Warning: Batman v Superman spoilers follow.
Not long ago I wrote about my fears for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now I’ve seen it, and the verdict is in: Batman v Superman wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but man was it bad.
The bright side
Not everything about this movie was terrible. I’m a fan of the cast. Just like in Man of Steel, Amy Adams’ Lois and Diane Lane’s Martha Kent were wonderful, and both Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck were good. Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch was woefully underused, and though she only had 7 minutes of screen time, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman stole the show.
And while I worry about Snyder’s understanding and portrayal of Superman, so far these two films have both showed Clark and Lois’ relationship fairly well. The two have romantic and emotional moments, and her importance in his life is never minimized.
There are even, at times, insightful conversations about the nature of Superman’s work on Earth. But these moments are far overshadowed by the disjointed mess that is the movie as a whole.
The rest of it
It opened with the same scene we’ve seen hundreds of time, a flashback to Bruce Wayne’s parents dying. This set up a film that, despite being a Superman sequel, was far more focused on Batman. But more than that, it was also a movie about Superman finding his way, a movie about the two heroes’ ideological differences, a Justice League prequel, and possibly an adaptation of “The Death and Return of Superman.” The two-and-a-half hour movie felt far longer, but none of the storylines felt connected or satisfying.
While the cinematography was engaging and beautiful at times, Snyder and Co. seem to have an obsession with slow-motion, especially when it comes to Superman’s billowing cape. By its third use, I was over it. This device simply adds to the melodrama, as does the alternatively tense and sad score.
My fears realized
Though not the nightmare I once imagined, this movie did see a lot of my fears come to life. Batman fighting Superman was, obviously, based on some kind of ridiculous miscommunication. This Batman was darker than most, a Dark Knight Returns-esque aging hero who’d likely lost a Robin in the past, based on clues in the Batcave. And unlike pretty much every Bat incarnation, this one wasn’t afraid to murder. He would literally brand criminals, and even uses guns. Those are about the least Batman-type things Batman could do.
While he claims to be angry with Superman for the destruction wrought during the Battle of Metropolis, that’s one of the only mentions we see of that insane scene. Superman is called to DC to speak before a congressional committee, but it’s about a plothole-filled event early in the movie where a group of African militants are murdered (So’s Jimmy Olsen, by the way). And somehow this is blamed on Superman, though that’s never really explained. And Batman’s need to take down Superman, to acquire Kryptonite and kill him, is obsessive and without any real explanation. It’s a blind vengeance that doesn’t make sense, which is saying a lot for a character whose entire adult life is based on vengeance.
As for the fight itself, it was put into motion by the walking Millennial stereotype that is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, whose balding moment at the end of the movie was the biggest letdown of the entire movie (he gets his head shaved in prison?). It’s unclear why he wants Batman to be the one to take down Superman, since Batman hasn’t done much in the years since his partner’s death, apparently, and most people think he’s a myth anyway. Would anyone in that universe really care about that battle? No, just viewers in our world.
But luckily for those heroes, the fight ends. With literally the dumbest thing I could think of. In fact, just days before seeing the movie I joked with some friends that since both heroes have mothers named Martha, they could bond over that.
And they actually did!
When Batman has Superman on the ropes (thanks to the aforementioned Kryptonite), the man of steel oddly says he has to save Martha, instead of more logically saying he has to save “my mom.” Thankfully Lois Lane shows up like the deus ex machina this plot constantly needs, and lets Batman know “that’s his mother’s name.” Only then does Batman throw his Kryptonite aside and help Superman. Moments ago he told him he wasn’t a man, but once he hears about Mother Martha everything is cool. Sorry everyone, Bruce Wayne doesn’t think you’re a person unless your mom is named Martha.
This movie is my Doomsday
As the trailer briefly showed us, the movie features a version of the monstrous villain Doomsday. He killed Superman in a major comic event in the early 90s, and was likely added to the overstuffed BvS as the only one who could do so again. While in the comics, this character had a long, slow build as he made his way via a path of destruction to Metropolis and the final battle, in the movie he showed up in the final minutes as a Frankenstein monster hail mary from Luthor.
In the absence of a villain build, we could have at least gotten some character focus on the man of steel. But once you dig out his arc from beneath the many other plot lines, you’re left wanting.
The movie starts with Clark Kent happily living with the love of his life, Lois Lane. He’s still saving people as Superman, and trying to ignore those who hate him in favor of the many who think he’s a hero. But as Luthor’s schemes come to fruition, Superman worries that he’s better off not saving anyone, since he can’t save everyone. That idea was already dealt with in the first movie, but sure, let’s once again ask. He also claims that “no one stays good,” which is about the least Superman thing to say. By the end, he’s back to saving the world and especially saving Lois. That is, until he sacrifices himself to stop Doomsday. Then the reason for his death, and for even being in the movie at all, becomes clear: he’s the catalyst for the Justice League.
Like Coulson’s death in the first Avengers movie, Superman’s is a cause that heroes can rally around. A grieving Batman, who moments earlier wanted to kill the Kryptonian himself, seems to have done a 180 on both Superman and humanity as he explains to Wonder Woman that he’s going to bring metahumans together to fight in Superman’s honor.
Don’t worry, he’ll be back. Considering all of the clues pointing to the JL Big Bad being Darkseid, his main enemy Superman has to be on the scene.
Speaking of that Knightmare
Batman’s way too long Inception-style prophetic dream sequence left me wanting. Sure, I’m excited to have Darkseid be the next movie’s villain. But the dream, combined with other parts of the film, hit on one of my biggest trope pet peeves. Dream Clark tells Dream Bruce that “she was my world” before he murders him, making it seem like Bruce did something to Lois. The “my world” phrasing happens throughout the movie, and in the end Clark equates her and his life on Earth. He’s willing to sacrifice himself to save Earth because it saves her.
There’s a trope that appears in a few alternate universe comics, Injustice: Gods Among Usbeing the most recent, where Lois dies and in his grief Superman goes dark and tyrannical. I can’t stand that plot, as I have more faith in Superman as a hero and in his understanding of what Lois would want him to do in the event of her death. It also seems odd for the franchise to point in this direction, as it covered Superman’s sacrificial death with literal crosses and used a memorial quote that, while from the architect Christopher Wren‘s memorial, reads like a Bible verse. “If you seek his monument — look around you.”
The S stands for hope
I went into this movie knowing there was a high likelihood I wouldn’t enjoy it. I wanted to. I would love nothing more than a movie that has all of the action and heart of my favorite comics, that shows my favorite hero in the way I see him, as someone worth watching.
If I’d been wrong, I would’ve been the first person to cheer, to tell everyone to run and see the movie. But I wasn’t wrong. At least, not entirely.