By Valentino Stradford-
It has been over three weeks since Batman V Superman was released in theatres. The movie has made nearly $790 million, but the prevailing word is that it is not any good, with 28% on Rotten Tomatoes and 44% on Metacritic…right? Those are the numbers and that is the “word on the street.” However, I’m here to tell you that the word is wrong.
Before I get into defending the movie itself, I have to point out a few obvious things. First, if this movie was as awful as the professionals say it is, it would not have made ¾ of one billion dollars. Second, that 28% and 44% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are compiled review scores by professional critics; yet, on both sites the average score by users and the normal audience, is around 70%. The lower number by “professionals” is the number given the most attention instead of the higher number by the common people. Why?
We go to doctors when we are ill, we go to lawyers to take care of legal matters, and we go to psychiatrists to help with our mental state. These specialists spend years in school and in practice. But why exactly do people listen to critics? We don’t ask other people if we should laugh at a funny joke; we don’t ask if we should feel anything from a compelling story. Why let someone tell you whether or not something is entertaining when they have no idea who you are? At least with the audience scores, you know those opinions are from people closer to the everyday person and they aren’t (necessarily) from some self-important ‘professional’ sitting behind a desk or laptop.
Note: I’m not a critic. I’m just a fan of the film who is not too happy with the professional reviews that this good/decent/worthwhile movie has been receiving.
The Character Portrayals
One area of the movie that the critics attacked were the character portrayals. Gal Gadot is fine as Wonder Woman, despite the ill-conceived complaints that she is not a good actress. She also only received minutes of screen time, which is hardly enough to give a rating to a person’s ability to act in a movie the length of Batman v Superman. Henry Cavill’s Superman is also fine for this movie; he has the look and the masculinity that a good Superman needs to have. He is the Superman that fits the film.
However, the critics seem to be most upset by Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne. This Luthor is completely different than any version before, in comics or on screen. He is “out there” and theatrically over the top. However, in a movie full of dark-grittiness, I would think the critics would welcome him since they complain it’s too dark–an attribute which was set up clearly by the trailers preceding the movie’s release. On the flip side of Lex Luthor’s personification is Batman. This rendition of “The Dark Knight” is far darker (in his actions) than any other Batman ever portrayed on screen. This is mostly because he seems to be willing to kill people if there is no other solution. The reason for these extreme methods is explained, or at least hinted at, in Bruce Wayne’s scenes. It is because he has been Batman for 20 years and was traumatized by something, most likely the loss of his sidekick Robin. Because of this he will, under no circumstances, face such a loss again, nor will he allow anyone else to feel that kind of loss. This explanation also feeds into another issue that a lot of people have with a plot point set later in the movie, which I will delve into later.
The “Why is this here/what did I just see?” moments
A reasonable issue that really seems to be distressing the professional reviewers are moments in the movie that don’t quite fit with the rest. The scenes of concern are mainly flashbacks, visions, dream sequences, etc., most of which are framed around Bruce Wayne and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman/Diana Prince. What the critics don’t mention, or care about, is that neither of those characters have had a standalone movie within this new run of DC films. Therefore, pieces of their life have to be inserted to explain the characters since it will be someone’s first Batman or Superman (and certainly Wonder Woman) movie. Since this movie is likely to be someone’s “first,” there is justification for revisiting Batman’s origin story. This only took up the first few minutes of the movie during which the credits were rolling anyway. I’m sure everyone’s “favorite” label will do exactly the same when we get our first Marvel controlled Spiderman flick.
The critics also push the fact that there is a lot of reference to the future Justice League as a bad thing. Once again, the critics fail to mention that this movie is Warner Bros. first step in playing catch up to the Marvel powerhouse which has had 10 movies to DC’s 1, now 2. Warner Bros. is playing the long con. By explaining the main “players” of the DC films now, they are sparking interest where there would not have been interest before, mainly in those uninitiated to the DC universe.
The Plot – Minor Spoiler
Reviewers hit the plot hard, but as far as I can tell it was due to their own inability to keep up for the 2.5 hour runtime. A movie with two to three main characters, will not be full of seamless transitions, especially when two of the three weren’t in any previous movie. However, by the end everything is connected with the uniting of the movies three heroes in their fight against Lex Luthor’s evil creation named Doomsday.
That being said, there is one major “issue” that has some validity at first glance. When Batman and Superman do finally fight, Batman gains the upper hand, partly due to Superman’s predicament. The predicament is that Lex Luthor’s men have kidnapped Superman’s mother. She is being held at an unknown location and will be burned alive if Superman does not kill Batman within a given time. Batman is about ready to end the Man Of Steel when he blurts out “save Martha,” or something to that effect. Martha is the name of Bruce Wayne’s murdered mother, and the name of Superman’s soon to be murdered mother. This fact causes Batman to abruptly pause and start questioning Superman about why he said that name, until Lois Lane runs in and tells him that Martha is the name of Superman’s mother. At this point everything is explained and they team up to go after Lex Luthor and save Superman’s mom.
Now, I’ll grant that this resolution is silly at face value, and the only defense I have is that Batman has been fighting crime for 20 years and has seen hundreds of innocent people die because he didn’t go far enough. This Batman will have no more of it. He would not have a problem with killing Superman, since he seems to have killed several criminals throughout the movie, but he would not allow an innocent person to die. Since Batman can’t save both Martha Kent and stop Lex Luthor at the same time, he needs Superman alive to stop Lex while he saves Superman’s mom.
All of the issues addressed above have been pushed onto one man, Director Zack Snyder. In much the same way that everything wrong with a country is blamed on its President, anything wrong with a movie is generally blamed on its director. On one hand, many critics have hailed the film for its visual appeal if nothing else, which can only be attributed to the director and the visual specialists. That is fair. What is not fair is them blaming the plot, dialogue, and tone of the film on him. Under normal circumstances that would be appropriate, but these are not normal circumstances. Batman V Superman may have been directed by Zack Snyder, but this was a Warner Bros. and DC controlled movie through and through, much in the same way each Marvel movie has been “architected” by Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige. If anyone is to “blame,” it’s the studio and the writers they chose. The writers are the ones that wrote the dialogue and created the story and the variation of characters that appear on screen. The only thing Zack Snyder did was his job, which was to bring to life what others put on paper, and he did it well.