Friday, March 25, 2016
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Review
After 3 years, it's finally time...
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (stupid title aside), is probably going to be the most controversial movie this year, even more so than Ghostbusters. I'm aware that Ghostbusters may be an incredibly disappointing movie, but nothing can possibly compare to the years of hype this movie has received and the amount of scrutiny that it will most likely receive as well. Pre-reviews have already been released, and divisive doesn't even begin to describe this movie. Critics hate it, fans like it, and there is no middle ground whatsoever here. Because this movie is such a loaded gun though and because it deals immediately with the fallout of Man of Steel, I should probably make my feelings of Man of Steel abundantly clear.
I liked Man of Steel. I thought that as a Superman movie, it did everything that it could have done. It delivered some great Superman moments, had an interesting plot, and some of the best action scenes in any superhero movie. Did it have problems? Hell yeah it had problems. It was as subtle as Darkseid coming to Earth via a Boom Tube, was obsessed with 9/11 and Jesus imagery, had no color in any shot, and spent way too much time focused on Superman bumming around and not acting like a hero. I was fine with him killing Zod from a logical standpoint, though the humans in question during that scene were absolute morons that could have easily avoided Zod's lasers.
The reason why we needed to discuss Man of Steel was because DC has A LOT riding on this movie. It's starting their whole movie universe and this is going to be the big competitor to the MCU and Captain America: Civil War in particular. Justice League will spawn from this movie, and this is probably going to be the biggest movie of the year as well. All eyes are on Batman v. Superman to see if DC can pull it off, if Marvel will have any competition, and most importantly, to see if the superhero genre can survive for the next several years with this movie being the face of the genre for the foreseeable future. I know I usually don't like superhero movies, and that may already reflect negatively on whatever my opinion may be, but that won't get in the way of what I think of this movie. All you need to know is this;
Batman v. Superman is the literal Doomsday of the superhero genre.
I'm struggling a bit to figure out a decent place to start. I'm a very big DC comic fan. I collect several series and I know very extensive information about the DC universe and all of the little happen stances that happen in it. For example, I know about Electric Blue Superman, every single Space Corp, the nature of the DC multiverse, and exactly who the New Gods are. I'm not a newb is what I'm trying to get at. Batman v. Superman, as a standard action movie, is fine. It does its job moderately well and entertains that audience with a fight between the two heroes. But the more you start to think about the movie, the more that it starts to eat away at me and makes me realize just how poorly handled this movie was.
So, in the fallout of Man of Steel, Batman, Lex Luthor, and pretty much several people in the DCU believe that Superman is a menace to society, even though he still helps people who are in danger. People are starting to worship him as a God, which makes several people, mostly Lex Luthor, uncomfortable. So Lex devises a very complex plan to have Batman and Superman starting fighting each other in the hopes of killing Superman. Most of the movie is spent building up to this one fight, and seeing which side will emerge victorious... even though it makes no sense for these two to fight each other.
Let's get the biggest elephant in the room out of the way first; the fight between Batman and Superman. In any rational world, these two characters would NEVER fight each other. Yes, they may disagree on issues, but if they were to ever fight each other, it would quickly dissipate and they would settle their differences. These two are friends. That being said, in this continuity, this is their first meeting and they don't trust each other, so I'm okay with the fight actually happening. I just hate the fact that it's done in the stupidest way and settled in an even stupider fashion.
So get this; Superman is essentially blackmailed to fight Batman because Lex Luthor has his mom held hostage. If Batman does not die, then she dies. First off, Superman pretty much has a super sense for sensing when his loved ones are in danger, so why he doesn't just quickly sense her, fly to her and rescue her before Lex could even make the call is beyond me. Next, Superman actually tries to explain to Batman why they shouldn't fight, but because Batman is rock stupid in this movie, they both end up becoming idiots and fighting each other, only for Batman to stop fighting and become best friends with Superman once he realizes that their mothers both have the same name. If that doesn't reek of hack, coincidental writing, then I don't know what does.
Getting away from the slugfest for a minute, let's actually talk about the characters in this movie. First off, Batman. So, Batman kills people with a gun in this movie. That's really all I need to say. Batman kills people... with a gun... several people actually... with no remorse.
Now, I am aware that the two stories that are heavily being channeled in this movie, "The Dark Knight Returns" and "The Death of Superman", so feature a darker and more morose Batman, mostly in the former. In that series, Bruce Wayne is a grizzled, 55 year old man who regrettably has to take up the mantle once more to fight crime. Even then, he does not kill people. Hell, he's framed for murder by the Joker when the Joker kills himself. Batman "killing" is a major plot point that he will deny.
Here though? Batman kills many people. He does it without batting an eye. I know that a lot of people were upset that Superman killed Zod in the previous film, but you can make the argument that a megalomaniac like Zod would not stop killing unless he was killed. Zod was going to destroy the entire planet there. Here, Batman kills normal goons. He kills people that don't have a name, don't have a face, and are just there to be obstacles for Batman to overcome. And I don't want to hear anyone say that technically Batman didn't kill anyone and that they were only inadvertently killed by him, like when Batman shoots a truck causing it to explode with a guy in it. Batman knew what he was doing and was fully aware of what he was trying to do, so yes, Batman is a murderer.
Superman doesn't fare as well. If he spent the majority of the first movie trying to become a hero to the people, he just spent the majority of this movie moping around to Lois and his mom. He never acts like a hero who enjoys what he does, and the Jesus metaphors run rampant with this one. You can make the argument that maybe Superman doesn't feel joy in being a hero for essentially two years because of the burden and the stress he has, but Superman fights for what's right because it is right. He doesn't care about the burden that he feels unless it's overwhelming guilt. There is no guilt in this movie except for one key sequence. There, Superman can feel guilty about his actions, but instead of trying to be productive and help figure out what's wrong and how he can save it, he flies away to go do some personal introspection... introspection that he already did in Man of Steel.
Wonder Woman is perfectly fine here, and played fairly well by Gal Godot, but she's given nothing to do in this movie. All that we see of her is her walking around, maybe saying an ominous thing or two, and then appears at the very end for the final fight against Doomsday. I expect her to do well in the Wonder Woman movie, but for now, she's merely alright.
By far the worst performance in the movie has to go to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor/The Joker. I know that he's just called Lex Luthor, but he acts nothing like the man himself and more of a hybrid between the two characters, which was going to be the original plan in earlier drafts of the script apparently. I'm fine with different interpretations of the character, but not once was I ever afraid of Lex Luthor nor did I ever think that this man could run a multi-billion dollar company. Hell, I never even got the impression that he hated Superman. First he wanted to expose to the world how Superman was not a God, then he became a crazy religious zealot that wanted to kill Superman, but then it turns out that he was just trying to save the world from an oncoming apocalypse and the only way to do so was to kill Superman. Lex tries to be everything in this movie, and he acts like a raving lunatic.
There's a scene in this movie where Lex is making his demands to the U.S. government for access to Zod's ship and corpse for further Kryptonite research. That's a very Lex Luthor thing to do, but at the very end he takes a Jolly Rancher and slowly puts in in the mouth of the agent he's talking to before making a quick little joke and continuing about his day. I'm sorry, but he's just not threatening to me in the slightest. I was more threatened by Doomsday, and I won't even get in a discussion about how pointless that whole little section was. You bring out Doomsday for one reason and one reason only, and even then there was no joy to be had during his fight sequence. Hell, if we're being perfectly honest here, Batman is a better villain than Lex and Doomsday ever were.
But you know, maybe I'm coming at this from the wrong angle. I'm a dedicated comic book fan that loves DC, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman a lot. I'm not the average viewer that's coming here just to see these heroes punch each other and duke it out. Then why is it so bleak and lifeless the entire time? First off, there is barely any color in this movie at all, making it a film with a muted blue Superman fighting a dark grey Batman in a grey and rainy Gotham. Don't believe me? Look at all of these screenshots posted throughout the review. It's a super serious explosion of grey and black with no color, joy, or interest in making this film visually interesting.
The actual fight between the two characters takes place nearly two hours into the movie, so the first half is just slowly talking about metaphors, the nature of Superman as a God, and whether or not we should trust Superman. In a better writers hands, these ideas can be good. Hell, some of the greatest Superman stories ever told examine these same ideas. But here, they're justified only because that's what the writer wanted. Superman is a God because the writer wanted a God vs. Man metaphor between Superman and Batman. People don't trust Superman because we need to have him mistrusted for Lex to be a decent villain. None of this happens naturally, and anything that is told naturally is told as terribly as possible.
Moreso than Luthor, moreso than Doomsday, the biggest villain of this movie is David Goyer, the lead writer. Goyer wrote pretty much any major DC movie in the past decade, and those movies were relatively fine. Hell, he wrote The Dark Knight for God's sake. Something happened here where he was trying to stretch all of the characters in so many directions that even line of dialogue just comes out either with surface level meaning, or at worst, hackneyed. The writing in Man of Steel was fine, but here all of the glaring flaws with it are brought into the limelight. The audience I saw this with was legitimately laughing when Superman decided to say "I love you" to Lois Lane for a quick romantic moment in the middle of a major fight scene. Now you could say "Oh, they were laughing at the fact that this scene took place in a major fight scene. The tonal shift would make anyone laugh." My response is, "Why the hell was it written into the scene in the first place with such poor dialogue to make it stand out even more?"
There are a few more problems I have with this movie, but was there anything good about it that I liked besides kinda-sorta-maybe Wonder Woman? Yes actually. The one thing that I did enjoy was seeing the origin of Doomsday. I thought that it was a clever twist on Doomsday that made sense in this universe, and the movie actually had some originality in that department.
Yup, that's about it.
I know that some people liked this movie and think it's a fine movie to watch. More power to you. I'm glad you were able to get more enjoyment out of this movie than I ever could. You know, some people may say that I wanted to hate this movie. That it was just another superhero movie and that it was Batman v. Superman, so it was going to suck no matter what. That's simply not true. I wanted to enjoy this movie as much as I enjoyed Man of Steel and I wanted to see Superman BE a hero and not a villain. I wanted to see a movie that honored and cherished DC's legacy and give it's heroes the respect they deserved. Instead, we have a murdering Batman, a gibberingly insane Luthor, a mopey Superman, a barely there Wonder Woman, and a Doomsday that looks like a cheap version of the Cloverfield monster.
I can't defend this movie. All I can do is look at it, shake my head, and walk away from it. It didn't hurt me as much as I thought it would, and it didn't even disappoint me all that much. It just makes me want to read better Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman stories. Those stories will still exist, and they embody the characters here better than Batman v. Superman ever did. Go read "All Star-Superman", "Kingdom Come", Brian Azzarello's run on Wonder Woman, "The Killing Joke", Scott Snyder's run on Superman and Batman, and even "The Dark Knight Returns". Those will be better stories than this piece of dreck.
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