A week ago, I went to the movies and saw one of the first showings of Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice. I’ve had a week to think about it. I’ve read other people’s reviews and opinions. Now I’d like to share mine.
This post will be full of spoilers. If you do not want the movie spoiled, stop reading here and come back after you’ve seen the movie.
First off, I think the reviews have been a little harsh. The movie is not that bad. It’s not amazing, which is probably why it’s being panned so hard. We wanted a live action meeting of Batman and Superman on the silver screen that would knock our socks off. This movie didn’t do that.
Zack Snyder reached far, his ambition greater than what he could deliver. He wanted to give us something akin to what we’ve been getting from Marvel. He tried to tap into the dark and gritty tone of both Nolan’s Batman and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. He crammed the story with characters and scenes in order to hint at a larger, epic story. He tried to do all this in one movie, and in his efforts, lost track of making a single, enjoyable standalone movie.
So far, I haven’t said anything that hasn’t already been said on the internet about this movie. Other things you may have already read… Ben Affleck filled role perfectly. Wonder Woman looked perfect, and though her role in this movie was small, she’ll probably be amazing in her standalone movie. Eisenberg did a terrible job as Lex Luthor. Doomsday didn’t look very good, sometimes. The death of Superman could have been handled better.
Those things are easy to point out. Many critics and reviews are saying that Batman v Superman is not a good movie. I think that might not be specific enough. The real problem is that Batman v Superman is not a good Superman movie.
What if we didn’t think of Henry Cavill’s character as Superman? If we disassociated his character from Superman, would BvS be a better movie?
Maybe. Let’s compare Superman with Cavill’s character. To keep them straight, I will rename Henry Cavill’s character something more inline with what he portrayed: Ironheart.
Superman is more than just the costume and the powers. He is the ultimate Boy Scout, honest to a fault, and moral. He does what is right, because it is right. Life throws him curve balls, but he rises above it. He stands for hope. Though he comes from a different planet, Earth is his home, and he has friends and family here.
Ironheart is weighed down by the darkness around him. He is on Earth, but he is separate. A powerful stranger. He wants to do what is right most of the time, but he’s haunted by the ghost of his father, telling him that no good deed goes unpunished. Ironheart has two tethers keeping him grounded: Lois Lane, and his mother. The S on his chest stands for hope, but he doesn’t have any of his own, and he doesn’t know how to inspire it.
As a writer, I like Ironheart. I like the story potential in a character like that. I like Superman, too, but I think I’d have an easier time writing a character like Ironheart. The character Cavill portrayed is vulnerable in ways that Superman is not, and I think that is interesting.
The movie has other problems, no doubt about it. It is a beautiful, joyless affair, with major plot holes and a villain that is also miscast or misnamed, or both. But the movie’s greatest sin is trying to take a character like Ironheart and calling him Superman. The two are not interchangeable.
Hopefully, Zack Snyder learns from this. He’s good at making pretty movies. Maybe he just needs to work with someone else that can keep him grounded and focused.