This was the first review I wrote long form. I wanted to put it up today for two reasons, I’m proud of it, and I didn’t write anything over the last week or so. So here we go!
So, today I went to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
I’ll probably get into spoilers for this, but I think that this is the last Zach Snyder thing that I can possibly see myself watching. It sucks that I was so right in my predictions of how joyless and depressing this movie was, and how easily it could have been avoided. So, if you don’t want spoilers, they end here. It’s not “the worst thing ever” and it’s not “good” in any sense. It’s mediocre, and wears it’s mediocrity as if it is the greatest thing ever, and as Immortan Joe has shown us, mediocrity is worth nothing. So, spoiler country lies ahead.
I wanted to talk about this because I think that Superman vs. Batman could be a great thing. It could be a fun, enjoyable, interesting look at a superhero movie, that shows what happens when the Dark Knight of Gotham meets the Boy Scout of Metropolis. It’s not going too far to say that the meeting of these two individuals is essentially the rock upon which comics church is based.
But I don’t think Zach Snyder has ever actually watched a movie that makes sense, or read a great comic that wasn’t also a best seller. Yes, Mr. Snyder, we get it. You read the last 25 pages of the Dark Knight Returns and think that you got it. And you read the Wikipedia article about the Death of Superman. I have also read those things. If we both have read them, they must be good, right!?
No. That’s not right. The Dark Knight Returns fight between Batman and Superman is established by several comics worth of set up. Batman doesn’t just hate Superman because he could potentially be a threat to the world, as shown through dream sequences of all things. Batman and Superman square off because they have differing approaches and different upbringings. Superman literally bows down to the government in the comics, which sends Batman into retirement. The entire storyline is Batman coming out of retirement, older, slower, and more willing to hurt people (and yet, he still attempts to follow his golden rule, of do not kill, something that the brief skimming of the comic wouldn’t make apparent).
The Death of Superman sold like crazy because it was a shocking event that DC sold as the killing off of one of their most important properties. This was in the early 90s, when comic book collections were starting to sell for a great deal of money, and people were into collecting them. The briefest glimpse at the hype surrounding it would show you that the story line was interesting, but not because watching Superman die was such a fun time, but because it shook up the world. Superman was always seen as the ultimate deterrent in the DC universe. If he was intervening, things had gotten truly bad, but dying wasn’t ever what you expected from him. Shock value is not that character.
But, hey, that comic stuff is for nerds, right? That kind of analysis doesn’t do film justice. I mean, Tony Stark wasn’t in a cave in Afghanistan in the comics. Film franchises are based on the idea that you steal whatever surface level ideas you could get from the comics and then build on top of it whatever movies you want to, right Marvel? Marvel? Are you going to give Zack a high five or what? Don’t leave him hanging! (This is not what makes Marvel Movies work. Marvel movies use iconic characters in no win situations overcoming things, and yet giving a shit about the people around them, and not in the “Well, this part of the city is deserted, so it’s okay to blow up entire swaths of a manufacturing district” way.)
Affleck is the bomb. Seriously. Affleck might be my favorite portrayal of Batman on film. He’s probably only second to Kevin Conroy from the Animated Series. Affleck does everything he needs to with actual movie star charisma, puts every single acting choice on the screen, and conveys more in his voice than any other Batman on film. I genuinely loved his performance, and would have been excited if this was a film only about him.
I liked Affleck witnessing the street level destruction of Man of Steel. I felt like it gave it the weight that the former movie needed, with the ludicrous amount of civilian death that had to happen for that fight scene to make sense. He looks older and tired, and pissed. It’s great!
Alfred was decent, and they didn’t even have to take him out of the Batcave set.
Eisenberg does his level best to fucking lighten up these proceedings. My God, he has the most brutal time of it, but he gives a unique take on Lex Luthor, and given the direction and material, I quite enjoyed what he did with it. He turns the quirk up to 11, which could get annoying if he wasn’t the only person on the screen that seemed to have a plan. It’s a dumb plan, for dumb people, that will essentially result in the complete and utter destruction of whatever cinders he wants to rule at the end of it, but whatever, it’s a Luthor plan. Luthor plans involve Otisville usually, and that’s fine with me. Nowhere near as good as Affleck, but I get where he is coming from.
Also, Wonder Woman is surprisingly effective in a fight, and holds her own among the boys, actually (in my opinion) contributing more to the final fight than Batman. Which is great! Wonder Woman should be that bad ass.
The Plot, or what would be called the plot if the movie had one. Inner eight year old, what is the plot of this movie?
Batman’s family dies in an alleyway again. (Jesus Christ, more on this later.) So we know he is serious about fighting crime. Then, Batman in his Bruce Wayne flesh mask goes to Metropolis during the end of Man of Steel and watches as his building is cut the fuck up by the Snyderian symphony of destruction that was the end of Man of Steel. (Wow, eight year old me is quite eloquent.) He concludes that Superman is a dick hole for blowing a city the fuck up, after saving a guy who got his legs trapped under a steel beam. Then he saves a girl and watches superman fuck up another building. A year and a half later. Batman is angry at superman, and has determined that the best way to figure it out is to figure out who is importing a “dirty bomb” that is actually kryptonite. Lex Luthor wants the us government to give him Zod’s body and access to the ship that crashed in the middle of metropolis. Also, metropolis is right next door to gotham. Lex manipulates them into fighting, and blows up congress around Superman right before he testifies, which makes him go on a spirit quest to a mountain to talk to his dad. Lex kidnaps his mom and Lois, pushes Lois off a heliport, gets his attention and tells Supes to fight Batman and bring him his head in an hour. Batman beats the everloving shit out of Superman, and is about to kill him with a kryptonite spear, when he says their safe word, “Martha”, and Batman is forced to reboot after BSODing. Then Lex births Doomsday, who Superman kills with the spear, killing himself in the process. Then superman isn’t dead because they Inception top his grave, showing dirt rising off of his casket. The end…?
That’s the shortest version I can do. What I didn’t mention is Wonder Woman, who is in the movie to not wear a bra and seem like she is going to skip the battle, but doesn’t. The Flash, who appears in a “dream” telling Bruce that he was right about him all along and that he came too soon, and then beats the shit out of a guy without dropping a bottle of milk on a security camera, and Jason Momoa, confirming what we already knew, which is that Aquaman is lame and looks hilariously stupid menacing the shit out of robots. We also find out that Cyborg was a third of a torso, a head and a arm kept alive by the black guy from Eureka (you’re a great actor, Joe Morton. Why did they drag you into this?), and was reanimated by what can only be described as the fucking All Spark from the other Dicks to Sense, Let’s Make Splosions director of our day.
I didn’t mention that you can make Kryptonite scalpels to peel off the fingerprints to activate Kryptonian machinery, which is a thing that happens. I didn’t mention that our main antagonist, recruits the guy who got his legs cut off and is justifiably pissed about Superman screwing his life up to be a suicide bomber in the Capitol building. I didn’t mention that this suicide bomber is revealed when a sitting junior Democratic senator from Kentucky smells pee in a mason jar that was put in front of her, which is labeled with an idiom that she said to Lex Luthor scenes ago. I didn’t mention Batman’s sexy ass crossfit WOD in the middle of the movie, or Superman irresponsibly overflowing a tub to protect Amy Adams’ modesty, or that Superman apparently stood by while a CIA mole was executed in front of Amy Adams, but intervened when she was in danger. I didn’t mention the two dream sequences that Batman has, where Batman sees a fucking demon from hell come out of his mother’s bleeding casket, or where Batman turns into bad ass Malcolm Reynolds with a cowl, and executes like 15 people before being inundated with mantis creatures who stop him, before Superman executes two prisoners who have been chained up in cold blood, and then the Flash might or might not tell him some stuff. I am still not done listing things I didn’t mention. This “plot” is fucking insane.
Hey, I didn’t even mention that the entire movie hinges around the fact that “They are going to kill Martha” is said out loud at a critical point. Cool line, right? Except it’s Superman’s mom, who he has called mom, and hasn’t really called Martha as far as I remember in the movies so far, but fuck it, it BSODs Batman and that is what the plot needs.
Or that to prevent Batman ever killing Superman, Amy Adams throws away the weapon that will stop him, and then psychically goes to get it, then almost drowns, then is saved by Superman, who then almost drowns because of Kryptonite, and is saved by Amy Adams throwing the weapon away.
Or that Pa Kent tells his son in a “dream sequence/spirit quest/message from beyond the grave” about the time he saved his own farm to only drown a shitload of horses on another farm, which inspires him to… come back and be a hero again?
Or that, the one true moment of hilarious levity comes when Ma Kent says that she knows Batman is friends with her son because he is wearing a cape. Which makes you hopeful that they know what they are doing after sad sad sad for two hours, and then the only other intentional laugh comes along and it is upstaged by music, and was revealed in the trailer (I thought she was with you [HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH AREN’T WE CLEVER!]).
Or, hey, how about the fact that Batman kills like 50 people. And when I say kills, I mean kills. No dream sequence. No rubber bullets. Kills. He opens up with a Gatling gun from his airplane to shoot people. He blows up vehicles. He dive bombs his car through a truck, after his car (no joke) just went through a brick wall like butter. There is a person standing on that side of the truck. That person is dead because of Batman’s direct actions. And, best of all, Batman shoots a man’s flamethrower backpack with a fucking gun, and dives to save Martha Kent from the fire, killing two people. Straight up. Killing them, with the barest Rube Goldberg explanation that, well actually, it was the explosion that killed them.
Or, man, what about whatever genius screenwriter who figured out that as long as you say that parts of the city are deserted, obviously it’s okay to destroy huge swaths of it.
Or that over the express advice of the military, the president nukes doomsday and Supes in orbit, with nary a mention of the potential consequences of such an action. No fucking janitors ever work nights in Metropolis, as far as Anderson Cooper knows!
Or shit, Charlie fucking Rose, of interrupting people to ask his fucking self important questions on PBS fame, and Andy Coop, and Soledad O’Brien and Nancy ‘Screaming Opinions [Remember When Ben Affleck Was In That Movie That Made Fun Of My Journalism]’ Grace lend their talents to this. Neal DeGrasse Tyson is in this movie.
Or hey, that Thomas Wayne takes a swing at the guy who is currently pointing a gun at his family. He takes a swing at him, directly resulting in the guy shooting him. Instead of it being a tragedy, where he tried to comply and the incompetent robber destroyed Bruce’s world, no, we need him to fucking show that he’s a man and fuck that guy up.
Oh, and how did the pearl necklace that is a part of the Batman mythos end up on the ground? It got caught , on the gun, between the hammer and the pin. Seriously. It was inside of the hammer, so Martha Wayne was shot at point blank range. Luckily she was shot with one of those bullets that doesn’t do a ton of damage, so we could still see her face when Thomas ‘Fighting Jack Murphy’ Wayne calls her name for the last moment of his life.
I can keep going, but I think you get it. Oh wait, one more, Laurence Fishbourne, a newspaper editor, isn’t interested in a story about a man who dresses up like a bat and is terrorizing criminals in a city that is adjacent to his. What? That’s newspaper gold. Wait, this guy has been doing it for 20 years and no one figured it out? What? Oh, and he calls him Smallville, which is hilarious until you remember that that town was flattened 18 months ago by monsters from outer space. And then, you start agreeing with Lex Luthor that both of these heroes sort of deserve to get what is coming to them.
It’s so hard to stop. Because every choice makes no sense. Everything serves the purpose of the camera. Everything is for the coolest shot possible, not the necessary shot.
Everything is based on getting to the next action set piece, but not in a fun Avengers sort of way, but in a depressing Man of Steel sort of way.
Fury Road was great. It was fun to watch, it had action and adventure. Go watch that.
You want me to talk about what I have written?
This movie is mediocre. Affleck gives a great performance, and in the right hands, a Batman movie with him would be fun as fuck to watch. He moves brutally, and conveys a world weariness that really sells the character. Cavil looks like he just realized that being a hero is boring and he wants to go fuck supermodels, and every heroic action looks like he is genuinely constipated. I think this is a directors choice. Lois Lane is pointless. The Kents make a contractual appearance. Eisenberg twitches up the screen, but at least gives a performance.
The movie is so concerned with looking cool, it forgets that Superman is cool because he is ultimately powerful AND GOOD. He’s a GOOD GUY. He acts to save everyone, to the point of everyone thinking he is too good! When you have him standing at the center of a suicide bomb, at the US Capitol Building, and then going on a vision quest, it seems a lot like he doesn’t give a shit about anything. Remember Truth, Justice and the American way? Well, I hope you like watching Captain America, because that is the only place that you are going to get it. And if you think that GOOD GUY doesn’t work anymore, Cap is actually doing it. He has attempted to save peoples lives. He keeps the collateral as low as he can. And he gives a shit about people, and tries to save all of them. And he can’t. He can’t save all of them, and it looks like it hurts him that he can’t. Superman is supposed to try to save everyone. Remember? He got cats out of trees between burning buildings. He is the pinnacle of good.
Batman doesn’t kill people. It’s not his place to be the executioner. I know you saw Batman Begins, because Nolan sat you down to see it, Mr. Snyder. He doesn’t kill people because he witnessed his family getting killed on a street. I know you saw that, because you had to do it again. And also make it more violent, and way more ambiguous.
So, I’m done with Snyder. 300 was a fun myth thing that worked. Watchmen was visually accurate and missed the point entirely. Sucker Punch (loses consciousness, drifts in a haze for days, finds corporeal self and consumes it, like an oroboros). Man of Steel was the 6 year old power fantasy with zero consequences that Superman didn’t deserve. And now Batman v. Superman (it’s so fucking pretentious to me that it is v. I don’t know why that bugs me so much, but Jesus it does) is the grey brown nightmare that concludes my watching of the DC universe. Have a great time making the Flash brood quickly, guys. I’ll catch it on HBO.
Who is excited for Civil War, am I right? I’m excited to see colors on screen!