What did we do to deserve such a bad adaption of some of the best characters we have in the public consciousness, Batman and Superman?
Let’s do this like it was a school workshop critique. Let’s start with the positives. Like Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck, I am willing to bet, will be the best on screen Batman by the time his career with the cape is over. He is easily the best part of Batman v Superman, cementing the fact that they turned the sequel to Man of Steel into a Batman movie as we all knew they would. Unfortunately this isn’t saying much because Bruce Wayne is the only character with a real arc of any kind. Dammit, I said we’d focus on the positives first. Okay, uh, Zack Snyder is still an excellent visual director. Action scenes are usually of very high energy and quality and there are quite a few images in the film that are borderline iconic. Batman’s suit actually looks great on film, and his Batcave has a weird feel that I actually really dug. There are hints that despite everything give me hope for the Wonder Woman film. I, despite all reason, actually kind of like the reason Supes and Bats stop fighting long enough to work out their differences. But it’s still executed really poorly. Okay, this isn’t working, this movie is a goddamn mess.
Okay. The bad. Which is to say, the rest of the film.
The editing is incredibly shoddy. Scene transitions never work, and so the movie just keeps moving forward without any sense of pace or direction, just formless momentum. This gets into a bigger problem with the story itself which is nonsensical at best, mean spirited at worst, and often somewhere in between those two in a kind of limbo of unearned high school level philosophy. This is not helped along by the fact that with the very slim exception of Batman, almost no characters in this movie feel real in any conceivable way. Batman realizing Superman’s humanity is good, but it would be better if Superman showed any goddamn humanity in the film. Henry Cavill, despite having a very strong jaw and I can only assume a relatively decent acting talent, is given so little to work with that I can’t tell if he’s wooden or if the screenplay he’s working with just hates him. Probably the latter. Characters that also suffer from a script that hates them are Lois Lane, who is given a redundant plotline, Wonder Woman, who is given the job of looking pretty and mysterious until she has to set up the future DC superhero movies, and the incredible failure that is Lex Luthor.
I’m not sure who wrote Lex Luthor this way, or who told Mr. Eisenberg to act in the way that he does, but the pain it brings me is enormous. This isn’t Lex Luthor. This is barely a villain. I don’t want to harp too much on what Lex Luthor “should be”, because re-imaginings are a thing that can and sometimes should happen. But Lex Luthor shouldn’t be the Joker but shittier. Lex Luthor should at least still be a character. The only thing the movie got right is that Lex hates Superman, but it feels hollow and forced, as they try to explain it with motivations that switch between religion, daddy issues, insecurity, and nonsense at a whim. Apparently Luthor started planning to have Batman and Superman fight just after General Zod tore apart Metropolis. What? How would Luthor even try to do that, and how did he know that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and how did he plan that stupid Senate hearing with the wheelchair and the jar of piss, and why?
“And why?” is the big question unfortunately. Characters don’t make sense. Editing doesn’t make sense. Doomsday doesn’t make sense. Batman’s stupid vision of a potential future where Superman and Darkseid rule the Earth doesn’t make sense. I feel like I should be excited by a scene like that, or by a future version of the Flash showing up in a dream to warn Batman about Superman and about Lois Lane. But this happens in the middle of the movie and then never comes back. It has no relevance to the plot, except for the flimsy and also nonsensical chance that Darkseid is trying to influence Lex Luthor somehow.
These scenes are terrible. This whole movie is terrible. They’re trying to set up a whole movie universe, but they should have started by making a good movie first. If they are starting a movie universe here, or in Man of Steel, then they are starting in poison waters.
I didn’t and still don’t want to hate this movie. But I do. I cannot stand the thought of having to deal with a decade’s worth of movies based off of the catastrophic vision of Zach Snyder and David Goyer and the Warner Bros. executives who are supporting them. Just writing this review has drained me of my love for these characters, almost as much as these movies already have. I can’t write about it anymore, and we haven’t even covered the terrible politics of the movie, or the terrible way it ends, or the overbearing score, or any of the other myriad reasons I can think of that this movie should not be and should not be expanded into a Universe. Please, I am begging you Warner Bros., get these characters in the hands of people who like them and understand them. And not in the grim, gritty, Objectivist, and stale hands of Zach Snyder.
I hope Suicide Squad is good. I hope Wonder Woman is good. I hope Ben Affleck gets to be in a solo Batman movie with Jeremy Irons. But I’m not going to hold my breath.
(P.S. As a palette cleanser, let’s all watch some old Fleischer Superman cartoons. Ah, that’s better.)