Over the past 24 hours, I’ve read a lot of negative reviews of Batman V Superman. Most of them include some variation of “it’s too grim.” Admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie yet. But to those of you who, like me, are looking forward to this movie, I say: relax. Based on trailers, interviews and early reactions, I’m confident this is the movie it’s supposed to be.
When it was announced that Ben Affleck would play Batman in BvS, the internet collectively screamed “this is the reason this movie will fail.” Affleck ended up being so good in it, the film was reportedly re-edited to feature him more. By all accounts, BvS is now more of a Batman movie than a Superman movie.
Now the critics are saying “Affleck’s great, but here’s some other reason this isn’t the movie I wanted.” And again, I stand by the filmmakers. Everything I’ve seen so far is true to the comics’ best portrayals of the character (most notably Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, one of the best Batman stories ever written). Yes, it looks darker than the Marvel movies. For a Batman movie, that’s a good thing. This was never supposed to be The Avengers. Of course, Warner Brothers and DC would like to replicate Disney and Marvel’s success with their own cinematic universe. Of course, it’s inevitable that Man of Steel, BvS and the upcoming Justice League would be compared to The Avengers and its satellite properties. But it’s a false comparison. DC characters and Marvel characters have always been different.
A Batman movie with the tone of The Avengers would make no sense at all. Sure, The Avengers was fun. I laughed as hard as anyone when the Hulk slung Loki around like a rag doll. It was funny, and it fit that movie. But if you go into Batman V Superman expecting visual gags out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon, you don’t know who these characters are. The days of the Silver Age smiley-Batman and the Adam West show are long gone. Batman & Robin never should have happened. It’s 2016, and my Batman is dark.
Batman broods. Batman operates at night. Batman hangs out on stone gargoyles, gets rained on and glowers down on his filthy city, waiting to swoop down and break men’s bones. Batman has devoted his life to being the most brilliant detective, the most devastating warrior, the tactician who has a plan for anything, everything, always, the living embodiment of Don’t-Screw-With-My-Town. Batman is a terrifying, violent person, more comfortable in a mask than out of it. Batman is the most intense, driven, justice-obsessed person alive. He Is Crazy. He Is SUPPOSED TO BE CRAZY.
In this story, the aforementioned crazy person has just lost a lot of people he felt responsible for, killed by two aliens with God-like power. So, this person is also filled with rage, and hell-bent on killing the surviving god-alien, at least at first. If that sounds like a grim story, well… sorry. But any other approach wouldn’t make sense, especially in the context of Man of Steel.
Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine and Deadpool are fun, and I love seeing them come to life on film. But they have a completely different vibe than Superman and Batman. The Nolan Batman films, Man of Steel and, I expect, Batman V Superman are essays on heroism. Superman is an orphaned immigrant, a man of immense power torn between two fathers, trying to decide what his role on earth should be, and what mankind is to him. Sorry if that’s not as fun as Deadpool, but it’s not trying to be. It’s trying to inspire us, and to say something meaningful.
Don’t be swayed by the critics. Go see this movie. No, it probably will not have funny one-liners, wink-wink moments and dance-offs. But it will be AWESOME, and not in the common, over-used sense of the word. For Christ’s sake, we get to see Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on the big screen together for the first time EVER. If you can’t enjoy seeing the Trinity of the Justice League together because you prefer John Williams to Hans Zimmer, or because you think Jesse Eisenberg is annoying, or because Doomsday doesn’t look as real as you think a Kryptonian rock monster who fires solar flares out of his eyeholes should look, my answer to you is: we might be getting a little spoiled as an audience. Uncross your arms, put aside your cynicism for a few hours and let the filmmakers tell you a story. This movie looks great, I’m thrilled that studios are throwing this kind of money at iconic comic stories, and I want them to keep doing it. Take my money, DC. I am ALL IN.
See you at the theater.
Turn your damn phone off.