Thoughts on Batman V Superman (it’s pretty bad)
I went into Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice with low expectations. Like, about as low as they could possibly get.
Critics and creators I respect have said it’s really bad or that it’s so divergent from the characters its based on as to be unrecognizable. Friends I know said it was bad. But even still, my morbid curiosity about it got the better of me. I had to know for myself: Just how bad is this movie?
Worse than I could have imagined, but kinda amusing in its own way.
All the best scenes and dialogue from BvS are shown in its many trailers, and I mean ALL of them. There is NOTHING compelling in this movie that isn’t available online for free. Just watch that over again.
I swear to you, your brain will fill in the rest of the movie with more interesting scenes and ideas than what’s in the actual film. It’ll make more sense, and probably be less insulting and contemptible that what’s on screen in BvS.
My Initial Reaction:
Moviebob’s vitriolic rant of a review? That wasn’t just hyperbole. This movie is as sour and morose an experience as he described. Almost nothing about its story or its locations is established, character motivations don’t make sense, there’s a bunch of glaring plot holes, and the action is so goofy that it would be schlocky and fun if the characters weren’t so dour and joyless.
This movie is bad when judged on its own merits. It’s a weirdly paced, oddly structured mess that relies more on dream sequences than it does on actual character interaction. It’s a story told by “visual oriented” filmmakers who leave all the character interactions and dialogue feeling awkward or lifeless. It’s a series of well-made trailers/music videos that’ve been horribly stretched into an overlong movie.
This movie is SO much worse as an adaptation of DC Comics superheroes. It utterly misses the point of Superman, and it presents a ‘Dark Knight Returns’ version of Batman but without any of the context or history that made that character great.
For context, I unironically love the character of Superman.
- I love Superman as a gay icon. Clark’s dual identity of the mild-mannered reporter VS the bright, colourful, empowered hero is a powerful symbol for being in the closet.
- I love Superman as an analogy for the world as seen by immigrants to the US: A literal immigrant raised on the virtues of the “American Way”, growing up to embody the absolute best of those virtues as an exemplar to the world.
- I love that Superman is the perfect combination of “you can’t tell me what to do” childish power fantasy and “I always do the right and moral thing” example for children.
- I love that, to me and countless others, Superman is a character who makes “doing the right thing” seem cool and empowering. ‘Doing the right thing’ versus ‘being a badass’ is almost never cool in modern fiction, but characters like Superman and The Doctor (Doctor Who) make it seem cool.
- I love that he’s one of the few superheroes who has a good family that is there for him. A superhero who isn’t motivated by guilt, or tragedy, or a dark past, or destiny, or a tragic fate. Superman chooses to save people. He chooses to be a good man, and that choice is informed by him having parents who love and support him.
Both the Clark Kent and Superman characters in this film are almost sociopathic. Clark’s scenes with Lois make him seem inhuman and imposing, and as Superman he’s every bit the grim, frightening alien that Batman believes him to be.
He threatens to kill Batman at least twice. I feel like his default inclination is to threaten his enemies with death. He’s a monster!
That’s a version of the character that is so far removed from my understanding and appreciation of him that it’s completely alienating. Blech! I kinda hate it.
My Feelings Later:
The movie isn’t all bad. I mean, it’s terrible, but it’s got its moments.
The casting was mostly good. Ben Affleck makes a great Bruce Wayne in the public, for what little we see of him being Bruce Wayne. Henry Cavill definitely looks the part of both Clark Kent and Superman. I want to see way more of Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Irons and Affleck have definitely sold me on the idea of a new solo Batman movie with the two of them.
Gal Gadot steals every scene she’s in as Wonder Woman, which is admittedly only one. Her reveal is so bombastic, she looks like she’s walked out of Snyder’s 300. I’m definitely interested in seeing more.
The action in the film is so schlocky and weird and dumb, that thinking about it after the fact makes me giggle:
- Batman apparently has an entirely ‘tire-based’ workout. Lifting tires, smashing tires with sledgehammers, dragging tires on ropes, doing chin ups with tires. It’s the “Bat Tire Workout”, and its goofy as fuck.
- There’s a bit where Batman rips a bathroom sink off of a wall and bludgeons Superman in the face with it while shouting. Then he spins Superman around on a rope, smashing him into walls. It’s pure schlock.
- The President of the US orders a nuclear attack on Doomsday/Superman, but he’s does so via teleconference with all his dialogue shown as shots of a phone on a table. The whole time I’m thinking: “Oh, they elected a phone as a President! President Phone! Lookit the president resting on the table there. You show president phone some respect!”
- Aquaman looks like a cranky old man barbarian in his brief reveal. He brandishes a trident at a submarine, as if to say “You damn kids, get away from my sunken ship!”
This movie is so dumb. I kinda loved these goofy bits though.
When it isn’t frustrating or making me mad, I’ll bet BvS is a schlocky bad-movie masterpiece on par with Batman and Robin.
The Big Takeaway:
Batman V Superman strikes me as a film made by people (Zack Snyder, David Goyer, Chris Terrio) who don’t really have any appreciation for Superman beyond being a messianic figure who can do punching real good.
The filmmakers never show Superman being a “good guy”. The montage of him saving people is framed against scenes of destruction and hopelessness. People literally look up at him in awe and fear while VO of news reports speculate on whether Superman is actually helping people.
Superman, a character often used as an optimistic and positive contrast to Batman’s dark and fear-inspiring presence, is presented in BvS as a psychopath who we’re only told stands for good.
It’s incredibly telling that the only point in the movie where other characters are inspired by Superman are at his funeral, once he’s dead and buried.
As if to say “Superman can only be a positive force in people’s lives once he’s gone. He’s only valuable as a hero when we refer to him in the past tense, as a memory. We don’t want to have to deal with him in our movie(s) unless he’s causing destruction”.
Fuck this movie so hard.