Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a good movie. There are things fans will enjoy in there and it has a sprinkling of some interesting ideas and entertaining scenes, but overall this thing is a mess. Full disclosure, I went into this movie expecting the worst. After the monumental letdown that was Man of Steel and the staggering reviews this one was receiving, I definitely had a zen acceptance of how terrible BvS was going to be. It honestly was exactly what I was expecting, and I really have no strong feelings about it either way. It’s pretty bad, but it’s maybe more entertaining than Man of Steel, whatever that's worth.
So let’s get into it and start with how it handled the main characters. Full spoilers from here on out.
Ben Affleck does a good job playing a character who looks like Batman and is called Batman, and sometimes acts like Batman. There are some cool scenes with him in action, and his relationship with Alfred is great. But we have to talk about the elephant in the room here: this guy is a straight up murderer. Whatever cute explanation Zack Snyder has about how he didn’t technically directly kill anyone, his main motivation for this movie is to murder Superman. Not to keep him out of Gotham City, not to build a deterrent in case he goes rogue, just to straight up stick a kryptonite spear through his chest. At this point in my life, I’m so used to these movies getting the characters so wrong that I’m not really angry about it. I’m honestly relieved to know that Snyder and Co. have such a superficial understanding of the entire DC Universe and it’s not just limited to Superman. So if you want to make your Batman a murderer (or manslaughterer) fine, whatever. But there’s no reason why the Joker should be alive in this universe then.
Really, all you need to know about the movie is revealed in the retelling of Batman’s origin. It starts with three lines of voiceover that are never referenced again (odd narrative choices that don’t fit with anything else) then we get Thomas Wayne attempting to punch Joe Chill (exaggerated violence at all turns) and young Bruce Wayne levitating in a tornado of bats (nothing makes any sense). In other words, a typical Zack Snyder movie.
Wouldn’t it just suck to be able to fly and never get hurt and have the ability to help people all the time? I still don’t know why this Clark Kent decided to be Superman, since he is obviously burdened with saving people in depressing montages. I did like where they were going with him standing against Batman’s overly violent war on crime, but it didn’t go anywhere. We never see how Superman fights crime compared to Batman, and it seems like a lazy half measure on behalf of the script (one of many) to create a point of contention between the two.
The only thing he really wants is to be with Lois, and even at his moment of sacrifice, he reaffirms that she is his world. Honest question, was anyone moved when Superman died? Did anyone have an emotional attachment to the character? As it happened, I was just like, oh I guess they’re doing Death of Superman now. Can you imagine a movie where they actually built up to Superman giving his life to save the world in a moment of pure heroism? If he flew into the sun after stopping Luthor and proclaiming his neverending love to Lois a la All Star Superman, I’d be bawling my eyes out. But Superman as Dr. Manhattan does nothing for me.
If we assume the whole world agrees that he’s a hero now, what will they do with the character when he comes back to life? Literally the only character development they gave him was that people on the news have differing opinions about him. And wouldn’t it make more sense to use some of Superman’s actual supporting characters for the talking heads since they all work in the media instead of Charlie Rose and Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Or even better, just introduce one pundit who’s drumming up public opinion against him, and who could also set up the threat of Darkseid better than a random dream sequence and Luthor talking about bells? If only there was a character created 40 years ago that could serve that function.
Also, they’re going to have to explain why Zod never came back to life, and why Doomsday won’t either. Unless he does. God, Superman just killed the both bad guys in these movies, didn’t he? Are they going to have him kill Darkseid after another huge CG fight scene with no stakes?
I could really go on about how bad this Superman is, but it’s really moot at this point. Perry’s tirade to Clark about it not being 1938 anymore wasn’t two characters in a movie talking about a news story, so much as it was the filmmakers telling the audience that Superman is outdated and anyone who likes him is stupid. They’re making millions of dollars to tell their version of Superman, and people are lining up to see it, so I guess I’m just a cranky old man yelling about how Superman used to be great back in the good ol' days.
Gal Gadot brought the perfect amount of levity to her role in this “serious” movie. She was a joy every time she was on screen and totally earns the part of Wonder Woman. I don’t understand her backstory, and unfortunately, she’s directly involved with one of the stupidest parts of the movie (Justice League teasers in an email, come on), but overall I want more Wonder Woman. The real test for this movie universe will be how it fares without Snyder at the helm, so her solo movie and Suicide Squad will really determine where it goes from here.
Poor Lois. She really had no reason to be in this movie. I love the idea that she’s the one uncovering a conspiracy to discredit Superman, but that entire subplot was a disaster that went nowhere. And apparently she’s the key to the Justice League now because dream/time-traveling Flash said so? I really do love Lois, but she should be a main character in a Superman story, not a Justice League one. If they need more women in the League (and they do) throw in Zatanna or Hawkgirl or something.
And this is where the movie really falls apart. Jesse Eisenberg swings for the fences every time he’s on screen, but he doesn’t connect with any of the curve balls Snyder throws him. I think of his performance as being similar to Michael Keaton’s Batman where he does the best he can, and brings an interesting manic energy to the role, but at the end of the day he’s really just miscast.
Nothing about Luthor makes sense. I get his basic reason for hating Superman, but beyond that, everything the character does is baffling. What does Lexcorp do? Why do they play it like a modern tech startup when he says his father started the company? Why does he need Congress to let him import the kryptonite if he can just steal it? If he doesn’t already have the kryptonite, how is that leverage to get Zod’s body and the Kryptonian ship? If the government isn’t aware of kryptonite’s effects on Kryptonians, then who is operating on Zod in that video since Luthor doesn’t have the body yet? How is murdering terrorists and a CIA agent with special bullets going to incriminate Superman, since he’d have no reason to use guns (unlike Batman, apparently)? Why did he think anyone would care about that “Superman incident” when they built a statue to his honor after Man of Steel? Wouldn’t the investigation into the Capitol building explosion show it was a bomb in the wheelchair and not heat vision or whatever? How exactly was he playing Batman to hate Superman? Why did he create logos for the Justice League members? How does a photo of Wonder Woman in the 1930s and an ATM video prove she has superpowers and isn’t just a similar looking granddaughter? We already know there’s a crocodile man, a guy who can shoot fire out of his hands, and whatever Enchantress is in this universe, so why weren’t they on his meta human list? Why did he want Superman to kill Batman? How did he know to kidnap Martha Kent on the same night that Batman was setting his trap for Superman? How did he know Superman would magically show up to save Lois in the desert and on his rooftop, but not be there to rescue Martha at the diner? How did he know he could make a Kryptonian monster out of Zod’s body and his own blood? What did he want Doomsday to do beyond kill Superman? Isn’t he just creating the alien menace that he supposedly hates at that point? Why did he shave his head in prison? How did he either contact Darkseid, or become aware of him? Why did they cast Jesse Eisenberg again?
Look, I don’t care if this is all explained in the 4 hour NC-17 rated ultimate director's cut blu ray. The movie that I saw cut every corner in the laziest possible way to create a story that doesn’t hold up under the faintest examination. The editing is just baffling as there are no establishing shots, or transitions between scenes, and things just happen with no relation to what came before. Characters talk about philosophy and their views on other characters a lot, but in the most sophomoric manner possible. If they had made this a popcorn movie where I could turn my brain off and just enjoy superheroes punching each other, than that would be one thing. But the filmmakers keep asking you to think about the deeper meanings of these characters and what it means to live in a world with a god who walks among us, and it just shines a light on how stupid it all is. This movie is almost about a couple different things, but it just comes up short on everything it tries to set up.
The title fight here was decent, and I appreciated how small scale it was compared to every other fight scene we’ve seen so far. The actual setup was pretty weak though, and the resolution was just bonkers. Batman and Superman connecting over their mothers having the same name is an interesting idea that highlights how they’re not that different after all. And I totally get that hearing the name Martha would throw Batman off for a second. It would be a cool scene in a better movie, but here it falls flat. I can see where they were going with it, but it doesn’t feel like they really set up any of the characters, and don’t follow through with anything after the fact that really makes it work.
Internet fanboys have been going on about a Marvel bias, or how people just don’t like DC movies because they’re dark and serious or whatever. Batman and Superman are two of my favorite superheroes and, IMHO, DC has better characters, and better stories they could adapt for movies than Marvel. If you had told me ten years ago that I’d like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie more than a Batman/Superman movie, I would have called you an idiot and asked you who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. But DC is going out of there way to make me dislike their characters and dread the upcoming Justice League team up movie at this point.
Dark and serious don’t necessarily mean bad, but it’s certainly easier to forgive the failings of a movie that’s light and fun. The Dark Knight was one of best (if not the best) superhero movies, and the Marvel Netflix shows have been great as well. BvS is just a bad movie, and the fact that it’s so depressing and dour is just the cherry on top here. Antman is a run–of–the–mill Marvel movie with a generic, underdeveloped villain, but it definitely is a more competent movie than BvS. If you thought Batman was cool in this thing, then bully for you, but the things that make it a movie (script, characters, pacing, editing) all fail across the board. I have no doubt that you can isolate specific scenes from this movie into youtube videos that will be awesome, but this movie as is, is just a mess.
I know this movie made a ton of money and unfortunately the negative reviews won’t matter at all. But is anybody actually excited about Justice League at this point though? I’m honestly at the point where I think I might skip out on it . We are so oversaturated with superhero movies that I’d rather see a good one with a character I don’t care about than a bad one with all my favorites. After all, this isn’t 2002 anymore, Kent.