– Paulie Spiceflow –
In the beginning, I resisted the urge to join the mob of critics bashing Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It seemed too easy to simply fall in line and join the beat down. As time passed, things changed a little. While the critics and some fanboys continued to hate, a fairly large portion of the audience enjoyed the movie. As a brainless summer blockbuster (released in Winter), I suppose it satisfied. Other than that, I just don’t understand the appeal. In any case, with a number of people joining the pro-Justice League side I figured it might be a good time to list off the reasons why this movie is terrible and DC should strongly consider changing direction.
Warning: Spoilers follow.
Before anyone even saw the movie, there were groans about the man of steel facing off against the batman. It was horribly one-sided and didn’t really excite, unless you were one of those fans who love to argue over which hero is more powerful. Some believed the idea was utterly juvenile, like trying to create an epic drama from Wrestlemania. It is hyper-masculine (maybe even homoerotic given the outfits), and a throwback to those “my Dad can beat up your Dad” arguments.
Yet, I do not believe the premise was fatally flawed. I truly believe it might’ve worked if it was better executed.
There are some truly great stories involving heroes fighting heroes. We will probably see a much better version of this concept in Captain America: Civil War. Dueling heroes is meant to be a tragedy, not a reason for excitement. Therein lies the problem. Zach Snyder and Co. wrote a script that laid out the hero versus hero as an exciting, popcorn-munching, heavyweight bout that would settle who was more awesome. There was no tragic element or “unstoppable force meets unmovable object.” They simply decided they didn’t like each other. Superman’s motivation was hazy at best, until Lex Luther comes in and voila, he has a reason to kill Batman. Batman, full of anger, fear, and cynicism, sees the Superman as a global threat after the New York attack. In an odd twist of math, he argues a 1 percent chance of Armageddon becomes an absolute certainty.
Instead of an epic tragedy, we get kids mashing their action figures together. The ending might’ve been tragic to some but to me completely lacked suspense given the comic book history of the character. We all know Superman cannot really die.
Iconic Characters Rewritten
Many love the idea of Batman becoming an even darker, grizzled, brutal crime-fighter. Years of fighting crime with no end in sight have worn on him. He has no family, other than Alfred, no interest in personal or professional life. It is literally the saddest Bruce Wayne imaginable. The question I have is, why did Batman need such a treatment? The origins of the Batman are ones of a man dedicated himself to the pursuit of justice. Branding or killing criminals is not justice. If you happen to be an angry, vindictive individual then perhaps the idea of inflicting maximum pain, even death, sounds like justice. But it isn’t. All the nuance of the Batman character is removed in favor of brute force. Batman/Bruce Wayne’s genius and guile are downplayed in favor of his raw power.
The Superman is more recognizable. He is a wholesome farm boy who aspires to do good deeds and become an example for the people of Earth. Unfortunately, the people of Earth know he is an alien and associate his arrival with the total demolition of downtown New York. In this universe, destruction follows him everywhere he goes. There is a sadness to him not present in the previous versions of the man of steel. The struggle of a messianic figure trying to fill his extremely large and difficult role is very compelling and a great movie by itself. Unfortunately, Snyder and Co. gave it two, maybe three scenes then abandoned the idea in favor of explosions, energy bolts, and physics-defying action. Perhaps in the next movie we will see the traditional Superman, his legend cemented by his sacrifice against Doomsday.
Both characters were given the Snyder and Co. spin, which in Batman’s case pulled him out of his original mythos and into one riddled with inconsistencies, robbing him of his original archetypal power.
Easter Eggs and Allusions in place of Storytelling
If you are not a big comic book fan, there were several scenes in the movie that were head-scratchers. The Robin suit covered in graffiti is one example. Snyder and Co. also rely on the audience’s prior knowledge of both heroes to allow them to skip over all sorts of pesky details and plot points. Numerous scenes come through with no context. Some of the dialogue is utterly baffling, including Lex Luther and Holly Hunter’s subtle language and posturing in the den. The opening scenes of the scientists finding Kryptonite, Wayne Manor in ruins, the painting in Lex Luther Senior’s den, all are given to you but it is up to you to interpret without much context.
If Snyder and Co. had done it the Marvel way, they would have depicted the causes or preceding events that led us to this world (IOW provide context), rather than giving us the world and making us work backward. Marvel did the individual hero movies first before making The Avengers. They possess Easter Eggs and allusions but you didn’t need to understand any of them to understand the movie in front of you. It was something you went back and caught the second time but you didn’t need it the first time. Batman vs. Superman damn near requires you to catch all the references and understand them the first time in order to get the most out of the movie.
KA-PLOW! BOOM! BAY-SPLOSIONS! AAAHH!!!
Most of us can agree special effects cannot replace storytelling. Batman vs. Superman sports a CGI orgy that would make Michael Bay jealous. There are blasts galore, crumbling buildings, gunfights, energy bolts, even a nuclear detonation. There is also a pretty substantial body count. I love special effects but the return on investment is beginning to fade. We are treated to at least a dozen CGI-dominated action movies per year. In addition, it was disappointing is that Zach Snyder and Co. completely abandoned the powerful stories that started the film in favor of an epic light and sound show that probably put a few moviegoers into epileptic seizures.
Boys with Daddy Issues
Whether intentional or not, this movie is about three boys with Daddy issues. Bruce Wayne vowed to honor the memory of his dead parents by fighting crime. His parents’ deaths continue to haunt him all these years later. Kal-El never gets to know his father, while his human father dies when he is young. Kal-El/Clark Kent is constantly asking himself what his fathers would expect of him, or what they would do in his position. Unfortunately, the only guidance he has are ghosts. Lex Luther alludes to his troubled childhood with a robber baron father who abused him. For some reason, he seems intent on following in his father’s footsteps as a ruthless industrialist. He even preserves his father’s den, despite his contempt for it.
What about the mothers? The movie desperately shoehorns them in when Superman utters “save Martha” thereby pointing out the thing the two heroes have in common: their Mothers’ name. Other than that, you learn absolutely nothing about them. Diane Lane does have some good lines but she is simply channeling Jonathan Kent to Clark rather than having her own voice.
To sum up, this movie is about boys and their Daddy issues. Three of them. All other relationships do not appear to matter.
A Universe Where the Bullies are the Heroes and the Nerds the Villains
A tall, handsome, trust-fund baby joins forces with the ultimate captain of the football team to fight the scrawny, awkward nerd. That, in a nutshell, is Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Anyone else see a problem with this?
The Avenger movies are fun. They have some great jokes and one-liners that get the audience guffawing, comic book fan or not. Eventually you begin to love each of the characters, even relate to them. Batman vs. Superman is not fun nor is it funny. It is dark, gritty, and moody. Movies don’t have to be fun or funny to be great movies, but let’s face it, superhero movies are almost always fun. Not here. Even the colors of Superman’s costume are darkened several shades from the classic red and blue. The few wisecracks and one-liners in the movie don’t land particularly well, and are drowned out by the depression and misery.
The melancholy tone is set from the opening credits. The movie begins with a retelling of the Wayne murders, then shows the destruction of New York at the hands of General Zod. Both Batman and Superman mourn for their lost loved ones and stand in the midst of death and destruction throughout the movie. There is even the dream sequence of a post-apocalyptic hell where Superman becomes some sort of God-King. It is two and a half hours of constant pain and suffering.
Wonder Woman Gets Minor Role
We know this new Superman thanks to Man of Steel. We have some idea of who this new Batman is, although it is pretty clear the Christopher Nolan trilogy is not part of this universe. BUT! Unless you are a hardcore Wonder Woman fan, you have no idea who she is, her origin story, her motivations, or any other details about her weapons or costume. The superhero who has not had a movie in decades, has had several failed TV reboots, and the heroine with the biggest following gets minimal time on screen.
Wonder Woman could have been the groundbreaking feature of this movie. DC’s rival, Marvel Comics, doesn’t have such a character yet although a Black Widow movie has been discussed for a while. Even then, Widow is the one with no superpowers or technology to enhance her abilities. There is a huge opening here for a kick ass female superhero that can help steal the comic book movie throne from Marvel. Just look at the success of Supergirl.
When someone makes an affirmative mistake, it is easy to catch but often it is the “what could have beens” that are the real blunders. This may go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in superhero movies of all time.
Deus Ex Machina
Whenever a writer is in trouble in her story, a good cheat is to have something come out of nowhere and redirect the plot back on its rightful course. You can call it magic, divine intervention, or create some fantastic new technology or scientific discovery (for sci-fi). These plot devices magically appear just when the story needs it. Many movies have this deus ex machina (latin for God from the machine) moment, and typically it isn’t fatal. Batman vs. Superman sported several.
First, the Kryptonian ships contain Kryptonite, the equivalent of toxic waste. It is never explained why. Like most Superman stories, this one needed Kryptonite but the writers could not think of a more plausible way to plop it down on Earth.
Second, a crippled security guard volunteers to help Lex in exchange for a fancy new wheelchair. Only the help requires him to be a suicide bomber. Just like in Star Trek: Into Darkness, why would anyone make this deal? We are given the barest of depictions for this suicide bomber. Anyway, he got the bomb into the Capitol (somehow security missed it? Really?). The movie needed to generate a lot of anti-Superman sentiment among the humans and create some self-doubt for Clark. The whole scene could’ve been cut.
Third, Lex Luther masters Kryptonian genetic engineering, while the crippled spaceship decides to cooperate in creating an abomination. Why? Because everyone else is dead. That is reason enough to abandon all security protocols. Apparently, they were only guidelines. This little trick was needed to create Doomsday.
Fourth, Wonder Woman conveniently leaves the images of herself on the hard drive for Bruce Wayne to discover. He finds them and emails her asking her who she is. Without this part, Batman never discovers Wonder Woman and…I guess she wouldn’t feel pressure to emerge from hiding and fight Doomsday.
Batman gets shot in the head and survives. Even if the cowl was magically bulletproof, the impact should have knocked him out cold. He brands criminals, which supposedly is a death sentence once the criminal is in prison. Why would other prisoners kill someone with a Batman brand on him? If anything, it ought to be a badge of honor. The movie never tries to explain why Superman wants Batman to quit his crime-fighting. Why would he care? Lex Luther places a candy in a Senator’s mouth. This scene was creepy and unnecessary. Alfred is an ace drone pilot, auto mechanic, master detective, philosopher, and helps run Wayne Enterprises. He should be Batman, not Bruce.
For the reasons above, this movie was awful and Zach Snyder should not direct the next one. He seems a reasonable fit for the next Batman movie (if one is coming) but it is pretty clear he cannot do Superman, or a Justice League movie. Since 300, Snyder has directed a list of bombs including Sucker Punch and 300: Rise of an Empire. Even Man of Steel didn’t exactly blow fans away. DC also needs writers with some greater range, rather than a group that wrote about three dudes with Daddy issues. For the love of God, don’t let them write the script for the Wonder Woman movie.
That’s just this guy’s opinion.
Paulie Spiceflow is a regular contributor, movie reviewer and unbelievable smart ass. He prides himself on his excessive knowledge of movies, TV, books, internet memes, and pop cultural references. During college, he spent minimal hours studying but took full-advantage of the free internet and lack of bills to broaden his knowledge in numerous genres including spoof comedy, fantasy, Shakespeare, military history, zombies, and cartoons.