Friday, April 8, 2016

That part of Batman v. Superman I really liked

Stipulated: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a very good movie.

Everyone knows this. The critics know it. The filmmakers probably know it. The internet definitely knows it, the loud braying of a bunch of overexcited fanboys notwithstanding.

But there was one part of the movie I really liked. In fact, there was one part I thought was flipping awesome.

When I finally watched the movie on Wednesday night, nearly two weeks after it had been released here in Australia -- which, with all the memes and discussions it has generated, felt like an eternity -- I was really nervous during the first 15 minutes, because I realized it was possible I might love this movie.

Never would I have guessed that when a movie I heard was this bad went back into the events of another movie I didn't like, I would love it. But that's what the first 15-minute (or so) revisit of the climax of Man of Steel did for me.

I can't describe the epic chill I experienced from getting the street level, WTF-is-going-on view of that large alien ship drilling Metropolis like an oil rig, and the sounds that were emanating from it. Man of Steel was long enough ago, apparently, that I hadn't remembered the sounds that ship made, or its awesome appearance. But it's also very likely by the end of the running time of Man of Steel, I'd just had it with that movie, and the climax could never have had much of an impact on me -- other than worsening my already bad impression of the movie.

But at the beginning ... something about it just froze me in my tracks.

Enter Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who unbeknownst to us was one of the little ants scurrying around on the Metropolis streets, being squashed by the big bugs of Krypton. This street view immediately becomes Bruce's view, and although he's anything but an average joe himself, his perspective functions as that of an average joe in this situation. It helps to have a specific pair of eyes through which to view these casually horrific events, which do indeed feel titanically horrific as depicted in Batman v. Superman.

They are "casually" horrific because the destruction isn't even the intention of any of the fighters, who include primarily Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon), but some other nameless Kryptonians as well. It's just collateral damage from using such outrageously strong biological weapons on each other -- and in this case, "biological" means "produced directly by their own alien biology." Sure, Zod et al are hellbent on destruction in a general sense in that they mean to colonize this planet for the survivors of Krypton, which also means shaping it into something entirely different than what it currently is. But they don't have a specific malice directed toward any of these people or buildings. They don't destroy merely out of a perversity of spirit.

Superman must, of course, use similar weapons to fight Zod et al, hence the beams that shoot out of his eyes slicing a building in half. Which is an astonishing thing to witness in this movie indeed.

But what's so singularly fascinating about this sequence is that you don't actually see Superman or Zod, or not in any real way. They are little powerful specks in the distance, and could be the size of Mighty Mouse for how small they seem. That something so small could cause so much damage is, well, the principle upon which all nuclear and chemical warfare is based.

But not seeing them is what really gives this scene its sense of powerful realism. The scene is not beholden to the ordinary narrative dictates that would require us to get close-ups of the faces of Superman and Zod ... dictates which, for obvious reasons, were in fact in place in Man of Steel. Without being privy to their faces, and therefore, without having some sense of their motivations, it all just seems like wanton destruction, chaos without meaning or end.

In short, the crumbling of these buildings, the loss of these lives, and the understandable horror on the face of a helpless Bruce Wayne knocked my socks off.

The rest of the movie? Well, you know.

Everybody does.

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