Batfleck v. Superman, A Comic Nerd's Existential Crisis on Infinite Earths
I am going to review "Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice" focusing mostly on Batman as played by Ben Affleck (from here on out to be referred to as "Batfleck"). Going into the movie, I was worried that Affleck would mess up Batman the same way he slaughtered Daredevil 13 years ago in a movie of the same name.
A movie in which assaulting the blind is considered an act of foreplay. Trust me, it's terrible.
To my considerable delight, Batfleck was not bad at all. Sure, people (who like me, are big ole nerds) have qualms about Batfleck branding and straight up murdering criminals, but that kind of deliberate violence is woven into Batman's DNA.
Batman started off as a ripoff of "The Shadow", a pulp private eye voiced by Orson Welles on his eponymous radio show, and who also loved killing the bad guy. It was not until the introduction of Robin the Boy Wonder two or three years into Batman's existence that the comics began to become more "family friendly". The sight of Batfleck mauling criminals harkened back to this original Batman, and Frank Miller's famous revitalization of him in"The Dark Knight Returns", where Batman is portrayed as a violent, and maybe mildly schizophrenic, fascist.
Batfleck also delivers most of the other key components of a good Batman: he is obsessed with justice due to childhood trauma, he believes he is fighting for the greater good, his alter ego as billionaire Bruce Wayne is intact, and the cops hate him. The bat-gadgets, batcave, and bat-bod are secondary to these other qualities, but still deeply satisfying. My biggest complaint about Batfleck is the same one I have about the movie in general: they are both deeply stupid.
Batman the character is supposed to be the greatest detective on the planet. Batfleck can't figure out Superman's identity when they meet face to face in public, because Clark Kent wears glasses. Batfleck's motivation for killing Superman is basically "This alien has done nothing to harm humans, and in fact has saved many people's lives regardless of their race, nationality, gender or religion... but he might kill us all so I'm just gonna kill him first". Then, when he finally has his chance to kill Superman like he planned to (with a goddamn spear instead of some sort of kryptonite gun), Batfleck spares Supes' life once he learns that Superman's mom has the same name as his. Instead of running the hell away from Doomsday, the creature that survived a nuclear blast in space and could absorb all forms of energy, Batfleck shoots it a bunch and plays tag with it.
None of this is Ben Affleck's fault. The whole internet went into a tizzy when he was cast as Batman, and I believe he proved us wrong. He is a fine Batman. The problem is that his Batman was thrown into the mix of a seriously flawed movie, one that seemed to have no shot longer than 30 seconds and yet seemed to last a thousand years. A movie that contrives to pit the ultimate superhero pals against each other without providing even a hint of decent motivation. A movie that had Lex Luthor with a full head of hair. A movie that was just a two hour trailer for other movies that I now barely hope will be better than "Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Money". Stupid stupid stupid.
Affleck knows it too