Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a colossal financial success. As of April 6th, 2016 it has earned over 700 million internationally. The film has famously earned mostly negative reviews from critics and mixed ones from audiences. Batman v Superman hasn’t lived up to its pre-release hype in most people’s minds but filmgoers still seem to want to judge it for themselves—despite the bad word of mouth surrounding it.
Even with most people not being crazy about the film as a whole—everyone seems to love Ben Affleck as Batman. Affleck is being praised for his portrayal of not just Batman—but also Bruce Wayne. I personally think Batman v Superman is better than people are giving it credit for. It’s not a perfect film, or even a particularly good film, but it is entertaining. Batman is definitely the highlight of the movie for me but I am not sure if Affleck, Chris Terrio (Batman v Superman screenwriter) or Zack Snyder (the film’s director) should be given that much credit for The Caped Crusader working so well. The majority of the credit should be given to the creators of the Batman character and his mythos, and that would be Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
The film’s biggest flaws have to do with its script and direction, but those issues didn’t seem to hurt the Batman character. How could this be? I think it has a lot to do with the fact that Batman is one of pop cultures most beloved fictional characters and he has been that for decades now. His history and iconography is so rich and well known that audiences instinctively gravitate to his side. Batman’s universal appeal transcends any project or medium. Whether The Dark Knight is appearing in a comic book, cartoon, live action television show or movie—he always commands and earns our attention. Batman is also a character that can work in almost any tone or genre of project. A lot of Superman fans feel like the dark nature of Batman v Superman and its predecessor, Man of Steel, doesn’t fit the Superman character. The Man of Steel is a figure of hope and the story of Batman v Superman is quite dire. The Batman character works much better in a darker tone project and it fits his backstory and history well.
Batman may work best within darker material—but Batman has proven that he can work in almost any style. The Batman series from the 1960’s starring Adam West is easily one of the most beloved incarnations of the character. The series is decidedly campy and over the top—and that jovial take is what fans love about it. Batman’s iconography is used as a source of laughs on the television classic—his young sidekick Robin, the surplus of gadgets he holds in his utility belt and his tricked-out Batmobile are utilized in absurd ways and it works extremely well within that show’s world. There is one glaring example of Batman not working well in an exaggerated universe and that is of course 1997’s colossal film failure, Batman & Robin (directed by Joel Schumacher). The failure of Batman & Robin has more to do with feeble movie making than anything dealing with the film’s tone. Recent proof that Batman can work in a light-hearted way is his role in The Lego Movie. The character was so well received in the comedy animated project aimed at children that he received his very own film in the Lego universe—The Batman Lego Movie.
Batman v Superman is an extremely flawed film, but it has its moments. There are definitely things in it to admire and enjoy—especially its portrayal of Batman. Ben Affleck definitely gives a strong performance but I don’t think it’s any stronger than what Michael Keaton or Christian Bale did in the cape and cowl. The reason Batman works so well in the film is because he is quite possibly the greatest comic book character of all-time. He has also proven through many different manifestations that audiences love Batman in almost anything—as long as Joel Schumacher isn’t involved. So if Batman v Superman disappointed you but Batman didn’t, before you thank the film’s creators, thank Batman’s creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger.