Batman vs Superman: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (With Amy Salazar)

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I’ve been a fan of superheroes since I was a kid. I always held superheroes up to a certain standard. While I allow certain levels of cynicism and angst when it comes to Batman, I don’t particularly like it when it applies to Superman. Given how Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Rises left a bad taste in my mouth, I went into Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice with low expectations. Even though it was not as bad as I thought it would be, I still find it to be an overall disappointment in terms of story and characterization. Thomas Aquinas defines evil as having a lack of good, so since I didn’t find Dawn of Justice a complete letdown, I want to go over the good, the bad and the ugly of this movie. Thankfully, I don’t have to do this alone. My friend Amy Salazar from California is also going to give her two cents on this film. (Her stuff will be written in blue.)

I once dated a guy who everyone warned me was, “off-putting, pretentious and simply no fun.” Wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt, I dated him anyway. “What could possibly go wrong?” Well…If there’s one thing that this person and Batman v. Superman have in common, it’s that they both made me want to throw myself in front of a truck. Moral of the story: If everyone warns you that something is going to be bad, they’re probably right.

Prior to the film’s release, I readily defended BvS to my friends who had already decided that they hated the idea. The trailer actually looked promising to me. Rivalry stories are one of my favorite narratives, so I couldn’t wait to be able to explore the ideological divide between the virtuous Last Son of Krypton and the morally-gray Bat of Gotham. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor had the potential to either be a comedic (which, if well-written, can be very enjoyable to watch) or gradually evolve from a harmless weirdo to a sinister foe. Those two hopes alone is what got me to go to an 11:30 am screening of Batman v. Superman.

One hot dog, a bag of Welch’s fruit snacks and a Coke slushie later (to fight off the boredom), I was so disengaged that I turned to my friend and asked, “Am I still alive and watching a movie or have I died and am currently waiting for God’s final verdict?”

The Good

Ben Affleck brings a seasoned, burnt-out Bruce Wayne/Batman. I actually did like how when the robber points a gun at Martha Wayne, the gun catches her pearls. That was a pretty intense camera shot. Putting the destruction of Metropolis through Bruce Wayne’s perspective was an excellent narrative choice. It gave me hope that Bruce/Batman would be the film’s emotional center and the one to guide us through the story. Sadly, that was not the case.

Jeremy Irons and Ben Affleck do have pretty good chemistry. I love Jeremy Irons’ sardonic humor delivered in his epic voice. Any time Affleck and Irons were on screen, I was able to care about what was happening.

Gal Gadot definitely looks the part of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. While the writing of the Wonder Woman role is haphazard, Ms. Gadot does carry her character as a mysterious woman who belongs to a higher social standing quite well.

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Most of the female characters in this movie are actually the most interesting characters. Gal Godot’s version of Wonder Woman plays off like a Bond Girl at first, charming Bruce Wayne while trying to get something back from Alexander Luthor. When she finally made her appearance as Wonder Woman, the people in the theatre and I applauded. She fit in naturally, working with Batman and Superman to take down the real villain of the movie, Doomsday.

I also liked Alexander’s right hand woman, Mercy, played by Tao Okamoto. She’s a good variation of Luthor’s sidekick Tess Mercer and it’s awesome to see Asians play a prominent role in mainstream cinema. I also liked Holly Hunter as Senator Finch. To me, she represented the audience who wanted to know where they stood with this darker version of Superman who is willing to kill and doesn’t take into account the collateral damage that results from his actions.

I agree with Amy about Jeremy Irons’ performance as Alfred and the how Ben Affleck’s perspective of the Battle of Metropolis actually brought something unique to the story. And Ben Affleck was not as bad a Batman as I thought he would be, but I still would’ve chosen another actor for the role.

The Bad

The least developed character, aside from Superman, is Lois Lane. Like in Man of Steel, she doesn’t do much in this movie outside of her designated role as Superman’s girlfriend. I also didn’t like the characterization of the Kents in this movie, especially Martha Kent who tells Superman that he doesn’t owe the world anything. I get that the “Great power, great responsibility” trope has probably been overused, but there needs to be some way to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Batman’s use of firearms felt out of character, given that one of Batman’s central character points is that he never uses guns.

But by far, my least favorite part of the movie is Alexander Luthor, Jr. I refuse to call him Lex Luthor because he doesn’t embody any of the qualities of previous Lex Luthors such as the ones from Smallville or Superman The Animated Series. Jesse Eisenberg plays him more like a mad scientist and a straw atheist and plays the character of Alexander Luthor in a completely over the top manner instead of the more subtle but sinister characterization of the real Lex Luthor.

Jesse Eisenberg’s overacting combined with painfully obvious poor direction makes his performance cringe-worthy at best and insufferable at worst. If this had been a Batman v. Joker origin story of how the Joker became, well, the Joker, then I would have had no issue with Eisenberg, but we already had a better Joker through the late Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight.

At some point, there’s a scene where Bruce/Batman has a dream where he is overcome and taken into custody by Superman Nazis (they have Nazi-esque armbands that have the Superman symbol). We see a chained Bruce looking up and seeing Superman, who approaches him and rips off his [Batman’s] mask. This scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back and prompted me to give up on the film entirely.

What should have been a powerful scene ends up being a weird sequence with plenty of style and no substance. Typically, when a main protagonist has a nightmare about being captured by another character, the implication is that the protagonist is haunted by said character. This usually occurs in a story about rivals or if one character is being pursued by another. This scene upset me because Batman and Superman’s “rivalry” is completely botched. There is no exploration of their differences. Batman and Superman are two angst-filled, bruiting dudes whose only difference is that one wears all black and the other wears a red and blue. Because of this, the dream sequence has no impact and is boring action scene.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else caught this, but Doomsday’s lighting effects seemed seizure inducing to me. I don’t have eye problems, but his lighting effects made my eyes water. There are quite a few camera choices in the third act that made me concerned that someone in my theater was going to have a seizure. My last complaint is that this movie has more endings than Return of the King! The epilogue goes on for an eternity.

The Ugly

While the movie teased at the future Justice League members, the fact that Wonder Woman didn’t get much of a role in the overall movie and the implication that the Justice League is created from the ashes of Superman’s death feels very pandering. Too little, too late, DC.

The other thing I hated most about this movie is the underlying anti-religious themes. The overblowing parallels between Superman and Christ are still prominent in this film, particularly the fact that Superman died saving metropolis and it’s implied at the end of the movie that he will rise from the dead.

Alexander plays the role of the Straw Atheist, determined to defame Superman at any cost. Say what you will about Maxwell Lord in Supergirl, but his motivations are at least understandable. The entire Batman/Superman conflict hangs on the audience believing that Batman, the world’s greatest detective, could fall for Alexander’s clearly over-the-top schemes. I’m not buying it!

I have no flippin’ idea what this movie was about. Yes, things do happen, but there’s no central plot. I guess one could make the argument that the filmmakers were attempting to connect the plethora of storylines, but if that is the case, then their efforts backfired. Instead of interconnecting smoothly, the plot points feel jumbled and convoluted.
There’s a scene that shows a portrait of Saint Michael defeating Lucifer that has been turned upside down so that it looks like Michael is the one who is falling. If you’re a fan of Saint Michael, this might not sit well with you.

As stated before, I hated Eisenberg’s version of Lex because he makes real-life atheists look bad. I have friends who are atheists and I have never once heard any of them say, “Devils don’t come from Hell beneath us; they come from the sky.” Seriously, who talks like that?

Batman v. Superman’s frenetic editing, zero focus and a grossly-neglected rivalry between the titular characters tried my patience and led me to the brink of going back to the snack bar to further drown my sorrows.

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Amy Salazar is also known as Catholic Girl Bloggin’ (CGB for short). She reviews movies, writes biographies about Saints, and posts about pro-life and animals rights. She is also slightly obsessed with Star Wars, puppies and fangirling over Padre Pio.
Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice is copyright to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Images relating to the movie are used for editorial purposes only.

Cynicism Vs Idealism in Heroism

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We live in a pretty cynical world at the moment. The cynicism in our world is reflected in a lot of shows that are currently popular: The Walking Dead, How to Get Away With Murder, Game of Thrones, etc. This love for cynicism especially applies to movies like Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. While Batman vs Superman currently has a 28% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience rated the movie 72%, which means that there is a good number of people out there who are willing to defend this movie. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Agents of SHIELD are garnering great praise even though they’re all set in a darker, grittier side of the verse.

Superheroes weren’t always dark and gritty, though. It’s just a trend that has been occurring in the various film and television adaptations of popular comic books. People mistakenly think that if a show is dark and gritty, people will take things more seriously. However, choosing to go with a dark tone comes at the cost of the audience possibly losing interest.  That’s not to say that all tragedy sucks. According to TVTropes: “A good tragedy works because the characters involved are given a chance to escape their downer ending but, for whatever reason, fail to do so; take away this chance, and usually what will happen is that the story just ends up being a lengthy description of unremittingly unpleasant things happening to someone.” But even so, there is evidence of adaptations that keep a more realistic or idealistic tone while still being well-written.

The shows that go under the DC Animated Universe shows that came out in the 90s and early 2000s mostly vary in tone. Batman:The Animated Series and Batman: Beyond had a dark and gritty tone, but the major characters shine a light of hope in the corrupt city of Gotham. That shining hope is something that the current lineup of DC movies lack. Ask any fan of the DC Animated Universe and you’ll learn that most of them compare the current adaptations of the DC shows to the animated series that came before. Yes, the writing was that good.

That sense of hope was there in Daredevil season 1 and was sort of promised towards the end of Jessica Jones. It’s also a driving point of Arrow, but one major problem all three of these shows suffer with is that the sense of hope gets clouded by the characters’ various issues. Daredevil suffers from a martyr complex, Jessica Jones has issues with connecting to people, and Oliver Queen would rather keep secrets from everyone.

The current lineup of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more balanced tones in terms of idealism and cynicism. On the more cynical end, we have Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, the dark, angsty tone of the movies make sense because it builds up from real consequences to the actions established from the previous films. The Avengers went out of their way to make sure that they create as little collateral damage as possible, but as the trailers have shown, all the collateral damage from the past several movies have added up to a lot. I’m seriously looking forward to seeing Civil War, even though I know that there may be characters who will probably be killed off by the end of the movie, because I know that eventually, these heroes will put aside their differences to defend the world again when Thanos tries taking over the world.

A good example of a group of anti-heroes that still maintains an optimistic tone is Guardians of the Galaxy. The titular Guardians aren’t heroes in the conventional sense. They’re not good in essentials, but they are willing to do the right thing when the situation calls for it. The movie maintains a humorous tone in spite of the fact that the team consisted of “a thief, two thugs, an assassin, and a maniac.” The reason the movie is enjoyable is because the movie has tons of humor and characters that everyone can relate to. Legends of Tomorrow has a similar premise in that the members of the team aren’t all straight-laced heroes and the lighthearted, humorous tone throughout most of the episode.

On the more idealistic ends of the scale are The Avengers, The Flash, and Supergirl. The Avengers has the most idealistic tone out of all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even with Coulson’s death, because the show’s conflict was simple:  All of the Avengers want to stop Loki from taking over the world, but they had conflicting ideas on how to stop him. Coulson’s death became the reason that the Avengers came together to take down Loki. Tie it all together with Joss Whedon’s humor and the fact that Coulson wasn’t actually dead, and you have the basics of a perfect superhero movie.

The Flash has moments of cynicism, especially with the new multi-verse story arc, but overall, the show maintains an idealistic tone. Flash, up to this point, has never killed anyone in the series. Instead, the various villains are either kept in the Pipeline or in Iron Heights. Since Barry Allen is a scientist, he and his friends work together to find smart solutions to the various problems.

This method of problem-solving carried over to Supergirl. I’m not gonna lie. Last night’s crossover episode “World’s Finest” was a huge sigh of relief after the disappointment of Batman vs Superman. I love Supergirl. A lot. But I also know that in spite of the fact that Supergirl has all these awesome powers, she’s not perfect. She tends to jump into situations without thinking and her emotions often blind her better judgment. I also love how realistic the show is, even with the idealistic tone. Supergirl is held accountable for her actions and when she finally shows how far she is willing to go to protect National City, the city is more than willing to protect and forgive her.

We need to have shows with idealistic tones to balance out the cynicism we have in this world. I really hope Supergirl doesn’t get cancelled because we need shows like Supergirl to give this cynical world an example of how idealism can change the world for the better.

Avengers vs Batman/Superman AKA Why Angst Is Overrated

I’ll be the first to admit that I am just a casual fan of superheroes at best. I didn’t grow up reading comic books. I watched anime and read manga (Japanese graphic novels) growing up. However, as I also stated before, I’m always appreciative of stories with good writing and compelling characters. And I’m growing to love the fact that superheroes are becoming a thing.

But there’s something else that I need to bring up: Stories, especially superhero stories, don’t have to be overly dark and angsty in order to be compelling. What exactly is “angst” you ask? Angst is, according to dictionary.com “a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.” Lots of tv shows and movies use a lot of angst to drive the conflict, creating more drama than your average daytime soap opera and relying on what some people call “pretty people problems,” more commonly referred to as “first world problems.” But while some shows can use angst and actually use it to develop the characters in a smart way (watch Buffy Season 6 and cry your heart out as an example), other shows, and oftentimes, superhero movies tend to be too dark and rely on angst way too much.

The early 2000s saw a lot of movies with characters that were up to their knees in angst such as The Punisher. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were able to balance out the angst with some humor, heartwarming moments, and character development, but The Dark Knight Rises was way too rushed. This brand of brooding would later be passed on to  the current run of Superman films.

Now, I grew up watching Smallville. The show was your usual WB/CW teen drama with soap opera levels of writing and teenage-levels of whining and angst, but in spite of that, I liked that the show didn’t come at the expense of making Clark a brooding Byronic hero. There were still some levels of humor that balanced out the less-than-stellar moments such as everything related to Clark and Lana. The current run of Superman films are a stark contrast to this. They build up Superman to be a man with a god-complex (and yes, even I got sick of the pretentious Jesus Christ comparisons in Man of Steel) and the trailer for Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice looks to be something Frank Miller would feel very proud of. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

Contrast this with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. While the early days of the Marvel movies had a shaky start with some of the movies doing well (like Iron Man and Thor) while others didn’t (such as the Hulk movies) , the company finally hit the ground running with Captain America and eventually Avengers. They even succeeded in making a movie of one of their more obscure groups of heroes, The Guardians of the Galaxy successful. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be looking more into Captain AmericaAvengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now that’s not to say that Marvel has never made overly angsty movies in the recent years. The Spider-Man remakes starring Arthur Garfield are a bit too angsty for my taste and rely way too much on building up questions that never get answered and introducing way too many characters at once. You know, like the writers of Lost and Once Upon a Time. I’m just creating this post to express what I think makes a good story overall.

Spoilers ensue. You have been warned.

You can make a lot of comparisons between Captain America and Superman. Both heroes are seen as American icons and always want to do the right thing, sticking to their ideals and rarely, if ever, resorted to killing to get things done. However, there’s a huge difference between them as portrayed in their films. Captain America is shown to be artistic, sensitive, and self-sacrificing. He wants to stand up to bullies of all sorts, whether it be Nazis or HYDRA. In spite of the fact that he’s a man out of time, he’s socially functional and is great at making and keeping friends. His friendship with Black Widow is hilarious because she keeps trying to set him up on dates and you can totally imagine her being his best man in his wedding. (Whoever he marries, of course, is up in the air.)

You don’t see the Superman from Man of Steel being the guy who makes friends easily. All the characters talk about how important he is and how much responsibility he has on his shoulders. The whole Savior complex has been done a million times and with a lot more subtlety than in this movie. And yes, I do have issues over the fact that Superman killed Zod. Mostly because Superman never kills and what Zak Snyder said to try and justify this murder doesn’t really make that much sense. You know it’s bad when even a casual fan of superheroes calls you out on a glaring inconsistency.

The Superman vs Batman trailer honestly disappointed me. I understand that there was a Superman vs Batman storyline in the comics, but it made it seem like the two heroes are going to go in an all-out war with each other. Contrast that with the Thor’s Hammer trailer from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

When was the last time you ever saw superheroes having fun? Or hanging out with their fellow heroes like a bunch of college kids? I honestly can’t recall that, even from the days of the DC Animated Universe. I mean, it’s one thing to see the Teen Titans having downtime because they’re teenagers, but I felt genuine excitement and laughter as I watched it. It was hilarious to see Tony’s three attempts all failing, including getting War Machine’s help. I loved the look on Thor’s face when Steve Rodgers was able to make Mjolnir budge ever so slightly. It made so much sense that Natasha wouldn’t play along because the guys were clearly having a sizing-up contest and she didn’t want any part of it because she’s mature like that. Plus, Maria Hill is with them, so it’s not like she was the only girl not playing. And then Ultron comes in and totally ruins the moment. The other trailers for Avengers show that there are gonna be major obstacles ahead for the heroes, but what makes Avengers as a whole work is that they’re not just heroes, but also people.

Now take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy.

These heroes aren’t even as well-known as the Avengers or the Justice League. But when I watched it last summer, I had a lot of fun. The moments that come to mind are always the moments that make me laugh, which makes the dramatic climax all the more startling because it still fit the tone of the movie, but came with a shocking death in the end. Thankfully, Groot came back. The funny thing is that these heroes didn’t come with that expectation of doing the right thing hanging over them. They reminded me a lot of the crew of Serenity from Firefly. They aren’t heroes because they wanted to be or because greatness was thrust upon them. Instead they became heroes by chance. So while they’re not as straight laced as Captain America or the Justice League, you know that you’re going to have a fun ride with them.

Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I always love stories that make me laugh just as much as they make me cry and/or scared out of my mind. The best movies and stories are able to balance out angst with humor and heartwarming moments. Characters are ideally seen as people first and not archetypes or cliches. And while I can allow characters to have moments of tragedy and sadness, it’s always great whenever the characters finally take action and do something to solve their problem.

It’s also why, so far, I like the latest Daredevil. As I said yesterday, I don’t think I ever recall seeing a villain on a human level the way they wrote Fisk in “In the Blood.” Usually, villains already come with a love interest or act more forceful in the pursuit of a love interest. Fisk, on the other hand, is actually nervous and courteous, genuinely in love with Vanessa. Contrast this with Daredevil’s overly angsty predecessor, as reviewed by the one and only Nostalgia Critic:

My latest Daredevil recap will be posted later today, so stay tuned!