March 25, 2016
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice- Shadowcon Mini-Views
Someone needs to find Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer and have them read a Superman comic book. And have them watch the old Superman movies. And the cartoon. And the Supergirl TV show. Because if there's one thing this movie proved, it's that Snyder and Goyer do not understand Superman's character at all.
The things I liked about this movie are few, but worth commenting on. Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman worked well, and I think this is my favorite incarnation of the caped crusader for all that he isn't developed in the film. His story is the strongest (though not really good so much as functional, which is more than I can say for the rest of this mess), and the renditions of the Batmobile, Batplane, and his various gadgetry are probably some of the best we've ever seen on screen! The slickness of the film works wonders for this Batman, and for all that the film insulted The Dark Knight Returns comic book (more on that below), they did hit it out of the park with his suit and with his older, more grim character. Not amazing, and the story he was in certainly didn't help him, but this Batman is one that I wouldn't mind getting a solo movie should that ever happen!
Other than that... yeah, this thing's a mess. Just a quick rundown of the rest of the cast who just so obviously suffer through this slog of a script that I felt embarrassment by proxy for them. Jesse Eisenberg is a horrible Lex Luthor, bringing a weird out-of-place comedic air to this otherwise dreary world, and I hated that. And yeah, technically he's Luthor's son, but whatever. Eisenberg does a terrible job with this role and every scene he's in felt out of place and awkward. Gal Gadot does nothing throughout the whole film other than let you know she's Wonder Woman; no character to speak of here at all, and that's a shame. I mean, yeah, Wonder Woman's a hard character to get right in any medium, but this just didn't even try. I also don't care for Amy Adams' Lois Lane character. The acting was okay, and god knows Adams again tries to do something with this role... but oh my god what a lifeless character!
And what was up with this story?? There is no story here to speak of, just a bunch of action set pieces interrupted by the occasional blank stare that passes for character building. Also, however much I don't like it when Marvel tries to shoehorn in an easter egg for their cinematic universe setup, at least they do so with style and flair and there's a certain charm to the whole thing. But Dawn of Justice skips all of that and just shoves everything about the DCEU down your throat, no sweeteners, no charisma, nothing. Just a big helping of Justice League shit that interrupts whatever flow the film tries to go with. It's a horrible setup film for the larger universe and just an awful way to kickstart the big threat of Darkseid.
As I was watching this, I was reminded of the Transformer film franchise of all things, and not in a good way. This thing has the slick look of lens flairs and shiny cars that lather that series, and has about as much intelligence behind it as Michael Bay puts into his movies. Pulling iconic pieces of dialogue/inner monologue from Dark Knight Returns doesn't automatically make this movie amazing, and having just re-read that book before seeing this, Batman V. Superman is such a disgrace to that story. Sure, some of the shots are damn near uncanny in how much they look like the art from the book, and I suppose from a visual standpoint that's all well and good, but it was how those images and pieces of dialogue were used for and what they meant and how they fed into the themes of the book that made Returns special. Here they come off as out of place or just plain insulting. Indeed, the bits they pulled from the book are glaring and don't flow with the rest of the movie, coming off as existing for their own sake rather than existing to advance the story forward.
Finally, coming back to the beginning of this whole rant, I have to say I am very disappointed with Superman in all of this. I think Henry Cavill makes for a good looking Clark Kent/Superman, but he maybe has like twenty lines throughout the whole movie. And that's a damn shame, because this could have been a battle of ideologies and grand themes. Instead we wind up with a montage of sober-minded political debates regarding Superman's place on Earth and then that thematic thread is never picked up again. Superman as a character is a hard one to write; he's the most powerful man in the world, he's representative of the American people, and he began as the tale of an immigrant who came to Earth and had to find his place among us. Any one of those threads could make for a solid movie, in fact they have in past with the '70s and '80s Superman films. But that's not what we get here.
Here, we get a Superman who is aggressive, adversarial, brooding, and merciless in his destruction. This Superman does not inspire truth, justice, and he does not make humanity want to be a better people. There's a reason the best part of Superman Returns is the teaser trailer, because Jor El tells us exactly what Superman is and what he stands for: "They can be a great people, Kal El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way." Now, what kind of light is this Superman, here in Dawn of Justice? A very hazy one if he's shining at all. And sure, this could very well be a commentary on our current political ideologies and how we as a species are less unified and more pessimistic, but I sincerely doubt that's the kind of message Superman wants to leave us with. There was an episode of the CBS Supergirl a while back in which Kara is talking with Clark over messaging, and Clark's end of the conversation goes like this: "Are you OK?" "Do you need help?" and "I'm here if you need me." To quote Mike Cecchini in his review of this Supergirl episode regarding this dialogue, "[this] should be tattooed on the eyelids of everyone trying to write Superman comics or movies right now until they get it right." And by god, have they a long way to go on the movie front! This Superman is at odds with virtually all the traits of the traditional character, and he suffers for it. This DCEU so far is not a world for Superman. This is a bleak world, and the Superman living in it doesn't seem to want to make that any less of an issue, instead thriving off of it. This gives the whole film a very boring characterization for the character and a sense that the writers don't really know how to make the two ideas of "grim and dark" and "Superman" mesh well at all.
Like most people in the world, I am unimpressed with this movie. It's one of the worst superhero films I've seen, though it isn't boring to watch at times; the crowd that surrounded me and my friend in the theater was all into it and made the experience more loving than boring too, so that was nice. But as a film, this thing sucks. In an interview responding to criticism, Zack Snyder said, "I'm a comic book guy. I made the movie as much as I could on that aesthetic, and so I don't know how else to do it honestly." Well, if this is what you think of comic books, Snyder, then it's good we have more writers out there other than you handling the medium. It's good we have the Marvel films, the TV stuff that DC's doing, and of course the comics themselves. Indeed, if there's a message I want to send to DC, it's this: stop making movies. You guys aren't good at it the majority of the time. Stick to TV; you're awesome at that! Just stick to what you know and what we know we love.