So now the Bat Files and the Krypton Files converge!
After Marvel’s huge success with the MCU, it was inevitable that DC would want to get in on that action. Much like Man of Steel, this one has a lot of great visuals, but it loses itself in an incoherent script that was somewhat shored up by the extended Ultimate Edition (which is the version I watched for this writing).
A lot of the script problems come from David S. Goyer leaving while the script was in its early phases to focus on other projects. Chris Terrio was brought in to do re-writes, but the script never really recovered.
The real tragedy of this one is that the cast is so fantastic. Amy Adams still doesn’t have tons of chemistry with Henry Cavill, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor seems so desperate to create an iconic portrayal of the legendary character that he opts for excessive camp rather than dynamic subtlety, but everyone else is fantastic.
Ben Affleck is one of my all time favorite Bruce Waynes. His casting was controversial at first, but he does such a good job with the character that any criticism of his performance died away shortly after release. I love how this Batman is much more of a detective, something most cinematic portrayals seem to either ignore or downplay. Also, we get a Batman who’s been in the game for two decades already. He’s already lost Robin (who would be Jason Todd, which means that Nightwing is conceivably still out there) but he’s not one to brood on it. He’s still fighting crime and has gotten to the point where he’s starting to compromise his ethics (something, it’s suggested, his interactions with Superman and Wonder Woman help to repair). This is also one of the first portrayals of the character in which his suited version and his “mild-mannered alter ego” feel believably like the same person, which makes this Batman much more grounded. He’s not a tortured Gothic hero, nor is he an unstable commando. He’s Batman.
Gal Gadot is also pretty spectacular as Wonder Woman. She’s not in the film for very long and we never even hear her name aside from a background character who calls her “Miss Prince,” but she carries the iconic weight of the character beautifully. As Diana Prince, she’s sort of a James Bond character, elegant and poised but clearly not someone you want to mess with. As Wonder Woman, she steals the scene. Not only is she really flipping cool, but she feels like she’s been Wonder Woman for a long time, starring in tons of movies and we just now managed to see her. Whereas Man of Steel couldn’t quite find the core of who Superman is in any direct sort of way, Gal Gadot nails the character right away. We see her heart and her playfulness and her commitment to justice in her early scenes, and then in the final battle, we see her strength and recklessness. I desperately wish we’d gotten more of her, naturally, because she is still the most supporting of characters in this film, but I’m VERY excited for her solo film.
The side characters are also really solid. Laurence Fishburne returns as Perry White and really feels much more solid this time around (whereas in Man of Steel, he was shoved off to the side and given a sort of side quest during the final battle). And while Jeremy Irons is probably too young to play Alfred, I completely adore his take on the character. He’s like the grumpy uncle/dad who really wants to see Bruce settle down and start a family , but who clearly enjoys playing the Q role as well. He’s snide and sarcastic, but loyal and, thank heavens, isn’t one for long patronizing speeches. The duo of Batman and Alfred feels established, as if they’ve obviously been working together for a long time, and that gives a lot of depth to their scenes together.
Basically, this would have been a sensational Batman film, perhaps a team-up of Batman and Wonder Woman, but the script muddies things unnecessarily. One example is an extended dream sequence in which Bruce envisions an apocalyptic future in which Superman and an army of Darkseid-esque bug creatures have laid waste to everything and taken control. It’s a fantastic scene, and I love the modified Batman costume immensely, and I wish we could have a whole film set in that apocalyptic future, but the sequence really isn’t needed. All it tells us is that Bruce doesn’t trust someone with as much power as Superman to ever fight FOR the people, but that’s already been established. It seems like something that was jammed in just because it was cool rather than needed.
The rest of the movie feels like that. There’s a lot that could be cut or trimmed down. Bruce’s investigation of the White Portuguese is interesting, but it feels shakily written, especially since it seems he’s trying to uncover a human trafficking ring…and ends up discovering that it’s the ship that’s bringing Lex Luthor’s kryptonite sample back to Metropolis. It’s so convoluted that it feels lazy, a means to pad out a script for no other reason other than padding out the script.
This could have been a really fantastic film. I love parts of it. I will still re-watch it occasionally, but it’s sad that studio interference and filmmakers more concerned with giving enough flashy visuals to create an incredible trailer kept this from being a really great film. The DCEU is off to a wobbly start, which is sad because I love DC. But hopefully they’ll head in the right direction eventually. *looks at Wonder Woman*
I’ll add Suicide Squad to this series once it comes out and I can re-watch it, but until then, I’ll be wandering around looking for other things to write about. In terms of comic book franchises, we still have X-Men and the MCU, but I think I’ll lay off comic book movies for a bit (even though I love them!) and explore some other things for a while.