There’s a scene in BATMAN V SUPERMAN where Lex Luthor is trying to enlist the help of Kentucky Junior Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter) as part of his schemes. But she refuses, rightly not trusting him, and quipping, “Don’t piss in a jar and tell me it’s Granny’s peach tea.”
As I was watching this movie, that quote stuck with me – not because I’m into watersports, but because it was apropos to what was unfolding on a theatre screen as huge as my ego. I was seeing things that people kept telling me were something, but really only looked like them.
So, uh, better put my Warning here: Here There Be Spoilers. Not too many, just a few, and I’ll avoid going into detail about the ending.
Most everyone should know the background to BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and who’s in it, yadda yadda, so let’s get down to it, shall we? After all, someone’s gotta show brevity and conciseness around here; you won’t get it from director Zack Snyder. We open with the origin of Batman, because that’s a feature we haven’t had that in a Batman movie in at least two Batman movies. Really, Zack? Is this something we really needed? You didn’t even give it your own personal Snyder touch and have Bruce’s mom Martha be a stripper killed dancing around the pole for Bruce and his dad. We do get to see young Bruce fall into the Batcave-to-Be and be lifted up, literally, by a swarm of bats. Of course.
Soon after we jump to the day of MAN OF STEEL, when a grown-up Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck! Snootch to the nootch!) is racing towards Metropolis, which is apparently across the water from Gotham City, to, uh, co-ordinate the evacuation of Wayne Enterprise staff from his buildings while Superman (Henry Cavill) battles General Zod (Michael Shannon). Personally I would have gone over as Batman and pitched in if my city was that close to Metropolis, but then I’m no superhero. Buildings crumble, people trapped inside pray to God as they die, children point up meaningfully to the empty spaces where buildings once stood. Wayne is angry.
Eighteen months later, Superman/Clark Kent has moved in with Lois Lane (Amy Adams), and does that count as a threesome when they get together? But I digress. Superman remains a controversial figure in the world, the Daily Planet newspaper remains an important media outlet (possibly the most fantastical element of this movie), and when Lois Lane is threatened by a thug while on a job in Derkaderkastan, Superman appears on time and slams the thug into three walls, obviously crushing him though later we’ll get a throwaway line about him surviving like some bad guy on THE A-TEAM.
Kent is constantly wanting to do a story about the activities of the vigilante Batman, who in this movie universe has been operating for decades, and has taken to shooting criminals and putting bat-shaped brands on those he captures, marks that will guarantee they get shivved in prison- wait, what? WHAT? What incarnation of Batman would do that? Seriously? I’ll get back to this shortly, except to say that it’s little wonder that Kent sees him and wants to do an expose on the Dark Knight Detective. Well, not so much Detective as Budding Unsub on a Future Episode of Criminal Minds.
Still, Wayne does do enough detective work to discover that weapons smuggler Anatoli RusskieTrope has been working with young billionaire Alexander Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), and can I just thank Jesse for his interpretation of Superman’s iconic genius arch-enemy as an ADHD-afflicted Millennial who acts more like a character from an Aaron Sorkin movie? I’ve felt more menace from the Yuppie I saw who threw a fit in Starbucks because they ran out of Vanilla Soy Latte.
Anyway, Luthor has been scavenging from the Kryptonian ship that was left at the bottom of the Indian Ocean from MAN OF STEEL (and that no government has bothered to come along and investigate before now) and wants to bring a piece of found Kryptonite to America, needing an import licence from the aforementioned Senator Finch. Really, Luthor? You’re a billionaire mogul, you’re hiring mercenaries and causing trouble around the world in order to discredit Superman, and you’re playing by the rules now? He also does a side deal with Finch’s PA to get the body of General Zod for further research, but we’ll get back to that later.
At a party at Luther’s place, Wayne is looking to break into his mainframe, along the way meeting mysterious and beautiful antiques dealer Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, one of the highlights of the movie). They do the usual movie flirting, though it’s obvious that there’s more to her than meets the eye, as she steals the data he’s stealing from Luthor, before giving it back to Wayne.
Later, while waiting for his Bat-Computer (he does call it that, doesn’t he? Please tell me he does), Wayne has some sort of vision/dream about being Batman in a post-apocalyptic world where Superman is worshipped as a murdering god among his survivors. He’s snapped out of that by another vision, maybe, of a guy in red who is obviously the Flash if you have that knowledge, saying he’s come from the future to warn him of Lois Lane’s involvement in Superman and stopping the horror to come-
There’s some rugrats in the movie theatre now asking their mother what’s going on. She’s clueless. I don’t blame her.
Among the stolen Luthor files are ones about other metahumans, including a kid being made into a cyborg, a super speedster, a guy who lives underwater, and Diana Prince herself, who might be immortal. But never mind al the obvious clunky set-ups for the future Justice League movies, Superman remains Batman’s Numero Uno Target. “He has the power to wipe out the entire human race,” he tells Alfred (Jeremy Irons), “And if we believe there is even a one percent chance that he is our enemy, we have to take it as an absolute certainty.” Which sounds like something Donald Trump would say, or even Lex Luthor. But then, this Batman incarnation had a Robin, and another “costumed clown” had taken him out, so it’s probably understandable.
Luthor sets off a bomb in a congressional hearing attended by Senator Finch and Superman, a bomb that leaves only Superman standing (one he’d conveniently didn’t detect, despite his ability to hear Lois Lane farting on the other side of the world). Batman goes in with the Batmobile to steal Luthor’s Kryptonite, killing literally dozens of the man’s goons and possibly innocent bystanders. It is admittedly a cool action scene, but there is no way that any of these guys survived.
This has gotten lengthy, so let’s see if I can just highlight the last act: Batman and Superman finally fight, Luthor uses hijacked Kryptonian technology and knowledge (“the knowledge of a hundred thousand worlds,” the computer helpfully exposits), not to solve all the world’s problems with hunger and disease and energy, but to make a creature based on a mixture of Kryptonian DNA and his own – a threat that is nearly identical to the one Gene Hackman’s Luthor creates in SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, and if you’re basing the Big Bad of your $250 million dollar movie on the one from that piece of shit, can I have some of what you’re smoking? – a monster who will be Superman’s Doomsday…
The critics are having a field day ripping this movie a new one. And you can’t say they’re all because they’re Marvel shills and they’re jumping on the bandwagon. It has some serious and flaws, which I’ll try to summarise:
An overabundance of plot, grafted with clumsy attempts to jump start their DC universe franchise in one movie when Marvel built up theirs over 5-6 movies (though Marvel are now guilty of the same tactics, a major criticism I had with AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON; when your agenda goes beyond entertaining, you’re on thin ice). Way too many characters (many fine actors such as Holly Hunter and Laurence Fishburne are wasted), way too many subplots. And what Snyder has left in his theatrical version (including five needless dream sequences) doesn’t make a lot of sense, so now the studio is sending out releases explaining what’s going on. That’s like putting a car out on the market and afterwards sending out instruction booklets on why the headlights don’t always work.
Luthor’s plans and motivations change from scene to scene: is he jealous of Superman’s powers? Fearful? Does he want to take over the world or destroy it? Is he driven by visions the same way as Batman seemed to be? Is he a genius or just a rich pussy? He seems to set off incidents throughout the world to implicate Superman in the faint hope that somewhere Batman might see, give a shit and somehow be motivated into fighting him. Still, Eisenberg’s portrayal at least remains consistent: shit throughout.
Speaking of shit portrayals, Henry Cavill’s is possibly the worst Superman ever. He’s great in still shots, but he shows all the empathy of the guy from AMERICAN PSYCHO. No compassion, no love, no humour. Passive-aggressiveness, he can do; he literally stands there in the ruins of the Capitol and the dead and the dying with no reaction – and later stands there and does nothing as he watches Luthor, who had kidnapped and threatened his mother, activate his Doomsday weapon. He shows no concern for anyone except for Lois Lane and Mrs Kent. Christopher Reeve would be spinning in his grave if he wasn’t dead and paraplegic.
Batman’s is little better, and I don’t mean Affleck’s portrayal, because he’s actually one of the highlights of the movie. I mean the way Batman is portrayed, killing and branding criminals. Even in The Dark Knight Returns, which served as one of the inspirations for this movie, that old and embittered Batman didn’t kill. If this Batman does kill here, then how can he have any enemies left over to return? He also proves to be less than the World’s Greatest Detective, as he remains focused on stopping Superman and not looking further into Luthor before he finally takes action, despite the overwhelming evidence in front of him of the real threat to humanity.
Because of this poor characterisation between the titular characters, their inevitable fight (only ten minutes long, and only occurring nearly two hours into a two and a half hour long movie) is less about Law V Justice or Light V Dark than about Dark V Dark (and Batman doesn’t just out and kill him when he has more than one chance). And then at a pivotal moment, they literally forget the reasons they’ve been fighting, and are suddenly best buddies, all because of a contrived bit of dialogue that reveals something specious they have in common. And then Wonder Woman shows up without any explanation or introduction between them.
Wonder Woman is probably the best thing in the movie, but has very little to do for most of it as she’s in Diana Prince disguise until literally the last act when Doomsday appears. they could have trimmed all the Congressional subplots and conspiracies and put more of her in it. When she finally appeared in costume, the audience around me gave their first and only cheer. You have a film with Batman and Superman in it, and the greatest positive response from the audience is the appearance of their guest star.
There’s more, but you get the idea. The movie’s not as unwatchable as many critics make out: it’s certainly full of great shots and spectacle (though one scene between Superman and Doomsday looks like something the Asylum would come up with), looks gorgeous on the big screen and its plot problems might play better on DVD. But my chief criticism of it is in the portrayal of the title characters. I get that Dark Knight Returns was a groundbreaking influential work with a radical portrayal of DC’s chief heroes. But DC didn’t just scrap fifty years’ of previous portrayals in favour of what Frank Miller did, or change how they were portrayed afterwards.
The original Star Trek had a classic episode called “Mirror Mirror”, where our heroes accidentally ended up in a parallel universe where their counterparts are murderous, treacherous, lecherous… it was a groundbreaking episode, because it showed us a twisted reflection of the heroes we know and love. But no one suggested scrapping the established personas of Kirk and Company in favour of these others (though the current movies seem to do a good job approximating it). Snyder’s take on Batman and Superman feels a lot like this, it lacks joy and wonder and humour, and I gotta wonder how many parents ended up with confused, bored or disappointed children. Well, at least their animated movies are decent and faithful to the source.
But hey, Warners/DC aren’t too worried; the movie’s already made back its investment (though I’ve heard they’re filming additional scenes for SUICIDE SQUAD to inject some humour. Bet it won’t help). It’s currently playing in every theatre on the planet. Just don’t get the peach tea from the stand.
Director: Zac Snyder
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. Do you breed? You will…
Note From Anything Horror Scott:I definitely liked this film more than Deggsy did. The main problem I had with the story is that the writers were trying to do too much. They were trying to establish the DCCU in one film, whereas Marvel created their universe over many films. There were a lot of elements in the story that left a lot of people scratching their heads. Batman’s dreams were all about establishing Darkseid as the villain in films to come. My advice to DC? Slow the hell down and take your time with every film. Marvel slowly built up the MCU one great film at a time!! If curious, I give this film 3 out of 5 stars.