Mar 24, 2016


I am massively conflicted about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Objectively, it’s not a good movie. It’s an ugly mess of scenes thrown together in a semi-coherent order, leading to a whole that is not at all satisfying. Most of the characters are aggresively unlikeable, and those that are are in far too little of the movie to swing it back towards the direction of watchability. It looks at the chaos and destruction of Man of Steel and asks, ‘But why don’t we set it at night?,’ and then it does exactly that. It’s hard to watch, not because the content is difficult, but because everything is so muddy that it’s frequently hard to tell what’s happening.

All of that said? There were things - scenes and characters and ideas - that I liked, and one part that I kind of loved.

Spoilers both general and minute ahoy.

"Tell you need a ride? It's a two-seater."

The opening sequence yet again gives us the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. I don’t know how many times it’s been said but apparently it didn’t sink in the first hundred thousand times so I guess we have to say it again: the Wayne murder never needs to be shown again. We get it. Bruce’s parents were killed in front of him when he was a kid, and that’s why he hates crime. I understand that you feel the need to keep showing it because how else will we set the tone that this is a grimdark movie and that Batman is a grimdark character if we don’t show the murder of a kid’s parents in the first ten minutes. But come on. We’ve seen this a dozen times now. Can we move on?

That said, I kind of liked how it was handled in this movie. There were things about it that were different and visually unique, particularly about Martha Wayne’s death. The gunman’s weapon catches on the pearls around her neck, and the gun firing on her is what pulls them from her neck and causes them to spill. The spray of the pearls as she falls makes for an interesting stand-in for any blood in the scene. I really appreciated how that was done.

Another reason that they had to show the Wayne murder was to establish that Bruce’s mother’s name was Martha. You know who else’s mother’s name is Martha? Clark Kent. That’s something that I’ve always found kind of amusing, and that is both addressed and used as an important plot point in this movie. (Before anyone asks, no, they don’t have the same mother.) It was one of those things where I kind of groaned, but again I appreciated it. Like a really well-executed pun.

Another thing that made me smile was what I think was an attempted correction of mistakes made during Man of Steel. There’s an extended sequence at the beginning of the movie about what Bruce Wayne was doing during the events of MoS - a lot of that has been shown in the trailers and commercials, and it’s basically all about how many people died during the fight between Superman and the Phantom Zone criminals, which, unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll recognize as one of the largest complaints people had about MoS. So now we’ve got this movie, and we get towards the end when shit starts blowing up and there’s again massive destruction from fights between super-powered beings, and at more than one point in this movie, someone on-screen makes a point to mention that there are no civilians in harm’s way. Either it’s because it’s night and apparently everyone who works in downtown Metropolis commutes in from the suburbs, or because “Stryker’s Island is unpopulated” so it’s not a big deal that it gets completely destroyed. I appreciate that they added those lines of dialogue, but I also feel like maybe it was done out of spite, which kind of makes me like it even more. Either way, it made me smile.

"We make cameos for some reason!"

This movie plants seeds for the future Justice League - you could say that it dawns here - in probably the most clunky way possible: Lex Luthor has been collecting data on metahumans, and he has files on would-be Leaguers Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Each of these files contains brief videos of the characters out-of-costume. Overall, this added nothing to the movie other than setting up future movies. But one thing that I loved was the Cyborg video, which essentially shows recordings made by Vic Stone’s father, Silas, leading up to an origin for the character. Silas Stone is played by the creator of SkyNet himself, Joe Morton. I love seeing Joe Morton in things, and the mental connection to his character from Terminator 2 in relation to his character here made me happy.

It’s been said in other places already, but Wonder Woman is great, and in far too little of the movie. Gal Gadot has a presence about her both in and out of WW costume that really took me by surprise. In a movie about super-serious dudes trying to kill each other, she was a breath of fresh air. Equally great is Jesse Eisenberg, who has a great time devouring scenery as Lex Luthor. His Luthor is evil, make no mistake about it, but there’s more nuance to him than we’ve seen on-screen before. He’s reminiscent of the Luthor in the great miniseries Luthor: Man of Steel, and of his portrayal in Superman: Birthright. And, as much as I loved Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey, he didn’t mention land once.

Those are all things that I liked and appreciated. The one thing that I think I loved came towards the end of the movie, after Superman and Batman had forgotten why they were mad at each other, after Doomsday had arrived, and after Wonder Woman had made her perfect arrival on the scene. There was something genuinely thrilling about seeing Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman fighting together on a big screen. The action was still muddy, and Doomsday was still an amorphous CG abomination, but seeing those heroes teamed up made me positively giddy. I feel like, more than anything, eliciting that response from seeing those characters all together, in a movie that was otherwise nearly devoid of anything new or interesting, might be the sole purpose for this movie having been made. And if that’s the case, mission accomplished.

It was just neat to see them all together, y'know?

Again, it’s not a good movie. Superman and Batman have never been more unlikeable. For the most part I did not enjoy watching it. But I’m also glad that I saw it so that I could make up my mind about it for myself.

Oh, also, Superman dies.