Thursday, May 12, 2016

Film review: Batman v Superman

Ann Barnhardt has posted her long-awaited final video, on Diabolical Narcissism, Remember Lot's Wife. It is tremendously incisive, upsetting, illuminating, and important. Every adult today should see it; it is very needed information on both a personal and civilizational level.

What further I have to say here is quite insignificant in comparison, so do watch her video rather than read my entry if your time is limited.

A small mention that Miss Barnhardt makes in the video leads me to my first of my promised film reviews. She uses Man of Steel as an example of the mainstreaming of narcissistic lack of empathy: how after the final battle wherein Metropolis is practically leveled, with the implied deaths of thousands, Superman and Lois Lane seemingly disregard this tragedy, "googly-eyed" at each other, and kiss.

As I watched her condemn this, I couldn't help exclaiming, "The versus movie addresses that very thing!"

And so, my first film review according to my plan to be helpful to Catholic parents:

Batman v Superman

In short:
On my first viewing,

How good is it: Powerful performances, clever and interwoven writing, and moody yet radiant visuals create a tragic, gripping, and united film which yet strongly suggests a much larger story. Very much better than I had expected; I had been expecting a mediocre, boring thing with a lot of pointless explosions, posturing, and trying to copy the Avengers movies. It's not like that at all.

For whom do I recommend: Not for children under an age of mature understanding, around 13, because of moral complexity and swear words; also one line subtly implies one character may have been sexually abused as a child. In truth, I would not recommend it to anyone who does not have a fair amount of background knowledge and understanding of the original comics' stories, but for those who do, I recommend it whole-heartedly.

The full review is below the cut, and includes a specific spoiler that happens very early on, as well as some other spoilers that I try not to be too specific about and are probably known to anyone who has looked into the promotional material. I do not spoil most major revelations and turnabouts nor the ending.

While I think Miss Barnhardt's interpretation of the scene in Man of Steel is a bit off--I got a sense of sadness from the way in which Superman and Lois acted that suggested they were not insensitive to the tragedy--many other people also thought Superman too callous to the collateral damage. This problem, then, is fully acknowledged in Batman v Superman, when we see Bruce Wayne driving through the midst of that chaos, desperately trying to evacuate people from his skyscraper crumbling from the very battle that was the climax of Man of Steel.

Superman squarely shows himself too passive, caring too little about those other than Lois, when in an early scene he appears faster than a speeding bullet to save her from terrorists, but not Jimmy Olsen, whose death is sudden and utterly shocking for the silver age comics fan, who knows Jimmy as Superman's pal who could always rely on him to be only a watch signal away. Some would call this death a needless sucker punch, but I think it makes it clear how much Superman has gone astray.

In contrast to Superman's passivity is Batman, under scrutiny for being too aggressive, and burning with moral outrage over the apparent lack of empathy that is exactly what Ann Barnhardt condemned. As she says in her video, which again I enjoin you to watch, contrary to the uncaring lovelessness of diabolical narcissists is "Blessed are they that mourn," out of love, and Batman is, not just in this film but inherently to the character, so mourning. I never expected Ben Affleck to be able to pull off Batman, let alone Batman in the devastating dark night of his grief for the second Robin, Jason Todd. But incredibly, he does.

This battle of superheroes is full of symbolism. The Christ-figuring of Superman that they rather beat us over the head with in Man of Steel continues, but only after he has made up for his mistakes, sacrificially.

Many Christians take the attitude that heroes, Superman in particular, must be always be portrayed as flawlessly good and that superhero tragedy belongs only in the backstory. I disagree, but acknowledge that if a story is for children, it should be more like that, more cheerful and straightforward with characters' moral states. So this film is not for children; but that doesn't mean it's false or evil.

Since this movie is part of a large upcoming set of Justice League films, one cannot judge this story wholly yet, and parts of that may yet be corrupt or simply badly done. For example, I liked Wonder Woman fine in Batman v Superman since she didn't start preaching feminism like she usually does and evinced surprise and desperation at times, rather than the constant I'm-too-cool nothing-phases-me pissy bitch attitude that is so common among "strong female characters." However, I do fully expect her to be obnoxiously feministic in her upcoming solo movie.

Overall though, Batman v Superman is exciting, engaging, and moving, especially when one appreciates the various source material and the complexity, sadness, and love of the characters therein.

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