Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review

Zap! Crash! Whack! That’s how the old Batman TV show went. And, in 2016, you could say nothing much has changed. At least near the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those not in the know, this film is a continuation of DC Comics’ universe – in terms of picking up the story following events in Man of Steel in 2013 – where Superman (Henry Cavill) tore Metropolis to pieces fighting General Zod (Michael Shannon). Buildings collapsed and people died, including many of Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) employees; giving him as good a reason as any to hate Superman, seeing him as an alien who operates without limits or accountability and is capable of wiping out the human race.

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On the flipside, Superman/Clark Kent sees Batman as a dangerous vigilante, as bad and morally corruptible as the criminals he puts away. Add to this a young Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg) stirring up trouble, giving us as many twitches and mad tics as he can muster, and you’ve got an interesting recipe for a compelling plot.

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And plot, in a way, is a daunting place to start, because writers David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio are essentially attempting to tell two and a half, or perhaps three and a half stories in one go. We have: Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and Wonderwoman (Gal Gadot), the latter who pops up briefly here and there pursuing her own mysterious motives.

They do, however, do a reasonable job of weaving it all together, but it’s a lot of jumping around and I bet the filmmakers were ruthless in the edit room.

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But that’s all I’ll say plot wise, as it’s best you go see it and see what you think. For me, a slightly simpler story would have nice. That said, if you’ve seen any of the trailers there won’t be too many surprises as most of Wonderwoman’s best bits are there, as are Lex Luthor’s – and you can pretty easily work out where the whole thing will end up.

Complicated plot but simple story. (Not sure I’m making sense but I’m sticking with it. Bit like the film, wahey!)

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What I will say is that the first two thirds are the most interesting. There’s a lot of stuff about whether Superman is a false God or not, and about Batman wanting him to face the consequences of his actions. And with montages of TV talk shows discussing Superman’s place in the world weaved throughout early on, it feels like sections have been lifted straight from Alan Moore’s Watchmen a la Dr Manhattan. Which is no bad thing, if done in a fresh way.

Director Zack Synder also manages to nail the tone fairly well. Gritty and dark, but not completely Christopher Nolan. And some of his stylised shots of Superman hovering over buildings or being touched by many hands in a crowd are really quite sublime. As is his (and Affleck’s) take on Batman. Affleck keeps him stoic and resolute for the most part but conflicted (as all good antiheroes should be), which balances nicely with a quirky, technology-savvy Alfred (something we’ve not seen), played superbly by Jeremy Irons (who knew he had such a touch for comedy).

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The bits where I feel this film falters is more to do with DC’s attempt to follow the Marvel blueprint, particularly with a smashy smashy bad guy final third. I felt it was all going quite well up to that point, but it’s then as if the filmmakers couldn’t resist splurging their budget on some fancy effects to please 14-year old boys. But then, some would argue that director Zack Synder is a bit of a teenage boy at heart anyway, so no big surprise.

Similarly, whilst Synder got the tone more or less right, I think Hans Zimmer let him down a bit on the score, which just felt too overblown and portentous. It all got a bit too much as it went on, droning and banging away with lashings of doom and gloom. But we’ve all seen 300, so what did I expect? Perhaps I just prefer the light-hearted Marvel banter. (Now there’s a thing.)

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And another point upon which to focus on the Marvel versus DC front… it’s quite amusing to watch the way they set up their forthcoming Justice League movie, leaving subtlety very much on the cutting room floor. We get a small shot of Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman and a brief scene between Bruce Wayne and Wonderwoman (despite the fact we don’t even learn her name during the film) and it all feels a little bit tacked-on-at-the-end-before-we-forget. I’d have liked to see a lot more delicate threads and strands of a larger world weaved throughout – unless it was there and so subtle I missed it?

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So whilst this may sound like a big rant, it’s really not at all. It’s quite a good film for the most part and there’s a lot to like. But – here’s the rub – there are still many things that happen which we’ve seen time and again in the last decade of superhero flicks. C’mon DC, be bold, be brave. Change up the format, don’t just copy Marvel.

After all, taking a risk and a leap of faith is what superheroes do.

(Ps I’m still very keen to see Suicide Squad as it may bring something fresh. At the very least an unhinged Margot Robbie should be worth the price of admission alone.)

The pen is mightier than the sword

penbluePicture this: you’re in a fight, possibly to the death, and you’re on the brink of losing. You’re scrabbling around to find purchase on something, anything to give you an advantage. Your fingers grasp a thin object. Dimly, through the red mist, you realise the tides are turning, your luck is in; for you have come into your possession a weapon mightier than most in the world of movies: the humble pen.

Many a movie fight has conveniently been won this way. I suppose this is typical of the cinematic world because we all know, in real life, you can never find a bloody pen when you want one. And the chances of one finding your questing fingers during a fight are next to nil.

But then, maybe that’s why it works. Fate is a cruel mistress and likes to throw us a lifeline when we least expect it. Anyway, moving on. To celebrate the pen (and pencil), let’s look at movie scenes where this unassuming little object has briefly taken the limelight.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Guy flies through the window with a machine gun then comes at you with a knife, what do you do? Calmly grab a pen and dispatch him, that’s what. Jason Bourne, still absent memory, demonstrates how lethal a biro can really be. Pen vs. knife? The knife stood no chance.


Liar Liar
(1997)

‘The colour of the pen that I hold in my hand is…ROYAL BLUE!’ Jim Carrey at his overacting best in the late ’90s, as a lawyer condemned to tell the truth as the result of a birthday wish made by his son. Silly, but entertaining stuff.

The Naked Gun (1988)

The Japanese fighting fish; beautiful, graceful and elegant. Quickly gets skewered with a rare Samurai pen by Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad! The pen in question being unbreakable, impervious to everything but water. Pure comedy gold.


Shaun of the Dead
(2004)

‘You’ve got red on you.’ Shaun’s pen leaks on his shirt early on in the film: a portent of things to come and an observant nod to the mindless and banal comments people say every day. Here’s a little compilation from the film. Ah, zombie-filled memories.

The Dark Knight (2008)

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull your head off? ‘How about a magic trick?'” Quite simply one of the best character entrances to a film in recent years. Heath Ledger’s Joker took us all by surprise. He begins with a simple pencil…


Batman
(1989)

Another entry for the Joker, this time Jack Nicholson’s flamboyant portrayal. Here he sports a wonderful feather quill pen, used to chilling effect to spear someone in the throat. Was Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight an update of this scene? Both dark and compelling with a macabre sense of humour.

The Faculty (1998)

Always considered this film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, a bit of a guilty pleasure. With slightly cringing lines like ‘Aliens are taking over the fucking school’ and Famke Janssen asking for something ‘cherry flavoured’. This pen-related scene sees Josh Hartnett’s character stab his teacher in the eye, then watch in horror as he visibly dissolves.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(1989)

You’re Dr. Jones (Sean Connery) and you’re trapped in the body of a steel beast, otherwise known as a tank. You spot a chance to escape and end up grappling with the nearest Nazi soldier. Victory comes in the form of a squirting ink pen, leading your companion, Marcus Brody, to exclaim ‘The pen is mightier than the sword!

Goldeneye (1995)

Click, click, spin, click, spin, spin…BOOM! The old exploding pen trick. A classic Bond scene, building to an explosive finish. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond held captive, watching a programmer attempt to break a guidance code before Sean Bean’s bad guy rocket plummets back to earth. Little does he know he holds an explosive pen in his hand.

I want to ride my bicycle

‘I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.’ Freddie Mercury, Queen.

Whether you’re gunning the throttle feeling the wind in your air or simply pushing pedal power to the max, there’s something free-spirited and rebellious about a bike. And if you disagree, you probably haven’t ever ridden one. Or forgotten what the feeling is like. tomasEither way, shame on you. Dust off your leathers or stabilisers (delete whichever appropriate) and read this piece.

Recently I was gallivanting around Cat Ba island, Vietnam on a motorbike and it was, oh so much fun. Ok, well, it was a scooter, but I still felt like a young tearaway, trying to look cool with my big shades and little helmet. Aiming for more Easy Rider than total disaster, but who knows how I looked to locals. Particularly given the fact I was exploring the island with a young Austrian chap who was the epitome of cool; a cross between Steve McQueen and Errol Flynn (see the picture). Anyway, as you might imagine my little two-wheeled jaunt in Asia inspired me to dedicate this piece to my pick of bike scenes from movies I love.

The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
An intelligent, dreamlike, almost melancholy drama that caught most moviegoers and critics unawares, anchored by strong performances from Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling. The latter playing motorbike stunt rider Handsome Luke, who turns his hand to bank robbery to support his newborn child. In the clip below Director Derek Cianfrance breaks down a key scene, where Luke’s world begins to unravel as he desperately flees a bank robbery.


Terminator 2
(1991)
This scene in question sees a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) being chased by the creepy, unstoppable T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in a juggernaut lorry. Closely followed by the achingly cool T-800 (Schwarzenegger), calmly reloading his shotgun one-handed before launching his Harley off the edge of a wall. Somehow he lands it then zooms up the inside of the lorry to scoop Connor off his bike, seconds before the T-1000 crushes them both. Quite simply, Director James Cameron at his best. A controversial statement given Titanic and Avatar, but I’m sticking with it.

Skyfall (2012)
Bond films need a big, brash opening scene to set the tone. Happily Sam Mendes delivered this with gusto and glee last year, in this breathtaking, rollicking ride; a bike chase across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Watch this fascinating behind the scenes look at how the stunt coordinators and team put this chase together.


Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
(1989)
Ok, I’m putting it out there. The Last Crusade is the best Indy film. There, I’ve said it. Connery, Ford, Nazis, what’s not to like? Well maybe not Nazis, but everyone loves to hate a baddie right? So in that sense, Indy sticking it to the Nazis on motorbikes is an easy win. The scene where Dr. Jones (Junior and Senior) flee the Nazis on a bike with a sidecar is action at its best. Particularly the inspired use of a flagpole for jousting.

The Goonies (1985)
Let’s all sing together, ‘good enough, Goonies ‘R’ good enough, ya, ya, ya, ya!’ C’mon you know the words. Written by Spielberg and Chris Columbus and directed by Richard Donner with a fantastic Cyndi Lauper soundtrack, this film was a defining coming-of-age flick. I sincerely mean that. This scene sees Mikey (Sean Astin) escape his older brother Brand (Josh Brolin) to begin their adventure. One of the best kid’s films of the ’80s.


Matrix Reloaded
(2003)
Can’t believe this film is ten years old now. Let’s face it, the Wachowski siblings set the bar extremely high with the original and, following the first film, the trilogy did somewhat lose its way. What with an overcomplicated plot involving Zion, the machines and whatnot, we all began to lose interest, slowly but surely. That said, Reloaded has some fantastic action scenes, In particular Carrie Ann-Moss’s Trinity racing the wrong way down a freeway.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Problem: your car has broken down beyond all repair, what do you do? Well, in Batman’s case you hit the self-destruct button and from the wreckage of the Batmobile the Batpod bursts forth. A vast beast with 20″ front and rear wheels. Cue a Chris Nolan speed chase special, with the dark, winged one in full pursuit of Heath Ledger’s manic Joker. ‘Now there’s a Batman.’

Dark Knight – the rise of Robin?

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ImageFair play to Joseph Gordon Levitt (hereafter known as JGL), his career has been incredibly interesting. He has only recently started to appear in proper blockbuster type films, most of those with Chris Nolan.

I remember him from his Third Rock from the Sun days. If you watch the early episodes you realise how young he was when he started. He sort of vanished off the scene – at least in my mind – for a while, until he began popping up in various indie films, which did his career no harm at all. I keep re-watching Brick, it’s so multi-layered and intriguing. Worth revisiting if you have the time, if you’ve not then what are you waiting for? Also really liked him in 500 Days of Summer. He showed a comic side, but also an emotional vulnerability. It was also a great rom com for guys to watch, if you can call it that.

joseph gordon levitt dark knight risesAnyway, back to the subject of this post. I wanted to discuss his role in The Dark Knight Rises. It seems as though Gary Oldman (aka Jim Gordon) took a back seat in this one, getting shot early on and spending half the film in hospital. He quickly promoted JGL to Detective and sent him all over town chasing Bane. It seems from Inception to Dark Knight, JGL has made giant leaps in bigger roles in bigger films. His character in Dark Knight had a sort of deep, insightful take on the world and seemed to convey authority as a young rookie cop.

The scene where he tells Bruce Wayne he knows his identity was nicely done. JGL played it perfectly. I assume the studio asked Nolan if they could leave the ending open for a follow up. Hence JGL’s tiny, throwaway scene near the end, where a woman says he should use his real name ‘Robin’.

I admit I cringed a little at that one. Introducing Catwoman into Nolan’s world of Batman was ambitious enough, but Robin? I suppose, like everyone else I am casting my mind back to Chris O’Donnell’s Robin – it’s hard to get him out of your head to be honest. It’s like some sort of horrific accident, you feel compelled to look. Or in this case, unfortunately compelled to remember.

Anyway, if Nolan – or another brave Director – does take up the mantle for a future film, Robin could be an interesting character if JGL took the role. Not sure what sort of enemies he’d be able to hold his own against? Bane? Joker? Hmmm, dont’ think he would stand a chance. Either way, it would be interesting to see a ‘dark’ version of Robin, no campness, no frivolity. Gritty all the way!

What do you guys think? What I do know is that his career is on the up. Indeed, he’s currently flavour of the month in Hollywood, playing the lead in two films currently out at the moment, Looper and Premium Rush. The former, playing a young version of Bruce Willis.

Looper has reunited JGL with the Director of Brick, Rian Johnson, so I’m expecting big things. It’s already been very well received by critics so I’m itching to see it.

Until next time…

Mikey P

Bane vs Catwoman – scene stealers!

Ok, for my very first blog I thought I’d offer my take on the latest Batman film. For the purposes of this blog I’ll assume that you, the reader, has a fair idea what the film is about and the films that have gone before it. I am going to assume a certain level of knowledge on your part in terms of film history, the Batman franchise and so on. Got that? Good.

Now we’re on the same page, lets chat Bat! From the title of this post, you’ll have noticed I want to focus my comments on the new characters. Or at least, in the case of Catwoman, the new actress playing the part. For Bane, he’s new to the Nolan Bat universe, so we’ll deal with him second.

Firstly, Ms Hathaway, did she steal the show? I would say yes and no. Perhaps a cop out of an answer but there it is. I think she was a great take on the character. I am a fan of her anyway so it wasn’t a hard sell for me. She brought across the vulnerability that she showed in Love and Other Drugs (which is well worth a watch if you’ve not seen it – aptly described by some as a rom-com guys would want to watch). She also had that sexy, confident quality demonstrated in the latter half of Devil Wears Prada.

In many ways I would have liked to have seen more of her sparking off of Bale’s Batman, especially if he was channeling his inner Patrick Bateman, something he did in Begins when he kicked guests out of his party. I suppose though, it would not have been appropriate in this film, where Bruce Wayne was more the wounded soul. I remember reading that Nolan was unsure how Catwoman would fit into his version of Batman. I can understand that. I think they managed this issue well however, and I say this as a fan of Hathaway, did they really need her character in the film? Did she really add to the story or was she just another character to entice the audience in to see the film? Cynical perhaps, but just something I thought I should raise.

So, on to Bane. Hardy was awesome, inasmuch as you can be when you’re acting with some sort of Predator-esque mask on. If you want a crash course on intense Hardy, go watch Bronson. I really hope he gets to work with Nicholas Winding Refn again. Considering his love affair with the 80s, particularly synth music during key scenes, it would be great to see them team up again. Perhaps even with Gosling on board, now that would be special. Anyway, I digress.

Bane, in some ways, was a funny character. His opening scene in the plane, was outstanding. It was reminiscent of Dark Knight’s opening bank robbery scene, introducing the new villain, setting the standard, how ruthless he is etc. What I could not get to grips with was his voice. I suppose the cultured thespian lends intelligence and gravitas, to what otherwise could have seemed brute-ish. Thinking about it though, it was not a million miles off Brian Blessed, which would have thrown the film’s tone out entirely! I wonder how much input Nolan had in terms of voices of the Joker and Bane, or was the voice driven by the actor? I remember reading that Heath Ledger spent a fair while perfecting his Joker voice, which was spot on. I can see what they were trying to do with Bane’s voice, but I wonder, was it menacing enough?

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In terms of Bane’s character, as the plot develops, you begin to feel sympathy for him and his plight. Or at least I did. It was good that Nolan added layers to Bane in the final act of the film, he could have otherwise seemed a touch one-dimensional. That said, even if he was shown to be just as much as blunt instrument as an intelligent bad guy, his two, major fight scenes with Batman were outstanding and perfectly pitched. Did he steal the film? I would say he stole a lot of scenes he was in, and rightly so. Even a scene where Batman and Catwoman realise they are outnumbered and have to flee via The Bat (Batman’s flying machine), Bane’s entrance to that scene is mesmerising. He doesn’t do much other than saunter towards them, almost bemused. Hats off to Tom Hardy for infusing him with such as threatening presence.

Anyway, to round off my first post as it’s getting late, I think both Bane and Catwoman stole most of the scenes they were in, leaving poor old Batman to scrap for the rest, despite the focus of the story being on him. That said, I think they were both strong characters and complemented Batman’s journey well. I want to discuss other characters that also stole the film in their own way, but I’ll leave that for another post.

So, there’s my first post! I hope it made sense and you found it informative, perhaps even witty and thought-provoking? To be fair, that’s going too far. I just hope you enjoyed it and there will be more to come.

All the best

Mikey P