DC at Comic Con – Batman v Superman Trailer Review

I know I’m a bit late to talk about these trailers from the San Diego Comic Con, but after my hundredth time watching the Batman v Superman trailer, I was obligated to repeat the process another few times.  Last weekend saw San Diego’s population double in number and multiply in costumes as from all over the world, fans of comics, Star Wars and pretty much anything you can cosplay made their annual journey to their Mecca. Owing to Marvel Studios deciding not to attend this year, Hall H – which over the years has become notorious for exclusive filmfare – was marked for DC from the moment Zack Snyder turned up in the Batmobile to the welcome of fans who might stalk him for details on the film he’s helming. They’d best have brought their A-game too, the eyes that give purpose to the Con being as merciless as they are hungry.

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So, did the clash-of-titans trailer get the crowd going, or did it recede to the heap of Zack Snyder material that everyone has mixed reactions about? Well, if you don’t know that already, then a) your social media hiatus is working out quite well, or b) this article is being read from beyond the grave. Whichever the case may be, I’m just glad then that I get to break the news to you, hippie/undead. To cut my words short and to delve right in, I’ll say this much: there’s no reason to not gape wide-eyed unless you were never a ten year-old.

Wow, that trailer just made the Rocky training montage track seem a far mellower thing than it is. So here we have our first look at Ben Affleck’s Batman in combat and general detectiveness, and while there are several things to digest here, there is no doubt that the Caped Crusader is the highlight of the show. The trailer opens with Bruce Wayne’s side of the battle that transpired between Zod and Kal-El, as they lay waste to Metropolis, and he doesn’t seem too happy about all the civilian casualties. A large portion of the internet has only given Affleck disapproval for taking on the mantle of the Bat, but the moment you see him run headfirst into a falling building without flinching once, you know that can only be Bruce Wayne.

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We also get out first peek at Wonder Woman in action, and it’s safe to say that she appears way more badass than any of the character shots have shown her to be. In Gal Gadot’s face, we see a woman who could represent the island of Themyscira, a goddess bred for war. The very little we see of her in battle, and the equally rare shots of her alter ego make Diana Prince convincing and extremely different from the representation of most female superheroes on film. And that can only be a good thing, especially when it comes to the core males in the movie throwing their testosterone about the alleys of Gotham. The colors seem right this time around as well, as the overly color-washed costume from the first image pales in comparison to the red-and-blue of this one. Here, we see her use her gauntlets as a form of offence, as well as her shield and sword, but there still seems to be nothing on the Lasso of Truth.

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If you could take your mind away from the eponymous brawl that has gained so much in hype since the trailer (and for good reason) you will see there are also clever easter eggs and references hitherto spliced, that needs a fair amount of knowledge of comic lore to be fully understood. The most exciting of these in my opinion, is confirmation of something in the blurry background of the first teaser, a tattered Robin suit which has painted over its front, the words ‘Ha ha ha, joke’s on you Batman!’ First, it’s good to see that Snyder has kept the Robin suit as close as possible to the comic version, albeit color-washed in Snyder’s grave style. But more importantly, this tells us that one of the Robins – preferably Jason Todd, to remain true to established and celebrated lore – was killed by the Joker, perhaps also acting as catalyst for Bruce to hang up his cape. This element directly references two revered arcs – Death in the Family and Under the Red Hood. In 1988, when the Great Stagnation hit comic creators, those over at DC Comics asked their readers whether they wanted the second Robin, Jason Todd to be killed at the hands of the Joker. Met with an awkwardly bloodthirsty vote for murder, he met his end by being beaten with a crowbar. This event leads to two important graphic novels – The Dark Knight Returns where Bruce has given up his crusade owing to Jason’s death, and Under the Red Hood where a mysterious figure appears in Gotham – one of which Dawn of Justice is paying frames of homage to, and the other which will hopefully be adapted as a Batman solo film. To understand the story better, you could watch the excellent 2010 animated adaptation of Under the Red Hood. 

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Somewhat halfway into the trailer, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor makes the statement from the teaser (‘Devils don’t come from hell beneath us, they come from the sky’) as we see Zod’s body being unwrapped for a nefarious purpose that could probably be confirmation of another character. It has been a rumor floating around for a while that Doomsday, one of Superman’s and the Justice League’s strongest foes, a Kryptonian form born to destroy, would be constructed by Lex Luthor from the remains of Zod and the Kryptonian tech. This trailer might be a positive indication of that rumor as it is clear that Zod’s body is of use to Lex for some reason. It could also mean something else, with the crowded material the film has to tackle, the writers might have switched out Doomsday for Bizarro – an evil clone of Superman – which could also explain the blood-hungry Man of Steel shooting lasers at the Batman. My favorite shot in fact, in the entire trailer is that of Batman grappling away from the edge of a building (where he was clinging in a The Dark Knight Returns-esque position) as someone (it’s not too clear whether it’s Superman) tries to burn him to smithereens. Seriously, CGI or not, how awesome was that? This is the Batman we all know and love.

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It seems that Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor has got his hands on some green minerals, as we see a most douchy villainous pose of him beholding a green glow. Now this could very well be a red herring for the fans, but confirmations by Ben Affleck that his suit would be spliced with the same Kryptonian bane suggest otherwise. Meanwhile, all anyone has to offer Clark is advice on his struggles with mankind and the Batman, with Lois giving back his words from Man of Steel – It means ‘hope’ – by telling him that he’s all that some people have, a sliver of hope that the red-caped God will come down from the heavens to protect them from destruction. It is clear that mankind is pretty divided when it comes to opinions of Superman, ranging from thronging protests outside the building of Congress where Superman is to be held accountable for the mass destruction, to possible fanatics dressing up under his crest, creating some sort of religious cult. At the same time, Ma Kent seems to have had enough of all the unplanned visits from alien dictators and the toil of her son that her words run contrary to what she says in Man of Steel, telling Clark that he doesn’t owe humankind a thing (Vaguely similar to Selina Kyle’s words to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises). Seriously, this man who only wants good for all around him – even if he hasn’t earned complete control over his powers – is being beaten to a pulp with all the mass hate. I guess this is one way Ben Affleck could relate to Superman.

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What I had been expecting for a while, and to see more fleshed out in this film is the contradictory philosophies of Batman and Superman, and that is exactly what we gained through this trailer. Ever since the movie was announced, fanbases and internet forums have been exploding with unrelenting questions of who would win in a fight; but what they seem to forget is that the physicality isn’t the highlight of this confrontation. There can never be a concrete answer as to who emerges victorious, their abilities flexible to the writer’s whims. No, what is more important isn’t who is left standing, but the struggle itself and the ‘why’ behind it. Bruce Wayne is a shielded individual who trusts no one, and while being a crusader of justice, isn’t afraid to walk the grey moral line in doing so. This feeling is only strengthened as he watches Kal and Zod laser-vision their way through a Wayne Enterprises building. Superman is basically a God who is afraid of scaring away his people, standing out as the beacon of truth and justice achieved the right way. Both have taken vows to never take a life, and both consider each other the antithesis of their own spirit. To Batman, the man in the red cape is a flying, thinking nuclearhead, and to Superman, the dark knight is a lunatic vigilante. It is this building up of events and ideologies that makes this first encounter all the more exhilarating. But Snyder seems to understand his audience as the visuals and the battleground seem all set – complete with war-drums – to behold this clash of legends, while the overarching theme of conflicted paths hovers above everything else. “Black and blue, God vs. man, day vs. night.”

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This first extended look at the most-anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice clears the worries of a large percentage of the fan population, while getting everyone with an access to YouTube adrenaline-pumped for a fight scheduled for next year. Ben Affleck talks the talk and walks the walk of both identities that surround the Batman, Wonder Woman seems all-powerful and majestic, and the fight looks glorious so far. This isn’t to say that all concerns are alleviated, as Eisenberg’s Lex still seems shaky, but let’s hope that’s only because we haven’t seen him in extended conversation. (There’s something going on near his scalp too, which might mean that he either loses his absurdly fake-looking locks at some point, or as I believe, the hair looks fake because it is, and Lex is donning the wig to cover up his baldness.) While an over-three minute trailer seems like it would reveal a lot, there are so many mysteries still left unanswered – Who sent Bruce Wayne the threat? Why is Superman seen bowing to Lex? What’s with all the ‘hope’-crested soldiers? More importantly, what’s with the trenchcoated stylish Batman walking into a Mad Max set and possibly twisting the necks of the hope-soldiers? Is the only underwater scene in this a reference to Aquaman? Why is a mugger pointing a gun at a couple and their kid, what on earth could be happening? (I actually don’t mind seeing their deaths again, it’s at the core of Bat-lore) Holy hell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Thomas Wayne? Who in hell beneath us or the sky are the ‘Red Capes’? There are so many things we still don’t know about this movie, and the fact that they were able to hit us with this champion of trailers while not giving too much away reinvigorates my faith in the film and the proposed Cinematic universe. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, does anybody know what to do with a compelling need to wear a cape and punch something?

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[My review and reaction to the Suicide Squad trailer (starring Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, and Cara Delevingne) will be out soon.]

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