April 23rd 2016

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Articles from this issue:

Euthanasia: Application of the lesson from cultural history (Part 2)

SPECIAL FEATURE Defence White Paper: Being defenceless invites attack

CANBERRA OBSERVED Banking inquiry suddenly top of Labor's agenda

EDITORIAL Turnbull's school funding plan will help Shorten

FAMILY AND SOCIETY SSCA embeds sexualisation of children in schools

FEMINISM AND FAMILY VIOLENCE Time is ripe to counter the bad-mouthing with truth

SEX EDUCATION "Gender identity" puts vulnerable kids in danger: Pediatricians

THE GENDER AGENDA When schools make Christian kids feel like the enemy

BRITISH POLITICS Corbyn: eccentric, yes; harmless, not so much

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Dear LGBTQs, Christians want for you what you want


MUSIC Jazz: from common tongue to cliquey dialect

CINEMA The bleak dawn of justice: Batman v Superman

BOOK REVIEW Pius XII acts sub rosa

BOOK REVIEW Meet the new userers


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The bleak dawn of justice: Batman v Superman

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, April 23, 2016

Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a serious movie. There is a distinct lack of smiling, laughing, joking or bright colours. There is an intensity of purpose to everyone’s actions within the film and intense questioning of that purpose.

It’s not really a “fun” or “popcorn” movie, but an operatic retelling of a defining pop culture mythos through the medium of a big-budget blockbuster in an age of fear, doubt and uncertainty.

The movie boasts a rich and complex script from David S. Goyer (the Dark Knight trilogy) and Chris Terrio (Argo) that cuts backwards and forwards, heavy with seeming dream sequences and intercut montages sharply edited by David Brenner; melodramatic cinematography from Larry Fong that deliberately references classical art; and an intense soundtrack concocted by Hans Zimmer, the reigning master of big scores, and Junkie XL, the up-and-comer who scored the insane, and insanely brilliant, Mad Max: Fury Road; all under the distinctive vision of Zack Snyder.

The premise for the conflict between Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne/Batman (an excellent Ben Affleck, who captures the character’s bitter fatigue and obsessiveness) comes from the climactic battle from the end of Man of Steel. A lot of innocent people died in that battle, including a number of Wayne Enterprises employees. Bruce was there. He saw the scale of the destruction, and he tried to save those he could. His attitude, hardened by decades fighting criminals in Gotham, is one of suspicion, if not outright hatred, as he sees Superman as being too great a threat to humanity.

It has turned him darker and more cruel, as Alfred (Jeremy Irons, dry and snarky), his butler and engineering wizard, a man who has grown old trying to keep his charge alive, remarks.

Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter), a principled and gutsy politician, is conducting public hearings into Superman and his impact, as his “unilateral” actions present a challenge to democratic governments and the rule of law, and there are allegations that he provides a cover for governments to conduct atrocities, as when he intervened in Africa to save Lois Lane (Amy Adams) from rebels/terrorists in an interview gone badly wrong.

Lois disagrees and thinks there is a conspiracy afoot to frame Superman and turn the world against him, and she has an unidentified bullet as a clue, but is unsure whether her relationship with Clark is a good or a bad thing. For his part, Superman is increasingly conflicted about his role in the world, trying to save people while agonising over his failures; and as Clark Kent wishes to investigate the “Bat vigilante”, who acts as if he’s “above the law” and has, apparently, turned Gotham into a city full of people “living in fear”.

Meanwhile, Alexander Luthor jnr (Jesse Eisenberg, whose portrayal of the notorious villain is so different and divisive, it’s debated whether he is the Lex Luthor), a brilliant and wealthy industrialist, who comes across as a somewhat unhinged and intense slacker nerd (reminiscent of his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network), is keen to conduct research on the dead aliens and wishes to craft an extraterrestrial “deterrent” made from kryptonite. Lex believes there may be other “metahumans” out there, and he just wants to be prepared.

DC seems to be taking a different approach in crafting its shared cinematic universe from Marvel. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is roughly chronological, and built up from the individual stories of the key heroes in its ensemble, the DC Extended Universe looks like it’s going to have a more complex approach, one that cuts backwards and forwards in time and tale depending on the stories it wishes to tell.

In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice it seeks to explore the nature of power and the justifications for its use. Superman is seen as a saviour, as an almost God-like being. But he is also unaccountable to any human authority, and as such is seen as a threat, as a “false god”.

But Superman is neither. He is an extraordinarily powerful being who seeks to do the right thing, but has difficulty navigating the politics and complexities of a world full of competing solutions to the problem of evil – including its very definition.

Batman, in contrast, is a brutal pragmatist, one who has been rendered cynical from decades fighting crime. He is a crusader whose every victory is short-lived, and fear has become his most effective weapon. He has little self-doubt and is well aware of his limitations, and those of the world around him.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice showcases the conflicts that can surround justice, with its only definite conclusion being that goodness exists and that it must be fought for.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).

All you need to know about
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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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