Sun. Aug 9th, 2020

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

I still buy and read comics every week, both Marvel and DC, and I’ve read every single issue of the core Justice League titles since the New 52 five years ago. So I’m pretty well ingrained into how DC has been doing things in the comic lately, but I’ve also been reading both DC and Marvel books for more than thirty years. Unlike many other people crying about things in this movie, I actually read the source material.

That said, I loved Batman V Superman, even with the very apparent cuts that were made to the movie before it hit theaters. It embraces its source material and isn’t ashamed of it, and it’s the best DC comics movies from that perspective. Coming off of The Dark Knight trilogy, which was ashamed of the source material, it’s kind of refreshing to see. I have to warn you that there will be spoilers, as I can’t discuss what makes the movie good without them.

Right from the start things are good for comic fans. Aside from Bill Finger receiving on-screen credit for Batman in the opening credits for the first time, we also get a comic-accurate Batman origin for the first time ever. For a couple decades one part of the origin was that Bruce and his parents were leaving a theater showing Zorro. Sometimes it’s a play version, often a movie, but that’s a key detail people who don’t understand the comics usually miss. Zorro was chosen because the character was a big inspiration to the character of Batman. He’s basically Sherlock Holmes using the costume and theatricality of Zorro.

Did we need Batman’s origin recapped as everyone already knows it? No. Did we finally need a comic-accurate version of that origin in a movie? Absolutely.

Then we get to see the Metropolis destruction from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. I love how the on-screen text describes Superman as “The Superman”. I’ve seen Man of Steel so many times it was so cool to see the fight from a different perspective. Bruce is there for most of it, seeing the gravity waves, the bombing of the ship, the Kryptonian ship crashing, and then the fight with Zod inside the building. That building, where Zod uses his heat vision, was the Wayne Financial building and a friend of Bruce’s died on the floor above Zod and Superman.

Eighteen months later Superman is being Superman. There’s a part of the government who doesn’t want him acting on his own around the world, while he and Lois live together. “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenix” is obviously not a factor in the DCEU.

We find out the World Engine used in the Indian Ocean created a side effect, in the form of Kryptonite. Luthor wants to bring that into the US to create a deterrent to Superman, so he starts to court one of the anti-Superman senators to let him bring it into the country. She won’t, so he finds another way to and of course that gets Bruce Wayne’s attention. Bruce doesn’t know it’s Luthor at first who is bringing in the rock, but he knows it’s coming and he wants to it use against Superman who he sees as a threat.

Recently Batman has become even more brutal by branding certain types of criminals, and it’s been getting the new’s attention. That gets Clark’s attention and he wants to stop the Bat’s brand of vigilante justice.

When they announced Batman V Superman at San Diego Comic Con, they said Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns would be an inspiration for it, and this is basically the TDKR version of Batman on screen. He isn’t a retired Batman coming back, but he’s one who has seen nothing good happen in Gotham for twenty years. He had a Robin killed. He’s basically given up and believes there are no more heroes in the world. What the encounter with Superman does to this Batman is by far one of my favorite parts of Batman V Superman. I’ll get to that.

What’s Wonder Woman doing in the movie? Bruce goes to a party hosted by Lex Luthor to download his files in the hopes to discover where the Kryptonite shipment is going. Diana Prince is there, and she steals the files Bruce downloads. The reason is that Lex has files on Metahumans, including a photo of Wonder Woman in full costume standing next to Steve Trevor after some battle in 1918 Belgium. Diana wants that to hide the fact that she’s immortal as Lex could expose her with that and all the other files he has of her throughout the century.

She can’t crack the encryption on the hard drive, but Bruce can. He begins to do that and falls asleep. This is the “Knightmare” sequence where people freak out and call Batman “The Punisher in a cape”. It’s a dream sequence, it’s not Batman actually shooting people. It shows an apocalyptic future where Superman has taken over and appears to be in league with Darkseid and his Parademons. At the end of the dream, The Flash appears in a time vortex telling Bruce that “she’s” the key.

Batman ends up stealing Lex’s Kryptonite to make weapons to fight Superman, so Lex has a backup plan. He takes the corpse of Zod to the crashed Kryptonian ship’s genesis chamber and combines some of his blood with it to create Doomsday. While in there, the Kryptonian ship’s computers tell him about other beings out there in space…

It’s not long before we find out why that future could become a reality. It really is Lex who manipulates the two into fighting. He uses a Wayne employee who lost his legs in Metropolis to piss of Bruce Wayne, and he kidnaps Martha Kent to use Superman to kill Batman. If Superman doesn’t bring Batman’s head to Lex within an hour, he’ll kill Martha.

So Superman throws aside his hate for the Bat. He knows he’s Bruce Wayne (probably because he has X-ray vision and can see through the cowl) and goes to Batman pleading for his help. Batman won’t have it and the fight begins. It’s a good brawl, and thanks to Batman’s prep time (which we do get to see in a montage) he has the upper hand. Right before he’s about to kill Superman with a Kryptonite spear he made, Superman cries out that they have to save Martha.

This freaks out Batman because his mother was named Martha as well. It’s a brilliant way to link the two characters, and if it has been used in the comics in the past it’s very rare. Batman realizes that Superman has humanity in him and has a mother alive who has the same name as his. Bruce realizes that he could save Clark’s Martha and promises Superman he would. I’m not going to lie. That moment, when Batman and Superman become the friends the are, actually got me a bit choked up to see realized on the big screen.

Batman goes to rescue Martha, who Alfred was able to trace the location to. The warehouse fight is hands down the best Batman fight ever put to screen. It’s right out of the Arkham games, and it ends with the scene from The Dark Knight Returns where Batman saves the kid from the Mutant realized on screen nearly word for word. There’s the “I Believe You” line, but Batman doesn’t directly shoot the guy with the machine gun, but instead a flame thrower gas tank he’s wearing.

Lex unleashes Doomsday and Superman flies him into orbit. Here’s another scene ripped from The Dark Knight Returns as they try to nuke Doomsday to kill him, but Superman gets the brunt of it. He floats in orbit weak and drained just like in Dark Knight Returns before the sun recharges him just like in the comic book. So it’s Batman in a solo fight with Doomsday.

Batman’s Batwing is shot down, and like in the trailer, Wonder Woman appears to save him from Doomsday’s blast. What follows is basically the fight from Superman 75, although in an uninhabited area and it’s vastly improved by the addition of Wonder Woman and Batman to the fight. Everyone contributes in their own way to defeat Doomsday. Diana lassos him, Bruce hits him with a Kryptonite gas grenade, and Superman impales him with the Kryptonite spear. And just like in Superman 75 the two kill each other.

I’ve waited 23 years to see the Death of Superman done in a live-action movie, and Batman V Superman does it even better than the comic did thanks to the use of the Trinity in the fight.

Remember when I said I loved what the encounter with Superman did to Batman? At Clark’s grave in Kansas (the grave in Metropolis is empty), Bruce tells Diana that he failed Superman in life, but he wouldn’t fail him in death. Superman inspires Batman. He makes him believe in heroes again and revitalizes Batman to be what people think Batman should be. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Batman we see in Justice League is a bit softer than the one in this movie because of that.

Batman V Superman is the most comic-accurate realization of the New 52-era DC Comics ever in a movie. This is a movie made for those who read comic books every week and want to see the DC universe realized on the big screen. We even get a Mother Box in the movie! I can’t wait for Suicide Squad in August, and I really can’t wait for next year when we’ll get the Wonder Woman movie and Justice League. The DC Extended Universe is off to a great start if you’re a fan of the comics.

Those who use their own “head canon” to determine who Batman and Superman are really shouldn’t see this movie. In fact, they should avoid the genre entirely. For comic fans, see this immediately.