Time for me to chime in, but where to begin? First, let’s talk sheer concept: Batman vs Superman, who would win in a fight? Here are the typical answers to that “age-old” question:
- Superman, duh. He’s like, super.
- Batman, because Batman always wins and…ya know, kryptonite?
- This is a fundamentally uninteresting question that seems to be missing the point of these particular superheroes…
With that out of the way, let’s focus on the movie itself. To be clear Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a movie – it’s a commercial, it’s a misguided “adaptation”, it’s fool’s gold and it’s a steroid that DC/Warner Bros is using in an attempt to catch up with Marvel Studios in the superhero movie arms race. Most importantly Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a movie because it is several movies that have been forced into one.
I’m still wary on exactly how many movies exist within the 153 minutes of Batman v Superman. Any given movie is made up of a handful of ideas that come together to create conflict and propel the story and its characters forward. Batman v Superman is overflowing with ideas – most of which are never fully realized or explored. Let’s try to count and label the number of movies in BvS without judgement (that comes later) – shall we?
- Man of Steel sequel
- Batman reboot
- Wonder Woman set-up
- Justice League set-up
- The Dark Knight Returns/The Death of Superman adaptation
- Zack Snyder’s attempt to pretend like he understood the Man of Steel outcry
Ok, so I might have tagged on that last one and you could argue that some of my “movies” could be combined so let’s say there is at least FOUR movies happening in this ONE feature film. I’m ambivalent about the Marvel Studios films for the most part, but there’s no denying that they own the market on the Hollywood capes and tights crowd. DC/Warner’s penis envy of Marvel Studios permeates the entire structure of Batman v Superman, creating the incoherence of its four-in-one structure.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (I really hate typing out that fucking subtitle) is a bizarre experience. Where Man of Steel legitimately angered me, BvS merely made me roll my eyes at its audacity. Though it is clunky, forced and stupid, the studio’s “world-building” parts of the movie thankfully gave less time for Snyder to fundamentally misunderstand the DC heroes on the same level as he did in Man of Steel. There are so many plates half-ass spinning at the same time that it’s not as easy to ridicule Zack Snyder for his typical flaws.
That said, Snyder gives the “source material” of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns the same slavish reverence that he did in 2009’s Watchmen. Screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer cut and paste lines of dialogue and inner monologue from Miller’s book into BvS. Without going on too much of a tangent, The Dark Knight Returns is simultaneously the best and worst thing that has ever happened to the character. It’s inspired a lot of great reinterpretations and critiques of Batman but it has also lead to readers and creators championing it’s more extreme moments – like Batman fighting Superman and firing a gun at a kidnapper- as gospel. I’d equate this group of people to those who simply love Quentin Tarantino for the gratuitous violence and racial slurs in his films and nothing else. The Batman in The Dark Knight Returns is at the end of his rope, after a career of fighting crime in Gotham; it’s the last Batman story. To have Ben Affleck personify that Batman in a movie that is posed to set up the Justice League and the entire DC Cinematic Universe is mind-boggling. It’s one of those instances that it seems that Snyder just does something because “it’s cool.”Actually, the whole movie could probably be categorized as happening just because “it’s cool”; the characters’ motivations certainly don’t justify themselves. Batman wants to fight (and kill) Superman because he thinks that Superman has the potential to enslave mankind…or something. Batman expedites his Super killing scheme when he has a nightmare vision of the future. Batman – a man of reason and science – bases his whole plan on a dream. Lucky for Bruce that his dream was very straightforward and not Freudian (because the Freudian stuff is saved for the end of the actual fight.) Batman is a bully and Superman is a sad sack god who doesn’t ever make any active choices in the entirety of the movie. BvS even gives Superman a platform to tell the world what he stands for – in the ever exciting superhero courtroom scene – but takes that very platform away by blowing the whole damn thing up. The movie strives for meaning but never claims to have any. Batman vs Superman is supposed to be a battle of philosophies on how to be a hero, but it’s kind of hard when both of the guys in capes are just assholes. Metropolis is supposed to be a shining city of tomorrow – perpetual sunshine to Gotham’s perpetual night. But since Zack Snyder’s color pallet is as varied as your favorite Instagram filter (and the fact that they’re just a river apart) you don’t get this most basic of dichotomies.
Snyder frames several shots of the film as if he assumes that we as an audience are fucking morons. In that courtroom scene the camera cuts between Lex Luthor’s empty seat and the jar of piss in front of Holly Hunter (not even gonna explain) several times before the courtroom blows up – just in case you weren’t sure who the villain of the movie was. The “resolution” of the ten minute Batman/Superman fight is absurd and similarly force fed. Batman stops trying to kill Superman when he realizes they both have mothers named Martha. If you never realized that coincidence you definitely did by this point in the film, as the script has gone out of its way to hammer that silly factoid in your skull.
Yes, “our moms have the same name” is the reason Bats and Supes team up, because women are not characters in this movie, but plot points. Amy Adams is wasted on this 2-dimensional character of Lois Lane yet again. The movie might have you believe that stating she’s not a lady but a “journalist” and involving her in some impossible to follow Superman/bullet murder frame job, but she’s just the damsel in distress unfortunately. Lex Luthor’s abduction and abuse of Martha Kent is similarly damsel-y in nature – cruel, degrading and uncomfortable. “What about Wonder Woman” you ask? Well she’s a similar plot device who is doing her best Anne Hathaway Catwoman impression for most of the movie until she comes in with her own rad electric guitar theme for the Doomsday fight at the end.
In attempt to punctuate things, I’ll tackle Doomsday and kryptonite at the same time. kryptonite can be used effectively in Superman stories but more times than not it is a crutch. Doomsday was a villain of sheer force that was created in the ‘90s to kill Superman without kryptonite for the cynical intention of hoping that fans would care about Superman again. It should come as no surprise that Batman v Superman fails to say anything interesting or original about this bland Superman in relation to kryptonite or Doomsday. Lex Luthor literally refers to kryptonite as “a silver bullet” – which narratively it typically is. And yes, this movie had to kill Superman too for some reason.
Jesse Eisenberg chews the scenery of the movie until he chokes on it, vomits it back up just so he can chew on it yet again. It’s almost a tie between Lex Luthor and Batman for their lack of reasoning in wanting to kill Superman. It’s revealed (but not explained of course) that Luthor is behind everything: the dumb bullet frame job, pitting Batman against Superman and even (inadvertently) the founding of the Justice League. Having the future heroes of the Justice League be revealed in an email (with their respective logos, no less) requires no further elaboration on my part than to say: it is dumb. So very dumb.
This piece I’ve written probably comes off as schizophrenic and jumbled together, but in that way it’s an accurate representation of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So to cap off this already long diatribe (if you’ve gotten this far) I will present to you some highlights from my SEVEN pages of notes, in no particular order:
- Snyder doesn’t fully paint a picture of who this Batman is, but cheats by relying on imagery that we’ve seen in the Nolan films. Why was Wayne Manor carpet bombed, exactly?
- If the nation as a whole is so unsure of Superman, how did a major American city commission a god-like statue of him on the ground zero he caused?
- Metropolis PD acts like paraplegic vandals climb Superman statues all day, everyday
- This movie opens and closes with a funeral. Yay!
- Thomas Wayne, MD attacks a man who has him at gunpoint
- The angle of the gun pointed at Martha indicates a point blank shot to the face – she’d be obliterated. Can’t wait for the R-rated version!
- Does Ben Affleck Bruce Wayne live in the lake house that Rosamund Pike stayed at in Gone Girl?
- Lex Luthor’s podium speech trails off into madness
- This movie in a nutshell
- Holly Hunter’s courtroom speech trails off into madness, as an apparent ode to Lex’s speech.
- This movie in a nutshell
- Clark: “The Daily Planet used to stand for something” Perry: “And so could you if it was 1938, but it’s not 1938”
- This movie in a nutshell
- Superman tells Lois that he’s been living life the way his father wanted
- Which is actually false, because Pa Kent’s advice to Clark in Man of Steel boiled down to “stay in the closet ya homo, don’t be different.”
- Why does Batman have to have a nightmare vision where he shoots a bunch of dudes? WHY?!?
- The superheroes in this movie get a lot of their info from the TV news and the newspaper
- “They [Batman’s parents] taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to”
- This movie in a nutshell
- “Thankfully the workday is over” – said real life Anderson Cooper never
- Doomsday looks like he’s having sex with the energy he’s absorbing
- Also, that’s Parasite’s shtick, not Doomsday’s.
- Supes to Lois: “You are my world”
- Appropriating his father’s bullshit
- Women are not people, not objects, but worlds.
- Good or bad? DEBATE!
- Oh look! Clark was gonna propose! We need more things in this movie, don’t we?
- Bechdel test fail
- Dirt rises, just like…children levitating bats
Well…this was exhausting. There’s so much more I want to say…what a weird thing this movie is. I can’t wait for the next email movie from DC!