(WHEATLEY, ON) – This review contains no spoilers. I have been reviewing movies for years and I’ve used many words to describe many bad movies. Terrible, ugly, stupid, incompetent, pathetic, plus a few too explicit for a reputable website like The Square.
There is one word, however, that I don’t often use. One word that I save for movies that fail in every conceivable aspect of filmmaking. A word that describes a picture which is such an incomprehensible mess that no amount of editing or rewrites can fix.
Batman V Superman is a disaster.
BvS, as it will henceforth be known, is fundamentally broken at the conceptual level. Most people’s criticism is being lobbed at the movie’s director, Zack Snyder, but while Snyder surely deserves some blame for the picture, the bulk of the mud should be slung at it’s writers, David Goyer and Chris Terrio.
The script is awful, the characters are awful, the plot is awful, and Snyder’s overblown, nauseating visuals are only the awful icing on the awful cake.
The basic gist of the movie is that Batman is angry at Superman for the destruction he’s visited upon Metropolis during the events of Man of Steel. The caped crusader believes that Superman is dangerous and, although he seems to be committed to good, he may change his mind in the future. And, that means he must be eliminated.
Superman’s motivation for wanting to fight Batman are even weaker, but in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t divulge them.
This begins the problem of Goyer, and the script’s re-writer Chris Terrio, not understanding the basic fundamentals of these classic characters.
Batman is the hero committed to preserving life and fighting those who try to destroy it. This is the hero who, time and time again, has refused to kill The Joker and the rest of his enemies and will always give them the chance at redemption.
He approaches every situation with a plan to resolve it with minimal casualties. Not in BvS however.
In this movie, he’s a violent murdering psychopath who shoots, stabs, and runs over enough people to make Ted Bundy look like Mr Rogers. It also makes no sense that Batman would immediately jump to the conclusion that Superman needs to die before even talking to him or trying to find a way to incarcerate him, should the time come.
In the movie, Batman, while talking to Alfred about possibly having to kill Superman, says, “If we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”
This is not how Batman acts. This is not his character.
He makes no attempt to reason with Superman or ask for his help. He just sees the destruction he unintentionally caused while saving the Earth and makes up his mind that the man from Krypton should die.
I’ve seen a few people hiding behind the comic series The Dark Knight Returns to explain Batman’s irrational behaviour, but this is not The Dark Knight Returns.
That book takes place near the end of Batman’s life, when he becomes jaded and angry. Batman V Superman is a pre-Justice League story that is fundamentally different from Returns. In a press conference, Snyder stated that while he took inspiration from the comic, BvS is a completely different story.
Superman’s demeanour is another problem.
He’s sullen and angry with a permanent scowl like Batman. I’m not saying we need to go back to the Christopher Reeve style of Superman, though I find that one much more enjoyable. But, Superman should at least act somewhat like Superman.
The Man of Steel becomes angry at Batman for being a vigilante who is now branding criminals in Gotham, and tries to get him to stop. I think this is actually a decent initial motivation for Superman since Batman is essentially a villain in this movie. However, later in the film, when Lex Luther gets involved, Superman’s motivations become even more complicated and make even less sense.
So those are our heroes. A violent, murdering, psychopath who wants to kill the last member of a long-dead race because he might become a threat in the future. And, a brooding, jaded former saviour who is easily tricked by a young millionaire into becoming a villain himself.
These are how the characters might be at the end of their lives, like in Dark Knight Returns, after long careers of fighting evil. But, not in their prime.
The movie goes through great lengths to establish the upcoming Justice League franchise, but how am I supposed to buy that these two start an organization for justice and peace? They’re violent psychopaths.
The other characters don’t help the picture much either.
Lois Lane (Amy Adams) has evolved from her role as someone to give exposition to in Man of Steel, to just being there. She has a minor plotline where she does some detective work to uncover a conspiracy, but the information she uncovers is something the audience has known for most of the movie, so it’s completely pointless.
She almost contributes something to the plot near the end of the film, but is quickly brushed to the side so one of the heroes can take over, rendering her character completely useless.
Lex Luthor (played inexplicably by Jesse Eisenberg) behaves nothing like how the classic villain is supposed to behave. He’s not a greedy, selfish billionaire who wants to eliminate Superman so he can get away with his nefarious schemes. In BvS, Luthor wants to kill Superman because he’s a deranged, insane sociopath who has no convincing motivation to see Superman buried.
He behaves more like The Joker in this movie and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was originally written that way.
The other main addition to the cast is Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who is seen early in the movie as Diana Prince and near the end as Wonder Woman. She has nothing to do with the plot, other than to set up the Justice League movie, and only shows up in costume to ineffectively fight a monster at the end.
Much like Lois Lane’s attempt to uncover an already uncovered mystery, Bruce Wayne spends a little time trying to discover Prince’s identity, but the audience already knows who she is so it’s just a waste of time.
Maybe if she wasn’t featured prominently in the advertising it would have been an interesting twist when we find out who she really is. But, when we finally find out it’s a real “no duh” moment.
While the characterization and plot is the movie’s main downfall, Snyder’s directorial incompetence doesn’t help things. The movie is comprised of mostly close-ups in scenes that don’t have any flow or direction to them.
These first 45 minutes are just unconnected scene after unconnected scene, where characters talk in two-shot about what they plan to do later in the film. I will admit the fight between Batman and Superman is one of the better parts of the movie, but that’s a 10 minute scene that takes place an hour and forty-five minutes into the film.
The final battle is as mind-numbing and exhausting as the one in Man of Steel where our heroes punch a monster for 30 minutes while techno music blares and orange electricity shoots everywhere. The climax has no tension, no emotion, no clever twist, and constantly bombards you with overbearing visuals and noise until your brain just gives up and you just wish it was over.
These are the broad strokes of why Batman V Superman doesn’t work. There are many details and plot points to criticize that further ruin the picture, but if I covered all of them I’d be writing until the Justice League movie comes out.
If there is one positive note I can make about the movie it’s that the performances are mostly decent. Ben Affleck is surprisingly good as Batman and Amy Adams as Lois is believable. Henry Cavill’s Superman is written so that he looks terrible, but I think he did the best with what he had to work with. And, Jeremy Irons as Alfred is enjoyable although, again, his character is written completely wrong, but we can’t fault Irons for that.
DC Comics clearly wants to have its cinematic universe like Marvel, but they just can’t seem to replicate their competitors’ success. This movie is a rushed attempt to establish the universe and in that blind frenzy it loses what could have been a fun movie where two beloved characters punch each other in the face.
Although Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has already made over double it’s budget after less than a week at the box-office, it’s failure to satisfy most fans will likely leave them cold to further movies.
As far as I’m concerned, the future of the DC Comics film franchise looks bleak, but at least we can look forward to Captain America: Civil War coming soon.