‘Batman V Superman:Dawn of Justice’ is a confounding storm of missed opportunity with a few beautiful nuggets hidden among the wreckage (SPOILERS)

Welp…that certainly was…something.

Look, there was a lot of negativity going into this one. I did my best to keep my head above it and go in for “good” time, but my goodness this movie was such a buzz kill and I don’t mean that it in like a bad sense (it’s by no means a great film). I mean this movie was soooooooo dark and soooooo moody that I challenge anyone to say “Well, at least it was a fun movie.” I’ve seen my fair share of  fun movies. This is a fun movie…

Batman V Superman is not a fun movie.

I want to stress, I was not rooting against this movie at any point. I had worries sure, but I ultimately was hoping for a movie that would finally bring glory to DC on a cinematic level, something it hasn’t really enjoyed since The Dark Knight. I’m a DC fanboy, through and through. They were my entry way into comics and while I’ll always LOVE Marvel, my heart will always lean towards their honorable competition.

So where did this movie ultimately land?

Urgh…

It’s not the train wreck many were expecting by any means. It’s definitely a movie. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. There are even moments that I thoroughly enjoyed. But my goodness, this movie is so fucking serious. I have a new drinking game for you. Take a shot every time someone cracks a smile in this. I bet you’ll still be sober by the end. It’s a party pooper of a film, here to stall all the fun Marvel and DC itself has been working to establish with films and TV shows that tackle their material with seriousness but also with a little levity.

Nobody seems to be having fun here. It’s ONLY serious. No one really seems to be having fun. Once we hit a scene involving a suicide bomber I wanted to scream, “Jesus, somebody throw a pie!”

In many ways, this is one of the harder movies I’ve had to access since starting this little blog. I’m not exactly sure where to place it exactly. I ultimately didn’t like it all that much but I didn’t NOT enjoy moments either. So get comfortable because I’m about to rant. I’m not particularly proud of this review. In all honesty, I’d rather sit on my views for a while but I need to get this out this weekend. My word of warning is that this is primarily reactionary review. I’ll catch my breath every now and then when I can but this movie made me feel different emotions, guys. Some emotions that leave me with hope…and others that are weird and deeply confusing.

Before we get into the review proper, as a word of warning, there will be spoilers THROUGHOUT. There won’t be a spoiler section. Most of what I like and dislike hinge solely on spoilers and as I am noting getting paid or dependent on clicks, I’m just going to do away with formalities and get right into the nitty gritty.  So consider this your one and only warning. There will be spoilers throughout the below section so if you have not seen the movie and wish to remain clean of all “surprises,” skip this review or enter at your own peril.

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The plot:

“Following his titanic struggle against General Zod, Metropolis has been razed to the ground and Superman is the most controversial figure in the world. While for many he is still an emblem of hope, a growing number of people consider him a threat to humanity, seeking justice for the chaos he has brought to Earth. As far as Bruce Wayne is concerned, Superman is clearly a danger to society. He fears for the future of the world with such a reckless power left ungoverned, and so he dons his mask and cape to right Superman’s wrongs. The rivalry between them is furious, fueled by bitterness and vengeance, and nothing can dissuade them from waging this war. However, a dark new threat arises in the form of a third man: one who has a power greater than either of them to endanger the world and cause total destruction!” – IMDb.com

The review:

So where do I even begin? I have probably just as much to say here as I did in my Force Awakens review. Unfortunately a lot of it is negative and I never like to dwell in the negative about any particular movie that I didn’t care for.

Let’s start with the positive…because frankly there isn’t that much ground to cover on that front.

First off, I’m all in for Bat-fleck. Aside from killing (we will get into that momentarily), this may be the best live-action portrayal I’ve seen this far of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character thus far. (My favorite of all time, indisputably, is Kevin Conroy in Batman: The Animated Series with Will Arnett’s inspired take on the character in The Lego Movie coming in a close second.) Hell, I’d go so far as to say he is bar none the best thing about this movie and Snyder appears to have recognized that as this is his movie, not Superman’s. Why we didn’t just get a solo Batman movie before this still utterly cofounds me.

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-ben-affleck

That being said, I liked the movie when he was onscreen. I liked this older, world weary iteration of the character. I loved his banter with Alfred. (Jeremy Irons may be the hidden MVP here by the way.) I particularly liked the set up of actually having him be present during the Superman/Zod fight in the last movie. The image of Bruce Wayne rushing into the mayhem was utterly stunning and the best the movie offered (doing its best in justifying the overboard 9/11 imagery of  Man of Steel). It served as a great template for the character’s distrust of Clark. Unfortunately that gets muddled in overly complicated bullshit over the course of the movie instead of remaining simple.

I also dug Gal Gabot’s Wonder Woman, the element I was most excited for going in.

GadotWonderWoman

Now she’s hardly in it of course because she seems like a late minute addition to this…product but when she is onscreen I was hoping for more. She’s a little wooden but she has an allure and presence that I’m actually excited to see carry over into her solo film next year. She’s a character I’ve been highly anticipating and if she’s pulled off properly (as in by people that actually understand her as a character and the ultimate appeal of her universe), the movie could truly shape into something special.

Say what you will about Zack Snyder as a director. The guy knows how to stage action. There is stuff on scope unlike anything we’ve seen before in a comic book film put on display here. When it doesn’t devolve into video game cutscene territory, the action is quite spectacular.

On the record, I like Snyder. Do I think he’s wrong for this material? Yeah, especially now but the guy knows how to direct a movie. Hell, he knows how to direct a comic book movie as evidenced by 300 and Watchmen, two movies that range from serviceable to actually kind of good. He goes for broke on the grandiose and spares no expense when it comes to the technical aspects of his films.

In fact, on a technical level this movie is nearly flawless…

I said NEARLY....

I said NEARLY….

Cinematographer Larry Fong (a mainstay of Snyder’s films since 300) shoots this movie gloriously.  I could have used a bit more colors to allow all of the costumes to pop but outside of that I just loved looking at this movie. Similarly strong is the collab between Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer on the film’s score. XL has been on my radar since his OUTSTANDING work on Fury Road last year and pairing him with the ever dependable Zimmer works wonders. They create a score that is as utterly massive as the film itself. It is operatic and sprawling. There is a heft there that the film lacks severely in other areas. I may be in the minority, but I particularly loved Wonder Woman’s theme which harkened back to the bombastic guitars utilized in the aforementioned 300.

Now for the negative….

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Where oh where to begin?

Well instead of like a typical structure, I’m going to go for a more FREE THOUGHT approach as in when I think of something, I’m going to write it down. That’s right. This will be my opinion IN REAL TIME. (This is why I wish I had the gall to do something like a podcast or vlog as it’d be much easier. Alas, I am but a nameless blogger among foundations of nameless bloggers.)

I think two major things I have to knock out right away is A) this is not a DC comics movie and B) nothing is ever EARNED in its two-and-half hour running time.

First off, what do I mean by it not being a DC comics movie? It has DC comic characters in it, right? Well, I suppose in name these are those characters. They certainty look like them and even act like them in some instances.

This isn’t a Superman movie.

Nor is it a Batman movie.

It for sure isn’t a Wonder Woman movie.

This is merely another mega-budget, spectacle picture with some comic inspiration and it makes no effort to be anything less. It doesn’t care about bringing characters as we’ve understood them to life like Deadpool or the CW’s Flash series or really ANY version of the characters we’ve seen before. I’m all for doing new stuff, but there is a reason they have been around for all of these decades. Yes, they can evolve but their are core elements that make them THEM other than their costumes. 

Remember when I said Batman kills people in this? Let’s explore that because it highlights a bigger issue have with this movie.

I could get behind Superman killing Zod at the end of Man of Steel. In fact, it’s something I appreciate about that movie. Think of Superman as a cop with a gun. (Before we go off into politics, let’s assume he is a good, decent, by-the-books police officer; not a trigger happy one.) He doesn’t want to use it, but will in situations that can only be resolved with it. It’s been said by better writers than me, but Superman can typically equate to a rather boring character. Therefore, you have to approach him from new ways. I appreciated Snyder and company willing to take a risk by asking, “How do you kill a god?” Well, you give him an impossible choice and you make him choose and live with the consequences of said choice. 

Batman’s killed people before in a few instances (the Keaton version as well as in the comics when he shot Darkseid in “Final Crisis”), but it was never a habitual thing. In Burton’s films, I think it equated to no one giving a shit and in the case of Darkseid, he was the living embodiment of evil.

Perhaps one thing EVERYONE knows about the character is he makes it a point not to kill. You know why? Character-wise, it’s part of a moral code. He fears how easy it would be to become just like the criminals he fights should he cross that line and start capping mother fuckers. Writing-wise? He’d be fucking boring.

You know how fast Gotham would improve if Batman simply shot the Joker, Two-Face, Riddler or any of the countless members of his rouge gallery in the face? There’s a reason he’s not the Punisher, a character designed to be controversial, and simply killing his foes. I’m super curious as to how they are going to get around this in both his solo film and Suicide Squad  later this year.

Snyder keeps referencing Dark Knight Returns as an inspiration but I’m not sure he looked too far into the source material beyond visually.

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So yes, Batman kills people in this movie. Superman broods. And Wonder Woman? She’s just kind of there, personality free as to allow for mystery. It’s as if you argue that she has no purpose being there other than to milk more money…but that’d be silly.

Now the other major issue I have…

Remember how awesome this moment was in Marvel’s The Avengers?

The success of that movie can be singularly summed up in that single wrap around shot. Years of build up through individual movies, getting to know these characters and we finally see them together as a team ready to face world-ending dangers. It’s a moment I’ll never forget as it singularly justified a shared cinematic universe, something we had NEVER seen before and set the stage for the comic book dominated cinescape for the foreseeable future.

Now compare that with seeing THE Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman respectively) all together for the first time in this movie near the climax.

Batman-V-Superman-Trailer-Trinity

In many ways, I should like Daniel Bryan, screaming “YES! YES! YES!” over and over again. This is a moment I have longed for ever since I fell in love with comic books. It should be the biggest moment we’ve seen in a comic book movie we’ve seen to date. This should be a moment that echos through the halls of geekdom, proclaiming, “We did it.”

Instead, it’s just kind of there.

No applause.

No fanfare.

It’s simply a moment in a mediocre movie. There’s no grandstanding or panache. It’s a boring shot of three characters we’ve seen in this movie…together. The only pathos is what we attach to these characters as they are dressed like three icons of popular culture. In other words, this big moment isn’t earned and a large part of that is the fact that this movie crams so much fucking noise into it that you feel like any sort of nuanced character-driven scene grasping for air.

This is a movie with three other movies shoved into it, fighting for screen time. It is, all at once, a Man of Steel sequel, a Batman film and (to a lesser extent) a set up for the two part Justice League prequel. Oh, and those hoping for a bit of Justice League set up will be pretty goddamn disappointed. We learn about Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash via a computer screen…and that’s about it. We get a confounding set up (which will without a doubt be explained in a future movie) with the Flash appearing to Batman from the future that I only clarified later. It’s all set up without any substance. Marvel teases but rarely does it lose its way by dedicated big chunks to future movies. (With Age of Ultron being the main exception at this point in time.)

Superman “dies” in this movie. We’re already at that point. I’m baffled at this choice. Utterly baffled. Given how little effort this movie puts into actually developing Superman as a character, I felt nothing at his apparent passing because it feels rushed…in a movie that is just under three hours. This Superman has not earned the right to be mourned. Sure, we’ve seen him do good things but he’s not likable.

Now let’s hit some other points quickly so we can get home for supper:

I hate this iteration of the Superman character so much. It’s past the point of being funny. Henry Cavill is a fine actor. He has charisma to spare. None of that is on display here. His Clark Kent and Superman are so interchangeable you almost wonder why they even bothered giving him a secret identity. He’s as much of a brooder as Batman when he has absolutely no reason to be. There’s no real difference between the two here. It’s a fight between two assholes that want the exact same fucking thing!

The reason for Batman and Superman actually fighting is painstakingly set up here. One could argue it’s the driving force of the movie and I argue its way more complicated than it needs to be. As with every time these two go at it, the filmmakers force the audience to go through mental gymnastics in order to justify it even though both logically and in-character it makes no sense. I can get past that. Really I can. I’ve been reading comics long enough to deal with it. I’ll forever blame Frank Miller for setting those gears in motion. He answered the question pretty definitively in The Dark Knight Returns but the world just cannot let it go. What I have a much harder time accepting is the resolution to their bickering. Pardon my french, but it is so fucking stupid.

Basically, Batman is beating the living fuck out of Superman thanks to some handy kryptonite (because that’s always the case) when the blue boy scout utters his adoptive mother’s (Martha Kent) name, who has been kidnapped by Luthor in an attempt to blackmail Supe’s into fighting the Dark Knight. As we all know, Bruce’s deceased mother was Martha Wayne. Both their mothers’ names are Martha.

A lot has been said Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Yes, he is pretty bad but that’s primarily because he is in a completely different movie that everyone else. He goes for Gene Hackman’s performance by way of Heath Ledger’s Joker and its just a mess. He’s going for broke, which I admire, but it was the absolute wrong choice for this movie. I’m not a fan of the Razzie’s by any means, but I believe we have a main contender for Worst Actor in 2017.

Also…what exactly is Luthor’s end game here? And why does he hate Superman so much? He rants and raves about gods and men but he never gets to the nitty gritty of his plan or motivation. Is it jealousy? If so, that’s weak. That’s Batman Forever weak. That’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 weak.

Lex Luthor has a plot that involves a jug a pee…I don’t have much to add to that. Just needed to say it out loud…urgh…

Lois Lane is largely useless here, serving only to do plot stuff because plot stuff. She adds nothing which is an utter shame given Amy Addams is such a good fit for the role. But when you’re giving a character arbitrary things to do simply to justify their appearance, you have yourself a problem. There’s this stupid subplot involving her investigating some incident in Africa involving Superman and LexCorp and blah, blah, blah, blah. It amounts to nothing but filler and a waste of time.

Oh and that CIA guy who gets killed at the beginning? That’s supposed to be Jimmy Olson. So…how does murdering an established character with YEARS of history within the first few moments of your film with no step up or nods supposed to be having “fun” with the character? What the…?! What is this?! WHAT IS THIS?!

Moving on…

What is with the dream sequences? There are like four and none are set up. They simply happen and the character wakes up. It got to be comical, particularly once we hit the Batmare in which we get a taste of Darkseid, who we basically now know to be the BIG BAD of this film series. It makes no sense as to why Batman would have a vision of this specifically (given we see what I assume to be Parademons and a massive Anti-Life symbol) other than set up. I’d have given you a nightmare about Superman taking over the Earth ala Red Son but it took a step too far in order to have some additional fan service.

Look, this was not a great movie. I’d struggle to even say it was an okay movie. Right as it ended I predicted another Dark Knight Rises situation in which I was initially fine with the film but as I thought more and more about it, I’d like it less and less. The same goes for its predecessor, Man of Steel, a movie I actually enjoyed at parts but ultimately recessed and began to loathe with later viewings.

There is so much more I could say, but…but there’s just no point. I’d be ranting and raving for no reason only to make myself angrier and I don’t like it when a movie (particularly a movie that obviously had a ton of work put into it) get under my skin.

This movie is a mess, plain and simple. I’m not really sure what else to say. I want to provide some sort of deeper analysis but…I simply can’t. I just can’t. Not yet anyway. I’m not far enough removed from it just yet. I can’t really think of a better way to pitch it. For an alternative, I recommend listening to Max Landis’ pitch for a hypothetical Man of Steel 2.

It’s by no means perfect and I have more than a few issues with plot points (to Landis’ credit, this was a pitch he came up with on the spot with no prep which is fairly impressive), but at least it works as a more cohesive whole than the movie we ultimately got. (My issues mainly revolve around Landis’ Luthor being basically the same as the one in BvS and the comical attempt at avoiding destruction which this movie also implemented.)

Like every child dreads hearing, I’m not mad at this movie; I’m just disappointed.

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One thought on “‘Batman V Superman:Dawn of Justice’ is a confounding storm of missed opportunity with a few beautiful nuggets hidden among the wreckage (SPOILERS)

  1. Pingback: ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is Marvel’s latest cinematic mic drop | Sharks with Laserbeams

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