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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

TRAILER TALK - BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: Chris Terrio
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL
Release date: March 25, 2016


Well, it's finally here. The first (full) trailer for Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder's nerd dream event - and undoubtedly my most anticipated movie in history at this point - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, arrived to an overwhelmingly positive reception a few days ago, mere minutes after it was broadcast live in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con. Because it premiered at said event, this trailer is three-and-a-half minutes long, and gives us our first real glimpse into what Dawn of Justice is really about. There's a lot to dissect here, but one thing's for sure: this looks like it has the potential to really be something special.


The first thing that Batman v Superman makes abundantly clear is that the events of Man of Steel have not gone unnoticed. In fact, the repercussions of that film's climax seem to be laying the foundations for everything that occurs here. Superman's appearance on Earth and the aftermath of his destructive battle with Zod have seemingly shook the world into a state of panic, with people being divided as to whether his arrival is a blessing or a curse. It's actually quite fascinating to see that, for the first time in one of these movies, there are actually going to be real-world consequences for the arrival of an otherworldly hero. It's a strong concept that's never really been delved into this heavily and should at least come to an interesting conclusion, as well as provide potentially great themes and dramatic material regarding whether or not Superman is the hero we truly deserve. With that being said, I hope they don't run it into the ground. Whether it was WB and Snyder's plan all along to get all meta and mirror the real-life reactions to Man of Steel or not, the fact of the matter is that Superman is a hero and we all know that. The moral ambiguity and soul-searching as Clark tries to find his place in the world is fine, but hopefully this will be no more than a stepping stone before he becomes the man that enjoys being a hero instead of wondering whether or not he deserves to be one.


I've been a firm supporter of Ben Affleck's decision to take up the mantle of The Dark Knight since day 1, and judging by the reactions, his critics have finally been silenced by this trailer. For good reason, too: he looks the part more than any of his predecessors (both in and out of the suit), his reasons for going head-to-head with Superman are surprisingly convincing, and the scene featuring him running right into the battlefield of Man of Steel while everybody else makes a run for it is a Batman moment if there ever was one. There are multiple elements in this trailer that further accentuate this "hardened and weary" angle for Snyder's Dark Knight: from the more obvious visual cues such as prosthetic wrinkles and grey hair, to the ones that may slip past more casual viewers, such as the defaced Robin suit alluding to the classic story in which the Joker murdered former Robin Jason Todd by beating him to death with a crowbar. 


In fact, it seems as if this Batman even brands his defeated criminals, judging from the imprinted Bat-symbol on the thug's chest. If this is anything to go by - along with the fact that this interpretation takes some heavy inspiration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns - I'd be surprised if this Batman wasn't the type to break every bone in your body and let you live with it instead of killing you. The type that's just tired of everyone's sh*t, with no mercy for anyone attempting to get in the way of sweet, sweet justice. 


We also get our first look at Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, in the character's LONG overdue live-action debut role. Gadot's casting has been just as controversial as Affleck's if not more, with rabid fanboys constantly questioning her acting ability, while becoming fitness experts and demanding she attain the build of an MMA fighter. My stance on Gadot has been somewhat of a rollercoaster, but regardless I don't think it's fair to judge her on her current film work. The few parts that she has had so far have been far too insignificant to allow me to form a real opinion, however I've started to warm up to her casting more overtime and this trailer has only added to that. Granted, we still haven't heard her utter a word in this part and we only have three quick shots of her in costume here, but she looks fantastic and considering that WB know how much is riding on her and are making it clear that this character is a top priority for them, I'm feeling relatively confident that she'll be the first female superhero to really make an impression in a cinematic format.


I'm not gonna lie, when I first heard Jesse Eisenberg had been cast as Lex Luthor I thought April Fools had come early. That geeky guy from The Social Network? As Lex Luthor, "greatest criminal mastermind of our time"? As far as I'm concerned it's a crime against humanity that Kevin Spacey will never get to reprise the role, but I'm actually really liking what I'm seeing here. Just like in the teaser he has some of the best dialogue on display ("devils don't come from hell beneath us... they come from the sky"), and despite this obviously being a different take on the character, Eisenberg still shows some very clear signs of Lex-ism here. His mocking delivery of the Paul Revere-inspired "the red capes are coming" makes it clear that that god complex and feeling of superiority over anything with a cape is still prevalent, and he seems to be revelling in the conflict between Batman and Superman, delivering a grandiose commentary as they bring each other closer to their own destruction ("God versus man, day versus night!"). My favourite part of this entire trailer may even be the short scene where Lex has Superman on his knees, and the Man of Steel looks up at his arch-nemesis like he just wants to bash his face in, but knows he can't. My one true worry when it comes to this casting is that I strongly believe Eisenberg shouldn't be playing his usual self here - as in, the smart, quirky, stuttering kid who runs his mouth like he lives on Pepsi. There's no sign of that here, but we only have a couple of lines to go by so we'll see how things turn out. However, while I understand those who are still weary of this casting, considering Eisenberg's caliber and attitude as an actor, plus the fact that this will be a fresh and potentially more interesting rendition of the character, I think he could actually surprise people. We also know he'll lose the hair eventually, so fans have no need to fret in that regard.


One of the reasons why this trailer succeeds is because it gives us enough so that we know the basic plot (which is basically that Batman, along with half of the public, sees Superman as a threat and wants to take him out), but it never goes all Sony on us and shows far too much before the film is even out. There are little moments of intrigue sprinkled throughout this trailer, such as the aforementioned Robin costume, a destroyed Wayne Manor and a surprise appearance by Zod's corpse, no doubt in the possession of Lex Luthor for some DNA replicating or something of the sort. But one of my favourite things that this trailer has proudly on display is the return of cinematographer Larry Fong. No matter what one may think of Snyder as a director, one of the things that almost everybody can agree on is that the visuals in most of his films are spectacular. A large part of this is due to Fong's input, and I couldn't help but be a little disappointed when it was absent for Man of Steel. Batman v Superman however, brings the "Watchmen style" back by the bucketsful, giving it that distinct visual style that I have not only missed, but I think benefits the film more, helping it blur the lines between comic book and reality (there are even little nuggets of fan-service here, with one shot of Batman almost perfectly replicating the cover art of The Dark Knight Returns). It's also clear that Batman v Superman is favouring more smooth and stylised camera movements, as opposed to the shaky-cam and somewhat documentary-esque camerawork from Man of Steel that some took issue with. While I personally didn't mind the previous decision, when it comes to these kinds of movies I can't deny that a more traditional approach is much more appealing. 


If there's one legitimate worry that I currently have about Batman v Superman, it's that I can't help but be slightly concerned about all the world-building set-up material that will inevitably be here (and is already evident due to Wonder Woman's inclusion in the film, along with the film's subtitle alluding to the Justice League). The way they're going about this in story terms seems like it could work quite well, but this cannot be another Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes WB, we know you're thoroughly upset that Marvel beat you to the punch with the idea of a shared cinematic universe, but this stuff has to feel natural. For a film that boasts an Oscar-winning screenwriter, some fantastic concepts and is surprisingly looking to be a bit more intellectual than 99% of most "vs" movies (and superhero movies in general), it would be a huge shame for it to be boggled down by having the script shout "JUSTICE LEAGUE, BITCH!" in your ear every ten minutes. 


As someone whose hype levels for this movie are at astronomical proportions, thankfully this trailer made that hype and getting up at 5 in the morning to watch social media explode immediately after its release worth it. I'm just glad that more people are starting to realise this film actually has the potential to be truly great, and not just because Batman and Superman are going to punch each other in live-action for the first time. There's actually one hell of a team working on this film, all things considered. The pressure is on for Warner Bros. to deliver here. If they screw up Batman vs Superman? That's it. Done. Throw away the public's trust and the thought of getting that shared universe together, guys. This movie has to succeed. 

But honestly? I feel like it can.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hits theatres 25 March, 2016 worldwide.