Let me be absolutely clear on one thing – I’ve never liked the whole Batman vs Superman thing. Reading Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” was one of the most soul-destroying moments of my life, purely because it was hammed up to me by a friend (you know who you are) as one of the greatest comics ever written. Instead, the genius behind “Sin City” left me bitterly disappointed with an overly-worded script, boring panel progressions, clumsy artwork, ridiculous use of language and a plot stretched so thin specifically for the purpose of getting Batman and Superman to duke it out. It was a stretch then, and it’s a stretch now.
Allow me to settle this once and for all. Superman would have no problem crushing Batman. The only reason battles between the alien guardian of Metropolis and the Caped Crusader last so long and have so much suspense, is because writers play on Batman’s ingenuity and Superman’s moral compass. It’s been refreshing reading “Injustice: Gods Among Us” where Tom Taylor seems to acknowledge this fact, leaving Batman only able to survive Superman’s onslaughts through pre-battle cunning and luck. However in reality if Superman really wanted Batman dead, there’d be nothing to stop him. “Ohhh Seeka, what about Kryptonite?” shout the Batman fanboys. Please, Kryptonite is only effective in close quarters combat and solid form, or used via a penetrative weapon that lodges into the victim (hehehe, penetration). Given the fact that Superman is an entity capable of traveling “faster than a speeding bullet” and ripping tanks apart with ease, and can produce heat beams from his eyes (meaning close-quarters combat is in no way a necessity for him), there’s nothing stopping Superman killing Batman in less than a second, even if Gotham’s guardian was using the green mineral.
So, now that we’ve gotten the complete pointlessness of Batman vs Superman out-of-the-way, we can discuss how Zack Snyder’s film portrayal of the famous “who would win?” battle is just as pointless, if not more so.
The first thing I want to say is, if DC is so “dark”, then why is the entire film about as edgy as a wet doily? I specialize in dark and gritty. I write dark and gritty, I read dark and gritty, and if I’m not questioning my existence, the morals of society, my place in the world, other people’s place in the world, the human condition or the nature of life and death, then it’s not dark and gritty. “Watchmen” by Alan Moore is dark and gritty. It’s a representation of a world where people are punished for doing their best to look after the world they live in, while also portraying the struggles this causes in their personal lives. Nuclear doomsday is averted, but with fatal repercussions. “The List” by Paul Bedford is dark and gritty, it’s an exploration of what it means to believe, how far people will go for what they believe, and the disturbing nature of believing in a lie. “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” contains none of that. It doesn’t explore the nature of humanity, it just shows humans doing stuff. It doesn’t question morality, it just shows two super-charged idiots duking it out, and it’s got about as much subtext as a seventies porno.
That being said I will praise one particular nightmare sequence which was going well, but then some giant alien bugs showed up and completely ruined any immersion in the dream’s sense of reality, leaving me laughing in my seat.
The script is just bad, and I don’t mean your garden variety action-film shallowness bad, I mean horrible. I want to get a copy to shred and use for my cat’s litter tray. It’s like they opened a compendium of clichés and copy-pasted three or four lines into every dialogue in the film. Interactions between characters that should have been chilling me to the bone were instead leaving me laughing and giggling incessantly, with the one cliché that I actually liked, (Batman’s “Tell me, do you bleed? – You will” line) made useless by the fact that Superman flies off mid sentence, rendering Batman’s chilling threat mute.
The plot is just entirely unbelievable. Superman is a hyper-intelligent alien who has made a career as a human journalist, a profession where noticing stuff is kind of important. He should be able to know when he’s being played. Batman, is supposed to have trained his body to mental and physical perfection, and in “Injustice: Gods Among Us” by Tom Taylor, it was shown he could deduce Lois Lane’s pregnancy because Superman’s pupils were dilated (among other things) and he was smiling. He should be able to know when he’s being played. Yet, the two possibly smartest good guys on the planet are twisted around Lex Luthor’s finger like a piece of string. Both of their personalities are insipid and lifeless, left all the more draining and boring to watch by the fact that their motives for fighting are so vague it’s impossible to know who to go for.
For being a movie entitled “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, their eventual conflict is incredibly short, and incredibly insufferable to watch. I won’t lie, the action choreography is great, but their reasons for fighting are so washed out it left me calling the two “idiots” in my head with every punch thrown.
Regarding the action choreography, I actually quite liked it. When Batman (because Superman actually does little to no fighting until the titular conflict) fights, he goes all out, and it was wonderfully crafted. I especially liked a scene where four knife-wielding thugs all rushed Batman at the same time, rather than circling around him waiting their turn for an ass-kicking. However, Batman does not kill, and Batman does not use guns. It is what makes Batman, Batman. The whole point of Batman is that he won’t be the reason another child loses their parents, he won’t steal the life of someone else’s parents, siblings or lovers, and he won’t allow himself to become a murderer. He respects all life and gives his victims a chance to change their ways. So making Batman shoot people, blow them up, stab them, bash their heads into walls and attempt to run them over with his tank, means that Batman is no longer Batman because you’ve taken away his driving force. You’ve changed the one thing that makes him “Batman the hero”. And before ANY smarmy people decide to bring up the “Batman Begins” scene where he killed Ra’s al ghul, he didn’t kill him, he just didn’t save him. There is a VAST difference. Ra’s was a madman, unable to be rehabilitated and a persistent danger to Gotham. So Batman just let him die, he didn’t kill him. The blood isn’t on his hands, it’s on Ra’s’, and is a result of his own terrorist machinations. However, Zack Snyder’s Batman does whatever he can. He’ll use guns, knives or his fists, and whether or not his mark ends up dead (which they do more often than not) is nothing to him.
The best part of the film was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. At first I saw the actor and went “How is this long-haired nerd gonna possibly be intimidating in the slightest?” And yet as the film progressed, it became clear how unhinged Lex Luthor was. His frequent shouting, displaced emphasis in words, the way he talks and his irritable hyperactivity crafted a villain that always had the upper hand, and was damn terrifying. At the end when Eisenberg’s hair is shaved transforming him into the dome-headed Lex we all know, the pure rage in his eyes was unmistakable. However, this is where my praise for BvS begins and ends. Jesse Eisenberg is the only reason to watch this film.
A friend defended the film to me as “looking at it as an advertisement for Justice League”, but really, if I need to watch a feature-length film as though I’m watching an ad, that just proves how shallow and under-worked it is. Even as an origins story, even as an advertisement, it’s flat and lifeless, and if this is what we have to expect from “Justice League”, then that too will be a disappointment of epic proportions.
Spoiler alert: Superman dies. At the end of the film Superman dies. Which was just a ridiculous concept to put in the film in the first place. He’s supposed to have made a sacrifice with a Kryptonite spear, but the Spear doesn’t touch Superman, who, instead, gets stabbed by Doomsday’s hand. Except, that wound wouldn’t kill Superman, as he wasn’t stabbed BY THE KRYPTONITE! YOU KNOW – HIS ONE AND ONLY WEAKNESS!!! At the very end, dirt rises from the coffin the Man of Steel is placed in as he hits it from the inside, signalling that he is still alive. Rather than being a cliff-hanger ending, anyone who knows anything about Superman would know he couldn’t have been killed by the injury he sustained, and so the ending is predictable – and being a 2.5 hour cliché fest, even the way it was done was predictable. Not only that, but it’s Superman, if he was inside a coffin, he could literally just push his way out of it. Why did he bother knocking?
And of course, there’s the thing every critic whose written about the film has said, Wonder Woman’s part in the film is completely stupid. The effort was made to introduce her gradually, but if anything they just made her a minor annoyance in a film full of major ones. Her part in the film is minimal to say the least and so when she takes part in the climactic battle it’s just kind of like she “showed up”. Yeah, they introduced her through the whole “photograph” thing, but that really just wasn’t enough. She still felt entirely out-of-place, and for a character who is such a major part of the League, I feel it was a little disrespectful. There’s so much more they could have done with her as a character.
Shot well with a good main villain, “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” is an insipid, illogical, cliché laden mess, with as much grit as velour curtains and a script so dull it could send anyone to sleep backstage at a Slipknot gig. It had the chance to make me believe in the conflict, instead it confirmed it as the mess I’ve always seen it for. One star, and that’s for Eisenberg and Eisenberg alone.