The year is 2016 and Hollywood has been taken hostage by superhero movies for the last 8 years. While the X-Men and Spider-Man had their runs in the early 2000s, Marvel redefined the way we saw superheroes on the big screen with Iron Man in 2008. The Avengers Initiative revealed a carefully crafted plan that would have Disney and Marvel take over the box office, introducing characters through origin stories then having them team up on the silver screen to battle the most dangerous forces in the comic book universe. It worked and the movie world has never been the same again, with each Avengers movie reeling in over a billion dollars respectively. And so DC Comics and Warner Bros. were caught with their pants down. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy fought a fair fight but as successful as those three movies were, they weren’t enough to stand up against the juggernaut that Marvel had put in motion despite them having the better roster of characters at their disposal. So now we have Warner Bros. playing catch-up. Which set the stage for the franchise reboot in 2013 with Zack Snyder directing Man of Steel and its sequel Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
By now everyone has heard the bashing and the outcries regarding this latest DC installment. This movie left a weird impression on me. Not because it was good. It wasn’t that. Not because it was bad cause it wasn’t that either. From a movie-watcher’s perspective I ultimately felt nothing for it. If anything it was just mostly problematic. The pacing and the buildup to the last 45 minutes of the movie was a drag the whole way even though you could sense that the director and the writers were trying to ascribe some purpose to the actions that would lead to the climax of the movie. You could feel that they tried. But it just wasn’t enough. Snyder paints a world where things aren’t black and white (even though as dark as the movie is he might as well have glossed over it with the Inkwell Instagram filter) – instead we get to see the arguments from both sides of the spectrum. But what argument is he trying to make? Many themes are chucked into this two and a half hour melting pot of a movie. Too many. It’s hard to see exactly what he’s trying to convey amidst the destruction and being drowned out by the Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) randomly yelling about gods and demons and angels and devils. Deism, politics, populism, authoritarianism etc. are all thrown into this movie in what seems like a weakly organized attempt at establishing some sort of seriousness to the movie. And at the end of the day none of those themes were able to establish a strong enough impactful presence on the audience so it falls flat eventually and is left by the wayside.
Along with the movie having too many themes, the plot draws on too many story-lines as well. Having Batman vs. Superman go against each other comes from the famed Frank Miller comic book miniseries, The Dark Knight Returns. A much older Batman goes toe-to-toe with Superman (Henry Cavill) wearing the same suit Ben Affleck dons in the movie for his battle with the Big Blue Boy Scout. It was a great story-line to draw from. Then we also have The Death of Superman coming to play in which Superman fights to save Metropolis from Doomsday, ultimately dying at the end of the book. Another iconic comic book plot to draw from. Then throw in a Wonder Woman origin story, a Justice League teaser, Russian smugglers, a spy-reporter subplot and we’re back at DC playing catch-up to Marvel again. On a basic level, this movie tried to fit in everything that Marvel had done over 8 years of movies into one 151 minutes and it shows. When Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is watching the secret footage of the other meta-humans that Batman had stolen from Lex, I automatically thought “oh ok, so we’re setting up for the sequel” so basically none of this matters. And at the end of the movie, Bruce talks with Diana (WW) about finding the rest of the super-powered guys and forming a team to fight against the evils of the world. A League if you will… A Justice League *cues fanfare*.
Now as a comic book fan, I’ve come to appreciate the different takes and interpretations that their live-action counterparts have taken over the years. I’m not a fan of all those interpretations but they’ve mostly worked as long as they’ve stayed true to the characters. This can only occur when you have a director or writer that has a complete grasp of the natures of the characters and the worlds that he’s working with. I feel like Zack Snyder does not. Even though I can see the argument he tries to make in his two hour buildup about why these characters would act the way they do, I’m not buying it at all. I don’t think you have to have read any of the Batman Detective Comics to realize that Bruce is totally against killings. He absolutely abhors guns. He detests murder. I’m sure by now everyone has seen Thomas and Martha Wayne get shot in front of an 8-year old Bruce and that hatred for killing was planted there and has festered over the years culminating in the billionaire that dresses up as a bat and sends people to the hospital. He might send criminals to the emergency room with fifty-leven broken bones but he’s not a murderer. That goes against everything the character has stood for for over 70 years. The same could be said for Superman. With Lex holding Martha Kent (Diane Lane) hostage, Clark, the demigod, believes his only choice is to bring Lex the head of the Batman in order to save his mother’s life. He makes a quick attempt to reason with Batman before punching him 50 feet through the air which is kinda like “well at least I tried”. None of that made sense or stood in line with characters that have over 70 years of material to draw from that shows and emphasizes that this is not the way they react to situations. All this leads to the point where Batman, filled with blood-lust, holding a kyrpotinite spear in his hands, ready to commit what would be the brutal murder of the Last Son of Kyrpton stops mid-thrust because Superman yells the name “Martha” (which I actually forgot was the name of Bruce’s mother as well). That was enough to rid Batman of all the anger and violence that he was ready to unleash on Superman and then ten minutes later after he rescues Martha Kent, he greets her with the line “I’m a friend of your son’s”. WHAT?? SERIOUSLY?! The guy you were about to gut like a fish just ten minutes ago?
There are other problems that I could get into about the movie from either the perspective of a movie-watcher or a comic-book reader but it would be unfair because the movie did have its moments. The performances of Affleck, Amy Adams (who plays Lois Lane), Lawrence Fishburne (plays Perry White) and Gal Gadot were actually very good. Many were worried about how Ben Affleck would be perceived as Batman but I think it’s safe to say that those fears were ultimately dashed by his portrayal of the Dark Knight AND Bruce Wayne. Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander Luthor seemed over the top at times (with many saying that he channeled Heath Ledger’s Joker in all the wrong ways) but I felt that it was intriguing to see a new aspect brought to Lex. The scene where Batman goes in to rescue Clark’s mother is probably the best one in the whole movie with Batman delivering the unapologetic, bone-breaking justice that I’m accustomed to by his character. However, the redeeming moments are few and far in between. This movie was a stepping stone to get them to the next one but it was so average that I don’t know how much I’m looking forward to the next one.
MOVIE RATING: 6/10
- SUPERMAN GOT THAT WORK! GOT THE BRAKES BEAT OFF HIM! GOT THAT TWO DOLLAR HAIR CUT! BATMAN HAD HIM READ THOSE NIKES! HIT HIM WITH THA ONE HITTER QUITTER! HE CAUGHT THOSE HANDS!
- Joker hints? I don’t know how it would fit but who knows.
- The shot of Lois holding Clark’s body while Batman and Wonder Woman stood on either side was a pretty dope homage to comic strip in the Death of Superman.
- So Darkseid is going to be in the next movie probably. The parademons in Bruce’s dream hinted at it and the last shot of the painting in Lex’s mansion confirmed my beliefs on that.
- Yes Superman is still alive and will be back. Go read The Death and Return of Superman.
- Is it possible for Zack Snyder to make a movie without slow-motion? 300, Watchmen and now this.
- How is Clark Kent a reporter for one of the biggest publications in the country and not know who Bruce Wayne is? I mean that’s like not knowing who Prince William or Kim Kardashian is in 2016.
- Who thought the dream sequences were a good idea? As soon as I saw young Bruce flying with the bats in the opening scene, it was clear that this movie was not going to be enjoyable.
- What was Lex going to do about Doomsday if it eventually had killed Superman? What was his exit strategy?
- Does Warner Bros. not think that they would have been better off giving Wonder Woman her own movie? She’s such an amazing character and to reduce her to such a minute role in this movie was undeserving.
- I feel like I’d watched Spider-Man 3 all over again except not nearly as bad. That’s what the whole scene with Doomsday at the end felt like compared to Spider-Man 3’s 10 minutes of Venom at the end.
- Also when did Doomsday start shooting out electricity and energy beams?