Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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

It’s rare to see a postmodernist perspective on the superhero film culture, a culture so deeply rooted in the traditions of a mindset rooted in escapism - a response to a world in the midsts of pre-nuclear wars. Comic book films have been so pre-occupied with capturing the essence of thematics contained within the source material that, while a substantial amount of the particulars are certainly relevant, there has been no attempt to transform our perceptions of such historically grandiose figures. Superman, as we know, is the manifestation of the glimmering patriotism in Western culture, while also embodying the spiritual prominence and dominance of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Batman, as has been publicly accepted by the majority of audiences, is a symbolic representation of uncorrupted justice, a vigilante striving to bring light to a ruined city. Both are the amalgamations of societal moralization. In Batman v Superman, this is not the case. Snyder reinterprets these beloved characters into something much more sinister, something reflective of a civilization that has fallen into a state of perpetuating hate. Snyder creates a new mythos.

Imagine: A young Bruce Wayne levitating as a cyclone of bats lifts him from the well. Next we see Superman, a terrorist, demolishing a city, ending thousands of lives. These are our first images. Immediately Snyder wants us to know that what we expect from the valiant crime fighters is not what we’ll receive. Instead we are offered an unadulterated brute force: a Batman fuelled by rage, so lost in his ways that he holds himself as a god. As well, there is Superman, lost in morality, becoming frighteningly unaware of his influence but despairingly aware of his image. He’s a figure the world simultaneously reaches out for and rejects, motivated by both individualism and fear (resulting from xenophobia, commenting on relevant fears), respectively. Their battle is one of judgement, so perfectly climaxing with a name enabling an understanding between the two. It’s a perfectly internal moment caught strikingly on the faces and in the demeanour of a stunning Ben Affleck and impressive Henry Cavill. The damaged characters suggest a past of corrupt idealism for the ultimate hero. Both these men had lost sight in the world they seek to protect and it’s with each other that they can find the light to guide their way. It’s an exploration into these characters never before seen.

As the comedic relief and reflective soul encapsulating the collective psyche of modernity in the context of the God complex, Jesse Eisenberg’s Alexander Luther is a man striving to truly become all powerful. His psychopathy and infatuation with the mythos surrounding all powerful entities establish an extremely well built character, a new take on the deadly sin of greed. This desire for power, along with the previously mentioned moment of compassion between our two ‘heroes,’ justify the eventual coming of Doomsday, a personification of the world’s hatred; an unstoppable force that, in Superman’s sacrifice, proves pure selflessness as a necessary action in the evolution of society. Snyder continues to throw substance atop our heads that our psyches were unprepared for. The representation of politics is utterly hilarious in its inability to go forth due to indecisiveness. With such a pigheaded mentality present in the government, Luther’s corrupt initiative grabs hold and rectifies, from his perspective, a justice mirroring our two heroes, bringing into question their place upon the earth. This moment of doom is where the film asks us: what is the difference between a hero and a villain if, in the end, both kill the supposedly guilty?

Apart from the incredible amount of depth this film has, the technological achievement it is in the context of the story it tells needs to be addressed. Throughout the picture, the image feels false, manipulated by computers, attempting to replicate an aesthetic somewhere in-between realism and the comic book art. This, much like the rest of the film, is very much purposeful. Allowing us to see the artificiality, an idea that comes up within the score and pacing as well, breaks a forth wall separating the movie from reality. Snyder’s intent is to clearly throw the superhero film into today’s world and with this appearance forces it onto us. It only feels forceful, however, because we can’t allow it to be true. We continue to want to be stuck in a past where black and white are the opposing sides of a battle that never gets interesting. The superhero film gets an update and it’s much more pessimistic than you’d want to believe.

In terms of the remaining floating aspects of the film, I feel everything is pulled off with a disorderly precision that feels natural to such a chaotic experience. The introduction of the Justice League characters are established nicely, having a well built lead up into the reveal. Wonder Woman is an absolute treasure, the power she holds on screen being a testament to how well cast this film is. Her theme is ludicrous and completely fitting, being nothing short of extraordinary. Amy Adams has a much cleaner and relevant role in the grand tale, acting not as a girlfriend but as superman’s eyes to the human world. She’s completely necessary and her actions are just. The fight sequences are composed of sheer brutality. It’s emotionally stimulating to watch these characters who need each other pummel one another to the ground. Superhero films rarely elicit any emotional connection from me but with what these characters stand for and how important this film is as the zeitgeist of today’s society, I couldn't help but widen my eyes as connections, both peaceful and violent, were made.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a magnified image of contemporary humanity set on the stage of an opera. Its overtly imposing, yet always exhilarating score, constantly aware of the melodrama it creates, highlights every single moment as they fly by at an intentionally near incomprehensible pace. It thrives off of its emotionally exhaustive output, paralleling the motivations behind each character’s decisions, the decisions of gods. It’s their decisions that bring us to our final image of hope. That’s what this film is essentially about: gods and hope. It dethrones the deity, bringing them to our level through previously mentioned empathetic sentiments of kinless loss and love. It’s a beautifully powerful gesture, one that films such as this never attempt to offer. Though its hope is established as rather grim, it is in the end where sacrifice and humanistic idealism elevate the dire collective perception towards something to strive for. “Men are still good.” Bruce Wayne says. Yes, they still are and it is imperative for us to keep this notion in our minds. Batman v Superman is a film that personifies modern culture and explores it. Thoroughly, thoughtfully; the film sees what we believe is true and tells us it’s not. It shows us the ugliness rotting behind the pristine paintings of heroic idealism. This is the superhero film we’ve desperately needed, something to awaken us from such a mundane onslaught of derivative pictures and escapism jest. I honestly believe that one day we’ll look back on this film and see Snyder’s masterpiece as a film ahead of its time, a film we weren’t, in the slightest, ready for.

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