Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
This is why you don’t let Zack Snyder play with your toys, DC and Warner Bros. He breaks shit. He ruins your fun with his stupidity.
Seriously, is anyone smart in this thing? Does anyone show the least bit of common sense?
Superman (Henry Cavill) keeps doing that stupid Superman thing: standing around and letting enemies gather. Lois (Amy Adams), for example, is captured in Africa, held at gunpoint, and what does he do? He bursts through the roof and lands 15 feet away in a three-point stance, then slowly stands. Who isn’t sick of that bit? Dude, just swoop in and save her before anyone even knows you’re there. He goes to the U.S. Capitol, there’s a bomb there, he doesn’t figure it out. Boom! He visits flood victims and just hovers above them. Does he rescue them? Snyder doesn’t show us. He travels to Mexico to save a child because he sees she’s in trouble on TV. Is that the only child in the world in trouble? Is she only alive because he saw her on TV? Here’s my favorite. Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) kidnaps Supes’ mother, Martha Kent (Diane Lane), to force the titular battle with Batman. What does Superman do? He succumbs. He kneels. I’m like, “Um, dude. Super hearing? Ever hear of it? You know how you found Lois in Africa? Or when she was nearly drowning later? Like that, but with your moms. Oh, and when you return to Luthor, don’t let him talk and push a lot of buttons. Because if he does he creates Doomsday out of the corpse of Gen. Zod and a drop of his own blood. No, don’t do that, I said. No, it’s ... Never mind.”
By the way: How did Luthor figure out Supes was Clark Kent? Do we see that? Is it just assumed? Is it super obvious?
The signal and the noise
For all of his idiocy, Supes is brilliant next to Batman (Ben Affleck). Bruce Wayne loses employees/friends during the grand battle between Supes and Zod in “Man of Steel.” It’s his 9/11 and he blames Supes for bringing the fight, and the destruction, to Earth. Which kinda makes sense. But he also listens to all of the FOX-News-like lies about Superman. It’s a signal and noise thing, and he listens to the noise. He is the noise. Alfred (Jeremy Irons) tries to warn him about this: “That’s how it starts,” Alfred says. “The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel.” To which Bruce says the following:
He has the power to wipe out the entire human race. And if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.
One percent is an absolute. Right. It’s like Bruce and Clark are two morons from “Point/CounterPoint,” each believing the lies about the other. Bruce fears Supes because of his power, Clark doesn’t like Bats because he tramps on people’s civil rights. Oddly, he wants to pursue Batman as a reporter rather than as Superman. Does he even have a goal as Superman? It feels like, “Well, I guess I have to save people again. I guess.” At least Batman has a goal: He wants to stop Superman, the guy who’s helping everyone.
When Batman and Superman first meet—which, keep in mind, is the cinematic event fans have been waiting on for 70 years—this is the exchange we get:
Superman: Next time they shine your light in the sky, don't go to it. The Bat is dead. Bury it. Consider this mercy.
Batman: Tell me. Do you bleed?
[Superman flies away]
Batman: You will.
It’s the reference to the bat signal that bugs me. Batman has two stages: vigilante and law enforcer. In the former he’s pursued by the cops, in the latter the cops call him via the bat signal. He’s a vigilante here. The signal shouldn’t factor in. But Zack tosses in whatever he thinks is cool at the moment.
For the titular fight, Batman preps by lifting industrial weights like he’s Rocky in “Rocky IV”; then he wears Iron Man-like armor with lit-up eyes; then in the midst he refuses to listen to Superman’s pleas. He’s a dick. He also doesn’t use the kryptonite until like the fourth round. How stupid is that? Me, I’d be springing that surprise early. By the way: Is Superman at all surprised by this substance? Something that can take away his mighty powers? Who knows? Batman uses it once and gains the upper hand (point: Batman); then it dissipates, Supes’ jaw turns to steel again, and it’s not a contest anymore (point: Supes). So Supes allows Batman to use it again (point: no one, because, c’mon, someone show an ounce of sense here). Then Batman is on the verge of killing Superman with a kryptonite spear. Why doesn’t he? For the dumbest reason possible. Supes gasps out his mother’s name, Martha, and that’s Bruce’s mom’s name, too, and ... that’s the reason. That. If either woman had been named something else, or nicknamed something else; or if Supes had choked out, “Mom” rather than “Martha,” game over. The life of Superman, the mightiest being in the universe, hung on the thread of a stupid coincidence.
But at least Supes’ powers return and he saves his mom. Wait. Scratch that. He lets Batman save his mom, because, hell, it’s only his mom. He goes after Luthor. But really he lets Luthor bring Doomsday to life. Which creates more havoc in Metropolis. Which forces Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to finally get involved.
Yeah, Wonder Woman. All of the feminists, male and female, are out in force, saying rah rah and it’s about time; but c’mon, she’s just as dumb as everyone else in this thing.
What is her point? She seems to travel around the world in designer outfits doing what exactly? Who knows? She shows up at Luthor’s gala in order to retrieve a digital photo that shows her with some doughboys in Belgium in 1918? Why does she care? Is that evidence of anything? “Yeah, that’s my great-great grandmom. Yeah, people say we look alike.” And why WWI rather than WWII? Is this some perverse homage to Zack Snyder’s own super-crappy 2011 film “Sucker Punch,” which included WWI trenches and women in teddies sucking on lollipops? Either way, we find out that Wonder Woman hasn’t helped humanity in 100 years—since that photo. What caused the break? Who knows? She seems happy enough in the photo. And why didn’t it happen before WWI? Was she cool with slavery? And after? WWII couldn’t bring her out of retirement? The Holocaust? The Cold War? The Beatles?
Besides .jpgs of WW, Luthor is gathering evidence of other super-powered beings, too, which he calls “Meta-Humans,” and which will, of course, become the Justice League of America. We get short clips of Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg. So let me get this straight: In the Marvel universe, the Avengers were assembled by the U.S. government in the person of Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “I’m putting together a team,” etc. And DC’s response is to have its super team, the Justice League, assembled, at least in PowerPoint presentation, by ... Lex Luthor?
But I guess the government here isn’t smart enough to do any assembling. At one point, Superman is pushing Doomsday into outerspace—away from the Earth, mind you—and what’s the U.S. government’s brilliant move? To shoot a nuke at both of them. To shoot them back to Earth.
70 years for this?
I admit I was wrong about Affleck. I thought he wasn’t intense enough for the role but he makes a good Batman. Cavill is a great Superman but he’s not given enough to do, and no reason for being. Eisenberg? A disappointment. Too crazy jittery, and his schemes are all over the place. The one who acquits himself most is Alfred. It should’ve been his movie. “Alfred: The Movie.” Next time, Jeremy.
Mostly I kept shaking my head. I’d look over at my friend Tim sitting next to me, palms up, like “What the fuck was that?” Don’t get me started on Batman’s nightmares, or Superman’s imaginary conversation with his father (Kevin Costner) in the Arctic, or how he wanders for two seconds in the cold and then, when he returns to save Lois (again), she responds as if he’s been gone for weeks; as if his leaving humanity was a plot point and his return a revelation.
In the end (and again, spoiler alert), Superman dies at the hands of Doomsday, so it’s like Superman #75, vol. 2, back in 1992. And like there, we know it’s not going to last. Supes already died once in this movie, when we shot the nuke at him and he floated in outer space with a shriveled-up face. He got better. He’ll get better here, too.
Sadly, when he does, Zack Snyder will be waiting. With friends like that, who needs Lex Luthor?