Saturday, April 18, 2015

False god: Reviewing the 'Batman v Superman' teaser trailer

Superman isn't too popular. And I'm not even talking about live-action films, animated movies or even merchandising.

Labeled a "false god" by a vandal with red spraypaint on a statute in his honor, Superman's reputation and legacy is taking a beating. As one man says in the opening seconds of the "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" teaser trailer, "Is it really surprising that the most powerful being in the world should be a figure of controversy?"

If the 2:14 of director Zack Snyder's trailer is to be believed, the Man of Steel has a lot to prove to the citizens of Metropolis, if not the world -- the people who know or at least think they know anything about him. Basically, Supes isn't winning any popularity contests. In fact, it sounds as if people don't revere him as a god, they consider him an alien or devil.

Reflecting a real world of cynics and non-believers, the Snyderverse is ripe with people who don't trust Superman. The Kryptonian 'S' in his shield stands for hope, but people fear him as much as they mistrust him.

(This will lead into an op-ed titled "How does 'Man of Steel" lead into 'Dawn of Justice'?" to be written and posted here soon. Believe it or not, I had the idea for it weeks ago. Now, the release of the "DoJ" trailer will give the piece some more depth and perspective -- or at the very least, weight to my educated speculation. Once I watch "MoS" one more time, I'll write it.)

Is Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons) addressing this same issue? 

If the editing of the footage is to be believed, the sage gentleman's gentleman seems to be speaking to Bruce Wayne, a very stoic looking Ben Affleck, whose expression leads me to believe he has a heavy heart.

"That's how it starts -- the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness -- that turns good men cruel," Alfred says.

Is that what has happened to Superman, a superhero we know and adore in the comics for always doing the right thing? Is Alfred even talking about the Man or Steel? Or is he taking Wayne to task about his own demons?

Wayne seems to be staring at his Batman costume. (Again, directors often edit trailers to make audiences think one thing, when in fact, another thing is actually the case in the context of the storyline.) 

Is Wayne compelled to to don the Batman suit to handle the Superman issue? Or is he looking so brow-beaten because he thought he'd put his superhero-ing days behind him? Maybe the billionaire resents having to rise to the occasion one more time as Batman, the good guy willing to walk the dangerous and slippery slope between justice and doing what needs to be done. 

Is it possible Wayne is torn between staying retired, doing what's necessary and knowing he needs to guide Superman into the path of righteousness and/or fight him -- even if that means the public perceives Batman as a loose cannon?

There's no doubt there will be a Superman-Batman showdown.

Whether this will be the climax of "Dawn of Justice" is unknown; although the teaser trailer leads us to believe that. 

My overriding hope is there's much more to Snyder's film than a big brawl. Even more than that, I'd like to see Bats and Supes fight it out relatively early in the film, only to realize that fighting together for the common good is more practical and better use of their gifts. 

Of course, I'd wanted a "World's Finest"/team-up-type film, but obviously the Snyderverse is a dark, dark place and the reality of what I wanted so, so many years ago is the farthest thing from that possibility. …

Ben Affleck's armor in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is based on
the one worn by the Dark Knight in THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
This image is from the brilliant two-part animated movie based on Frank Miller's story.
As in the comics, Batman won't be afraid to fight dirty against Superman in "Dawn of Justice." He's wearing an armor straight out of Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS limited series/graphic novel, so he's obviously prepared to do what it takes to battle Superman. (And did you notice the RETURNS-like rifle Batman carries while keeping watch on the city from top of a skyscraper?) Just check the conviction in the Dark Knight's line: "Tell me: Do you bleed? … You will."

That is, if the computer-tweaked voice is even Batman's. 

(Full credit goes to Bill "Jett" Ramey, webmaster of the spectacular website, for listending to a BOF reader who suggested that possibility — and getting both us to consider it. Ramey mentioned it in his "scattershot review" of the "DoJ" trailer.) 

Affleck's Batman is one buff dude. 

His time in the gym has paid dividends -- not that I expected anything less. Affleck's physique is another reminder of Miller's RETURNS-style Batman. 

While I can't completely agree with Jett, who back in Feburary already was saying Affleck is "the most physically suited actor" to portray Batman on film, I will say he's a close second to Christian Bale, who I said years ago was a "cape and cowl above" previous Batman actors.

The footage doesn't show us nearly enough of the Batmobile — only a quick clip from the rear of the Batmobile roaring into action, possibly where Batman and Superman will confront each other. This is enough for me to confirm this version doesn't look too much different from the Tumbler in the Christoper Nolan trilogy. 

Heck, I didn't even realize that was the Batplane/Batwing/Batjet roaring into the same location until second viewing …!

Back to the Batman-Superman tension before I wrap up this already lengthy review. I know I'm reading a lot(!) into a very little bit of footage, but stick with me: Maybe Batman confronts Superman to make the Man of Steel — and the rest of the world — realize that being a hero isn't about being the subject of hero-worship or even being liked. 

Since Superman is facing allegations of being a false god, I expect Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman (who doesn't make an appearance in the trailer) to face the same dilemma and feedback. Maybe all the heroes' actions will get the citizens to realize Superman never wanted to be treated like a god in the first place. He just wanted to be a beacon of hope. It's reasonable to assume Jason Momoa's Aquaman (whom we've yet to see in anything other than a still photo) will be in much the same situation since he is the ruler of Atlantis. 

SUMMARY: While not nearly as thrilling or jaw-dropping as the second "Force Awakens" trailer, the "Dawn of Justice" teaser is buzzworthy. This 2:14 will get fans talking — and that's what Warner Bros., DC Entertainment and Team Snyder want. If nothing else, the footage prompts a lot of questions. And in the long standing tradition of Hollywood priming audiences for a highly anticipated film, this "Dawn of Justice" trailer provides no answers. Grade: C+

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