Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

*. Pretty much nothing went right. Starting with Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman) giving us that deadly opening voiceover: “There was a time above . . a time before . . . there were perfect things, diamond absolutes. But things fall . . . things on earth. And what falls is fallen. In the dream, it took me to the light. A beautiful lie.” Is this Gotham, or Marienbad?
*. The rest of the script is just as bad. It is long, fractured to the point of incoherence, and full of portentous dialogue delivered, portentously, to soaring choruses and booms of thunder. I’ve quoted the first lines already, so here’s one of the last: “Men are still good, we fight, we kill, we betray one another, but we can rebuild, we can do better. We will. We have to.”
*. A lot of the talk is supposed to get us to think that this is a movie that’s really about something, or engaging profound political questions involving power vs. people. I’m not having a bit of this, though if you’re interested I’d direct you to Matthew Rozsa’s review in Salon, where he does his best to make the case. Personally, I found all the stuff about Superman being a god, and what that might mean for the rest of us to be a load of hooey. When did people start thinking Superman was a god instead of a guy in tights?
*. The script doesn’t even set up motivation adequately. I can understand Bruce Wayne being upset at Superman for destroying the Wayne Building, but does he spend even five seconds trying to understand what was going on? His homicidal (or deicidal) fury is, in the words of Christopher Orr, “vague bordering on incomprehensible.”
*. Meanwhile, what is driving Lex Luthor? Jesse Eisenberg seems intent on crossing Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight with Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network, meaning a psychopath with even less charm than a tech giant.
*. Should news personalities be doing this kind of work? If only to maintain their dignity if not uphold some professional code? Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, Dana Bash, Andrew Sullivan, Brooke Baldwin, is it any wonder people despise the media so much? And there’s Patrick Leahy at the congressional hearings, playing Senator Purrington. Well, people despise government too. And I don’t think this movie is going to help with that.
*. As an aside, in The Golden Turkey Awards (1980) there was a prize for “The Worst Performance by a Politician.” It was won by John Lindsay, who was in the movie Rosebud after he retired from politics (he’d been a U.S. congressman and mayor of New York City). Since then there have been any number of politicians who have embarrassed themselves in front of the camera. For example, Anthony Weiner and Michele Bachman, both former members of congress, had minor roles in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! But Leahy was a sitting senator when this movie was made. And though he doesn’t do much but make an appearance, his sin must be judged greater.
*. I don’t think there’s ever been any explanation for why the title simply says “v” instead of “v.” or “vs.” Here’s my stab at it: it’s a kind of branding: language being reimagined as graphic design. Note, in this regard, how the future heroes of the Justice League are discovered by Diana Prince in computer files where each is identified by their own snazzy icon. It’s like she’s ordering something on Amazon, an association that may have been intended.
*. How many times do we have to see Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed? All these resets are starting to die through repetition. There’s nothing at all original being done here. The prologue is lifted straight from Batman Begins, to the point where they really should have just used the same footage and played it as a flashback.
*. What else? Well, there are a bunch of baffling dream-like fragments that will tie in to subsequent entries in the DC Universe, which is something taken straight out of the Marvel playbook. There’s a woman who’s taken hostage and tied to a chair with a clock counting down until she can be rescued at the last minute. And finally there’s the president of the United States ordering a nuclear missile strike and making sure to add “God have mercy on us all.”
*. I don’t blame the cast one bit. Ben Affleck is fine as Batman and Henry Cavill’s struggles with the worthless script are truly superheroic. Gal Gadot steals the show from both of them whenever she’s on screen. Eisenberg I’ll leave aside since I’ve never really liked him in anything and it may be that he just rubs me the wrong way.
*. At 151 minutes though I found this to be one of the toughest movies I’ve ever had to struggle through. And there’s even an “ultimate edition” (director’s cut) that runs 183 minutes! All of it culminating in the usual CGI slugfest between our three heroes and a boring Hulk-Godzilla figure who apparently goes by the name of Doomsday. I had to wonder while I was watching all this whether audiences actually find these apocalyptic beatdowns to be in some way cathartic. Is that possible? Whatever the case may be, I don’t want to waste more time thinking about it. This movie is awful.

2 thoughts on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

  1. Tom Moody

    That “Superman is a god” thing may have started with Alan Moore. His revisionist Marvelman (a UK-based Superman, called Miracleman in the US) eventually gives up trying to pass as human and lives in an Olympus-like palace in the center of London. Possibly the writers of this movie assumed that was the new conventional wisdom instead of subversive schtick from the 1980s.
    As for the “versus,” something like Hulk v Thing might make sense since they are more or less evenly matched in their ability to shear off tops of buildings, but pitting a godlike creature against a human with no powers just seems silly. Do they actually battle in this or is that all just a tease (not that I care)?

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Thanks Tom! I haven’t read that Moore comic. Batman and Superman do have a prolonged knock-down fight in this one. It’s sort of patterned after Frank Miller’s comic The Dark Knight Returns where Batman has built himself a special powered suit for the occasion. Plus he has the usual recourse to kryptonite. So it’s a reasonably fair fight. You are right, however, not to care.


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