Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG13 – 151 minutes)

Apologies up front - this one is long...and SPOILER ALERT.  There - that's handled.

Well – Here’s the good news, this movie is not nearly as bad as everyone is saying it is.  However, here’s the bad news – it’s still not good.

I think that with superheroes, as with James Bonds, you tend to favor the ones you first became familiar with.  For me, I tend to prefer Roger Moore Bond movies (I’m not saying that he was the best, just that I prefer him) because those are the ones I first became familiar with.  With Batman – I certainly enjoyed the 89 Michael Keaton Batman, but my preferred Batman is Kevin Conroy – because the 90s animated series nailed what I think is the very best version of Batman – also why my favorite Joker is Mark Hamil – also why I love the Batman Arkham games so much – because those are the logical continuation/evolution of the 90s animated series.  If you haven’t played those – you should – it’s like playing a movie!

In terms of Superman – I enjoyed the Christopher Reeve movies, but I was/am a huge fan of the CW show Smallville – so my chosen Superman is Tom Welling, who honestly actually was Clark Kent for 10 years, and never quite got to Superman, except for the last 10 minutes of the last episode.  

You can read my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but let me sum it up by saying that I did not care for it.  Here's the Screen Junkies Honest Trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sge5sUNJkiY.

Honestly, I haven’t really liked any of Snyder’s movies.  300 was good, but I hated Watchmen (one of the few movies I can classify as pretentious), The Owls of Ga’Hoole was interesting, and I hated SuckerPunch.  He tends to over-somber things, and while he is a visually interesting director – the performances seem to fall a bit flat, and the movies overall are extremely joyless.   Man of Steel took everything I loved about the careful crafting of Clark Kent that Smallville provided and threw it out of the window.  The reason Clark became such a symbol of hope was the kindness, love, and support of Martha and Jonathan Kent.   In Man of Steel – that really got changed.

Also – I will say that I have loved just about all of the DC animated movies that I have seen – and there have been quite a few.  The animated movies are well done, well crafted, have some joy as well as some serious bits and really do delve into the relationship between the heroes very well.  The Justice League animated series that started in the 90s and then evolved into Justice League Unlimited was exceptional, but even more so – if you really are curious about good Batman/Superman relationship stories, check out Justice League: Doom, Wonder Woman, New Frontier, Superman/Batman Apocalypse.  Of these, Doom is my favorite, as each member of the League is targeted by an attack they have no defense for – and Batman realizes someone has stolen his contingency plans.  Check that out if you haven’t seen it.

There is also a very good two-part animated version of The Dark Knight returns, based of Frank Miller’s epic graphic novel.  Part 2 features a fight with Superman that parallels this movie.

Zack Snyder has been very loud and clear that his version of the DC Universe is ‘no-jokes’ – he’s taking everything very seriously.  He recently said the reason he went with Ezra Miller for the Flash as opposed to Grant Gustin is that Gustin – despite being the Flash on the number one show on the CW right now – does not fit his universe, as Gustin is too light – and too humorous.  Honestly, that sums it up right there, and good for Snyder for sticking to his vision, but I prefer my heroes with a sense of wonder/joy/humor.  This is why I prefer Marvel movies – and honestly, because the tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so clearly leaning towards a more comic-book style feel and look with more humor and lightness, it makes sense that DC would want to do something different.  However, on the other hand, I love the Marvel movies, and so far, the DC movies have been almost unwatchable for me.  Personal preference, I suppose.  As a side note, Marvel can do dark – just watch the Netflix Daredevil or Jessica Jones series.  They are brilliant, and dark, and some episodes are tough to watch, but they are so well done and still manage to incorporate some joy and lightness here and there.

Okay – I digress, let’s get into this movie in particular.  Either as a reaction to fan outcry or as the best bit of pre-planning ever (my guess is the former rather than the latter) this movie begins by addressing the insane amounts of carnage in downtown Metropolis that Superman and Zod caused in Man of Steel.  One of the buildings that goes down is a Wayne Enterprises building, and that really makes Bruce Wayne angry.  His employees and friends were in that building!  How dare those aliens fight where they could hurt people!?!  We also get yet another flashback to Bruce’s parents (yes that was Maggie and Negan from TWD as Thomas and Martha Wayne); everyone should know how and why Batman came to be at this point, not sure that was necessary.

Eighteen months after the destruction, Superman rescues Lois Lane (at least I think it was Lois – hard to tell, she had red hair) from a suspicious situation somewhere in Africa, during which a whole bunch of folks get killed.  Lois snags a bullet that was used to try to prove Superman was set up for the deaths, but June Finch, a democratic senator from Kentucky (what?), is using this situation as one of multiple reasons to set up hearings and finding victims to basically testify against Superman - to hold him accountable.  Meanwhile, Intrepid reporter Clark Kent is busy researching the ‘batman of Gotham’ who seems to have been terrorizing criminals in Gotham for the last 20 years.  Lately, the Bat is still refusing to kill – but he’s taken to branding his victims with a batarang, so that when they get to prison, they get killed by other prisoners.  So, the movie implies he’s found a way around his ‘no killing’ rule.  Sigh.

LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (again, at least I think it was Lex Luthor – it really just seemed to be Jesse Eisenberg) is trying to import a giant piece of kryptonite so that he can weaponize it, and tries to get Senator Finch to help with that, because he sees Superman only as a potential threat.  She refuses – so he does it anyway, along with taking Zod’s body. 

While Batman is brooding about how to break into LexCorp to figure out what Lex is smuggling into the country, Alfred mentions that Bruce Wayne has been invited to a party there, so he goes and attaches a drive to Luthor’s mainframe to hack his system, which then gets stolen by the mysterious Diana Prince.  Clark is also there and starts to tail Bruce around, since he can hear Alfred in Bruce’s earpiece, but then gets distracted when he has to fly off and save a girl from a fire in Mexico – which seems to be an excuse to work more god imagery into the movie.

Bruce tracks Diana down – she basically gives him back the drive, telling him she couldn’t break the encryption, but she wanted it because Lex has a photo that belongs to her.

Bruce heads back to the Batcave and decrypts the drive (because he’s Batman), but since that takes a while – he dozes off and has a long sepia-toned dream sequence, that (in my opinion) flashes forward to earth being invaded by Darkseid’s forces (those are clearly parademons).

He’s woken out of this dream by what I would call a message from Future-Flash screaming about how he was right the whole time – he was right about ‘him’, Lois is the key, and Bruce needs to find ‘us’ (Justice League members?).   Bruce cracks the drive and finds Luthor’s files on both weaponizing the kryptonite, Prince (she’s an immortal warrior – proven by a photo from 1918), and some other metahumans.   Sufficiently freaked out, he steals the kryptonite and starts building armor and kryptonite weapons of his own.  Then he gets a full-out workout montage – which is awesome, because Affleck worked out hard for this flick.
After a chat with his mother, who again gives terrible advice, Clark heads to Washington to be questioned by the Senator and because he’s feeling guilty about people not liking him.  However, it was a setup – as Luthor has rigged the place with a bomb – killing everyone inside.  Not sure why – to get everyone to blame Superman?  To drive Superman crazy with guilt?  It works, because Superman goes after him, but he’s already figured out who he is and captured both Lois and Martha Kent – he throws Lois off a building, but Superman saves her – only to learn from Lex that he still has his mother – and will only return her if Superman brings him Batman’s head. 

Meanwhile – after sending Diana an email with her photo and the other meta-human files (this is a way to force in cameos from what will become other Justice League members), Batman is waiting by his signal – prepped with his kryptonite spear, and Superman shows.  Here you get the fight promised in the title, and it goes on for a bit.  Batman is clearly the victor, aided by his kryptonite weapons.  Just as he’s about to stab the hell out of Superman with the kryptonite spear, Superman states he’s worried about Martha, which gives Batman pause, because after all – that was his mom’s name too (these characters were created in 1938 and 1939 respectively and it’s never occurred to me until this point that their moms have the same name.  How weird is that?).  Lois runs in and says that Lex has Martha – Bruce snaps out of his rage-fit and vows to save her.  This leads to one of the best sequences in the movie, a Batman fight sequence that looks like it came right out of one of the Arkham video games.  Also, this leads to one of the best lines in the movie: as he saves her, Batman says, “I’m a friend of your son’s”.  “I figured – the cape.”  Fantastic – and funny, and the movie needed more of that!
Superman goes to let Lex know that he failed, and Lex releases the bio-weapon he’s been working on by combining the crashed kryptonian ship, Zod’s body, and his own blood – which is this movie’s version of Doomsday.  He’s pounding on Superman and Batman and getting bigger each time he’s attached – absorbing energy and whatnot – when Wonder Woman shows up – and is really awesome for a few minutes.  They grab the spear, and Superman flies at Doomsday to stab him with it – getting stabbed by Doomsday in the process (why wouldn’t you give the spear to Wonder Woman who clearly has experience with weapons like that?).

Everyone assumes Superman is dead (if, like me, they had watched Smallville, they would know to just leave him out in the sun for a while – the worse the injury, the longer you leave him in the sun).  Lex gets arrested, and Batman threatens him in prison, where Lex implies that Darkseid is coming.  In D.C., they have a soldier’s funeral for him, and in Kansas, a smaller funeral is held for Clark.  At the  funeral – Bruce tells Diana they have to find the ‘others’.
Once again – Snyder makes good looking movies, but man, this is way too long, there is too much unnecessary slow-motion, and tons of unnecessary scenes.  It really did not need to be longer than two hours.  I think the dream sequence was unnecessary – the flashback to Batman’s parents getting killed is unnecessary – by now, we all should know how that happened.  Is anyone really going to see this movie who does not know who or what Batman is and how he came to be?   I do appreciate that the Superman suit is slightly more colorful this time around. 
Castwise - Let’s start with what I liked:

  • Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was really very good – there is far too little of her in this movie, but to be fair – it’s not her movie.  It’s just enough of her to really gives me hope for her standalone movie.  Gadot gives her a quiet strength when she’s Diana Prince, and an absolute confidence that she’s the most powerful thing in the room.  When geared up for battle (the outfit wasn’t bad, and I liked the armor aspect of it), she’s completely in warrior mode – also – the little smile after taking a hit from Doomsday is just perfection – she relishes this fight, and hasn’t seen one this good in far too long.  I’m really excited about where her character could go. 

  • The picture released this week of the other Amazons in the movie is fantastic – they all look great.  Again – I really think they are missing an opportunity in not casting Lynda Carter as Hippolyta, but hey – they don’t want any connection to any previous universe.  Just go back and watch the episode of Smallville she guested on – or catch her upcoming appearance on Supergirl, and just for kicks, be sure to watch the animated Wonder Woman movie prior to seeing director Patty Jenkin’s version next June.

  • Ben Affleck was a great Batman.  I really thought he was wonderful.  I had some issues with the way this Batman was written, but he fits this universe.  The stretching the no-kill rule by killing second-handedly was a bit much for me – also he plowed through a whole bunch of dudes with the Batmobile.  Affleck’s performance is spot on for an older Bruce Wayne who is completely world-weary, and frustrated by the lack of accountability of this new alien.  He does get manipulated into his blind rage by Lex a little easily, but hey – he’s older, and grumpier.  I did think the dream sequence was completely unnecessary. I think  DC/WB would be best served by firing Snyder, and letting Ben direct the Justice League movies.

  • Along those lines, I also really enjoyed Jeremy Irons as Alfred – he and Bruce clearly have more of a partnership at this point than employer/employee.  It was fun to see Bruce bring him coffee as he tinkered with the suit, and I also loved the few moments of levity as Alfred chastised Bruce for being alone and grumpy.

  • I don’t mind Laurence Fishburne as Perry White – but I sure do wish he would say, “Great Caesar’s ghost!” at least once.

  • Holly Hunter was interesting as Senator Finch – I enjoyed how she stood up to Lex, and refused to be intimidated – until he left a jar of ‘granny’s peach tea’ on her table during the hearing and she spends way too long looking at it and slowly panicking.  I tell you – a better choice for that entire scene would be for her to sit down, Superman to enter – her to start talking, notice the tea and Lex’s empty seat – realize what it meant and stand up and scream for everyone to get out just as the bomb goes off.  That would have been a little more interesting than her quadruple-take looking at the jar.

  • Scoot McNairy is good as a Wayne Enterprises employee who gets completely manipulated by Lex. 
Now – on to the bad…

  • Henry Cavill is still really wooden as Superman and Clark – something that is even more frustrating after seeing how awesome he could be in Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Too much brooding for me.  Also – I couldn’t help but giggle as he got into the bathtub with Lois at the beginning, because there were at least three episodes of Smallville dealing with Clark not being able to have sex with human ladies until he could control his powers completely.  Seriously.

  • Diane Lane is fine, and I’m normally a Diane Lane fan – my issue with her is the way Martha Kent is written in this movie, “You don’t owe this world a thing,” is not something I want Martha Kent to say.   I want her to be kind, loving, supportive, and remind Clark how special he is, and that he should use that to give people hope – and that all life is precious.

  • Amy Adams as Lois is again, just fine, but I want her to be more action-packed.  She gets into trouble immediately in the beginning of this movie – but I did like the call back to that later in the movie as she realizes she is the reason they were able to get to Clark.

  • I know there are Jesse Eisenberg fans out there – and hey, that’s great. I thought he was interesting in Now You See Me, but he just does not fit here.  I think he’s really great at what he does – but I do not think what he does is Lex Luthor.  Again – this is because I have preconceived notions of Lex from both Smallville and the animated series – so perhaps if I didn’t have those issues, he would be fine?  I actually liked his plan, and some of his lines, but I couldn’t help but think how much better they would be delivered by someone else.  Lex is Superman’s main villain and needs to be able to stand toe to toe with him – I love the versions of Lex that are large and physically imposing, and the genius intellect is always a piece.  Rosenbaum on Smallville was always charming and charismatic – and had 8 years to show the slow decline to true super-villainy.  Clancy Brown’s version on the animated series was always calm, cool, collected – and able to win over people with rational plans and charm.  Eisenberg does convey the genius, but comes off more annoying than villain-y.  It’s a shame, because this version of Luthor is one that you could have easily sided with in the beginning, if he was more rational and likable. 

  • There are several other actors that I would have preferred, but I found it interesting that Matt Damon’s name was on the list of potentials – how interesting would that have been? He’s certainly capable of evil – go back and watch School Ties if you forgot – and he would have pulled off the genius part as well as the charm…

  • In terms of the other Justice League members – you see Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash all briefly – mainly in the videos that Diana clicks through in Bruce’s email.  I’m excited about Jason Momoa’s version of Aquaman, I think he’s going to be a big, angry, eco-warrior, which is how I like my Aquaman.  The Cyborg clip was nightmarish – basically Joe Morton is working with less that what was left of Joel Kinneman in that terrible Robocop remake.  And the Flash – well, that’s going to be tough, because there’s a reason Grant Gustin’s version is the number one show on the CW.  He’s really charming, funny, and accessible – none of those are words I would use to describe Ezra Miller.  We’ll see where they go with that.  I’m still holding out for an awesome John Stewart version of Green Lantern and an amazing Martian Manhunter – we’ve got a few years before Snyder releases his Justice League movie.
Overall – it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting, but it still wasn’t great.  It’s not fair to compare it to the Marvel movies, DC is purposefully going for something completely different – but the reality is that when I walk out of a Marvel movie – I cannot wait to go see it again because it was so much fun!  This movie, I don’t want to see again because it was completely joyless - well, maybe just the Wonder Woman bit at the end!

6 out of 10 (Man of Steel was a 5)– if they had just trimmed some things down – removed the dream sequence and kept it to two hours, that probably would have shifted it up a bit.

Bonus – Don’t be sad Ben, you were the best part of that mess!

Kimmel Fun:

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