Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Superman V Batman - A movie review

Warning! Slight spoilers ahead!

Superman v Batman is the second major comic book movie to come out in 2016. We've already had the ridiculously successful Deadpool kicking things off and there's still X-Men:Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, TMNT 2 and Doctor Strange to look forward to over the coming year.

SvB had a lot to live up to in terms of Deadpool's success, but probably didn't have to worry too much about it despite the harsh reviews. I mean, a film featuring the most well-known and iconic movie/comic characters of all time? A no-brainer, surely?

Well, it seems the critics' negative reviews have done their damage, probably contributing to SvB's steep second weekend drop at the box office (not that $680 million in takings is anything to be sniffed at). This is a shame, because I actually enjoyed the film.

I wasn't a big fan of SvB's predecessor, Man of Steel. The story felt bloated (the origin scenes on Krypton were interesting but unnecessary), and the splurge of CGI destruction in the final act were an unpleasant assault on the senses. Saying that, I've come to better appreciate Zack Snyder's choice of tone and direction for Superman. He's obviously gone for dark and gritty, which is fine - that's his choice. We've already had camp and comical (with Christopher Reeve's version) and also a slightly darker but still upbeat approach (with Superman Returns) – so why not go darker still? This is just one of many interpretations of a character, just like Batman has gone through a whole range of iterations.

One thing I did like about MoS was the question it raised about the uneasy relationship mortal humans can have with a god-like being. The previous films never really explored this idea and Superman wasn't ever considered a potential worldwide threat. Even when he went 'bad' in Superman III, it all felt very comical and slapstick. Christopher Reeve's Supes was just being a bit of a twat (straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa for example), rather than massacring millions of innocent puny mortals.

This theme is explored further in SvB, with Batman deciding to take Superman down because of the potential threat he poses to humanity. This rivalry is fuelled by evil corporate upstart Lex Luthor who manages to get hold of some kryptonite, Superman's only weakness, for his own dastardly plans. While the two superheroes are locked in combat (which Superman is drawn into rather reluctantly) Lex gets to work creating a Krypton/Human hybrid monster that he hopes will destroy Superman for good – and give him the power to rule the world. Throw in Wonder Woman (and lots of references to the forthcoming Justice League movie) and that's basically the plot, which wasn't the 'mess' all the critics seemed to be going on about.

Overall, I felt SvB to be a solid piece of epic storytelling with good characters and plenty of exciting set-pieces. It had an emotional depth too, which I wasn't expecting.

Yes, it has its flaws – like any movie, it's not perfect – but that's OK! Critics seem to expect perfection from big-budget 'event' movies these days, and the truth is you can't please everyone all of the time. Sadly, it seems a lot of people can't move on from the Reeve version of Superman, which is disappointing because the last thing we need is to see the same stuff over and over again.

Thankfully there are people like Zack Snyder out there who choose not to take the well-worn path – and do their own thing.

Good luck to 'em I say!

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