Almost three years ago, the world was blessed/cursed (decide for yourself) with Zack Snyder’s reboot of the Superman franchise: Man of Steel. Man of Steel proved to be… Uh… Let’s succumb to massive understatement and say it was divisive. Some people (myself included) really liked it. Others think it was the worst thing to happen to the character since The Quest for Peace, a movie so atrocious it single-handedly crippled Christopher Reeve’s career.
Despite the mixed reaction, Man of Steel made enough money to get a sequel greenlit, which was originally announced as being another Superman movie, but was eventually revealed during Comic-Con as being both a Batman and Superman movie. This was huge news. Even people who have never entered a comic book store can tell you the basic plot points of Superman and Batman’s origin stories. Shit, even people in North Korea can tell you that the two characters were both created by Kim il-Sung as satires of Western imperialism so subtle that our backwards capitalist lizard-brains have yet to notice them as being anything other than cool characters who dress funny. This movie was going to make BANK, regardless of whether it was actually good or not. And now, in 2016, here we are, almost one month after the movie’s release. And boy, was it ever…. Well, it was something.
Now, I’ve seen Batman v Superman: World’s Finest (See Warner Bros.? That’s a GOOD title. And not much sillier than Dawn of Justice, either!) multiple times, and I’ve given myself some time to process my feelings on the film. I know that everybody who didn’t love the movie is kinda sick about hearing about it at this point, but oh well.
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Here’s what Batman v Superman does right:
Number One: It looks beautiful
One of my (and others’) complaints about Man of Steel was about the fact that it looked like it was shot with a dirty camera lens. I get that somewhat brownish colour palettes are kind of Zack Snyder’s thing (Exhibit A: 300), but come on. This is Superman we’re talking about. You can’t get much more colourful than goddamned Superman.
I was hoping for a bit more colour in Batman v. Superman, and while the lens still looks like it was coloured over with a beige marker sometimes, there’s a lot of really beautiful shots, especially the ones that take place at night. There’s also a montage of Superman saving people that plays over audio of people questioning Superman’s motives that’s pretty visually stunning, if you can get over the fact that Superman looks like he’s so over the whole “protecting the innocent” thing. I don’t mind, it looked cool.
Number Two: Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot prove the internet wrong
Before he was cast as Christian Bale’s successor, Ben Affleck was undergoing a career renaissance. After doing the cinematic equivalent of wallowing in absolute shit for most of the first half of the 00’s, Affleck made a name for himself in Hollywood again as both a solid actor and an extremely talented director. One would have thought that him being cast as one of the most important characters in comic book history would have seen as the cherry on top of one of the more remarkable comeback stories in recent years.
Long story short: It wasn’t seen as that. Online reaction to the casting resulted in the biggest shitstorm since that female journalist said those true things about video games. Petitions to be sent to the highest levels of government were signed in a vain (and frankly, beyond idiotic) attempt to prevent Affleck from touching another superhero movie after the catastrophe that was 2003’s Daredevil. I’m sure the White House appreciated their concern.
The fickle metronome of public support gradually shifted Batfleck’s way as more images of him showed up. Everyone was pretty much on board with him after the third trailer showed him destroying a group of armed lowlifes. Then the movie actually came out, and, despite the wide range of opinions about this movie, one thing was clear: Whether you loved the film or hated it, you thought Batfleck was fucking awesome. Honestly, he’s probably my favourite live action Batman, since unlike Keaton (Good Batman, weird Bruce Wayne) and Bale (Great Bruce Wayne, solid Batman), he’s equally great at being both Batman and Bruce Wayne. That solo Batman movie that’s also written and directed by Affleck is gonna be fire.
Nothing tops Kevin Conroy, though. Or Will Arnett.
Gal Gadot’s casting was somewhat less controversial as A) she’s not as big a name as Ben Affleck, and B) it’s reasonable to doubt the acting ability of a model who’s only film appearance at that point had been in the Fast and Furious movies: a series of movies that will hire anybody who’s both hot and looks cool driving a Camaro. Where the complaints got a bit ridiculous is when people started getting on her case for not looking physically fit enough to be a badass Wonder Woman. I can just about guarantee that the people voicing these doubts would get their asses handed to them by Gal “two year veteran of the Israeli Defense Force” Gadot.
As it turns out, while I would wait for the solo movie to come out next year to make a final judgment, Gadot is cool in what little screen time she has, and as much as I have…. uh, let’s say beligerent feelings towards the Doomsday fight, Wonder Woman being a fucking badass made things a little more variable.
Also, best musical theme ever.
Number Three: The fight scene is great for the thirty seconds that it happens
The whole movie was sold on the premise that Batman was going to join Superman in the DC Cinematic Universe (it’ll be a cold day in hell before I call this the “DC Extended Universe”), and that the two of them were gonna fight and it was gonna be awesome. Shit, listen to Zack Snyder talk about the fact that Batman was fighting Superman as if he was organising a goddamned boxing match.
“I gotta be honest, it definitely was a thing that… after Man of Steel finished and we started talking about what would be in the next movie, I started subtly mentioning that it would be cool if he faced Batman. In the first meeting, it was like, “Maybe Batman?” Maybe at the end of the second movie, some Kryptonite gets delivered to Bruce Wayne’s house or something. Like in a cryptic way, that’s the first time we see him. But then, once you say it out loud, right? You’re in a story meeting talking about, like, who should [Superman] fight if he fought this giant alien threat Zod who was basically his equal physically, from his planet, fighting on our turf… You know, who to fight next? The problem is, once you say it out loud, then it’s kind of hard to go back, right? Once you say, “What about Batman?” then you realize, “Okay, that’s a cool idea. What else?” I mean, what do you say after that? …But I’m not gonna say at all that when I took the job to do Man of Steel that I did it in a subversive way to get to Batman. I really believe that only after contemplating who could face [Superman] did Batman come into the picture.”
The actual fight only takes a few minutes, which is kinda disappointing, but while I have some major problems with the story elements behind it, as an action scene, it was really fun to watch, even if it was somewhat horrifying to watch one of my childhood heroes beat the shit out of another childhood hero with a literal kitchen sink.
Okay then. Enough positivity. I just like to give credit where credit is due. Batman v. Superman is kind of really bad. Enjoyable at parts…. But still an enormous mess. Here’s what BvS royally fucks up.
1. It is edited by somebody with the attention span of a fruit fly
The first couple of scenes of Batman v Superman had me enthralled. Sure, I was kind of done seeing Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered for the trillionth time at that point, but dammit if that scene wasn’t fucking beautifully done. And the scene with Bruce Wayne driving frantically through Metropolis was awesome. And that scene with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane in Afr- Wait, why the fuck are we in Africa??? Now why is Lois Lane in a bathtub, sharing clunky semi-romantic dialogue with Clark Kent?
This movie constantly jumps from scene to scene with little to no transition or establishing shot. I could barely keep track of what was going on, or where we were, or what the fuck anything had to do with anything. That dream sequence or whatever the hell that was where Batman was wearing goggles in a desert? I could feel the confusion in the theater. And shit, I know that defenders of this movie will explain to me that that’s Apokolips, and the Flash, and that it was leading up to Darkseid and the Justice League, but A) I know that, and I still thought that shit came out of nowhere and B) If it’s too confusing for general audiences to understand, that’s a failure on the movie’s part. As true as it may be that these movies are made for fans, they still need to be competently made movies. Fanservice isn’t a Get out of Jail Free Card.
2. It overwhelms the senses… But not in a good way
Listen to that Wonder Woman music again. Pretty fucking great, right? Now imagine that in the theater. Still pretty great, right? Now imagine it played at 100 times that volume, as Snyder-esque visuals flash across the screen. Still great? I don’t think so. My eyes were tearing up by the end, and believe me: it wasn’t because I was emotionally distraught over the fact that both Batman and Superman’s moms were named “Martha”.
3. Jesse Eisenberg proves the internet right
You know how I was rubbing it in the face of the court of public opinion back when we were talking about Affleck and Gadot? Well, Jesse Eisenberg was a controversial casting as well. And boy did he ever not work. Like, at all. I don’t know what he was doing, but it sure as fuck wasn’t Lex Luthor.
“But Small-Time Internet Whiner!” some may say. “He’s not supposed to be Lex Luthor! He’s supposed to be Lex Luthor Jr! He’s a whole different character!” Yeah, fuck that noise. That was supposed to be Lex Luthor Proper. You just don’t have the balls to admit it. And I don’t blame you. Because fuuuuuuuck this character. If he was the Riddler, he would’ve been pretty solid. But he wasn’t. He was Lex Luthor. Fuck that shit.
Is it too much to ask for a version of the contemporary, industrialist Lex Luthor from the cartoon? I’m starting to feel like it’s never gonna happen. Which sucks ass, because it totally should.
To be Continued…