could just scrap them all together. The first thing they did was introduce Barry Allen as The Flash with a more modern origin for his powers and dropped the previous version of the character (Jay Garrick). They did the same with Green Lantern’s Allen Scott who was more magic, with Hal Jordan who’s character was more sci-fi based. This confused a lot of people as DC literally introduced the new versions of the characters and stopped printing anything with the old ones. To explain what happened to Garrick and Scott they introduced readers to the “multiverse” in a miniseries titled “The Flash of Two Worlds (1961)” in which Barry Allen meets Jay Garrick. This is very important, because this concept of the multiverse, for the next six decades, becomes the cause of all the reboots in the companies history.

Jay Garrick and Barry Allen meet and the multiverse is born.
Jay Garrick and Barry Allen meet and the multiverse is born.

In 1984 DC had created so many different universes and variations of the characters that it was not only difficult to follow story lines, but hard for new readers to find a way in to reading any one comic series. It was decided to scrap the whole idea of a multiverse, this is done through the storyline “Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985)”.

1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths
1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths

To sum it up; two god like characters fight, the monitor and anti-monitor, major characters are removed completely from the landscape, and all of the multiverse is condensed. So that should fix everything right? It would have if they had planned it all the way through. There were still major discrepancies in some of the remaining characters. Kept because of readership and sales numbers, their very existence in some cases made no sense with the new continuity. Supergirl for example was now dead, but Power Girl was alive and well (the earth 2 super girl), but she shouldn’t exist if Superman was now supposed to be the only survivor of Krypton, and Supergirl dies in Crisis… See what I mean? Worse was that the Justice Society, the original heroes from the silver age of comics and predecessors of the Justice league (normally from Earth 2) were now supposed to be from the same universe, just a time before Superman and Batman et all. But if that were true, why did the Justice Society some times look on par or younger than Justice League members? Rather than answer these questions once again we REBOOT!

In mid 1994 DC runs a story arc involving the Hal Jordan Green Lantern called “Zero Hour: Crisis in Time”. The issues count down, ending in issue zero.

Hal under his new name Parallax defeats Superman and is the villain in this storyline.
Hal under his new name Parallax defeats Superman and is the villain in this storyline.

In short something terrible happens, Hal kills everyone, absorbs all the Lantern Corps energy, and he reboots the universe in a timeline we call “Post Zero Hour”. This reboot was so confusing to even DC that it had to publish a guide of what was and wasn’t in the universe anymore, In the zero issue of the series there are a series of charts explaining was has now happened to all of the major characters and teams post Crisis. This again left fans very confused, so rather than trying to fix things… you guessed it REBOOT!

This one is not as involved as all the others, it’s more of a soft reboot and takes place in the story line called “Infinite Crisis”.

Crisis1

The story concludes with the multiverse returning for a little while as we saw it before Crisis on Infinite Earths, but then it goes away again, and everything is very close to Post Zero Hour with a few exceptions that fix some plot holes, and retcon some weird choices DC had made. For example Jason Todd (Robin), previously killed by the Joker, was now very much not dead, was only thought to be dead, comes back as a villain, but ends up a hero, and that’s a whole story in itself. This version of the DC landscape was actually working out pretty well in this writers opinion, but some executive thought otherwise and… REBOOT.

Now well into the 2000’s DC starts it’s yearlong 52 event leading to “Final Crisis”.

final_crisis

The way it’s written, it seems like this was to be the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis concluding in Final Crisis. However, aside from the epic scale battles, and resurgence of some of the villains from the 1985 plotline the story is kind of a mess and makes far more problems than it solves. In sum, everyone fights Darkseid, someone called Mandrak, and at the end of it all Superman uses a magic wish-granting machine to reboot the universe to sort of where it was, kind of. Characters were now aware the multiverse existed. This now made the DC worlds able to cross over with one another, and with that DC was free to re-write any characters story they felt didn’t work at this point.

Cover of Flashpoint #1
Cover of Flashpoint Number 1

Then Flashpoint happened in 2011. Flashpoint was a great story centred around the new origin of The Flash, and what would happen if he went back in time to change one thing in his own past. I won’t spoil it because you should really read it it for yourself. In it we see a great alternate future which conflicts in a fantastic way to what was the current DC core universe. However, the aftermath of it is the New 52, which pretty much merges all things into one thing. It kills most of the multiverse all-together, DC re-launches all its main titles with new origins for the characters, all to make it easier for new readers to get into the stories and start fresh. So everything is rebooted… Except Batman, Green Lantern and Superman. Batman we are told all of his pre-52 stories happened, just within a 5 year time period before New 52 starts, and similar things are said for Green Lantern and Superman.

The first rebooted heroes of New 52 (left to right) Aqua Man, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, The Flash, Cyborg
The first rebooted heroes of New 52 (left to right) Aqua Man, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, The Flash, Cyborg

This was done, of course, because those were the best selling titles, and they wouldn’t dare try to tell fans all of their favorite stories for those characters never happened, or try telling them again. This reinventing of characters, changing of origins, and condensing of timelines went about as well as you would imagine. Some of the stories were amazing, but in the context of the past and future of the characters they made no sense. They shouldn’t have existed in the main continuity. Maybe DC should have gone back to the DC Showcase and released them as one shots, but keeping these new tales in the context of the main universe really broke it apart. New readers who thought they knew a character were now being told otherwise. And fans who had been long time readers were now being introduced to weird new parts of characters back stories, or changes to the fundamentals of the landscape of that character.

For me the downward spiral started with the Batman storyline Death of The Family.

The face of the Joker from Batman Death of The Family
The face of the Joker from Batman Death of The Family

The series starts with The Joker cutting his own face off. And at one point just being in the bat cave. This is explained, as he always has known where the bat cave was and who Batman is. WHAT?! And then they kill Joker. But not really because they bring him back in the next story arc, but only to kill him and Batman, they go on to explain the Joker can’t be killed, because he’s magic (that’s my summation of events), and in Bruce Waynes absence(because he’s dead, but again, not really…) Commissioner Gordon becomes Batman in a robot-Batman-suit. It was at this point I checked out as a reader and haven’t gone back to anything DC.

Oh, and then they did something called Convergence, which literally restores every iteration of the multiverse and every character that has ever existed. But I stopped reading at that point.

The DC universe is a mess. It’s been that way since early 2012, and I have been joking with all of my comic reading friends since Flashpoint that they were just going to scrap things and reboot the whole bloody thing. Well at Wonder Con this year, DC announced just that With “Rebirth”. The best part is how they say, and I’m paraphrasing here “Marvel did it with Sercret Wars, so why not?”. The Marvel comics universes is not something you should use as a shining example of a working, self sustaining model.

There are no details about Rebirth really, just that’s it’s official and it’s coming soon. I just hope they make a proper map of where they want to go with this reboot for at least the next decade. Plan ahead a little maybe. But who knows, in 2017 I’m sure we’ll get “Infinite Rebirth”, then “Rebirth of The Worlds”, and “Final Rebirth”. I can’t wait.

UPDATE:

If you’re interested in a visual guide to the DC multiverse as it stands as of the publication of this article, Gotham City Memes has a great post about it on Facebook.