Zack Snyder’s 2013 reboot of the Superman franchise was among the most fascinatingly bad movies of the last few years. It wasn’t the worst (as long as Jack and Jill exists, nothing else can be the worst, and my time machine isn’t finished yet) but it was an interestingly bad movie. It provoked discussion, about superhero films in general and Superman in particular.
It was also a bad movie that made a boatload of money, and given it was intended to kick off DC’s answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I guess a direct sequel was inevitable. And since they wanted to bring in more characters, bring in Batman made sense from a financial point of view. And it…did not look good. Everything from the ad campaign to the slow dripped plot details made me think that Batman v. Superman was going to be just as bad as Man of Steel. But I am, as always, open to being proven wrong.
Okay so the plot kicks off in the climax of Man of Steel when Superman’s battle with General Zod knocks down the Metropolis Wayne Corp. building, causing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) to hate Superman (Henry Cavill). So does Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) because…actually not sure. And when Luthor begins finding pieces of Kryptonite, which could take Superman down, he begins to engage in an impossibly complex plan to turn the public, and Batman, against him.
That plan, incidentally, involves a false flag operation, a suicide bombing, the corpse of General Zod, and a jar of Lex Luthor’s pee (no, really). I’d explain more, but I can’t, partially because of spoilers and partially because I’m still not sure what happens. There’s also a mysterious woman wandering around the background (Gal Gadot) who might be important, although the movie seems to be unaware that her identity is not a surprise. Oh and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is there too.
The most important thing you need to know about Batman v. Superman (hereinafter BvS, to save time) is that the first thing Superman does in this movie is kill someone. I don’t know if the film is pretending he didn’t die, but he was a normal, unarmored human that Superman slammed through two walls, there’s no way he has functioning organs. And if you want to know how many people Batman kills, I’ll have to break it down into two categories, with guns and without.
And that is the film in a nutshell. It is a dark, brooding, unpleasant to watch mess of a movie, that has no idea who its characters are, or how to make them compelling. I’m not necessarily against comic book characters killing (I remain an unabashed fan of the Punisher) but to have two of comic books most iconic heroes butcher their way through bad guys like serial killers shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the characters. And it would be enough to sink a far better movie than the one playing on screen right now.
Because even outside the bizarre failure to understand its characters, BvS is still a non-functioning mess of a movie. Its structure is, without exaggeration, one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a major Hollywood film. It starts and stops more than a New York City driver, fumblingly tossing plot points and go-nowhere characters threads out like candy, without ever really getting anywhere. The structure is so bad that I’m pretty sure the movie has about 3 first acts, none of which use any establishing shots.
The script is at the center of these issues, and it’s probably the worst element of the film full of subplots that fade into nothing and dialogue that is constantly creaking under the weight of it’s overinflated self importance. Superman’s primary character arc is about him wondering whether or not he’s accomplishing any real good, and as far as I can tell, it never resolved itself one way or the other.
The character work and acting isn’t much better. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is easily the worst. His performance is twitchy and awkward, and never anything other than obnoxious. It’s probably one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in a superhero film, which would be bad enough, but his character doesn’t make any goddamn sense. He changes motivation at the drop of a hat (although given that none of his motivations make a ton of sense, maybe that’s a good thing), and we never find out how he does half the stuff he does. Which is a shame, because his actions drive literally the entire plot.
Amy Adams’ Lois doesn’t get off much better. The film has no idea what to do with her, so she just winds up hanging around the background doing nothing except filling space. Which is better then when when the script actually tries to get her involved (spoiler alert: She nearly drowns at one point because of something she did for…basically no reason actually). Cavill’s Superman is almost as bad, aloof, stiff and uninteresting throughout.
Affleck probably does the best of the leads, although he’s fighting a script that renders him into a short sighted, easily manipulated asshole. He’s at least trying to put emotion and passion into his character, which is more than I can say for Cavill. The only other brief bright point is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. She’s a great physical presence in the movie and given that I like her despite her barely doing or saying anything in the movie, I’d probably like the movie a hell of a lot more if she was in it more.
Some of this might be forgiven if the action was good, but it’s really not. For starters, barely any of this over 2 and a half hour long movie is action. Seriously, the fight between Batman and Superman may be the source of the title, but it’s only 5-10 minutes long. For second, the editing and direction render most of it mush, not to mention the pounding, overbearing, impossible-to-take-seriously score. The final action sequence is so hard to follow by the end I just sort of sat back in my seat and waited for it to be over.
There are other things I could rant about, most of it spoilers, but I think I’ll end it with this. I was prepped for Batman v. Superman to be bad, but I don’t think I was prepped for it to be this bad, I don’t think anyone was. I doubt this will fail, and it certainly won’t lose enough money to stop the upcoming Justice League spinoffs. And while there’s always the possibility they’ll be good, they’re all being built on poisoned ground. This movie is so bad that it might damage future movies. That is how bad it is.
Elessar is a 26 year old Alaskan born cinephile and making it Batman v. Superman instead of vs. make him wonder if it’s intended as Roman Numerals.
– I like Wonder Woman
– I guess Affleck is trying
– script is awful from beginning to end
– acting and direction are also awful
– the plot structure is bizarrely terrible
– Eisenberg’s performance is so bad he gets his own bullet point