Saturday, April 9, 2016

View Log: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

There were two tie-in cereals for this movie. There was a Superman cereal, which was a delicious caramel concoction, equal parts sweet and subtle. And there was a Batman cereal, which was a horrible mixture of chocolate and strawberry, mixed together in a half-baked idea of what would work together and sell well.  And unfortunately, Batman v Superman is pretty much the same as the Batman cereal.

Spoiler Free Review
While the cast is giving it their all (in the case of Jesse Eisenberg, perhaps he's giving a bit too much), there's not much they can do to elevate the bleak, depressing, and often confusing and convoluted plot. But if you don't take it's awfulness too seriously, it's freaking hilarious and worth the ticket for that alone.

Just try not to see it as one big middle finger to the audience

Pay no attention to that big middle finger....
As for specifics.... well, spoilers ahoy. 

Spoilers ahead.

Someday, when I get around to formally recapping and reviewing this film, it will be with the benefit of hindsight. Whatever this movie is building up to will likely be fresh in my mind, and I’ll be able to see exactly what pieces finally come together after Batman v Superman laid their foundations. But as it is, this movie is simply a train wreck by itself.

Now… these View Logs are meant to represent whatever sticks in my mind after I leave the theatre; the good, the bad, and the ugly. With Deadpool, I had little to say, since the film left me largely content. I didn’t really dwell on anything. Fant4stic left me alternately angry and confused over the whole darn thing, resulting in a longer View Log than with Ant-Man or Age of Ultron. If I critiqued every single thing Batman v Superman left me thinking about as I left the theatre… well, you’d end up with a Recap/Review of Batman v Superman. But I’ve managed to narrow the movie down to what are essentially the main aspects I was left thinking about on the drive home from the theatre.

1. All Buildup, No Catharsis
Every single moment of this movie is dedicated to setting up the DC Cinematic Universe, which has finally been given an official name as the “DC Extended Universe.” And therein lies the main problem. Batman v Superman is so preoccupied with setting up the next movie that it fails to be a good movie. Ironically, for a franchise that is completely desperate to stand out from the MCU (even going so far as to not have a post-credits scene), this is the main recurring flaw in the MCU’s weaker entries.

Batman v Superman replaces any attempt to entertain you with desperate attempts to tease you. Instead of developed characters, Batman dreams of a dark future overrun by the dark forces of Darkseid, ruled by an evil Superman. Instead of exploring a stand-alone story, the film whips out a time-traveling Barry Allen in order to garner interest in a Justice League movie by ripping off adapting the Flash’s iconic run from Crisis on Infinite Earths. Instead of focusing on the title characters, we get gratuitous and largely pointless cameos from every Justice League member apart from Green Lantern, no doubt because of his own box-office bomb.

The vast majority of the film is simply setting the stage for why Superman and Batman are fighting. Long story short, Superman sees Batman as a vigilante thug, and Batman sees Superman as having too much power. And the film’s titular fight is engineered by Lex Luthor, who somehow managed to figure out the secret identities of Superman and Batman and, using Martha Kent as leverage, is forcing Superman to fight Batman for… reasons. Something having to do with Darkseid, I guess? On that note….

2. Lex Not-Appearing-in-this-Film Luthor
Without a doubt, Lex Luthor himself is the film’s biggest misstep. Or at the very least, the most prominent one. Everything from the character’s demeanor to his motivations to his goals to even his leitmotif are just absolutely wrong.

Lex Luthor has been portrayed many ways, from an evil scientist to a real-estate mogul, to everything else under the sun. But the one thing he is not is a traitor to mankind. Lex Luthor would never betray humanity for an alien. For himself? Absolutely. One of his defining traits is his rampant ego, which would never allow him to let himself simply be some alien overlord’s patsy. It looks for all the world as though DC was trying to rip off the success of Marvel’s Loki, and his stint as Thanos’s general in The Avengers.

Speaking of ripping something successful off, Jesse Eisenberg is doing little more than a bad Heath Ledger impression. And I say a “bad” one because even Heath Ledger knew when to be subtle. It’s like Jesse Eisenberg is acting in an empty room that had other characters CGI-ed in; nothing he says or does seems connected to any of the other actors’ performances. It’s as if all Eisenberg was trying to do was give an “eccentric” performance, which he never tones down or adjusts to fit the given scene. He’s trying way too hard to give an “edgy” performance, but not as hard as his Joker-esque, dementedly-chipper leitmotif. It’s pretty darn distracting for many of the scenes he’s in.

3. The Filmmakers Don’t Understand the Source Material
Batman uses guns in this movie. Or at least, the next best thing. His kryptonite-gas grenade launcher and his tracking probe sniper rifle are consistent with his portrayal in other media, but there’s a scene where he fights off some mooks and ends up grabbing one’s gun-wielding arm in order to maneuver him around to shoot some other bad guys. Zack Snyder cited a scene in The Dark Knight Returns where Batman guns down a mook with a machine gun. The problem? Batman gunned down the wall in that scene to scare the mook in question, who was holding a kid hostage. Though I'll admit that the art doesn't make that entirely clear.

That mook shows up alive and well later.
Did Zack Snyder just skip over another part in that comic?

You know, that's a big detail to miss while you attempt to rip off the best moments from that comic.
The lack of caring extends to Jesse Eisenberg, who read some comics to prepare for his role before deciding that research was useless, since his version of the character would be so different.

But the biggest kick in the teeth is how cub photographer Jimmy Olsen was turned into a CIA undercover operative with a tracking device in his camera. This is a potentially interesting idea. Jimmy Olsen is gunned down within the first ten minutes by terrorists. They claim that this was done simply for the shock value, but it’s clear that they either don’t understand the source material or simply didn’t care. Either way, that’s entirely unacceptable for the people helming a film version of the material.

4. This Movie is Hilarious
Admittedly, there are some very nice performances. Henry Cavill is doing his best to portray a man with the power to change the world, and Ben Affleck’s raw emotion deserved a much better script. And Jeremy Irons is a wonderfully snarky and wise Alfred. And Gal Gadot is a particularly badass Wonder Woman. But this movie is filled with things that are simply so over-the-top-ridiculous and over-the-top-serious that you can’t help but laugh. Among these funny moments are….
  • Batman whipping around Superman on a cable like he was flying a kite.
  • Batman angrily freaking out when discovering that Superman’s mom is named Martha, like his mom. 
  • Batman and Superman’s moms having the same name is a plot point. And it saves Superman’s life. 
  • Superman pushing Batman fifty feet like they were on a playground.
  • Superman can’t react fast enough to save anyone from a firey explosion. But Batman can.
  • Cross-shaped debris during the death of Superman.
For a movie trying so hard to be serious, I sure was laughing a lot.

5. This Movie Has Way Too Many Similarities to The Incredibles
Holly Hunter in a prominent role? Check.

A super-speedster moving between frames of security camera footage? Check.

A red-haired genius villain thwarted by a superhero team-up? Check.

Superheroes under scrutiny for acting in situations when they might make things worse or not be wanted? Check.

A regular civilian with a vendetta against the world’s strongest man? Check.

It’s really weird once you notice it.

It's not good by any stretch of the imagination. But if you abandon all hope for it to be good, then you can have a lot of fun with how awful it is. Buy a ticket and get ready to giggle for a couple hours.


  1. For whatever reason, I found this movie to be more entertaining then Man of Steel. Maybe bleakness felt more bleak in purely Superman movie or something.

    If I were to be generous, I would say that Bat-"manslaughter isn't murder"-Man from this movie is a nice change of pace compared to Bat-"I totally didn't kill Joker/Two-Face/Ra's Ghul/Two-Face again/Talia"-Man from previous movies.

    One of biggest problems for me is that despite the title and Luthor's excited screams about greatest gladiator match evah, I just didn't cared about B v S fight. At no point movie convinced I really want to see these two duke it out, and I was right. Pale shadows of iconic heroes + contrived setup + Bat wins cause kryptonite and little else + laughable resolution = blandest fight in movie.

    - Faceless Enigma

    1. Oh, it was definitely more entertaining than Man of Steel. And you have a point; the big Batman v Superman matchup is, ironically enough, one of the least interesting parts of the film. Unless you're laughing at it for how dumb it is, like I was.

  2. My dad got both cereals, and I honestly preferred the Batman cereal. I found it to be pretty good.

    1. Well, more power to you. It reminded me of Franken-Berry and Count Chocula mixed together, which... Well, I get why Batman has a chocolate cereal, but where did the strawberry come from? I once joked that it represents Batman's pink, fleshy insides sheathed in dark armor, but maybe that's the case.