Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dawn of Justice

From the very first announcement of Batman vs. Superman, I I knew critics would hate it. You could hear the snickers. Marvel had already been-there-done-that with their big superhero franchise, and DC would be unfortunately characterized as the catch-up kid, the one who really really wanted to get on the baseball team but came just a little bit late to practice. People had their sneers pre-programmed.Even as a long-standing Batgrrl, I had questions of my own. Ben Affleck as Batman? Seriously? But Bat-Ben won me over, as did the movie.

I like the older, war-weary Batman. Alfred informs Batman, at the beginning of the movie, that he's “too old to die young, though not for lack of trying.” People have complained about this “amoral vigilante” characterization of Batman but that's not how I saw the character. At the beginning of the movie, we see Bruce Wayne caught up in the chaotic destruction of the fight between Superman and General Zod. Buildings are crumbling, people are dying, and he is as completely helpless as the rest of them. There isn't one thing he can do and it burns at him. It starts to change him. To quote another Alfred line, it begins to “turn good men cruel.” But Batman has not really become cruel. He's scrambling to regain his bearings  as a protector of his city, and in his disorientation, he is unable to see Superman as anything but a weapon waiting to go off. What he doesn't realize is that he is becoming exactly that himself. When he realizes Superman's humanity, at a pivotal moment in the movie, he is also remembering his own. After that point, he starts on a trajectory back towards the “better” Batman movie critics complain is missing. But I felt it compelling that Batman struggles with the violence and rage of his nature. I like that he forgets, for a while, who he is. It's a very natural conflict for a hero, particularly one who's been in the fight as long as this version of Batman. He battles-- literally-- with his difficulty believing in the Big Ideas that Superman embodies. As Lex Luthor said, the two are nececssary complements-- day and night. Hope and vigilance. 
Meanwhile, Superman is beginning to feel the weight of those Big Ideas. I did not find Henry Cavill's performance problematic. His character has been described as “wooden” but I saw it as a young man who has to contain himself so as to present no threat to the humans who alternately praise him and burn him in effigy. He's uneasy with both the hero worship and the condemnation. He's trying to be a blank slate, but his moments with Lois (and later before Lex) unmasks his humanity. Underneath the cape and the burden of justice, he's still learning. He's sincere but na├»ve. If Batman has forgotten that good exists, then Superman is only beginning to become aware of the human capacity for evil. The two men need the balance the other provides.

Lex Luthor filled the role of psychotic villain with twitchy capability. Amy Adams' Lois Lane continues to be a strong character and I may or may not have broken out in spontaneous applause when Wonder Woman showed up at key moment in the final battle. I enjoyed the way Batman's dreams play out his fears about Superman's power. (Note to any and all directors-- the first one to make an Apocalyptic Batman movie gets all the money. Just....all the money.) While the movie had bumps and potholes like any superhero movie, I loved it. DC may be late to this game but they are playing it well. I hurl a well-aimed Batarang at the critics, light my bat-signal in solidarity, and wait rather anxiously for the next foray into this universe.

Don't just stand there-- buy a ticket!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Easter Reflections