“If you gaze into the retarded, the retarded gazes also into you.” — Fretard Nietard
I recently confessed I never watched a Snyderverse DC movie. I set out to rectify that by watching Man of Steel. Decent movie. This weekend I watched its sequel: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The Ultimate Cut: Gormless: My Mind Is Going: I Can’t Feel My Smart. I don’t know where to start with this one. It is the cinematic equivalent of a home featured on Hoarders.
The “Big Idea” of Batman v Superman is easy to identify. It is in the title. Yet, the movie buries its central conceit in a lot of clutter. I have watched a string of random videos on YouTube that form a more linear narrative throughline. Start with an Outdoor Boys camping adventure, move on to Hoof GP trimming a cow foot, watch a grizzly bear documentary, listen to a song by Fifth Dimension, view Keanu weapons training and marvel at BeardMeatsFood demolishing a plate of black pudding. Together, it all flows smoother than Batman v Superman.
Batman + Superman = Crap, Man
The movie starts off well enough. We revisit Zod renovating Metropolis with a gravity pile driver and playing wrecking ball with Superman. All of this is viewed from ground level by Bruce Wayne. Around the time Bruce learns a little girl lost her mother in the destruction, he comes to the conclusion Superman is too powerful to be trusted. Bruce grimly sets his jaw, and his mind, to killing Superman.
This scenario plays off Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where the story ends with a battle between an aged, angry Batman and a government-tool Superman. It works beautifully, mainly because the fight is not the “Big Idea” of the story. The “Big Idea” of The Dark Knight Returns is repressed iconoclasts finally popping in the face of too much societal BS.
And therein lies the problem. Miller knew enough (or at least had the instincts) to not build an entire story around Batman vs. Superman. Miller had other things going on that formed a genuinely cracking tale. DC Films, on the other hand, threw stuff against the wall and hoped it stuck. Batman v Superman is the ultimate push-up bra. Nothing there but stuffing.
Batman v Superman wants to be part Death of Superman, part Dark Knight Returns, part Wonder Woman introduction, and part Justice League setup, along with trying to shoehorn in Lex Luthor and Lois Lane, tease some sort of future Earth thing, introduce a Thanos-type villain and throw in a Prometheus reference for intellectual cred. All of those things are fine in and of themselves. Together, they are cinematic vomit.
Batman / Superman = Also Crap, Man
Funnily enough, the quickest fix is to simply change the title. If the film wasn’t called Batman v Superman, it would not be slave to such an overpowering “Big Idea”. If you go to a film called Batman v Superman, your expectations are locked into an extremely narrow viewpoint. Go to a film called Men of Steel: Dawn of Justice, and you’ve got an entirely new outlook. You’d still come out disappointed if you are a fan of the Death of Superman and Dark Knight Returns storylines, however. Both concepts are wasted by being crammed together and shortchanged.
I’d speculate the Batman v Superman concept finally burned a hole in Warner Bros. pocket, and they had to get it out. Batman v Superman had been on their stovetop for a long time. It had been teased way back in 2007 with I Am Legend. WB saw all of the money Marvel was raking in and wanted to get their own cinematic universe out as quickly as possible, and it all spiraled out of control.
Now we are left to pick over the bones.
Batman + Superman + Everyone Else
Amy Adams was wasted in Man of Steel. Her character in Batman v Superman is a glitch in The Matrix. Experience déjà vu as she gets rescued by Superman three times. The movie gives the impression Superman is continually tuned into Lois’s biorhythms. He always knows when she is in danger and can get to her in a blink of an eye (even if she is in another country) to save her from all bodily harm.
As for Superman’s mom…you can kidnap her, tie her up and threaten her for hours without Superman noticing. He won’t even know where she is when her imminent demise is brought to his attention. How very convenient for a supervillain.
Speaking of which, Jesse Eisenberg got vitriol for his portrayal of Lex Luthor. Folks said he was too young and not threatening with his Zuckerbergian performance. The script doesn’t do him any favors, though. Lex Luthor’s dialogue is goofy. Not sure what Eisenberg is supposed to do with a line as cheesy as “The Knight is here…” The character also had daddy issues, and one never gets a sense of why he is doing what he is doing.
Batman ? Superman
If Luthor wants to kill Superman, why does he bother ruining Superman politically? Why does Luthor want Superman to kill Batman? Does he hope Batman kills Superman? Meanwhile, Luthor creates Doomsday from Zod’s corpse to kill Superman, which seems like it should be Plan A. Work smarter, not harder, Lexy. It’s your forte.
I read the Wikipedia plot summary to see if it clears up my confusion. It created more questions. For example, why does Luthor need to convince Holly Hunter, who has clearly been doing a lot of push-ups, to allow him to import kryptonite? Has no one told Luthor, who is bad, that this thing called “smuggling” exists? Just give the kryptonite to an illegal immigrant to mule into the country. Lex Luthor may be the first supervillain I have seen who tries to make sure his nefarious plans are carried out legally.
Batman Heart Superman
Henry Cavill is not very good as Superman in this movie. Superman is not very good as Superman in this movie. This is an odd choice because Superman’s death is supposed to mean something. If you are going to have an emotional self-sacrifice of a character at the end of a movie, it is a good idea to establish an emotional connection to said character and to make it clear why they are dying.
Superman does nothing in Batman v Superman to make the viewer connect to him. He spends most of the movie trying to put an end to Batman. This actually makes viewers cold toward him because people like Batman. Then Superman sacrifices himself to kill a creature that comes into the third act of the film and roars a lot. What happens if Superman doesn’t kill that creature? Would it continue to roar? Maybe cause people in the vicinity to go deaf? Perhaps create a shortage of ear plugs? Again, it is all stuffing and no substance.
On the other hand, Batfleck was surprisingly solid. This older, more cynical, roid-rage Batman is fun to watch. I am disappointed we didn’t get a standalone Batfleck movie. Benny could have knocked it out of the park with the right script. The only issue with this Batman is he is too advanced with his technology, which borders on magic…and silly.
Why would anyone need a gatling gun made out of gatling guns? Gatling guns have rotating barrels to enable a high-rate of fire without melting. Rotating multiple gatling guns around an axis accomplishes nothing more than creating an engineering nightmare.
Batman V Superman & Martha
This brings us to the infamous “Martha” scene. I heard the lamentations this caused in viewers, which were so vehement that I course-corrected expectations and figured, “Eh, it can’t be that bad.” I was wrong. It was terrible. I cannot think of a single instance where, if Batman was about to kill me, and I wanted him to save my mom, I would say, “Save Myrtle.” I would say, “Save my mom” or “save Myrtle Wrenage” so Batman had specifics to work with.
In theory, Batman learning his murdered mom has the same name as Superman’s about-to-be-murdered mom would probably give him pause. In execution, it does not work. The dialogue does not ring true. Maybe that is why they gave Luthor so much stupid dialogue earlier. The writers tried to inoculate viewers against the “Martha” scene. Clever.
The “Martha” scene also pulls the plug on the film. The movie is called Batman v Superman. Everything is built to Batman v Superman in its own clunky way. Then…poof! “Save Martha,” and all the air is let out of the movie. Yet, it still has a chunk of runtime left. Enter the creature that roars a lot. Wonder Woman, who previously spent all of her time looking at computer screens with a concerned expression on her face, also enters the movie to beat up the creature that roars a lot.
Then Superman dies, and Hollywood continues to display no clue as to how cornfields work. Batman v Superman came out in 2016, yet it apparently thinks people in rural America use horse-drawn carriages to haul a coffin through the middle of a cornfield to get to a cemetery. I imagine a scene was cut where the funeral announcement was made by telegraph…
Batman: 1.5, Superman: .5
Batman v Superman could just as well be a Disney movie. It is that messy. Affleck is really the only one who comes out of it mostly unscathed. Snyder showed a lot of visual flair, however, which props him up to a degree, as well. Batman, especially, looks great in the movie, and a lot of the CGI borders on spectacular.
On the other hand, some of Snyder’s decisions are suspect. He didn’t have a writing credit, but it appears from interviews that Snyder had a fair amount of creative input and plans for future films. Snyder aimed to bring a morally-complex aspect to the characters. That is an interesting idea, but it all ends up muddled onscreen. How much of that was Snyder’s fault and how much of that was the studio’s fault? The simplest answer is maybe “yes.”
At the end of the day, Batman v Superman is an interesting failure. It might even be considered a harbinger of where we stand today with all of the bloated crapfests being shoved down our throat. Batman v Superman does have one thing going for it that those don’t, however. According to Deadline, it made a profit. It wasn’t a huge profit at $105.7 million, but there are surely some big floundering movies out there that would take that if they could get it.
Next up is Zach Snyder’s Justice League, which was demanded by fans after Joss Whedon took over the original movie. It is four hours long. Rolling Stone Magazine recently put it on a list of the 50 greatest superhero movies of all time. Said list doesn’t even contain Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher.
Why do I feel like the Comedian in Watchmen?
It’s a joke. It’s all a joke…
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