Saturday, 2 April 2016

Batman v. Superman: the Dawn of Drama.

It is strange that I chatted up with a teenager I do not know at the NTUC checkout counter of Downtown East last night. I was buying a snicker bar and he (with his grandmother) had a week's worth of grocery before me. You can say that they had a few trolley-loads of merchandise on the counter.

As I was rushing to watch the movie "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" I asked the teenager whether I could go first (since I had only one item to swipe while they had a few dozens). The teenager squirmed, politely apologized and told me that the cashier had already scanned a few items.

So, I had to wait. But I also had to ask him this, "Have you seen the Batman v. Superman? What do you think?" He smiled at me and said that he doesn't want to spoil the ending for me. However, he left me with this parting shot, "I slept during some parts."

That was it. That was all it took. The teenager's cavalier remark left a sour note behind. I wished then that I did not ask him. I slept during some parts? So much for spoiling the show for me.

Actually, I can't say that I was excited about the movie. I am not a fan. My idea of a fantasy that comes closest to anything heroic is to go to a bookstore, haunt a good author down, sniff the pages of his latest offer like a dog, and hide one corner to read its preface before buying it. That was my weekly hero-worshipping duty.

But I was with my 13-year-old son (and 10-year-old daughter) and his nightly ritual before he sleeps is to hold two superhero figurines and imagine them fighting while he lies on bed. In the still of the night, to add to the drama, he would create sound effects like “splish”, “boom” and “poof”. That was his lullaby – not reading to him a fairy tale, but engaging in imaginary play. He loves his superheroes. Who wouldn't right at his age (or at any age)?

I mean, it's batman and that super-dude man for goodness sake. It's every child's (and adult’s) dream right? And how often do you get two gorgeous superheroes wearing tights and donning choking V-shaped undergarments in public anyway? What's more it's in blistering blue-and-black combination!

So, after paying for my snicker bar, I rushed up to meet my son and daughter and tried my darnest best to thumb down their expectation. I kept telling them what that teenager told me. Not so much the sleeping part but the draggy part. I told them not to expect too much. And I left it at that and thought to myself, "Oh boy, it's going to be a long, mind numbing 2 hrs 20 minutes arty farty movie."

After 2 hrs 20 minutes, I left the cinema not quite knowing how to rate the movie. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Although my daughter kept asking me after 2 hours into the movie this “Is this the end yet?”, my son was glued to the screen.

But before I rate it, I have to get this off my chest: If you are a fan of DC comics superheroes, then this is a must-see movie. You owe it to yourself. It's like me ritualistically sniffing out books. It’s close to a bucket-list thingy. Yet, don’t expect too much sense out of it. Leave your brain together with the perforated part of the ticket with the ticket attendant  outside the theater.

If you need a nudge to get going, here it is. Think of the movie as batman and superman having a girly hissy fit at each other and metaphorically pulling each other's nylon-protected chest hair for almost 90% of the movie. In their case, they are not fighting over a girl or some priceless artifact from some god-knows-what planet. They are instead fighting over this: Who between them had had a more tormented life (or past)? It is more like a contest to see who is more miserable. In other words, it's textbook mutual commiseration 101.

You see, fans will instantly know what I am talking about. Both of them had suffered a tragic past and Zack Snyder would not want you to forget that (the repeated ad nauseam replays of the past in the movie are the dead giveaways).

Their parents were in fact brutally murdered. Their perfect, grow-up-just-to-enroll-into-integrated-programme-scheme-at-top-schools’ life is ruined by that past event. One by a night-robbery-gone-bad and the other by some climate-change-gone-mad.

So, batman - being as blind as a bat in this movie – launched off at the start by transferring all that emotional anguish, physical rage and facial constipation onto the man of steel whose fight against evil in Gotham city had by the way left more road kill and carnage than what batman could ever hope to destroy in a lifetime. I guess that tiny detail must have also added gasoline to the fire for the dark knight’s childish rage. It’s a superhero and his ego thing we mere mortals will never understand.

And despite the half-baked storyline whereby batman's andropause-like outbursts against superman inexplicably resolved itself even before one could finish the sentence ending with "Martha", I can't say that the movie was not entertaining.

For me, the saddest character in the movie is General Zod’s naked corpse being abused and used with necrotic fetish. And instead of an apology, they turned the poor nude villain into a kryptonic metahuman beast of the ugliest transformation. So much for resting in peace – even for bad guys!  

Now, the running time of the movie may be longer than it should be, but there's lots of action to be had here. The truth is, none of us slept throughout the movie. I mean, how could we ever doze off when the sound and the visual effects literally hold you by the scruff of your neck and shake you silly at every turn and corner of the fighting scenes? I guess if there is an equivalent of a spoilt rich fat kid here, then the sound and visual eyes-and-ears blasting galore comes closest to it.

Anyway, if you were a believer (a Christian, that is, who had just celebrated Resurrection Sunday), you can't help but get the impression that Zack Synder wanted to cheekily slip into the already convoluted storyline a messianic metanarrative in the tradition of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I do not want to give too much away here, but if superman were a deity, then he would be a very partial one. He seemed to only have eyes and ears for Lois Lane. And if the world were made up of one, he would still fly down with those crimson cape and fiery eyes of sacrificial love.

You see, Lois Lane could have a gun pointed at her little pretty head or be thrown from a skyscraper or be drowning in trapped sewage water, and yet, her god in nuts-choking underpants would still be there to save her in the nick of time. I guess this is the exact same overflowing sentiments some prosperity preachers feel about their god of abundant blessings and wealth. Alas, some people just have all the divine luck and attention.

I think I’d better end here by giving the movie a rating it deserves. You can’t capture it in one word. So, it is fair for entertainment, overkill for effects, a cringe for a Jewish-looking wonder woman whose wardrobe designer seems to be none other than Edward Scissorhands, a B-minus for heath-ledger-joker-wannabe Lex Luther, and an overall rating of B-plus for turning our beloved superheroes from sworn enemies in the warring tradition of Najib-and-Mahathir at the start and the middle of the movie to inseparable BFFs (Batman’s Friends Forever) at the end. What’s more, batman and superman seemed to have united all the tormented superheroes from the Justice League too. It’s a major exhumation exercise, if you ask me. Alas, if only Zack Snyder had a directorial say in our neighbor’s feud across the causeway. Cheerz.

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