Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
The Young Folks has been littered with think pieces and reviews of this month’s most anticipated release, Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Our critic gave it a much more favorable review than I would have, and it, such as the case with many films that have a pre-built in fan following, has split the critics and fans down the middle in regards to its pure enjoyment factor. It’s unlikely there will be an agreement made, but I’m of the mind that, rather than be angry at the writers who critique the film, would instead be angry at the director and studio who continue to put out films that so fundamentally tear down the ideology the heroes stand for.
All of this to say, that I had rather agitated opinions of the film as I walked out of the theater which only have grown since I’ve had time to think back on what I saw. From the opening, distasteful images that used purposeful 9/11 imagery to evoke manipulated emotions, Jesse Eisenberg’s twitchy, compulsory performance which is much more a Joker knock-off than a Lex Luther, to the contrived manner that forces these two brutes of characters to battle in the first place, this film was the epitome of a letdown. Ugly in the way it was shot and tone deaf in the way it was written, Batman v. Superman threw away any kind of attachment and warmth these characters inspired for the sake of insipid, testosterone fueled filmmaking that would make Michael Bay proud.
I can count a few moments I liked, maybe, and most of them had to do with hints of what was to come. Not because any of them were all that well shot or intriguingly conceived but because I, like many of you, have been waiting to see these characters all together on the big screen for a long time now and even my rage at the movie couldn’t stamper out my childlike glee at seeing the Holy Trinity of the superhero pantheon up on screen together in the midst of an epic showdown.
These moments of excitement were fleeting. I enjoyed Ben Affleck as well as Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons, although the last three were undeserved. I found the score to be interesting and there were some visuals that I thought played nicely.
But the only sliver of hope in the film didn’t come from the two heroes (antiheroes?) in the title, but the Amazon warrior who stood as the dust cleared after saving Batman and truly shined a light on what makes us love superheroes and root for them each and every time we step into a theater.
This is the hero’s entrance we needed and had wanted from Batman and Superman for the entirety of the film.
I can’t have possibly been the only one that was hoping for Wonder Woman to knock the raging, egomaniac versions of Batman and Superman out by the end of the film? In the lead up to the movie, there was much talk about who was going to win the titular battle and by the time the standoff comes to be (seemingly four hours later) I was hoping they’d both just decide not to show up because at that point I had zero investment in the victor.
The ONLY superhero in the film who can even pass as her origin counterpart was Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Don’t try to tell me that the man with artillery weaponry who branded criminals was the tortured but righteous Dark Knight, or that the scowling and smug man in the red cape was our Man of Steel; I refuse to believe it. They aren’t the heroes their cities or their audience deserved. I understand the necessity of artistic liberty and how putting creative spins on popular characters can lead to inventive and fresh storytelling-embrace this, it’s what makes cinema so much fun. What I can’t get behind is Snyder creating two characters so wholly opposite from their namesakes, and smacking those titles on the characters.
The woman however who had an out, a ticket to leave the destruction behind her and instead came back to the city to help two strangers overcome a monster that man created? Who lurched herself into battle with a blood thirsty grin and the power of an Amazon? She is the hero we all deserved in the film and the character who ultimately wins the audience’s celebratory cheers because she’s the one whose only motives were to strictly save lives. Her fearsome battle cry, her astounding, unflinching strength, Gadot’s believable physicality all lent itself to giving a paper thin character (due to the script) a soul and someone worth watching.
Sadly, Wonder Woman mainly “wins” because she wasn’t in the film long enough to receive the disingenuous character assassination that Batman and Superman were delivered. While they were having every nuance, every character beat that made them into the beloved characters they are (were), she got to play in the smaller moments and, most importantly, got a key shining moment in the finale battle. It’s her smirk when Doomsday fights back, refreshed and excited as she bounds forth into the fray of battle and destruction that enlivens what was really an uninspired, tepid battle sequence.
Prior to this moment, she’s shrouded in an air of mystery with a story completely separate from the main narrative, simply trying to find something that Lex stole from her. Her only other purpose is seen in sequences between her and Affleck’s Bruce, the two sharing a purposeful chemistry, as they represent building blocks in the larger DCEU.
Wonder Woman is the character, the hero, that I wanted to see throughout the entire film and she, along with director Patty Jenkins, are the sole reasons I’m excited to see her solo film, something that couldn’t come soon enough. She wins the proverbial fight because she, no matter how few of minutes she shared on the big screen, is what heroes and their writers should strive for in their foundations. She’s cool, collected and intriguing and kicks major butt when the disguise comes off and the armor is donned. She is, however fleetingly, the ideal for superheros, the ones that for so long Superman and Batman had held a mantle for. We can assume that such as the other two that Wonder Woman has been dealt her own hand of loss and trauma, but if the film is anything to go by, rather than let it deter her or turn her mean and psychotic, it’s simply bolstered her. I don’t know when the idea of superheroes believing in justice, peace and love for humanity became “uncool” and Batman v Superman is yet another cynical output in a ever growing list of superhero movies that would rather show their heroes as curmudgeon and unwilling players. Realism can succeed-and the every day hero is something that Marvel has excelled at, but Synder is playing with characters likened to Gods, and they’re supposed to be better, to know better.
Wonder Woman wins because she’s the only real hero left standing by the end of the film.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is out now. Let us know in the comments what you thought of the film and who you think ultimately stole the show.