As a kid, I never really had a problem reading a movie review before actually going to see a film. I had already made my mind up about whether or not I wanted to see a new flick, so neither a good review nor a bad one could sway me. Yet as I’ve started seeing movies with the expectation of reviewing them for the blog, I’ve begun to steer clear of the professional critics, at least until after I’ve had a chance to form my own opinions.
In the case of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, my self-imposed media blackout was in the hope of staving off any possible spoilers before the Mysterious Mr. C and I joined the throngs going to see the sequel. In the case of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice however, it was an attempt to avoid the negativity that seemed to be pouring in from all sides. But try as I might, I just couldn’t avoid all of the headlines and tweets panning the entry designed to kick off the DC Extended Universe. Yet when the lights came up in the theater that C and I were in, we looked at each other in shock and agreed: we and the critics had seen completely different films because we both really liked Zack Snyder’s latest foray into the world of Gotham and Metropolis.
To be sure, BvS is not a perfect film and it’s full of Snyder’s stylistic preferences, from shaky camera footage to time ramping to a dark blue/teal color scheme, and there is still a ridiculous amount of destruction with little thought given to the consequences for the average citizen, but I don’t think it’s deserving of the kind of criticism that it has received thus far.
First of all, Ben Affleck is AMAZING as Batman!! I totally bought his portrayal of the Dark Knight, who is a little older (and grayer) and a lot more cynical about the world. But after decades spent fighting criminals in Gotham, can you really blame him? And now there’s a seemingly indestructible alien to contend with? I would probably be a bit exhausted from it all too. On top of that, having seen several animated DC Comics films, including The Dark Knight Returns, Part II (which itself is derived from Frank Miller’s classic “The Dark Knight Returns” and several other comics that also informed BvS), I felt that Affleck’s character was much truer to the source material than some of the other men who have donned the cowl.
Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel was – as many reviewers pointed out – a bit more of an enigma, but you do still get a sense of his struggle with his role in the world and whether or not he’s a hero, deserving of the praise and adoration he’s been given. And if he seems quiet and reserved, or unsure of himself, it’s likely because he literally has no one he can talk to about any of this. There are no other aliens or meta-humans, as far as he knows, though that does change at the end of the movie with the arrival of Wonder Woman – played coyly, yet powerfully, by Gal Godot.
The one character I couldn’t quite get a handle on was Lex Luthor, who was played with a “Jim Carrey as the Riddler”-sort of abandon by Jesse Eisenberg. Yet while his performance may have been a little over the top, I still felt like I could understand his motivation, if not his whole master plan. Luthor is clearly a man with “daddy issues” and has all the hallmarks of someone trying to live up to the mantel that comes with having a certain name, but not the experience to go with it. That is most evident in his rambling, and painfully awkward, speech at a benefit for the Metropolis library, but it is still in character with, well, the character. As the DCEU expands, Eisenberg may need to rein in the crazy just a bit, but in BvS, it works.
And despite the preponderance of bad reviews, BvS worked for enough of us that the film smashed box office records this past weekend, taking in $424.1 million globally and helping Warner Bros. score the fourth-biggest global debut in history – ahead of any Marvel movie to date. So maybe I was right to ignore the opinions of critics for all of those years, and should start taking them with a few more grains of salt once again.