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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice Ultimate

Zack Snyder’s script for the 2016 hit/flop, Batman v Superman The Dawn of Justice, isn’t all that bad. The villain tricks two superheroes into believing that the other has been a careless murderer, and if you think Superman could whoop Batman with his little finger, you’re forgetting Kryptonite. Snyder’s adaptation boasts an Old Testament undertone, set against a futuristic, yet present-day. Snyder’s execution, however, is ill-advised and lackluster despite the fact he made one of the finest comic book movies ever, Watchmen. This was a problem with the theatrical release, but the core flaws remain in the three-disc Blu-ray, Batman v Superman The Dawn of Justice Ultimate. The theatrical version, included on both the DVD and one of the BDs, runs 151 minutes, while the Ultimate Edition, featured on the other BD disc, runs 183 minutes. The additional footage brings more to the story, expanding scenes, adding action (and violence—Ultimate Edition was changed from ‘PG-13’ to ‘R’), and creating a better balance for the film’s pace.

BvS has been criticized for being humorless, and there are only three jokes or so in the entire expanded feature. As much as we thrive on the clever banter in many of the other superhero movies, a film can still entertain without that sort of thing if it achieves a compelling vision and delivers a strong dramatic conflict where you can see into the souls of the characters. Snyder fails to achieve that alternative. Henry Cavill carries over his Superman character from Man of Steel, a film I found to be very entertaining and satisfying. Since his character was already well established in that film, however, there is not much that can be added to his personality or psychology in this one. He still has more flair and humanity than Ben Affleck, who fills in stiffly as Batman. Affleck’s character is given very little depth, despite dream sequences that are supposed to show his emotional suffering. Normally, a director and actor can work around such limitations, since that is what good acting is supposed to be about, but Affleck offers nothing—no zeal, no introspection, no feelings at all. Christian Bale was probably smart to duck out on the part.

Near the end of the film, after a couple of teasing glimpses early on, Gal Gadot shows up as Wonder Woman.’Her entire presence reeks of a promotion for sequels and spin-offs. You know nothing about her other than she is hot, and has some kind of glowing lasso that can take down monsters. The personality will have to wait for another movie, and besides, she is overshadowed by the film’s one true saving grace, Amy Adams, who provides the spine of the film. Like the comic book series from so long ago, the film really should have been titled, “Lois Lane,” as Adams provides not only the movie’s heart, but its only identifiably normal persona. Without her, the film would be a complete waste of time, but with her, you’re willing to stick around and watch all the other stuff.

The villain is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, who has been faulted, one supposes, for not bringing enough machismo to his part, something even Gene Hackman managed to do in his rendition of the role back in the Seventies, however much of a buffoon he otherwise was. Frankly, we don’t care as much about tradition as others, especially when it comes to comic books. Next to Adams, Eisenberg’s villain is the softest and most accessible character. Snyder fails him by not drawing a little more eccentricity out of his behavior, but his character growth is effective and by the end, he is the only one among the principals who shows real promise for whatever sequels may come.

And the rest is hardware and effects, which ought to be Snyder’s forte, but is reduced to the most common denominators and is rarely enlivening. All comic book movies these days suffer from competitive escalation—the big effect scenes have to be bigger and more amazing than the ones in other movies. One reason Ant-man succeeded was that it just kept to its own little thing, adding a few interesting and engaging visuals, but avoiding a grand spectacle. But with some movie entitled Batman v Superman, a grand spectacle is expected. That’s probably why Snyder got hired, for his abilities as a visionary, but those abilities failed him. A few of the action scenes are engaging, but none are memorable, and the big battle at the end, except for the sequences involving Adams, is neither original nor particularly inventive. Its level of spectacle was surpassed several years ago.

 

One Response to “DVD Geek: Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice Ultimate”

  1. Richard says:

    I enjoyed the movie :)! Accurate review!

The Ultimate DVD Geek

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin