Prior to the start of the advanced screening of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, director Zack Snyder popped up on the screen to deliver a little PSA. Please, please, PLEASE, do not take to social media to give out any spoilers or plot points ahead of the official release date. Don’t ruin the surprises in the film.
Well, I just can’t help myself. Here’s a major spoiler: This film sucks. It really, really does.
Following up his critically-blasted but commercially successful Superman reboot Man of Steel, Snyder delivers another messy hodgepodge of half-baked ideas and overblown CG landscapes with Batman V Superman. This time around, we are presented with a story that revolves around Batman/Bruce Wayne (a humorless Ben Affleck) seeking to destroy Superman/Clark Kent (a dull Henry Cavill) because he thinks he has too much power. Or something like that.
Seriously, one of the film’s biggest flaws is the motivation and reasoning of its main characters. After the film starts with a dream sequence — we have a BUNCH of these in the movie — detailing for the gazillionth time that Bruce Wayne is haunted by his parents’ murder and that’s what drives his quest for vengeance and justice, we are then thrown into Man of Steel’s final battle. But, this time, it is from the eyes of Wayne and the citizens on the ground, who are the victims of the collateral damage from the fight between Superman and General Zod.
The 9/11 parallels are obvious and ham-handed in this scene, which is really just a sign of things to come in this movie. The filmmakers want to delve into deeper issues, but it seems like they sort of introduce an idea, a theme, a metaphor, and then move onto something else before even scratching the surface. It is as if they wanted to check boxes on some of the pressing topics in today’s society. Immigration reform? Check. Nuclear proliferation? Check. Radicalization due to the ravages of war? Check. Abuse of power? Check.
It seems like there was a desire to present an ambitious, thoughtful, philosophical superhero movie in the vein of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight flicks. (Nolan is an executive producer on this film.) But, it didn’t really make it further than the drawing board, with these ideas quickly presented then glossed over so we can focus on the next BIG FIGHT or stupid dream sequence. (Have I mentioned already that this was an overused device in this movie? Oh, I did. Well, it was just that annoying.)
The thing is, the whole concept of the film is that Superman and Batman are going to get into an epic battle, so they had to build a story to get us there. And, in doing so, they need to have a villain pulling the strings, which is where Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) comes in. But, why does Luthor want these two to duke it out? The film never really gives us a good reason. It seems his dead daddy was mean to him and very powerful, so therefore, he wants Superman dead or something. I still don’t know what he has against Batman, and the film never makes it clear.
Yet, we have Luthor setting the stage for the big showdown between these two superheroes. All the while, he’s manipulating a former Wayne employee who was disabled in the Zod/Superman battle and trying to pressure the Senate to allow him to weaponize kryptonite as a deterrent to Superman. Again, they never really make his motivations clear, other than just relying on the audience to know that Lex Luthor is inherently evil, so they should just accept that he’s up to no good.
Eisenberg plays Luthor as a slightly more evil version of Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, we kind of assume that Luthor’s wealth is made in the tech industry, making the Zuckerberg comparison’s even more apt. A twitchy, Asperger-esque, nerd probably could have worked in another Superman film with a different director and script. In this one, it just doesn’t, but it isn’t really Eisenberg’s fault. Not much works in this movie.
The attempts to humanize and give our two heroes added depth also feel clunky and amateurish. Amy Adams’ Lois Lane seems only to exist so Superman can rescue her from peril. There are at least three moments in the film where he shows up just in the nick of time to save her from certain death. I guess this was an effort to show the conflict within Superman — live a normal, human life with the woman he loves against his role as the world’s savior. But all I kept thinking was how in the world Lois survived to even meet Clark Kent.
As for Bruce Wayne, his ever faithful servant Alfred (Jeremy Irons) is supposed to be his conscience, the one who keeps him grounded, who keeps him from fully going over to a darker criminal side that is always a possibility with Wayne’s alter-ego. However, it seems like Alfred kinda hates Bruce Wayne, and why not? Played by Affleck, Wayne is a dour, pouty, loner who never so much as cracks a smile, and for some reason wants to get in a rumble with a dude who is unbeatable.
Somewhere in this whole confusing mix, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is introduced. Now, it takes a long while for her to finally suit up, but nobody in the audience is even slightly surprised when Wonder Woman finally joins the action. Before revealing herself to be a superhero, she occasionally pops up as a socialite who snags invites to ritzy private parties and wears extremely expensive designer dresses.
By the time we get to the clash of the titans, you’re just ready for it to be over. And, since everything else has been dragged out, the denouement takes forever. And it is boring, to boot. Once you get to the dramatic ending, where you are supposed to be in disbelief at the outcome, you feel absolutely nothing. Accept relief that the movie is finally, thankfully, done.
Of course, this is just the start. We already know that this is the beginning of a new Justice League franchise. So we’ll be getting more shitty, bombastic, dull, tedious movies like this over the coming years. Because, despite how awful Man of Steel was, and this film is, the franchise will move forward because a shitload of people will buy tickets.