by Caleb Hartung
Zach Snyder’s new movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” starring Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill is a spectacular disappointment. The sequel to Snyder’s 2013 Superman movie “Man of Steel” made similar mistakes and completely dropped the ball with a pair of the most iconic superheroes ever created. While there is a great number of things the film does excellently, the errors it makes are large enough to completely overshadow them.
There’s a few small cinematographic gems that make the movie enjoyable, but there are really two main reasons why one should go see it. Number one (the most obvious): the action sequences. This is a superhero movie. That means lots of explosions and guys getting tossed through the air. If Snyder knows one thing, it is how to film an epic brawl. There are a lot of similarities between these action sequences and those in its predecessor “Man of Steel,” which is a good thing in terms of visual appeal. Buildings crumble with a myriad of glittering particles and the punches are weighty and satisfying. And yes, the Batman and Superman fight is absolutely awesome to watch.
Another thing the film does right is the appearance of Wonder Woman. Some critics say that she is not really a character in the story at all, but more of a flashy extra thrown in. While this is true, she makes up for it by stunning the audience with her every scene. Her costume and spine-tingling musical accompaniment fit her character like a glove. The only time the movie actually brought a smile to my face was when she swooped down to join in the final brawl and shoved Batman and Superman out of the spotlight for a moment.
Just as a note, I usually have a rule to not write about any spoilers. However, I am going to break that rule here because the best parts that I’ve mentioned above can be fully enjoyed while still knowing what is coming. If you absolutely must see the movie without spoilers, just know that the plot is absolutely terrible and has holes in it big enough to fit a Kryptonian spaceship through.
The Jeep commercial starts off the list of the movie’s mortal sins. I was under the impression that it merely showcased a scene from the movie, and Jeep tied itself to the film after the fact. I was so wrong. The scene of Bruce Wayne in Metropolis as Superman was tearing it up was literally the Jeep commercial. Blatant product placement is one thing, but when it takes up several minutes of the opening of the movie, it completely disconnects the audience from the story and is unforgivable.
The trailer that got everybody excited to see the movie featured Batman in Iron-Man-like power armor with glowing eyes. He is not wearing a mask so much as a combat helmet, which seems like a great look for the Gotham Knight. Unfortunately, it is used once. For about ten minutes, tops. Batman begins with a more traditional mask in the beginning, switches to the helmet for his fight with Superman, and then ditches it again for a leather mask with zero explanation. This is a minor detail, but it bugged me. There was no reason for him to switch at all, and that new look was something potential viewers were excited about. Sure, the helmet gets trashed during the fight with Superman and you could make the argument that it was the only one he had, but that just does not make any sense. I cannot see the multibillionaire Bruce Wayne saying, “Alfred, that armored helmet looks expensive. We could probably cut costs by just making the one and hope that we don’t need a spare. Also, add a few more Gatling guns to the Batwing. I could use some more of those.”
Also, this Batman is nothing similar to the one in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. If you remember “The Dark Knight,” the Joker tries several times to get Batman to kill him. Batman avoids this and even goes out of his way to save the Joker. In fact, the essential idea of “The Dark Knight” is that Bruce Wayne does not kill people. Because he’s Batman. While Affleck himself did nothing wrong to tarnish the character, his version goes against this notion entirely. I couldn’t keep up with the body count as he blew up, shot, and even stabbed baddies like it was just a normal part of his day. To have Batman killing people (and using guns at any point) is about as true to the character as Superman snorting Kryptonite like cocaine. According to some more comic-savvy than I, there are certain storylines that have Batman killing people, but the entire point of those stories is that it is uncharacteristic of Batman to do that. This movie is not focused around that aspect of the character and therefore is completely out of place.
What this movie is actually focused on (at least, according to the title) is the fight between Batman and Superman. If Juniata had a class called “Moviemaking 101,” it would have a bullet point somewhere that would say “if you name the movie because of a certain scene, have that scene be the best in the movie.” The fact is that the main fight in the film is NOT between the two heroes, but between the trio of heroes and Doomsday. The Doomsday fight lasts about three times as long as the one everyone paid a ticket to see.
If there was one reason why someone would see this film, it would be because they would say to themselves, “I want to see Batman fight Superman.” Well, so does Lex Luthor. I’m not even kidding—that’s the whole reason behind it. Luthor has some serious parental issues and blames God for not saving him from his abusive father. As some sort of twisted catharsis, he wants to see the symbolic fight between God and man – Superman and Batman. I hear the planning committee in his voice as he tells Superman, “You will battle him to the death. Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world … Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!” Really? Is it too much to ask to have an ounce of creativity in Hollywood anymore?
The biggest spoiler (and easily the worst part of the movie) is that Superman dies…twice. The first time, he gets caught in an atomic blast that is meant to kill Doomsday. The movie makes a big deal about him not coming back to Earth, even though Doomsday did. There is a shot of him floating in space looking skeletal and quite dead. He then gets revived from the Sun and proceeds to join the fight below. At the end of the main fight, Superman gets stabbed by Doomsday and then proceeds to kill Doomsday with a Kryptonite spear. Afterwards, there is a scene where all the main characters are deeply emotional, which falls completely flat if you realize that he already died and resurrected himself with no effort at all. The ending of the movie consists of a grand presidential funeral with Batman and Wonder Woman mourning at his grave, and right before the credits roll we are supposed to be surprised when the dirt on the coffin begins to vibrate. I’m trying to picture the thought process behind this … If there even was one. “Dude, Superman could take a nuke to the face any day! But getting stabbed with a pointy rock (that’s not even Kryptonite)? There’s no coming back from that!”
Also, the funeral itself is so reverent of Superman that it completely undermines the premise of the movie. Batman wants to fight Superman because of the collateral damage he caused during the fight with Zod in “Man of Steel.” Fair enough, but the fight with Doomsday takes place in the exact same way, with the same guy (considering that Doomsday is Zod), for the same stakes (the world is in danger). Superman even gets tossed into and destroys a building, which is the reason why Batman begins to hate him in the opening scenes. The thousands of people ready to crucify him in the beginning are mourning him at the end, and yet the situations for both are nearly identical.
So why have I spoiled all of this for you? Because you should not buy a ticket to see it. Superheroes are as American as apple pie and capitalism. You, as a capitalist consumer, can find your voice in the way you spend your money. If you buy a product, you are supporting its creators with capital. If you are a fan of action movies, buy a ticket for this one only because it is visually stimulating. If you support feminism in movies, you could buy a ticket for this one since Wonder Woman is portrayed as a strong female and isn’t oversexualized like Lois Lane (oh yeah, I forgot to mention the completely out-of-place bathtub scene with her). If you are a fan of superhero movies, avoid this one like the plague. Buying a ticket for this movie will support the box office earnings. The earnings for this movie should be less than expected so that the director will ask himself, “what did I do wrong?”
A bad movie like “Krampus” is sort of worth the ticket, considering that any kind of experimentation will go bad at some point. Sometimes, movies like “Krampus” or “Sharknado” go off in a different direction than normal and fail miserably. Others like “Memento” succeed wonderfully. I could rip Jesse Eisenberg apart for being cringingly painful to watch as Lex Luthor, but I choose not to because I realize that the material supporting the character is surprisingly shallow. He was simply experimenting, and it just so happened that he failed. I would not normally give away spoilers like this for any bad movie. This is a special exception—a superhero movie with tons of canon material to work with and millions of dollars in the budget should not turn out this bad. Experimenting with Batman could be acceptable if the movie was focused on him, but as it stands, “Batman v Superman” has little reason to stray so far from the canon material and logic.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 9 A&E