Batman v Superman suffers from too many ideas competing for attention in the same crowded theater. Too many theses posed, and not enough time to get in depth with any of them, so the plot feels overly “directed” between explosions. Characters do things because the plot demands they do them, rather than because of who they are.
Man, I wanted to like this movie. I’m in the minority that loved Man of Steel. I think Man of Steel is a great movie, and largely unappreciated. I heard the critics panning Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and I thought to myself, “Self, no worries. Their small minds failed to appreciate Man of Steel too. You’ll go and see DoJ and be even more thrilled than last time, if the previews are any indication. It won’t be the first time you enjoyed something others didn’t like.”
And my self said, “Rock on.”
(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW)
So I went to see it. Ugh! Oh, there were some great individual pieces to this movie. But…
PROLOGUE 1: The opening scene is Batman’s prologue. Don’t care. We’ve all seen the cave scene, the parents get shot, etc etc etc. We didn’t need to see it again. This was just a minor annoyance that became major because of how they set up the climactic turn for Batman to decide not to kill Superman later. It all comes down to the fact that … wait for it … have mothers with the same name.
After watching Bruce remember his dad call out “Martha” to his dying mom… we fast forward to where the movie should have started: the JEEP Commercial.
PROLOGUE 2: The Jeep Commercial. Where it should have started: the ending of the Man of Steel… the Superman-Zod fight, but from the ground. Bruce Wayne is darting into the action with long dramatic shots of a Jeep Renegade that looks geared towards a car commercial. I say this tongue in cheek, as this really didn’t bother me. This entire scene, I thought, was great, and set a stage for a great movie. I settled in with my popcorn thinking, “Yeah, critics can suck it. This will be awesome.”
Ugh. And then things start to unravel. You can see it unravel bit by bit, and the more moments I have where I think, “Huh. So that’s how they’re going. Okaaaay …” add up, I start to realize with sinking horror that the critics are right.
Oh, I like DC grimdark. I like the more realistic portrayal of how the world would react to a super alien who doesn’t answer to anyone. At least, I like the premise. By the time that story arc reaches its zenith, I feel like no character grows into nuanced, and the Moral Depth the movie aspires to never gets beyond a sophomore level.
MOVIE START: After we get through the prologue and go 18 years later, we see Superman rescue Lois from an African warlord, without saving or intervening on anyone else’s behalf. It looks childishly fun. Lois calls him on it later, but it was my first moment where I thought, “Huh. They need to show us his heroic and selfless side to counterbalance Bruce’s perception. The audience needs to feel the world’s conflict over Superman, which means seeing the positive too.” We don’t get that, other than a brief montage, until what feels like the middle of the movie.
The rest of this isn’t necessarily in chronological order. I’ll hit on what I think tank the movie for me before getting into the stuff I did like. It can be summarized by: IT LOOKS LIKE THIS MOVIE WAS MADE BY A COMMITTEE, WITH LOTS OF DOWNWARD DIRECTED BITS FORCED IN. They all got in a room and initiate all these cool plots/threads into the movie of how Batman would be pitted against Superman… and then tried to execute them all while not really delivering on them. The whole Bruce-Clark discussion about Batman’s vigilantism could have been given its own movie treatment, instead of a parallel thesis in a crowded theater of competing theses. This is true for many of the great ideas spawned in the first half of the movie.
Dream sequences. These had no place in the movie. Don’t surreal the frack out of scenes if it’s not surreal movie.
The WORST part of the movie: Batman’s vision of the Injustice: Gods Among Us future. Flash warning him not to let Lois die. This has NOTHING to do with the movie, and the ONLY thing that helps me understand that scene (after five minutes of WTF, why is Batman suddenly in the desert fighting Superman Cops?) is drawing upon extended DC lore knowledge. The audience should not have to do that. And it was so hamfisted in there, without any kind of graceful transition in and out of the narrative…
The rest of the movie suffers, essentially, from pacing. It’s as if 22 episodes of a season were crammed into 2 hours. Nothing is earned. The problem, ultimately, boils down to the writing (plot problems mostly, some character problems I could overlook, and minor dialogue issues).
And Batman deciding not to KILL Clark (note: he didn’t go for a containment strategy: he immediately went to murder… I have a hard time with that for Batman) because Clark’s mother’s in danger, and the only reason he cares about that is that she’s named … wait for it … MARTHA!
My final disappointment: Hans Zimmer! You dialed this one in! I’m a huge fan of Zimmer, and love the Man of Steel soundtrack. This soundtrack is awful, jarring, and doesn’t feel cohesive between the themes. The Wonder Woman theme made me snigger. No, I laughed at its cheese. Which is sad, because the movie wasn’t inherently cheesy. I get he was going for an ethnic feel, but it was the CONTRAST with the rest of the score, and the sudden shift from “Oh shit serious dark dark dark nihilism” to “exotic fight cheer let’s go have some fun it’s smack-down time” that threw me right out of immersion (for the umpteenth time in the movie).
THE LIKES: I liked all the actors. I really liked this depiction of Lex. He was scary. I liked both Batman and Superman, and of course Wonder Woman. OTOH, everyone talks about how great she was like this was the single best heroine depiction we’ve seen. Sure, she was good, but she wasn’t on screen enough to be great (no fault of the actress). What audiences are reacting to is the contrast with the rest of the movie.
I liked the Batman v Superman fight. I didn’t like the plot surrounding it, or the dialogue, but I liked the fight itself. It did both heroes “realistic” justice. Batman won, because Superman didn’t go all out from the start. (dammit. Except Superman could have used his speed to dodge the second kryptonite mist grenade).
I liked Superman’s use of powers, and I like that by the end he was, mostly, a good guy. I don’t like his statement “no one stays good in this world.” Superman has too many doubts in this movie.
The bottom line thesis of this movie is “There are good people in this world.” The problem is, it doesn’t come across as inspiring hope when the characters say it. It comes across as the writers don’t believe it themselves, and are trying to protest actual reality by creating a fiction. Nihilism is not what I expect from Superman.
Still… I had fun watching it. I didn’t get bored. It’s probably one of those movies I should never watch again, because I think if I start to notice even more, I’ll get angry with it. Like I did with the Hobbit movies.
Hmm… the Hobbit scale. I’d say this movie was better than the third Hobbit Movie, but worse than the 2nd Hobbit movie.
I wanted to like this, but my enthusiasm for Justice League wasn’t stoked in any way. 🙁