Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ★★★★½

Machinations from beginning to end. Machinations that arrive at the conclusion "no one stays good in this world", that insist on the impossibility of a "superman" who could live beyond good and evil, that says "now god bends to my will".

Few movies of this kind eschew exposition almost entirely, so as we begin with that vital and stirring recontextualisation of Man of Steel, it immediately sets the back drop for scenes that serve as a basis and explication of the motives and concern for the rest of the film. This explication is entirely visual. The complaints lodged against Batman v Superman seem to be demanding that it assume audiences have no intelligence. The scenes in the desert compound, as they are recontextualised later on within the film, become vital. They showcase for us the kind of person Lex Luthor is. He is the kind of person who knows everything he wants to know, he is the kind of person who contracts private military units, and sows descension—like a good capitalist. When he states that it is a lie that "power can be innocent", he is talking about himself as much as anything else. "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception," as Carl Schmidt wrote.

The movie is occupied by this persistent historical reality, circling around the question of power and who wields so as to win. As people complain about the "nonsensical" nature of Eisenberg's Luthor, they are failing to understand that his interest in "planetary security" is not for the globe, but for shoring his own interests as incontestable. He wants the elimination of a figure who literally embodies another kind of exception, and he literally sabotages and destroys another pretender in liberal democracy—the latter of whom had nearly won the worn out loyalty of Superman.

Luthor's interests are not at all altruistic, they are the truth of capitalism as a system. He wants the world for himself—and as an aside, Doomsday, I think clearly, was a creation that could have been deactivated (there is a countdown in progress prior to its awakening), but is carried out once it is clear Batman did not deliver the goods—and, further, is a gambit that assumes both its and Superman's mutually-assured destruction. (Additionally, as it appears from a recently released deleted scene, Luthor's "communion" with Darkseid or agents of further signifies the galactic scale and interest of private capitalist interests and knowledge as power as insurance.)

A further detail that was clearer this time through was the posing of each of the leads (Superman, Batman, and Luthor) as orphans—one adopted, one reeling from his parents murder, and one who intimates the abusive nature of a now deceased father. Ben Affleck is fantastic in his portrayal of a Batman who is literally consumed by his loss, who weaponises it with singular, sociopathic vision and rage—and who is only forced out of it in a moment of raw unfiltered humanity. Luthor, too, conveys a character of pure ressentiment and psychosis, embittered by his past and familial tyranny that returns as repressed in subtle, shadowed schemes.

Batman v Superman succeeds in entirely visualising this characterful discordance, in what what feels like something comparable to the first twenty minutes of Ali drawn out to feature length. Its plotting and narrative are deliberately baked in and assumed, requiring viewers to be mature and do something so sophisticated as retroactively reconceptualise and piece together the threads of story at work throughout. Indeed, as it kaleidoscopes into chaos, we witness the battle for the right to wield the sovereign power of defining the exception—which Luther wins—as heroes fall into combat with nothing more than the embodiment of human hysteria and mania.

The final act is, more or less, a success. In narrative terms it succeeds, concluding proceedings with a double-edged statement of purpose (find metahumans and make them fight), which promises us more movies, even as these movies are an extension of all out war. As well as sedimenting the hero (no pun intended) as a soldier, a warrior of our own, a person very much embedded in the categories of good and evil—in earnest, Superman no longer can boast of being an Overman. As a thesis and expression of the core of the genre, this is profound—heroes as we imagine them, are simply humanity on another level.

Otherwise, as has been noted correctly, the abstractions of colour and light cap off a movie that has some of the most definitive auteristic streaks running throughout. From the Metropolis recontextualisation, to the introduction to Batman, to the Knightmare oner and "Flashback", to the "saving Martha" infiltration, and then to the smash zooms of the final battle. Snyder went all out in crafting something that moves with desperate and frightening ambivalence. Superheroes haven't fought like this before, and it is awesome (in the actual sense) precisely in the terror it inspires.

This movie succeeds, in summary; and it succeeds precisely as a graven satire. We have been offered a near truth as to what we seem to want: a world—our world—with superheroes, and the result is insane, anti-narrative chaos; as we all speak for and about the heroes with nothing to say, and have them fall into war—our war—around us. We get in Batman v Superman, in the end, satire as tragedy.

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