Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
April 4, 2016
The short review: That totally didn’t suck as much as everyone said it did!
Let me explain. By the time I got around to seeing this, I was actually eager to find out what had raised so much vitriol among so many people. I avoided all reviews and spoilers — but really, the headlines were enough. What was this unholy trainwreck people were describing? Let’s find out!
To put this in perspective: Batman v. Superman is a better superhero movie than Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, Green Lantern, Daredevil, all the Fantastic Four movies, the Shumacher Batman movies, and that Captain America movie from the early 90’s that was so terrible it was never released.
In the end, my only real criteria for the movie was “It’d better not screw up Wonder Woman.” And — it did not! Wonder Woman was great! I’m so happy that my prediction from a couple of years ago was totally wrong.
The breakdown, with SPOILERS!
- Wonder Woman. Just great. During the big beatdown, she’s lost her sword, her shield, she’s losing, and she gets this wicked little grin on her face before diving back into the battle. Yeah, that’ll do.
- Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne. I’ve been an Affleck fangirl for years, and he didn’t disappoint.
- Jeremy Irons as techie Alfred.
- All the superhero meetings. i.e. First time Superman confronts Batman, first time Bruce sees Diana. Delightful.
- The post-apocalyptic dream sequence that turns into another dream sequence that was possibly the John Stewart Green Lantern from the future spouting stuff and then Bruce wakes up? Goofy as hell but I loved it.
- Seeing Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman together on the big screen. Been waiting for this my whole life.
- I actually cried a little at the end.
- If someone told you you had to gracefully set up an MCU-style continuity for the Justice League and you had exactly one movie to do it in — this would actually be a pretty good way to do it. Cyborg! Aquaman! Dear Reader, I squeed.
- It’s too long, with too much stuff that just isn’t important. Like blowing up the Capitol, which never really got mentioned again. Wut?
- It’s too preachy, and suffers from the same ponderous self-importance as Man of Steel. It needs fewer scenes of Clark looking worriedly at the TV while talking heads discuss whether Superman is a good guy or not. If you cut out all the dialog of people discussing Superman’s moral standing in the world, the underlying themes would still be there and it would be a shorter, more interesting movie.
- I think Clark/Superman wore exactly the same mildly worried expression through the entire movie. What are you so worried about, Clark? Did you leave the stove on? Is that it?
- At least a couple of plot threads could be removed entirely and not really affect the story. Then maybe we’d have more time for that whole Clark and Lois in a relationship thing? Because I guess they are? Wut?
- Cut the stupid prologue already, how many times do I have to say it.
- While we got the Holy Trinity of superheroes beating down on a baddie, it was muddy and hard to follow, and I wish it hadn’t been.
- The actual Batman and Superman smackdown wasn’t fun and wasn’t interesting. I imagine the dudebros were all supposed to be like “Yeah awesome woohoooo!” But I just thought it was sad. It also didn’t need to happen, and only happened because of dumb plotting. More about that in a sec.
- Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, played as Heath Ledger’s Joker. Who apparently is doing all this because he’s just crazy or something. Painfully dumb. Just no.
More Commentary, Because this is Me
So I rewrote the start of that Batman Superman fight, which didn’t need to happen, because A) I don’t believe this Lex is smart enough to outwit both Bruce and Clark, and B) stupidest dialog imaginable. “Wait!” Superman yells and marches into Batman’s face, because that’s totally what you do to an armored psychopath, right? No. Here’s what should have actually happened:
Superman (keeping his distance): “I need your help!”
Batman (confused): “What?”
Superman: “Lex Luthor has played us both, manipulated this whole thing to get rid of us, he kidnapped my mother to force me to fight you–”
Batman: “You have a mother?”
Superman (blinking): “Yes. I grew up in Kansas for goodness sakes. So will you help me get Luthor? Please?”
Batman: “Right. Let’s go.”
Which gives us a movie called Batman v. Superman in which they don’t actually fight, which I think is beautiful and hilarious. And doesn’t have an entire part of the plot hinge on Bruce’s and Clark’s mothers both having the same name, which I also thought was kinda dumb.
So, let’s talk about Superman, and violence, and heroism, and all that. This whole question about whether Superman is too powerful to be a hero, is he a god, he could totally use his powers to take over the world, etc. etc. — this isn’t a new theme for Superman. It’s been constant story fodder since the introduction of “gritty realism” to superheroes in the 80’s. I’ll never forget the episode of the animated Justice League, where there’s an alternate Earth where Superman really does take over, and we see Arkham Asylum, and all the familiar villains have been lobotomized, and we realize the two little pinprick scars on their foreheads are the same distance apart as Superman’s laser vision — holy crap, y’all. That was a kick in the teeth. The “Superman is a god on alternate Earth” storyline is a staple. I read it most recently in the graphic novel Red Son (which I was disappointed with, but I won’t get into that here).
This movie is obviously interested in those questions, but not in any depth. It just keeps asking the questions over and over, offering no answers or conclusions apart from: well, Superman must be a hero because he’s dead, right? Whatever, we’re all thinking.
I was careful to judge this as its own thing, and not compare it to some external measure of what I want a Superman movie to be. I think that’s where so much ire about this movie is coming from — there’s a powerful external measure of what Superman should be, and this movie is something else. Like the episode of Justice League with the laser-eye lobotomies. The difference being that was purposefully set up as an alternate world, and this movie is meant to be canon. Which is disappointing, right? Well, I still got my superhero Holy Trinity on the big screen teaming up against a big bad, and that made me very happy. I walked out of the movie satisfied.
To paraphrase the line from Alan Moore — Superman isn’t ruined. This movie hasn’t destroyed anything. The character is still there. The Christopher Reeve Superman is still there, the comics are still there, and at any rate the whole shebang will get rebooted again in another ten years anyway.
Seriously, Zach Snyder isn’t good enough to ruin Superman.