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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review

**WARNING** This post will contain spoilers about the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If such things will effect your enjoyment of this movie, please do not read this. Also, this is a review, so keep in mind that, like all reviews, it is my personal opinion of a thing I didn't make. Whether you enjoyed this movie or not, my opinion should matter little to you, so don't take this trite of a review personally. Consider yourself warned... **END WARNING**

Before we start, I feel I should make some things very clear. I do not care much for Superman as a standalone character. I didn't like Man of Steel much, but I thought it served as a decent origin story for a new cinematic version of the Big Blue Boy Scout. On the other hand, I do think Supes works well as part of an ensemble of other heroes, particularly in Justice League stories. Batman, on the other hand, has been a cornerstone hero of mine ever since I was a kid. Growing up watching reruns of the Adam West tv show, Tim Burton's flawed but enjoyable 1989 movie, and literally every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, I've always enjoyed stories about the Dark Knight. While no character who's been around since the 1930s can have a flawless track record (See Joel Schumacher, Batman movies of...), Batman has remained fairly uncorrupted since his inception. He's a hard character to screw up because he is so driven by his personal demons, which makes his intentions and methods crystal clear; Right the wrongs of the world, use fear and force only when necessary, stop people from dying.

Enter Zack Snyder, a movie maker who's films have been quite the roller coaster of acclaim and derision. Don't get me wrong here, 300 is one of my favorite movies ever made, but it's a completely pulp piece based on a completely pulp retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. It is visual storytelling with the biggest, boldest characters imaginable. Leonidas is barely a character, he's more of an archetype. In the comic this works completely, as the style Frank Miller chose works well for a story of archetypes, but the movie would feel very light if it wasn't for Queen Gorgo at home. At the same time, Watchmen is an almost shot for shot retelling of one of the greatest comics of all time which just feels like actors slowly recreating the comic as best they can, but failing completely to imbue the thing with soul. It also radically changes the main villain into someone sinister, which ruins him completely, showing Snyder's inability to grasp what made said villain scary. It wasn't that they were a typical crazy baddie, it's that they did the terrible things because they believed it was the only way to make the world a better place, which, even more frighteningly, turned out to be correct.

This leads us to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS), another Zack Snyder joint that feels like it lacks a soul. Given the characters involved, that seems almost impossible. These two heroes are so diametrically opposite in both ability and methods that clashes between the two have been popular throughout their history. Batman works through fear, Superman through trust. Batman is a mortal human, Superman is (practically) immortal. Being Batman has cost Bruce Wayne a normal life, being Superman is just a natural state for Kal-El. However, they both share some basic concepts that make the two, if not friendly, then at least good teammates. At the very least, both of them find the idea of killing people to cross a major, uncrossable line. Well, they usually do...

See, this is a sticking point for me in a big way. One of the rules, the inviolate-able rules of Batman is he does not intentionally kill people. Ever. It's one of the key aspects of his character that you cannot change without changing who he is. He has come close, so close, to snapping the Joker's neck on so many occasions but always holds back for the simple reason that if he ever did it, he'd be no better than the Clown Prince of Crime. In BvS, the Caped Crusader has taken to branding baddies with a heated bat-symbol, which is revealed to lead to their deaths in the prison yards of Gotham. Also, he has machine guns mounted on his Batmobile and Batwing which he is none to shy about using to kill criminals. He also literally uses a gun to kill a man in the films end stages, something the character I know would find abhorrent to the point of making him hang up the cape and cowl forever. This character is not Batman, he's a psychopath with a cape. Superman seems equally uncaring about murder. He plows a guy holding Lois at gunpoint through a concrete wall at remarkably high speed. I'm no physics expert, but that might be enough to shatter a spine on impact, if not liquefy a dude.

In universe consistency is not something Snyder appears to be going for though. Superman seems no better off with his usual bag of tricks. Batman saves Superman's mother when Supes himself could do it half the time, though it seems insane that he allowed her to be captured in the first place. This is a guy who, having a few seconds notice of Lois Lane being shoved off a skyscraper, manages to catch her on the way down and can also hear her banging on concrete while drowning over the battle of Doomsday & Wonder Woman, but can't locate his mother in the neighboring city or think of a better solution than walking right into Batman's many traps. What kind of fool do you have to be to walk into the first one (you have x-ray vision, couldn't see a sonic trap coming?) and then not stop and look for the second one (automated machine gun turrets) but try to get five feet from Batman in order to talk to him? You couldn't have a rational conversation from, oh say, over there? Superman's incautious nature (and the fact that a Kryptonite shell works on him twice in a row) makes him seem like such an incapable idiot; Why am I supposed to root for this guy? Also, the title fight could have been avoided with four simple words, "Lex captured my mother." Superman doesn't even try to say those words at any point in their idiotic slugfest.

Speaking of inconsistency, it's hard to tell whether people are for Superman or against him throughout this movie. His statue commemorating his actions in the first film is vandalized, he is essentially put on trial for saving Lois Lane's life in Africa, he is branded as a potential terrorist for letting someone blow up Congress... Yet there are shots of people practically worshipping him for various acts of heroism. It's hard to pin down. The final scenes of the film, where both Clark Kent and Superman get funerals, are so transparent that hey held no emotional weight for me. Of course he's not dead, he's Superman, he'll come back. It's an attempt to get some punch that hasn't been earned in the slightest. The strange thing is that he US government seems to hold him in very high esteem, despite his alleged hand in the whole Congress explosion thing.

Then we come to the villains of the piece - Lex Luthor and Doomsday. The fact that Luthor can trick the World's Greatest Detective into wanting to kill the Son of Krypton should make you feel something about the man... but it doesn't. It's a nonsensical plan with no real hope of doing anything but leveling another few blocks. Luthor's plans have always been grandiose and infeasible (beachfront property in Arizona springs to mind), but at least they made some sense. This Lex is so disjointed and has so many emotional ticks in the movie that you wonder how he became a successful business man in the first place, let alone why he thinks getting Batman to kill Superman will work. It seems at times like he's just doing it to see the fight, though he doesn't bother to watch it at all. In the same token, he seems to think that, regardless of what happens, he needs to create the monster known as Doomsday. What would have happened if the Dark Knight had succeeded in killing the Kryptonian threat? Now we have another, far worse Kryptonian threat that Lex himself made. What is to be gained from this? Why is Lex Luthor doing this? Such answers are never found in his ramblings and lip twitchings.

It's not like they didn't have the time to explain some of this shit; The flick runs 2 and a half hours. Snyder's love of slow motion shots are partially to blame, but it's also paced extraordinarily poorly. There's literally an hour of set up before Batman sticks the costume on and goes after bad guys in force (his horror movie scene where he almost makes one cop shoot another in the face notwithstanding). Everything drags. It feels like you could edit it down to a nice tight 2 hours and not lose too much. Did we really need to hear ALL of "Amazing Grace" while two caskets at two different services marched slowly to graveyards and cannons fired off shots in orgasmic slow motion? It's a funeral, we know what happens. Also, Bruce Wayne feeling sympathy at Clark Kent's grave for the man who "he did wrong in life" is so unearned it's ridiculous. You plotted to kill him for almost 2 years and became friends for the last 15 minutes of his life. I'm really having a hard time buying you guys as buds.

Finally, some minor bitching:

  • Bruce Wayne's mother seemed ill cast for a non speaking role, not looking the 35 her tombstone would suggest and making Thomas Wayne look like he's out watching Zorro with his son and mistress.
  • Also, thanks for retelling Batman's origin story AGAIN. Wasn't sure if he was still an orphan or not.
  • The fight really stops because Bruce and Clark have mothers with the same first name? That's the stopping point?
  • Doomsday seems to feed on energy, so let's slam it into a gas plant and give him a shitload more of it. Good plan, Superman.
  • The way the filmmakers go out of their way to offhandedly make sure every speck of land that gets hit by a crater inducing blow is free of human casualties is hilarious. (Evidently whole stretches of Gotham City gets completely deserted at night... also there's an island between Metropolis and Gotham that's completely uninhabited. No need for a dock or anything there. Priceless.)
  • Wayne Manor has apparently burned down and, despite the films many flashbacks and hallucinations, this is never explained, shown, commented on, or discussed.
  • Batman has a flash forward to an Injustice style future in a desert with Superman guards. To quote Kevin Smith, "Why would Superman need guards? He's Superman." And I know it's a post-apocalyptic dream, but he uses a lot of guns to shoot a lot of people in that scene which is unnerving to see. Again, Batman doesn't kill.
  • After waking up from the aforesaid vision, Batman has another hallucination with a guy in a space suit telling him "Lois is the key," and "I'm too early." He never talks about this to anyone and it is never explained. Just happens.
  • I swear in Man of Steel, Superman got his powers by breathing Earth's atmosphere, but now he seems solar powered again. Might be wrong about this, but I remember atmosphere being a key plot point in Man of Steel.
  • Superman can survive being nuked in orbit, but cannot survive a Doomsday talon through the chest.
  • Superman pokes Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear rather than letting Wonder Woman handle the substance that can kill him because... reasons. Also, he seems to kill Doomsday by running the spear all the way through him, leaving the Kryptonite outside Doomsday where it should do less damage, right?
  • The Daily Planet is still composed of the stupidest people on Earth. "Superman's been gone since the Senate hearing... Clark still missing too, huh? Weird." Oh, and they died on the same day and both had pictures in your paper and still no one noticed what he looks like when you white out the glasses. Dumb shits.
  • Aquaman takes a really, really, really long time to stab stuff.
  • What the hell was that magic box that created Cyborg? Some context please, movie.
  • Wonder Woman is... fine... I guess. She seemed to be having fun in the battle at the end, despite the city leveling.
  • Bruce Wayne wants to collect superheroes because he, "Has a feeling." No. Batman doesn't do that. He plans because he goddamn knows what the threat is. You've ostensibly eliminated all threats at this point, the last Kryptonian is dead, so what are you prepping for? Tell us. We (the audience) would like a hint.

I have not left a movie feeling so down trodden and unhappy in a long time. I found it unbearably terrible and do not have high hopes for the rest of the DC movies. If you enjoyed it, I'm glad to hear that. For me, personally, this is such a shitty, shitty movie that I feel stupid having paid first run price to have seen it.

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