“What is happening right now?” I said to my friend David sitting next to me during our very dark, moderately 3-D matinee showing of Batman V Superman. It dawned (of justice) on me that this was the third time I was asking this; partly joking, but mostly serious, but I’ll get to that later. This movie has been a very long time coming, announced at Comic Con almost 3 years ago now. Director Zack Snyder returns with personality blackhole and all-around terrible Superman Henry Cavill in the flashy, seemingly-endless sequel to the 2013 film ‘Man of Steel’. Batman V Superman is a messy, emotionless checklist of a movie intended to kickstart a franchise to compete with the Marvel juggernaut, but is missing lovable characters and the sense of fun required to do so.
The movie opens with the death of Batman’s parents, of course, because we haven’t seen that enough. However, to give credit where it’s due, Snyder puts a lot of visual flair and emotion into it, despite it being a very quick scene. From there the movie dives right into the end of Man of Steel, but from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. He was on the ground in Metropolis that day, and witnessed the horrors that Superman unleashed on the city first-hand. The scene plays well, because it’s exactly how I felt watching it when I saw Man of Steel in theaters. Superman callously kills thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, to kill one guy? THEN BREAKS HIS NECK?! I’m cool with different takes on comic book characters, but Snyder’s version betrays the core of what makes Superman ‘Superman’. I’ve gotten off topic here, but I don’t want to get into the plot too much anyway because I know a lot of people haven’t seen BvS yet, but plan to.
I mentioned above how confused I was at various points (mostly in the first half) of the movie. BvS has some really strange turns throughout, but I have to believe that they began filming this movie with a very, very rough script. The majority of the movie feels hugely under-cooked, like it was filmed with a bunch of ideas that weren’t fleshed out by the time filming came around. It’s a huge bummer, too. This movie needed to do a lot of things. It’s supposed to kick off the ‘DCU’ (the DC universe equivalent to Marvels ‘MCU’) and I guess it kind of does, but hugely misses the point of what makes the Marvel movies great. I get it too; that these DC flicks are the ‘dark’ and ‘serious’ side of superhero movies. That’s absolutely great too, I love that idea! There are some absolutely awesome ideas in this movie about the role of heroes in our world, but it all feels rushed and carelessly put together (at least in terms of character and writing). To start a franchise, you need characters that you want to see return, and at least an inkling of a good time watching them in that world. If I had to pick Batman V Superman’s biggest problem, it’s that. The Snyder-verse is so damn serious, it’s hard to have a good time in it.
I know I’m being hard on this movie (more-so than I usually am with this blog) but I really wanted more from it. I wanted it to really nail the characters, and introduce us to a world that we want to see more from. It could very well have that effect on others, and if so that’s awesome, but I can only speak to my own experience. There was definitely good stuff in here, that a director (hopefully not Snyder at this point) could utilize in the Justice League movie. The score by Hanz Zimmer and Junkie XL deserves a shoutout for being as insane as it is, with Wonder Woman’s and Lex Luthor’s themes being something truly unique. Ben Affleck’s Batman and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman are pretty great; not to mention the insanity that is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor (even if he doesn’t totally fit in this specific movie). I especially hope Ben Affleck does in-fact get a shot at writing-directing a Batman movie. I could see him nailing that. Heck, maybe he should even direct Justice League at this point, he’d probably be a better pick than Snyder.
In conclusion, Batman V Superman just didn’t do it for me. It’s a movie that mostly seems like a montage of teaser trailers for the inevitable Justice League movie. In fact, the threads that tie into the future Justice League franchises perfectly encapsulates the problem with their approach with these movies. I guess it’s kind of a spoiler so I won’t go into it, but it’s lazy. Marvel’s approach to that same world-building principle was to spread it out and take their time over 4-5 years between Iron Man and The Avengers to let audiences fall in love with the characters first. It’s this lesson that I hope DC realizes and implements, because we all want to see these beloved characters done right. Nobody wants to lean over to their friend during a movie and ask “What is happening right now?”