Before I get to talking about this movie, I should first say that I’m not a Marvel fan boy. I don’t really even like the cinematic universe that much save Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier, though I will watch Civil War when it comes out (Spiderman could get me to watch almost anything). I kind of lean towards DC, though I haven’t been a fan of the films. I’m willing to give it a chance, but I didn’t care for Man of Steel.
Anyways…I watched this movie on Friday with a friend. We had agreed to watch the movie in the middle of the day around 2PM. In the movie theater we talked about our hopes for this movie. In the row behind us were DC fans pinning their hopes on this movie, hoping it would elevate the DCCU to the same level as the MCU–which I won’t get into that whole dick measuring competition–yet also hating on future films. Reviews had already come out, and though some would say the reviews were mixed, most that people had seen, save Youtube reviews, had been negative. While watching trailers in the theater, we saw yet another Civil War trailer, and I told my friend that Civil War would be the better superhero movie. After watching Batman V. Superman, I would have to agree.
Though I felt wronged by this movie, and my friend and I yelled out, “Fuck Zack Snyder!”, over and over in a park, I won’t call this movie atrocious. My friend found this movie unsalvageable, but I can’t agree with that. Just as the movie was essentially broken into parts, my overall opinion will be broken up, giving the pros and cons of: the story, the characters, the cinematic effects, and the set ups. So here we go.
Oh. This. Story. It made me sad. We were given such an awesome scaffolding for the plot: Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor see Superman as a threat, and are approaching this threat in different ways. But then, we had to muddle it all up with extra story lines, kind of bad writing, outlandish dream sequences, and an ignorance of character building. There are four split pieces. There’s the title of Superman V. Batman. There’s a short swipe away of set up for the Justice League movie (i.e. the Darkseid stuff and cameos to the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman). There’s a Batman origin that’s trippy and kind of maybe entertaining. There’s a, “Is there a necessity for Superman”, plot line that’s really just a question, but would have been more entertaining than this movie. And there’s a detective thriller story just for Lois Lane (that makes five pieces)–which that was pretty cool. It was ignored and masked by all the other stuff going on, but it was cool. In a, “Is there a necessity for Superman”, movie the Lois Lane side story could be expanded and would have lead to character investment, but Zack Snyder smushed up all the plots and made it into a mess.
There were other problems with the plot like how the fight was resolved: “Martha will survive tonight” (I know it’s not a direct quote). I realize that the writers wanted to have an emphasis on the impact of Bruce’s parent’s death in this movie, but using the whole, “our two heroes have mothers with the same name” shit is dumb. I get it. I get how it should work and tap into an emotional place, but it wasn’t needed. Even before fighting Superman could’ve said, “Hey, Bats, Luthor has my mother. Let’s curb stomp him,” and it would have been fine. Bats hadn’t broken out the kryptonite smoke bombs yet, so it would have worked, but we needed a fight between Batman and Superman in this fight. It was boring, though.
Now I’ll go to the characters and how they were utilized.
Supes was okay in this story. Though he still deals with problems really forceful (i.e. when he saves Lois in the desert), he’s trying to get better…maybe? He saves people from disasters. He cares what people think of him. I enjoyed him quite a bit when the world had to discuss the need and necessity of Superman. It lead to a good question and the emotional range Henry Cavill had in those moments were great. His relationship with Lois was a sweet moment for such a dark, emotionally draining, and serious to the point of being bland story.
There’s an arc of not having and then gaining the world’s trust. In order to get it back, he’s killed. Which I get it. There, in some writer’s/ Zack Snyder’s head, needed to be major sacrifice in order to show how much of a superhero Superman is/was to the people, but did he really need to “die”? I felt as though it was more needed as setup for the Justice League movie. It needs to be harder for Batman to recruit these other heroes. Which I get it (we can make a game out of how many times I type that phrase), but it’s really useless. The “death” is only used to snap into our emotions for the movie, but with the little character investment for all of the characters, no one cares. It could be used for just the in movie society, but they could have just seen Superman getting injured while saving them, and they’d trust him again. As a means of audience reaction, we all know he’s coming back. I mean, we saw him get nuked and heal because of the sun, so I mean where does this stand? The audience just sees the death as a tool–a poorly used tool, so what’s the point? [Insert generic answer such as: money]
Batman was a shining point in this movie. I enjoyed Batman. He was driven, his relationship with Alfred was great, the playboy portrayal of Bruce Wayne was cool. I liked Battfleck. I enjoyed him more than most portrayals. Other dope things. We have a veteran Batman. He’s already had run ins with the Joker, which that’s really awesome. His body’s getting slower. His fighting is very Batman. The scene where he rescues Martha is cool (don’t worry I’ll get to the concerning points). I liked his combat, sneakiness, and use of grappling gun. So overall I enjoyed Batman, but there were concerns.
Batman uses guns. I’ve heard many an outcry going, “Batman doesn’t use guns!” or “That’s not the Batman I know!” or “Oh my god Batman uses guns and that means I’m going to die because nothing makes sense anymore and– Oh! I’m flatlining!” Well… though I sort of don’t agree with Batman using guns, I’m coming to the defense of it. He uses a sniper gun to shoot a tracker onto a truck from far away. I thought that was cool. The guns he used in his dreams are his dreams, fuck that noise to the people arguing with that. As for the gun used in the Martha rescue, I didn’t necessarily see it as him using a gun for the sake of hurting. I saw it more as a mean to get people away. And I don’t think I saw people being hit by the bullets.
“But Batman killed!”, seven hundred thousand viewers might yell. Well I get it. That’s upsetting, but I’m going to give the movie peeps a chance on this one too. Yes, I get that the whole purpose of Batman being smart and his entire talent is that he’s smart enough to get out of a situation without killing, but that’s Batman and unfortunately the writers wrote themselves in a corner. For that I can’t forgive them, but there’s another way to see this. This movie happens in a world where Batman has faced the Joker and a world where, probably, Robin #2 has been killed by the Joker. Now there’s been a debate on whether Batman’s principle of not killing has led to the death of more people. And I sort of have to agree with that stance. So maybe, just maybe, the writers and Zack Snyder were smart enough to go with a different iteration of Batman. One who after being scorned by the Joker, has decided, that in some cases, he’ll have to kill. Is that okay or reasonable, not really, but it would make sense. The problem is giving the writers and Zack Snyder credit for thinking that. Batman killing is probably the previous and not the latter.
One last part for Batman. They made him a prophet. I have so many problems with that. Justice League could have been set up more subtle than forcing dream sequences. If the Flash sequence was real, I’d be not really fine with it, but accepting of it. Unfortunately they chalked that up to a dream. So now the entire premise of the Justice League movie might be a delusional man recruiting superhumans because of a hunch he had while sleeping.
Wonder Woman was cool. The audience cheered when she popped up, but we all knew it was going to happen because it happened in the trailer. As Diana Prince, she was cool and her interactions with Bruce were awesome. It also gave me hope for something I’ve wanted since watching Justice League the animated series (I need them to be together). As for acting, Gal Gadot did a good job with her limited performance. We weren’t given enough to be invested in her, but I think the audience’s hype for an onscreen Wonder Woman allowed us to care. My only concern was how much she lunged with each attack. I think they overdid it with that. I look forward to her solo movie.
I’ll start this with saying that Jesse Eisenberg did a good job with what the director asked of him, but this was a weird fucking Lex. He was overly charismatic, and that could have been fine if he weren’t also a tweaking ass weirdo. I get that there was some sort of decision to make Lex young and modern for this contemporary audience, but he would have been fine as the comic book Lex. There was no need to make him so awkward. He could have been charismatic for public appearances and darker minded for privacy.
Lex’s motivation for the elimination of Superman was also a good premise, but then was ruined. Lex fearing the threat of Superman would have been awesome. Lex wanting to simply defeat a god (yeah there’s a difference) wasn’t that great. Lex is usually shown as someone doing what he thinks is right. BvS Lex is a Lex with a weird complex not fully driven by the thought of trying to stop a threat. He’s framing someone who he has seen save people.
As for the manipulation of Superman and Batman into fighting and the Doomsday stuff, I mean… shit hit the fan. They gave Lex too much knowledge. We were forced to just accept that Lex knew all that he knew. He knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman. He knew that Clark Kent was Superman (which okay, that’s easy cause I mean…). And he knew that fucking around with General Zod’s body would transform him. We weren’t given evidence that he knew this, but we were forced to accept it. And they brought it up late in the game as a surprising reveal, but it didn’t have an effect on the audience. We were all just going, “well that’s stupid.” Without plotting the seeds not only for the affected side, but also for the effector side, we’re left with a poorly executed “twist”. Also how does he know that Darkseid is coming?
I wonder how they’ll use him in later movies and if his portrayal (not the actor, but the presentation of the character) will change.
CGI/ Visual Effects
Oh visual effects. It could have been visually appeasing, but it wasn’t. Every moment of CG was kind of bad. When Superman got nuked, I was sad because how fake Superman’s face was. The battlefield looked fake every time they cut to it. I couldn’t deal with it. It was like they stepped on real ground, but the background was fake, everything was fake. Batman grappling gunning seemed fake. This movie was one of those cases where practical effects would have been better. It wouldn’t have seemed so lazy. I could understand if they couldn’t afford it, but they could have.
As for Doomsday, I wasn’t okay with it at first, but after a while I warmed up to him, especially when he grew his spikes. I was super okay with him when he wasn’t near any real objects.
So overall, though I’ve ripped into this movie, I was okay with it. I was just more disappointed in how great the movie could have been if not for certain plot choices, cuts, and stylistic options. If the movie hadn’t tried to do so much, but left itself such little time or forsaken character investment for effects and badly chosen plot. There was a chance to make it a good or even a great movie, but we’re left with a movie that makes us want something better. And maybe the next few DCCU installments will be better.