Wednesday, April 13, 2016

'Batman v. Superman' Review, Part One: What I Didn't Like

I finally saw Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (I say "finally" because, as a good friend of mine said about how the both of us, as Bat-fans felt, "It has 'Batman' in the title, therefore I'm morally obligated to see it in theaters," and it's been out for over two weeks). So I have a lot to say. I'm going to start out by saying, as the name implies, this is a two-parter, because there's so much, and one post would be immense. So I'm starting with the bad, because yes, there is good, too. Which is kinda what I expected, but better, because there's more good than I anticipated- enough that I think the two-part-review is necessary. So that, in itself, is good. Given how I was less than thrilled with Man of Steel, I had absolutely ZERO expectations for this flick, but at least some of my hopes were met.


Spoilers ahead, obvi. 

These aren't in ranked order or anything. What it comes down to is a lot of little things that don't add up well for me. I can rant longer about some more than others, but while (most of) these things may have been forgivable on their own, the fact that all of them are in this movie is why I wouldn't say the movie is "great," by any means. I wouldn't even really say it's "good" overall. It's entertaining and tolerable.

1) My first irk is the feminist angle. I was superbly disappointed that the only thing Lois seems to be in the movie for is getting rescued by Superman. Not once. Not twice. But three times. THREE FUCKING TIMES IN A MOVIE THAT'S LESS THAN THREE HOURS LONG. (Granted, not by much, and that's something I'll talk about in a bit.)

I get that initially in the comics, that was pretty much her job, getting rescued. But come on, people, this is the 21st Century, aren't we past the "damsel in distress" trope? Like even a little? It was so hard to watch- I actually groaned out loud when she dove into the... puddle... thing... that had the spear, because I knew she was going to get trapped in that goddamned thing and Superman would have to go save her ass. And the only woman with more than two or three lines that doesn't get kidnapped or killed is Wonder Woman- who yes, was A FUCKING BOSS, but that's for the next post. And anyway, how awesome Wonder Woman is in this movie still doesn't make up for how few women are in it, and how they aren't in any way actually driving the plot. And fuck, they wasted the amazing talent of Lauren Cohan by making her Martha Wayne... and, aside from her screaming, I don't think she said anything (except maybe "Thomas" or "Bruce"). I just feel like this is so typical and entirely unsurprising, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing, and I just don't approve at all. And as a feminist icon, I imagine that...


Mr. Snyder.

And along those lines... Gal Gadot was the only person close to being of color with multiple lines aside from Laurence Fishburn and the dude that played the African warlord (which, wow, real positive portrayal of a person of color, there, Warner Brothers). Due to the nature of those little videos Diana watches (which, oh boy will we get to in a moment), Jason Momoa doesn't speak, and anyone involved in Cyborg's clip was only onscreen for a few moments (and Cyborg himself only screamed...), so yeah... not good on diversity in the casting at all. 

2) Plot-wise, let's start with the incident in the desert that Superman saves Lois from toward the beginning. Things going sour in itself wasn't the problem- that was kind of expected. What's stupid is that America writ large blames Superman, even though he didn't kill anybody and it was all gun violence.  Superman doesn't use guns. And he doesn't kill people... on purpose, at least, unless you're Zod (in this version).  Despite how everyone assumes it was his fault without asking him anything, nobody bothers to ask Lois to testify at the hearing about what she saw. So... she witnesses the whole Goddamned thing and they take testimony from people there after it happened, but not hers, which would have been an account of what happened during the incident. The whole Goddamned thing was just an action scene to use as the catalyst for Superman being feared and thought of as "dangerous," as if the whole thing with Zod that is used as why Batman  hates him isn't enough for the rest of the country? It was lazy writing. They could have just gone straight from the destruction of Metropolis to everyone being afraid of him. The thing in Africa was a contrived way to put Lex's guys in the middle and create yet another scene where Superman has to save Lois. 

3) Senator Finch seems to be too... conflicting... I mean, I just couldn't buy that she would be so anti-Supes and then refuse to let the chunk of kryptonite into the U.S. Now, do I think she would have let Lex Luthor have it? Of course not. No, what I think she would have done is say she's okay it, then swing some bureaucratic loophole to seize it on behalf of the government once he went to the expense of getting it to the U.S., and then it would have been developed into a super weapon at some military base by military scientists. Maybe some of LexCorps's peeps would have stolen it back, but it would have been even better if Batman himself stole the weapon- we're already supposed to think Batman is turning to the Dark Side (he even says something like, "We're criminals, we always have been," to Alfred at one point), so seeing him break into a government facility would have been super intense and support that whole "criminal" thing even more. 

4) Bruce's dreams. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? They in no way, shape, or form, advance the plot. They just take up valuable time (which, again, will be addressed). 

5) And right after one of those weirdass dreams, that whole thing with The Flash showing up in the little vortex, I'm assuming because he's jumping, or, really, running, back in time, saying, "Lois is the key!" is useless, too- Bruce doesn't do shit with regards to Lois after that, so it seems more like a piddly excuse to show The Flash on the screen, but then what about those little videos Diana watches in her hotel room? If all we see of Aquaman and Cyborg is those, why did we need to have (more) time wasted on a goofy time-run of The Flash that, like those dreams of Bruce's, doesn't do anything to actually advance the story? 

6) Also, WHAT THE FUCK WITH THE DAMNED VIDEOS? That was the MOST PATHETIC way to tease about future Justice League members. Diana may as well have been on YouTube and looking at a conspiracy theorist's channel, a channel consisting solely of videos they compiled of metahumans; all that was missing was the text at the end that spells out some vague, creepy, rhetorical question while Rage Against the Machine plays in the background (and of course, "Don't forget to like and subscribe!"). I mean, I understand "show v. tell" as well as the next college grad, but that's taking it a bit too literal. So back to the weapon, which ends up being a spear... 

7) WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T BATMAN JUST GO GET THE GODDAMNED SPEAR?!?!?!? At that point, when Batman says, "I have to get him to chase me back into the city, to the kryptonite," I was just...

...and I kind of gave up, basically throwing my hands in the air mentally and saying, "You win, Zack Snyder, you win the award for Dumbest Shit in a Batman Movie Ever." I don't understand how David S. Goyer, after having worked with the Nolans on the Dark Knight trilogy, could still come up with something so utterly stupid. THEY WOULDN'T HAVE EVEN HAD SOMETHING THAT TERRIBLE IN BATMAN AND ROBIN! I mean... God, that was so painful to sit through. The fight could have been basically the same if Batman had grabbed the spear and brought it to Doomsday. But then, of course, Lois wouldn't have nearly drowned  trying to get the spear, and then Supes wouldn't have needed to save her that third time, so..........

8) Speaking  of time, this movie is way too Goddamned long. Twenty minutes alone could have been cut if those stupid dreams of Bruce's weren't included. And another twenty, at least, if Zack Snyder would get over his goddamned masturbatory obsession with sssslllllloooooooooowwwww mmmmmoooooooootttttiiiiiooooooonnnnn....* To put it in perspective, this is the second movie I saw at the theater during which I got up to go to the bathroom. And I wasn't even worried about missing anything important- it was during the dream or whatever that Kal had of his Earth dad. The first was The Return of the King, to put things in perspective, which is over an hour longer- and even then, I was way more upset and worried about missing something cool. My only disappointment was the scene had already switched to being one between Bruce and Alfred, so I missed something with them. 

9) Jesse Eisenberg. He was terrible as Lex Luthor. See, I'm just too used to Lex being cool, calm, and collected. Part of why he's so scary is because he's so... chill... about his shit. A really good Lex is going to come across as a pure sociopath, and while sure, he may get a little angry when things don't go his way, he never loses his cool and seems lost or weirded out. This version was twitchy and nervous. He seemed like a cheap impression of Heath Ledger's Joker, which he, too, was more collected and less twitchy- sporadic and maybe a little unpredictable, be he never seemed nervous and awkward. Even if Lex wasn't always necessarily so chill, the twitchiness was too reminiscent of Ledger for it to work for me. 

10) Most of the fight choreography for Batman was awful. They followed all of the rules of Mook Chivalry when planning the fights between Batman and any thug or group, especially the bit about fighting one-at-a-time with Batman. I get that Bruce is getting older now and can't move very fast, but that should entail him throwing multiple goons or thugs off at once, not them politely waiting so they can attack individually. It was very disappointing to see him moving so slowly (while still not in slo-mo, I should point out) and have the other guys literally standing in the background. It's painful to watch.

11) And  yeah, maybe this should really be with 4 from above, but that scene where Kal/Clark has a vision or dream or whatever of his dead Pa Kent. If I missed 99% of it and still felt fine about the "plot" (I have to use that term very loosely, here), then it didn't need to be there. And even in the two lines of dialogue I saw, Kevin Costner was still bloody terrible. It was after his second line I said, "Welp, guess I can go pee now," to myself and got up to, well, go pee. But tack that on as yet another waste of time.

12) I don't think it's actually explained how Lex figures out that Clark is Supes and Bruce is Bats. Unless there's a deleted scene I'm  missing, I take it we're supposed to just leave it to his evilness? His genius? Like, what? That really got to me, because in order for him con Wallace Keef into blowing up the Capital (Keefe is the guy Bruce saves in the beginning that loses his legs and stuff), Lex would have had to know Bruce Wayne is Batman before Superman even showed up, meaning before the events of Man of Steel, since Keefe's importance hinges on being injured during the fight between Supes and Zod from the first movie. So how did Lex know? And how did he figure out Clark/Supes?

13) But speaking of Keefe, how did Bruce not know he wasn't getting his checks? 
When he says, "I thought we were sending him checks every month," or something like that, and the person talking to him said they were sent back every time or whatever, something bothered me, and at first, I wasn't sure what it was. But as Bruce is looking at the checks, it dawned on me.

Why didn't Bruce visit with him? I know he would have, if only to reinforce his hatred of Superman- why not go see the person that worked for him that was maimed by the alien? Sort of like how liberals watch Fox News to get morally outraged at bigots, or conservatives watch MSNBC to get angry about lazy poor people. Visiting the person he would (at least then) consider under his charge that was almost killed because of Superman is exactly the kind of masochistic thing Batman would do. So I call shenanigans on him being in the dark about Keefe. I don't buy that at all.

14) I'm adding this because I realized it's something I have mixed feelings about as I'm talking to a friend, but here it is. So if Batman is driven SO BLOODY OVER THE EDGE by Superman's fight with Zod and the presence of this alien, and he is so Hellbent on killing him for 90% of the movie, how come all it takes is Lois saying their moms share names for him to turn around and be on his side? It was cool, and there's an argument for why it works,  but also for why it doesn't. See, we spent a whole movie watching Batman hate Superman. Superman is the cause for him being willing to kill now, and to brand the thugs he catches with a Bat Symbol, and his main goal since Superman showed up, over a year-and-a-half earlier, has been to end the Man of Steel. But in thirty seconds, that all turns around? That's not enough. If you're going to build up that much backstory, it can't be reversed with a few lines of dialogue. I would have rather seen  them decide it was in their mutual interest to fight together against Doomsday, then, once the Big Bad was gone, have a neural conversation where Superman plead his case convincingly enough- which I think he could do, if Goyer wasn't being suck a fucking moron. There's a legitimate argument for why Superman did what he did, and it's not unlike how Batman destroys SO MUCH PROPERTY during every chase he's ever in; he could say how he tried to get Zod out of the city, and when it didn't work, he eliminated the threat to save the lives left, etc. I think Batman would listen to that and be persuaded to at least not kill Supes. And then, maybe have Lex kidnap Mama Kent (or have her put in danger in  the next movie... which I kind of hate saying... because ALL SHE'S GOOD FOR IS BEING IN DANGER JUST LIKE LOIS IN THIS MOVIE) and Bruce finds out she shares a name with his deceased mother, and that makes him more eager to work with Superman because of stuff  I'll talk about in the positive post. 

So that's about it. I will say, there's an interesting critique here about violence and  the state as there pretty much always is when it comes to a superhero movie. But I'll leave that discourse for later. I'm going to take a break for now and work on my post about what's good tomorrow. Once it's finished, I'll post a link in this (and one there leading back to this, too). It's there that I will actually rate it. 

*I contest this article's assertion that he dialed it back for Man of Steel. I mean okay, maybe he dialed it back in comparison to 300 or Watchmen, but dude... That's still a lot of fucking slow motion in Man of Steel.

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