“Tell Me, Do You Bleed? You Will.”

Well. I did it. I FINALLY saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

cover1 or big end fight

It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But my God, is it a hot mess.

SUMMARY:

18 months after the events of Man of Steel, the world is still divided on the issue of Superman (Henry Cavill). Most consider him a hero, even a Messianic figure, but others think that he’s a serious threat to public safety. Batman (Ben Affleck) is in the latter group and is determined to take him down. Superman, likewise, thinks Batman is a dangerous criminal who needs to be stopped. Meanwhile, the actual villain who needs to be stopped, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), is up to some serious shenanigans, though why he’s up to them is really anyone’s guess.

NOTES:

1. BvS came out roughly a month before I went to see it, and in that time I’d heard a LOT of negative reviews. I’d also heard a few positive reviews, but between the sheer number of criticisms that the film had received, and the multitude of problems I’d had with Man of Steel, my interest in the movie was minimal at best. I tried to keep an open mind because– hard as this might be for some of you to believe–I’m not much of a hate-watcher; at least, I’m not going to pay theater prices for the experience. But I absolutely walked in with low expectations, and an outfit that may, or may not, have reflected a state of anticipated mourning.

lipstick of mourning

Okay, the lipstick was less about mourning and more about me finding it and going, “Hey! I forgot I had black lipstick! Let’s wear some!” But my roots, I think, are definitely a Sign of Dark Things to Come. As she walked closer to the theater and her impending fate, Carlie’s light hair began to darken, reflecting the inner turmoil of her Batman fangirl soul.

The truth is, BvS has some pretty decent things going for it. In fact, the story actually starts out pretty well for me . . . before entirely off going the rails and never really managing to recover. I’m trying to remember the exact point I went from “well, maybe this isn’t so bad” to “what the shit is even happening?” and, honestly, I’m not sure that I can. The story, unfortunately, is a convoluted mess, full of poorly written character motivation, general hypocrisy, alarming amounts of stupidity, confusing dream sequences, and far too many rushed attempts at foreshadowing the future Justice League movies. There’s also absolutely no need for it to be two hours and thirty minutes long. (Seriously, I’m getting pretty tired of this, Hollywood. Unnecessarily long runtimes have kept me from going to see movies that I would have otherwise seen in theaters.) The film drags considerably, and while I felt that it at least had more of an interesting dynamic than Man of Steel (which virtually had no energy or momentum whatsoever), it’s nowhere near fun enough to be entertaining, nor well-written enough to be particularly thought-provoking.

It’s going for thought-provoking, of course. And there are worthwhile thoughts in there, somewhere, buried in that chaotic, conflicting mess: presumably, I’m supposed to come out of the theater contemplating questions like who deserves to have power and when do superhuman powers require federal oversight . . . the kind of questions that I suspect will also dominate Civil War. However, the questions I’m actually thinking after watching this movie are more like why is Clark such an idiot and when did Batman become a villain and what in God’s name happened to Lex Luthor?

2. Seriously, let’s talk about Lex for a minute.

lex1

Just like in Man of Steel, the actors in this movie by and large do a fair to great job, despite being stranded with very shitty material. The only real exception is Jesse Eisenberg, and even then, I’m not entirely convinced he’s the one to blame. After all, half his scripted dialogue is pure gibberish, so it’s not like his manic, overblown delivery isn’t keeping with the text. For some reason, it seems that Zack Snyder, Chris Terrio, and David S. Goyer want Lex to be some poor man’s version of the Joker, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine why. It seems obvious that Lex isn’t going to come out the victor in the inevitable comparison between these two characters, and it doesn’t seem to serve the story in any shape, way, or form. Like you’d almost expect Batman to address it in some manner, right, meeting this blatant ripoff of his worst nemesis? Well, that never happens. (Actually, Bruce and Lex spend very little time together in the film at all, which makes a certain amount of sense, considering that Lex is Superman’s nemesis. He just doesn’t act anything like Superman’s nemesis. Making Lex an unhinged millennial is so wildly different from every version of Luthor imaginable that it feels less like a reinterpretation and more like the creators just slapped a recognizable name on a total OC.)

Lex’s motivations also make no godamn sense whatsoever. You’re probably going to get really tired of me complaining about character motivation by the time this review is over, but Lex might actually be the worst of the bunch. I have zero idea why he does almost anything he does in this movie, and I’m hardly the only one. I had a good time reading two Vulture writers trying to puzzle out Lex’s evil plans, much the same way my sister and I did over nachos after coming home from the movie. (Warning: the link has SPOILERS.)

3. While we’re talking about characters making poor life choices because of bullshit reasons . . .

batman1

Oh, Batman.

So, this is an older Batman. Not as old as Batman from The Dark Knight Returns (which was pretty obviously an inspiration for the film, especially in one particular scene) but still, a slightly more tired and far more cynical Dark Knight. His suspicion, distrust, and anger with Superman were all believable to me at first, and his insistence on having precautionary measures is absolutely in character because Batman has always been about contingency plans. Batman is the guy who thinks about consequences, who worries about unchecked power. I’m even okay with the idea of him going a little too far when it comes to roughing up bad guys because this is supposed to be him at his most disillusioned, and Superman needs a reason to distrust him, too.

But concept is one thing and execution quite something else, because Batman bypasses going “a little too far” and lands somewhere in homicidal vigilante territory, which may not bother viewers who could give a damn about canon, but, generally speaking, Batman is all about saving lives, not taking them, even when it’s the bad guys. This is a pretty big departure for him, and one which I don’t think makes a whole lot of sense in this story: after all, it’s really hard to listen to Batman talk about Superman’s disregard for human life and the dangers of him going rogue while Batman’s entirely disregarding human life and, well, basically going rogue. You can do a story where Batman’s engaging in a more brutal brand of Bat Justice, but then he probably shouldn’t also be the guy judging other heroes for their potential Dark Sides.

And while I’m totally okay with Batman having contingency plans to stop Superman should he become evil, I’m not okay with how quickly Batman gets to “Holy shit, dudes! Superman must be stopped!” Evidence is not a thing Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, cares very much about in this movie. He actually uses an argument that you mostly only see from totalitarian dictators or dystopian regimes. Let’s not kid ourselves, folks: in this movie, Batman is a hypocrite at best and an out-and-out villain at worst.

4. One of the things that’s possibly fueling Batman’s suspicion of Superman? Dreams. I can’t go into too many details without spoilers, but here’s what I will say for now:

4A. I’m weirdly fond of surreal dreams in stories, especially if those dreams are clues to a mystery.

4B. However, Batman seems like an exceptionally weird choice for these bizarre dream sequences, especially if he’s making real life choices based on them.

4C. Not to mention that I suspect these dreams mostly happen to foreshadow future films, which makes them feel almost prophetic, and Batman is definitely a weird choice for prophetic dreams.

4D. Generally poor editing makes these dream sequences far more confusing than they need to be.

5. On a slightly more positive note, Ben Affleck’s pretty damn decent as Batman.

bruce1

I don’t know if I’d say he’s my favorite live-action Batman, but he’s certainly not my least. He’s definitely better than George Clooney and Val Kilmer, and his Batman voice (in which he realistically uses a modulator) is leagues better than Christian Bale’s ridiculous SWEAR TO ME voice. I wouldn’t have any problem seeing Ben Affleck act as Batman again, provided he was given material that didn’t totally suck. For as much shit as this guy got since the announcement of his casting, I kind of hope that Affleck read the multiple positive reviews of his performance (if not the movie itself) and privately did a “Fuck You, World! I’m Awesome” happy dance. I would’ve, anyway, if I was in his place.

Instead, we got the Sad Affleck interview, which I just couldn’t watch. It kind of struck me as unbearably mean, and pretty shitty behavior on the interviewer’s part.

6. Also on the upside: Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot).

ww2

Like pretty much everybody on the planet has been saying, Wonder Woman’s pretty awesome. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in this movie, but honestly, that’s probably for the best. BvS already has way too much going on as is. It’s enough that she’s a small, enjoyable glimmer of badassary in what is otherwise a lengthy and fairly lackluster action film. I’m definitely more excited now about a Wonder Woman movie, especially since Zack Snyder isn’t directing it. (I like Snyder’s earlier films, but he’s been on a downward spiral for me for some time now, and I’m definitely happy he’s not directing a female-led superhero movie. I don’t really know Patty Jenkins’s work–I never actually saw Monster–but I’m still hopeful.)

And, not for nothing, Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck have fairly decent chemistry together. I’d totally watch them fight more bad guys. Or have moments like this or this.

7. In general, I like the women of this movie quite a bit. I’m not crazy about everything that happens to them, but the female characters are by and large by my favorite people in this story. First we have the aforementioned Wonder Woman, who is pretty delightful. Then we have Lois Lane, who I still really enjoy as portrayed by Amy Adams.

lois

Her story goes to entirely stupid places by the end of the movie, but I enjoy her performance and, for a second there, I thought there was a glimmer of something interesting happening with her relationship to Superman at the beginning. Obviously, that ended up not being the case, but Lois has a lot of potential that could really be tapped if different writers and directors were in charge of her character.

hh3

Meanwhile, I was surprised to see that I really enjoyed Senator Finch (Holly Hunter), who I assumed would be your usual witch-hunting, death to civil liberties, clearly terrible secondary antagonist, like General Ross or Senator Kelly. Instead, it turns out she has pretty reasonable doubts and asks pretty reasonable questions and, hopelessly folksy aphorisms aside, seems to be a fairly decent person. It was a pleasant change of pace.

8. I also rather enjoyed Jeremy Irons as Alfred.

alfred2

He doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like, but he’s fabulously cranky at Batman for all the stupid decisions our hero makes during this movie, and that works well for me. (I’m especially fond of the time when Batman’s like, “This {taking down Superman} may be the only thing I do that matters,” and Alfred’s like, “Twenty years of fighting criminals amounts to nothing?”) I’d love to see the two actors together in a Batman story that’s actually worth a damn, because I suspect they could build a really solid and interesting character dynamic between them.

At any rate, Jeremy Irons isn’t slapping children across the face, so that puts him one up on the Alfred from Gotham, at least.

9. Sadly, Superman isn’t much smarter than Batman. Arguably, in fact, he’s even worse.

evil supe1

Take that back.

I can’t discuss the specifics of this yet, of course, but at two separate points in the movie I desperately wanted to sit Superman down and ask him, “Sweetheart, why would you even do that? What on God’s green earth could have made you believe that was a solid plan? Why wouldn’t you have done this instead? Or even this?”

He also just doesn’t quite react right to . . . well, anything. In one scene, his immediate reaction to some pretty horrific stuff is basically no reaction of any kind, which is definitely a problem. And then later he has a pretty melodramatic response that doesn’t quite seem to line up with what’s actually occurred, like I’m having trouble following the cause and effect of his reasoning. Basically, Superman just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, which is, unfortunately, pretty fitting for this movie.

10. Finally, a few random mini-notes before we get to our epic Spoiler Section.

10A. The ‘v’ instead of ‘vs.’ in the title is dumb, but doesn’t really annoy me the way it annoys other people. I find I’m more irritated by Dawn of Justice because one, it just sounds stupid; two, we really shouldn’t have been using this movie to try and set up the JL anyway; and three, it’s entirely unnecessary. No one’s calling this movie Dawn of Justice. No one was ever going to call it Dawn of Justice. You don’t need a subtitle for the first (or only) movie in a series, just like how very few people refer to the first Captain America movie as The First Avenger when they can just as easily call it, you know, Captain America.

10B. The heavy mech suit Batman wears to fight Superman looks a little silly, but it makes sense given that he’s fighting Superman (not unlike Iron Man donning the Hulkbuster in Age of Ultron), and there are comics which back up the idea of Batman using armored Bat-Suits. That being said, I was still relieved when he went back to his normal outfit. It just looks better.

1oC. Like most superhero movies, BvS is a PG-13 film and it’s one I can see the majority of 13-year-olds dealing with just fine. (Well, other than being bored.) But much younger kids often go to see PG-13 movies, too; The Avengers, for instance. Most people aren’t shocked by eight-year-olds getting into Iron Man movies or dressing up as Black Widow for Halloween.

But this is a little different. Despite it being a PG-13 movie, I was a bit thrown when I saw small kids at the theater while watching the film because the story is definitely geared towards adults. (And then I was annoyed with those kids, and especially with their parents, because while I might not have been enjoying the movie overmuch, if I actually leave my couch and pay to go see something, it’s helpful to be able to hear it, which is considerably harder to do when kids are running up and down the stairs and literally bouncing up and down in the aisle. I’m just saying. Death glares were given.)

Anyway. Despite what Hollywood will undoubtedly take from the massive success of Deadpool, not every superhero story needs to be rated-R. But I could genuinely be into watching some more adult, violent, and even philosophical superhero films in the future, provided, of course, that they’re much better than this one. Still, I think we need to seriously re-think the MPAA ratings system if BvS got the same grade as Guardians of the Galaxy, you know?

All right. If you can stand to hear even more about this film (and boy, is there more to talk about), continue below.

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

We begin our story where every Batman story begins: in Crime Alley with two gunshots, an orphaned boy, and a strand of pearls. You know, in case there’s anybody on the planet who isn’t aware of how Batman became Batman. It’s all very silly, but I’ll allow it because . . .

a) Unlike the Man of Steel prologue, it’s pretty brief.
b) Irritation with those godamn pearls aside, I have to admit that the shot with the gun and the necklace together works pretty well.
c) Lil’ Batman’s parents are Negan and Maggie, which, honestly, is probably worth the price of admission.

jdm

I knew I should have brought my bat.

We also get to see Baby Bruce falling into the Bat Cave, but instead of his dad coming to rescue him with thematically relevant questions about why we fall, a swarm of bats emerge in order to, uh, levitate him back to the surface? Clearly, it’s odd, although I’ll be honest here: some of the more surreal shit in this movie did kind of make me interested in seeing a magical realism Batman story, no matter how totally screwy that sounds. Anyway, it turns out the whole thing’s a dream, which is fine except for those pesky editing fails when it comes to this movie’s dream sequences. I’m not quite sure how to describe it properly. They just don’t work right.

But we’ll come back to dreams later. In the meantime, we fast-forward in Flashback Land to the more recent past, where Superman and Zod were destroying buildings everywhere in their big battle over Metropolis during Man of Steel. Turns out, Bruce Wayne was there too, trying to help his people at Wayne Enterprises. One of his executive dudes bites it, but Bruce helps another dude get free of a beam crushing his legs and saves a little girl whose mom almost certainly doesn’t make it. I can’t remember if anyone actually gives an official death toll in the movie, but one way or another, Bruce blames Superman for the rampant loss of life.

I’m basically fine with that, just like I’m fine with Bruce planning to steal Lex’s supply of kryptonite–and not just to keep it out of Lex’s untrustworthy hands, but to make sure that he, himself, has something at the ready to use against Superman, should our red-caped crusader ever turn Dark Side. What I’m not okay with is this argument: “If there is a one percent chance he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.”

What? WHAT?

That is not an argument used by superheroes, nor is it an argument used by any rational human being. That is the argument of Lawful Evil supervillains. That is the argument of someone who supports internment camps. That is the argument of someone who says, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, so why don’t we just kill all the people so they can’t kill anyone else?” Batman not trusting Superman? No problem. Batman wanting to murder Superman on the mere possibility that he might become evil? SERIOUS PROBLEM.

The fact that Batman absolutely does not kill people under any circumstances in the comics or cartoons isn’t actually my issue here; I’m generally willing to take a certain amount of deviation in film adaptations, especially where Batman is concerned, as he’s been interpreted in so many different ways over the past 50 years. And I get it: he starts this story in a darker, less heroic place. That’s fine. But there’s a subtle difference between these two scenarios:

A) Jack tells Frank not to push a button that will blow up the whole building, killing 100 people. Frank, gloating, starts to push the button. Jack shoots Frank in the chest, killing Frank but saving the 100 people.

B) Jack knows that Frank has telekinesis and could, theoretically, push a button with his mind that will blow up a whole building, killing 100 people. Frank has stated no intention of doing this, but there is a 1% chance he could someday decide to. Jack shoots Frank in the chest, killing Frank but potentially saving the 100 people that, most likely, did not need to be saved.

Traditionally, Batman would never allow either of these two scenarios to happen. In the case of Scenario A, for instance, Batman would pull some Bat Gadget out of his utility belt, neutralize Frank, and save the day without anyone dying. But given that the DC film franchise has clearly put all their chips on Gritty Realism, I’m completely okay with Batman acting like Jack in Scenario A. (Well. Provided he doesn’t use an actual gun, of course. Some things are fucking sacrosanct, no matter what Zack Snyder or Frank Miller says.) Scenario B, on the other hand? No. Just no.

If Batman’s going to decide that he absolutely has to kill Superman, then as an audience member, I need to believe without a doubt that Batman has just cause for thinking Superman is an imminent threat that can only be stopped by death. I need a story where Batman’s suspicion of the Last Son of Krypton grows larger and larger until Superman appears to do something so evil that Bats decides he has to die to secure the entire world’s safety. Perhaps Zack Snyder thought the collateral damage from Man of Steel would qualify, but if so, he was sorely mistaken.

What might have worked for this (but didn’t): the bombing at the Senate hearing which kills a few hundred people.

superman at hearing 2

If only I had super hearing or x-ray vision or something that might help with this.

Superman doesn’t blow anyone up, of course; this is all evil Lex Luthor’s scheme, partially to punish Senator Finch for refusing to help him import kryptonite and partially to make Superman look bad, I guess. But if Luthor convincingly framed Superman for the explosion, I could maybe see that as being the tipping point that rocked an already emotionally unstable Batman to believing Murder is the Only Way. The problem, unfortunately, is that everyone already knows that Superman didn’t cause the explosion, and when some reporter suggests that he might have been complicit simply because he disappeared for a couple of weeks after it happened . . . it just feels like a giant stretch. I need Batman to have that last straw moment, and this story just doesn’t provide one. It’s a huge problem for me.

It’s also just hilarious (and by hilarious, I mean kind of awful) that Batman thinks he has any room to judge Superman when he kills bad guys left and right in this movie without even blinking, like he’s Frank fucking Castle or something. Not to mention those unfortunate few times when Bats literally brands child molesters with a giant bat symbol, then hands them off to prison where they are swiftly executed by other prisoners. (Remember when I said that Batman engaged in a brutal brand of Bat Justice? The pun, if you can believe it, was actually unintentional, but when I reread it and laughed for twenty seconds straight, I decided it was worth keeping around.) And far be it for me to have sympathy for disgusting child molesters, but you really can’t have a story where your hero tortures bad guys and leaves them for dead (when not just outright killing them himself) and then complains about the bad behavior another superhero might get up to. Batman is shadowy, threatening, and can be manipulative as all hell, but this movie turns him into a supervillain without ever really acknowledging what they’ve done.

Of course, there are two other factors in play when it comes to Batman’s awful behavior: one, his totally weird dreams, and two, the fact that Lex is playing the World’s Greatest Detective like a bat-shaped fiddle. Let’s discuss the dreams first.

parademons

As mentioned, Batman has some weird ass nightmares in this movie. At one point, he appears to be in some post-apocalyptic desert world (tinted yellow, as everything else in this movie is filtered in blue) where Superman has clearly taken over the Earth and has a bunch of soldiers serving/bowing before him. Batman, who’s wearing a brown trenchcoat over his Batsuit for reasons unknown even to God, shoots Superman’s goons left and right. There are also these incredibly random flying monster deals that Rob Bricken’s Spoiler FAQ of Justice informs me are Parademons, but which I just assumed were mutated flying monkeys sent by the Wicked Witch of the West because, at this point, who the fuck even knows, right?

Anyway, Batman wakes up from his incredibly WTF dream to come face to face with a very blurry Flash talking about Lois Lane being the key and Superman being evil before whisking away again when Batman wakes up for realsies this time. Now, I admit to finding this a bit interesting because I immediately jumped on the idea that BvS was trying to set up Injustice: Gods Among Us, which–if you’re unfamiliar–is a graphic novel series and video game where the Joker manages to trick Superman into killing Lois Lane, and Superman responds by murdering the Joker and going into Full World Domination mode. The Justice League is essentially split in two, with half of the heroes allying up with Superman, and the others working against him with Batman. The comic is surprisingly awesome, so I couldn’t help but get excited by the idea that DC was building towards something like it . . . but even if that is the case, such a story would work a lot better if you hadn’t set up a world where your heroes are already murderous assholes.

And God help you if you merely enjoy the occasional superhero movie and have no idea who the shit the Flash even is, much less the Parademons. This whole part of the movie is a serious muddle, even for nerds, not unlike Thor’s weird ass vision shit in Age of Ultron.

Anyway, I think it’s implied that these dreams might be influencing Batman’s terrible life choices, but mostly they just don’t make any sense and probably shouldn’t have been in the movie at all. I get that DC wants to compete with all the crazy shit Marvel’s got coming down the line, but they’re trying to juggle way too much crap. It’s no wonder that, as a result, the film feels heavy and weighed down.

Now, switching gears to Lex:

lex3

It turns out that he always wanted Batman to steal the kryptonite because his Big Evil Plan (well, one of them) is to have Batman kill Superman, or to have Superman kill Batman. What Lex has against Batman, I really couldn’t say. For that matter, I’m not even sure what Lex has against Superman in this particular film, other than the fact that maybe he’s just offended by the idea of god-like beings on Earth? It’s not like Superman gets in the way of his evil schemes or anything.

No matter. For whatever reason, Lex hates Superman and Batman and wants them both to die. So in the beginning of the movie, he frames Superman by, apparently, making it look like he got a lot of people killed while trying to save Lois Lane in the Middle East. It’s an incredibly poor frame up job, though, and so badly executed in this film that I honestly didn’t initially understand that the people Superman had supposedly killed were the ones who had been shot to death. (Cause, you know. Why would Superman have bothered to pick up a gun to kill anyone in the first place, when he could have just heat-visioned, freeze-visioned, or, IDK, squeezed people to death?)

Then there’s the nonsense with Wallace, the employee Bruce saves in the beginning of the movie. Wallace is in a wheelchair, and he blames Superman for how his whole life’s fallen apart. (Because God forbid Hollywood ever use a person’s inability to walk as anything other than a shorthand for tragedy.) Lex takes advantage of Wallace and organizes it so that he (in a brand new, Lex-approved wheelchair) meets Senator Finch and goes to testify at the fateful Senate hearing. At the same time this is happening, Bruce sees that Wallace has been returning his disability checks with angry messages scrawled in colorful ink about how Bruce let his family die, and other mean stuff. That’s when Wallace’s wheelchair (stuffed with explosives that, presumably, Wallace didn’t know about) blows up, killing him, Senator Finch, Mercy Graves, and a bunch of other extras.

Jesus, there’s a lot to unpack here.

A. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on this, and I’ve come to the realization that I still don’t understand what’s going on with the checks at all.

notes

Supposedly, Wallace is sending them, except that such a thing makes absolutely no sense. Why would he be returning money he clearly needs? Why would he be writing threatening messages to the dude who saved his life and, pretty clearly, isn’t a Superman supporter?

Of course, later Lex gloats about how he’s been manipulating Batman and mentions the checks, insinuating that he was the one behind the threatening messages. That made a little more sense to me at first, but after thinking about it for half a minute, I realized I still had questions. Why would Bruce ever think these actually came from Wallace? How the hell did Lex get ahold of all these checks in the first place? How long has this evil plan of his been going on for? And why do these notes somehow tip Bruce further into his whole Let’s Murder Superman plan, anyway? (Also–and perhaps I’ve just forgotten the answer in the middle of all this ridiculousness–how does Lex know that Bruce is Batman, again?)

B. There was absolutely no need to kill Mercy Graves.

mercy

The point, presumably, is to show that Lex is EVIL and willing to kill even those closest to him to accomplish his dastardly goals; what it actually proved, unfortunately, is that Lex is an idiot, because you don’t sacrifice your right-hand unless you’re actually sacrificing it for something. Since there’s zero reason Lex and Mercy couldn’t have snuck away from the hearing together, Lex is obviously both a total bastard and a moron.

C. Other than Wonder Woman, Senator Finch was probably my favorite character because I was so happy to have someone who acted like a reasonable human being. Quite naturally, she died for it.

D. If you read my Man of Steel review, you may remember that I didn’t really mind Superman killing Zod all that much, partially because I saw that as much more of a justifiable homicide a la Jack killing Frank in Scenario A type of thing, but also because Henry Cavill really sold me on Superman’s anguish at having to make that choice. Pretty much the opposite happens here, because Supes’s reaction to everyone burning and dying around him? Zip. Zippo. Nada. He basically just stands there, all glum, like, “Man, my life really sucks sometimes.” Superman reacts to mass murder the way I react to accidentally dropping a gummy bear in the dirt, or how Eeyore reacts to life in general. (If you read the FAQ I linked to earlier, you’ll find a musical cue that basically represents Superman’s expression to a T. I don’t agree with Rob Bricken on everything about Zack Snyder’s DC universe–for instance, the death of Zod–but I do agree with him on quite a bit, and I’m not going to lie: reading the FAQ was a big motivator in going to see the movie at all.)

So. Where the hell was I? Right. Lex has now successfully manipulated Batman into trying to murder Superman. He can’t do the same to Superman, though, because you can’t just pull the wool over Clark Kent’s eyes; you know, he’s not a gullible, trusting fool like Bruce Wayne. (Can someone do me a favor and invent a font that’s only used for when people have to write supremely sarcastic sentences, something like cursive that also appears to be melting under the heat of intense scorn? I would enjoy that.) So, instead, Lex kidnaps both Lois Lane and Martha Kent. Lois is quickly saved, but Martha Kent–who’s shown bruised and bloody in some pretty disturbing and not particularly necessary Polaroids–will be killed unless Superman returns to Lex with Batman’s head. (Actually, now that I think about it, Lex probably goes the manipulation route with Batman because he doesn’t have a woman in his life to terrorize, only Alfred.)

Finally, Batman and Superman fight. Seriously, for a movie called Batman v Superman, the two don’t actually spend much time duking it out. Maybe that’s why it’s a ‘v’ rather than a ‘vs?’ A trial (of sorts), rather than a battle? It doesn’t matter. Superman flies to Gotham (where Batman has called him out) and tries to get Bats to listen to reason, only it doesn’t work. I know you’re probably thinking it’s because Batman’s a homicidal lunatic in this movie, and that’s surely part of the reason, but most of it, actually, is Superman’s fault, since, idiotically, he keeps advancing forward on the dude trying to kill him, while very half-heartedly trying to explain what’s actually going on. If Supes would just stop moving for one second and say, “I need your help to save my mother,” the fight would never have even begun.

But he doesn’t do that, so yeah, they fight. The scene itself is pretty decent, although at this point, I was so checked out of the story that I wasn’t focusing on things like “Cool! Action!” and instead thinking stuff like, “Seriously, Superman, you’re such an idiot,” and “Jesus, how much time is left?” Batman and Superman both gain and regain the upper hand a few times before Batman, finally, is about to kill his foe. Weakly, Superman says that Batman needs to save Martha, and Batman responds by freaking the hell out and demanding why Supes is saying that name.

I know some people thought this was dumb, but honestly, the ‘Martha’ development is probably one of my favorite bits of the whole movie–and not just because the rest of the story is so stupid that this benefits by comparison. Part of the reason I like it so well, I think, is that it makes sense to me for someone to finally acknowledge the weird coinkydink that DC’s biggest, most-well known heroes have mothers with the same name. Mostly, though, I really like it because Batman seems a little unhinged here in a way that doesn’t seem totally OOC and awful. For the first time in this movie–and maybe in any of the live-action movies–I actually get the vibe that for all his cool ninja moves and awesome gadgetry, Batman is really just a fucked up kid who will, at least partially, always be stuck in that moment where he watched his parents die. It worked for me.

Well. Except for the fact that they replayed the whole Crime Alley flashback when just a two-second shot of Lauren Cohan’s face or JDM saying “Martha” would have worked better. And the fact that Lois arrives to explain that Martha is Superman’s mother because, clearly, Superman can’t articulate shit when he actually needs to. Other than that, though, I liked it.

Once Batman stands down, well. He and Superman are pretty much fine with each other, which is obviously ridiculous–and hysterical, particularly when Bats saves Martha Kent telling her that he’s a friend of her son’s. I mean, I guess I understand why he doesn’t go with, “Hey, I’m Clark’s friend. I mean, I did just try to kill him, but then we totes hugged it out.” Still, I have this image of Martha telling Clark that he should invite that nice young man who saved her from the bad guys over for dinner, and Clark doing a spit-take over a glass of milk and saying, “Gosh, Mom, I would, but I’m still feeling a little sore about the time he tried to impale me with a kryptonite spear.” Okay, I’d probably pay money to watch that scene.

Sadly, this is about the time the movie takes another ludicrous turn for the worse. Superman goes to confront Lex, and Lex proceeds with the next part of his Big, Evil Plan: Doomsday.

doomsday

So, Lex has made this super strong monster, Doomsday, out of General Zod’s dead body, or something. (I would desperately love to know how much Michael Shannon got paid for showing up to be a dead body in various locations. I think that could be a pretty sweet gig, actually.) Doomsday, if you’re unfamiliar, is the dude who kills Superman in the comics, and in this movie, he looks like a slightly spiker version of the Abomination from The Incredible Hulk. It is not intimidating in the slightest.

Including Doomsday is, IMO, a pretty terrible choice because sweet Jesus, how many stories are they trying to fit into this one movie? BvS is a sequel to Man of Steel. It introduces a Batman divorced from any of the previous Batman films. It’s a reinterpretation of both The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. It’s trying to set up for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Justice League, Part One, not to mention hinting heavily at the next Big Bad, Darkseid, and maybe an Injustice storyline? NO. This is too much to explain or even sum up.

Not to mention, if Lex was going to release Doomsday, what the hell was the point of getting Batman and Superman to fight in the first place? For that matter, why release Doomsday at all? At the end of the movie, Lex (in jail, where the guards inexplicably shave his head) appears to be totally nuts for no good reason I can tell, talking a bunch of craziness that hints at Darkseid’s arrival like that was the whole plan all along? So . . . Lex wanted a powerful alien threat? Why the hell would he want that? How does any of this benefit Lex even a little?

More things (primarily dumb) about The Fight Against Doomsday:

A. Batman realizes that there’s only one weapon which can stop Doomsday: the kryptonite spear he’d been planning to use against Superman. Unfortunately, it’s still back in Gotham. Does Batman leave Doomsday where he is, on some abandoned bit of earth, while he goes to get the spear? Nope. He decides, instead, to have Doomsday chase him all the way back to Gotham, and while I appreciate that they bother to drop a line that this particular part in Gotham is also abandoned . . . why would you even do that? Isn’t it far more likely that innocent citizens along the way will get hurt during this plan?

You know what I really want at this point? A Batman story that’s primarily focused on him as a detective, not just a dude in a cape with big fists. I want a story where he has to inspect clues and spy on people and run down leads and use all of his ridiculous gadgets. Historically, Batman is all about being super smart and having a ton of gadgets. When can I have a live-action movie like that?

B. Lois is literally only around at this point to be a damsel in distress. I can take some damselling, but this shit is just boring.

C. Thankfully, Wonder Woman returns for the big fight against Doomsday, and she is glorious.

wonder woman1

She is basically the only good thing that happens in the last twenty minutes of the movie. Did I mention I’m ready to see a Wonder Woman movie now? Because I am. I really, really am. Please be better than this.

D. Superman sacrifices himself to kill Doomsday and save the world. I’d like to say that it’s sad, but my heartstrings were not significantly tugged, mostly because Superman’s death is entirely his own fault.

So, Superman goes to get that kryptonite spear, the one that seriously hurts him to even be near, much less use.  Does he give the spear to Wonder Woman, who’s also super strong and can use it against Doomsday far more effectively? Nope. Does he hand it to Batman, who isn’t nearly as strong, but isn’t currently using the Lasso of Truth on Doomsday–or, really, doing much of anything–and could still totally wield the weapon without poisoning himself? Nope. Superman sacrifices himself for absolutely no reason at all, proving that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pa and Clark Kent, I hope you’re both happy in Hell.

Finally, a few more random notes before I can finally, finally, be free of this review/thesis/treatise:

A. Killing Superman in this movie is just dumb. We all know he’s coming back for the JL film. Why even do this? It makes no sense to me. (I know, I know: it’s because Doomsday killed him in the comics. Don’t care. You lose nearly all emotion from a character’s death scene when you know for a fact he’s going to be resurrected in the next film.)

B. In the beginning of the movie, Lois’s cameraman is executed. They don’t mention him by name, but it turns out that he’s Jimmy Olsen. That’s . . . pretty fucked up, to kill a major supporting character from the Superman stories like that for no real reason at all, especially if you’re not even going to bother naming the poor bastard. On the other hand, it could be further evidence for my Injustice theory, since–sorry, SPOILERS–Jimmy Olsen is executed with a gunshot in the beginning of that story, too. Although I should say that, as much as I’d love to see an Injustice movie, I would hate to see it made by Zack Snyder. Injustice is dark and violent and heartbreaking as hell. It’s also hilarious, just hugely entertaining, and nothing I’ve seen in Man of Steel or BvS has led me to believe Snyder could possibly make an Injustice movie that nails the comic’s awesome tone. (Besides, it’d work better as a TV show on HBO or Netflix, anyway.)

C. Lois is pretty upset at the beginning of the movie, and while she’s sitting there (naked in the tub, which I guess is slightly better than crying in the shower), it occurred to me that it might be kind of nice to see a girl break up with a superhero, not because he didn’t make it to dinner or something stupid like that, but because he chose saving her over saving other people and those people died. When a superhero and his GF break up, it’s almost always about the superhero’s guilt, his feelings. It might be kind of nice if it was about her guilt, for once.

D. Lex has a deep and abiding interest in pain foreshadow metahumans, so he just happens to have files on Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg. The fact that Lex has this info at all feels more than a little convenient. I agree with my sister that the video footage on these guys (excluding WW) would have worked better as a post credits scene. Also, in case anyone’s looking to fake geek girl me, here’s your ammunition: I totally couldn’t figure out Cyborg until after I got home. I kept trying to scroll through the JLU characters I knew in my head and kept coming up blank, probably because–despite having seen him with the Justice League before–I tend to associate Cyborg with the Teen Titans cartoon. Appropriately, I bow my head in shame.

On the other hand, I just wrote over 7500 words about a godamn superhero movie. If that doesn’t properly qualify someone as being a geek, I really don’t know what does.

QUOTES:

Bruce: “We’re criminals, Alfred. We’ve always been criminals. Nothing’s changed.”
Alfred: “Oh, yes, it has, sir. Everything’s changed.”

Bruce: “Twenty years in Gotham, Alfred. We’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”

Bruce: “Maybe it’s the Gotham City in me. We just have a bad history with freaks dressed as clowns.”

Bruce: “You don’t know me, but I’ve known a few women like you.”
Diana: “Oh, I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me.”

Batman: “It’s okay. I’m a friend of your son’s.”
Martha Kent: “I figured. The cape.”

Alfred: “Even you’ve gotten too old to die young, though not for lack of trying.”

Superman: “Is she with you?”
Batman: “I thought she was with you.”

Wonder Woman: “I’ve killed monsters from other worlds before.”

Alfred: “Master Wayne, since the age of seven you’ve been to the art of deception like Mozart to the harpsichord, but you’ve never been too hot at lying to me.”

Perry White: “Crime Wave in Gotham. In other breaking news, Water, Wet!”

Batman: “Oh, shit.”

Alfred: “Thermal imaging is showing me two dozen hostiles on the third floor. Why don’t I drop you off on the second?”

Anatoli: “I’ll kill her! Believe me, I’ll do it!”
Batman: “I believe you.”

CONCLUSIONS:

Christ. It’s just such a mess. There are good moments in it. I don’t feel like I completely wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life. (After all, think of all the nerd rage debates I can now participate in!) But it’s just not particularly fun or smart or even a little bit cohesive. Maybe at some point I’ll try to write an outline in how I would fix this movie, but right now I’m tapped out.

MVP:

Gal Gadot

TENTATIVE GRADE:

. . . C?

MORAL:

If there’s even a 1% chance a person is guilty, convict, and then send them straight to Death Row. Do not let them pass GO. Do not let them collect $200. Fry those fuckers, and rejoice in a job well done.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in EPIC REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Tell Me, Do You Bleed? You Will.”

  1. Dario says:

    Ok, read it all (I stumbled here from Mothership Z, say hi to your new stalker :)) – now I want to watch the movie but I actually skipped Man of Steel because, seriously, I don’t like Superman as a super hero. there, I said it. I’m in the middle of reading Civil War and for as much as I like the trope idea, I think it’s rehashed from Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

    So yeah, I guess I will watch Man of Steel during the WE and then give a chance to this movie, even though…

    nice to e-meet you anyway, I really enjoy your writing.

    • Superman isn’t my favorite. Though full disclosure: as a superhero nerd, I come more from a cartoon background than a comic one. I think the only comic I’ve read with Superman was Public Enemies, where I thoroughly enjoyed the dichotomy between his POV and Batman’s. I definitely prefer them as friends who come from very different places and see the world in very different ways. In a partnership or a team-up, Superman’s fine. On his own, he’s never done much for me, which is why I also hastily watched Man of Steel to prepare for BvS. And hey, it’s always possible you’ll get more out of the movies than I did! I hope for you!!!!

      And thanks again. I really appreciate it. 🙂

  2. plunderpuss says:

    I wish DC would enter into partnerships with directors who make actual good cinema, like Oscar-bait cinema, and then ask them to make something dark. Our entire CW class got better training on character motivation and guiding/using reader expectations than it seems like any of DC’s directors have.

    Thanks for being so dedicated to being a fake geek girl–i’d much rather read your review of something like this than watch it. You are way more patient than i am, and i enjoy your snark. 😄

    • That could work . . . although now I’m wondering what Oscar-bait director I’d want to direct a DC superhero movie. Hmmm. I’m sensing a poll question in that.

      Heh, you’re welcome. I don’t know if anyone would describe patience as one of my primary character traits, but I actually do try to be fair in my reviews, or at least acknowledge when objectivity just isn’t happening and be honest about it. I try for equal opportunity snark here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s