To Destroy Even Gods

Right, well. Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, then. Or ‘Bats-v-Supes’, as it’s known to its friends. We went to see it.

And it’s bloody good. The Internet might be insisting that it isn’t, but on a scale of this kind of movie, it bloody is. So the Internet’s wrong. (Coo: when’s the last time that happened?)

Following on from the also-unjustly-completely-panned Man of Steel (which I thought was pretty good for the first two-thirds and just got too punchy-and-explodey at the end), BVS presents us with a superficially ridiculous contest. On one side, Batman: admittedly fit as all hell, skilled martial artist with a full suite of futuristic technology and a butler-slash-drone pilot – but still, for all that, basically a middle-aged human being.

On the other side, Superman: effectively a god – impervious to damage, age, disease; able to basically pick up mountains and move them around without lever or fulcrum; has built-in directed-energy weapons; and can actually fly, rather than just swinging on lines.

But as the movie unfolds, the match-up seems less contrived, having not only a plausible motivation but also a levelling factor with the (probably obvious) inclusion of kryptonite. As with the recent Marvel movies, BVS presents the question of power-against-responsibility. After the destruction of a Wayne Financial office building in Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne takes fiercely against Superman. The main theme of the movie – at least until (again) the last act – is the question of whether a (nearly) all-powerful alien being can ever be trusted to be a friend to mankind, or whether we should assume, based on our own experience, that absolute power eventually leads to tyranny.

Should we be willing to destroy even gods if they threaten to subjugate us, no matter if they might believe it’s ‘for the greater good’? There are so many important themes here that it’s always a shame when a movie touching on them degenerates into blasty-kerpowy-kaboomy at the end. And this one does, but even then it’s not bad. It’s certainly not as over-the-top as Man of Steel was. It has power, it has excitement, it has drama and poignancy when it needs it, and it’s even got a few little glimmers of humour, and lots of references and in-jokes – probably far more than I picked up on, not being a comic-book reader.

Overall it compares well, I think, to the Marvel movies – which I’ve loved so far – and I’m looking forward to what DC do next. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, both houses can keep taking my money.

If I have a complaint it’s probably the under-use of Wonder Wom… Sorry, ‘Diana Prince’. She does turn up, and it could be argued she has a key role to play; but I’d like to have seen more of her, and to find out a little more about this modern movie version of the character. But I suppose that will come: I hear tell there’re plans for a sudden Wonder Woman movie given the popularity of her appearance here.

So basically, don’t believe the reviews that slag BVS off. If you’re into superhero stories or just mythic stories, or modern stories that touch on the Big Questions that mythology has basically always been about, it’s worth seeing. And if you just like watching people being punched around and things blowing up, there’s still a fair bit of both.


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