Why I Didn't Like Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

March 26th, 2016.

Summary : a two-and-a-half-hour transition from narrative incoherence to narrative incompetence.
 

This movie was terrible. Not just a terrible story, but also a story terribly told, and while the first part is almost to be expacted, the second bit is actually unusual.

"I'm so sorry, Chris Nolan"

"I'm so sorry, Chris Nolan"

I don’t even know where to start except it’s pretty much all wrong. From the bloated runtime where, honestly and genuinely, NOTHING happens to justify the length, to not one but THREE f**king dream sequences, to an entirely contrived storyline which optimistically additionally shoe-horns in future storylines on the off-chance that we wish to be further insulted by the moronic stupidity that DC/Warners appear to be earmarking as the thematic and stylistic basis for the DCU, to the pointless political subplot that is ended when the movie decides to end it, to the weirdly unexplained nature of Batman, to the fact that Clark Kent appears to have a f**king job even though he doesn't bother to do any work, to the fact that Lex Luthor has limitless powers and intellect but decides to go through legal channels to import Kryptonite into the USA because the plot(s) demand it, to the entire government's (?) belief that a whole bunch of shooting deaths (SHOOTING DEATHS?) in African (AFRICA) are Superman's fault, to the INSANITY of basically pausing the movie at the 2/3 mark so that additional characters (The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) can be introduced via a grind-the-movie-to-a-halt-while-we-watch-a-person-watching-a-screen mechanism.

Zack Snyder has the subtlety of a brick, but his ability to tell a story is that of thebrick's less talented cousin.

Honestly, though, I’m not even that angry. Because this, quite honestly was the natural inevitable conclusion of giving even MORE money to the same people who also failed to make a decent Man of Steel movie (although that movie did have some merit).

"I had this in my carry-on luggage. Don't ask how it wasn't picked up by the airport scanners"

"I had this in my carry-on luggage. Don't ask how it wasn't picked up by the airport scanners"

But to me, they doubled down on The Stupid and maths happened. Did anyone honestly think that more money would somehow encourage restraint in the dream team of director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer (now joined by Chris Terio, surprisingly of 'Argo' fame), or that things would go any differently than they did, generally speaking? This cinematic abomination was always on the cards : maybe not inevitably, but within the realms of likelihood. So why did we all watch this damn film?

It was us – you, me, we – who somehow believed that the same people doing the same thing with more money would via some kind of magic (?) create something better than they'd previously failed to do.

We believed it because we wanted to believe it, we believed it because the people paid to promote it told us to believe it, and we believed it because we’re stupid fools. What greater indication of future performance than past performance is there, especially when seemingly no lessons were learned?

I don't so much feel betrayed as much as I feel ashamed.

Stared at the script too long.

Stared at the script too long.

But back to the movie.

This movie is a mess, and pretty much everyone is jointly and severally to blame. Director Zack Snyder seems to be the creative equivalent of a redbull-hyped hamster, and he should reduce the dose of whatever he drinks onset by about 2/3, and his editor should reduce their dose by about 4/5. Meanwhile, writer David S Goyer needs to find a remote mountaintop somewhere and write nothing more than a haiku a day for a thousand days, because when I see script insanity I tend to blame him on principle and not the new guy he just met. Did anyone at any time actually think about why they were telling this story that DIDN'T amout to "so we can set up more stories"? This may sound childish and naive, but you could argue that in order to tell a story you have to HAVE a story, not just a huge novelty-sized cheque and an instruction from a movie studio to go out and GET a story.

I heard on a podcast that every episode of the TV show 'The Flash' (ironically a DC property) must contain "heart, humour and spectacle". Holy f**k - and that's in an episode less than 1hr long. This movie has 2.5hrs of runtime and I can't say for sure that it has ANY of those three.

This movie's plot as near as I can summarise is as follows : Lex hates Superman. Finds something in the Pacific Ocean (and in Metropolis rubble) that kills Kryptonian cells, decides to inject them into the corpse of General Zod, which turns him into a monster, that Superman has to fight.

But wait.... Lex ALSO wants to frame Superman for a shooting massacre in Africa, Lex ALSO wants Batman to kill Superman (or vice versa), Lex ALSO blows up the Capitol, Lex ALSO menaces a US Senator, Lex ALSO supports a child prostitution ring in Gotham, Lex ALSO sends private military contractors into an African nation with experimental weaponry, Lex ALSO hosts private parties, Lex ALSO has no security on his harddrives/server-farms which anyone can walk up to at a dinner party and raise no questions doing, Lex ALSO has access to the entirety of the Kryptonian data archive, Lex ALSO kidnaps both Lois Lane and Superman's Mom......

Wow. Did you delete the parts where Lex also has a celebrity chef program he hosts, a kids soccer team he coaches and the consulting work he does for S.P.E.C.T.R.E... because I'm sure you could make this more convoluted and stupid if you tried. I still don't know what the quid-pro-quo was on Lex's deal with the US Army : he got unlimited access to the ship, the tech and the alien body... what did the Army get in return for THAT? Bullets? Not that I care... but neither did the writer(s).

"I have a plan. It's a very complicated, very intricate, multifaceted plan. Of setting a monster loose and seeing what happens. Also blowing up shit, kidnapping people, threatening politicians, and hosting parties"

"I have a plan. It's a very complicated, very intricate, multifaceted plan. Of setting a monster loose and seeing what happens. Also blowing up shit, kidnapping people, threatening politicians, and hosting parties"

And the biggest awfulness about this movie isn't merely that the story was nonsensical, it was that it was additional affront to the potential of these characters and the stories that could be told with them.

For instance, this movie had a chance to show us that Batman’s smarts and intelligence could exceed the powers of Superman and WonderWoman, showing that humanity could have a place in its own destiny – but no, that's not on the cards. So (spoilers) instead of having Batman instinctively realise that Superman would weaken if he used the kryptonite spear, grab it and kill Doomsday, the movie wanted Superman to do it so he could die (OMG : Superman's dead... we'll never see his like again), which means since you’ve killed Superman once, you can never EVER kill him again for plot reasons. And instead of giving us a Lex Luthor who thinks so many steps ahead that he was even prepared for the possibility of things going against him, the movie throws him in jail. This story isn’t just bad, but through its carelessness, it destroys the possibility of better stories with these same characters - a smarter Lex, a better Batman, .... or after two movies perhaps even a likeable Superman?

"This dream sequence makes me look like a weak and weirdly obsessive weirdo.... but I'm contractually obliged to be in more of these films"

"This dream sequence makes me look like a weak and weirdly obsessive weirdo.... but I'm contractually obliged to be in more of these films"

 

This movie's decisions feel like they are made by people for whom the only applicable metaphor is "premature ejaculation".

The people involved in this don't know restraint, they don't know planning, they don't know pacing - they just shove as much out as quickly as possible to satisfy their own particular impulses and have no care for a second date, let alone a relationship, even as it's proposing the next date while ruining the current one! And this is meant to make me excited for the rest of the Justice League this movie wants to shove at me?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

No, please. Try. Because two movies in, I think Batman is a depressed obsessive maniac, Superman is an alien who doesn't give a shit for anyone except Lois Lane (except arbitrarily), and the pretty Wonder Woman is accompanied by a shrieking cello that hurts my ears every time she's fighting onscreen. But please, tell me why I give a crap about the other mutants... uh... out there.

And can I just add one thing to my disbelief with this plot? Forget the pretext of why Batman and Superman are even fighting. Whether it's out of fear for Superman's powers, or Xenophobia over him being an alien, or whether Superman hates vigilantes, or whether it's because Lex is having a family member held hostage. Forget about WHY they fight, but think about HOW they STOP. Imagine a room filled with screenwriters brainstorming... or think about David S Goyer and whatsisname drunk in a bar, whichever, struggling to answer not the question of WHY they fight or WHO would win... but how they stop. And the answer is:.

"Martha"
"Martha??"
"Martha"

And the universe holds its breath. And it holds it just a little bit too long, because just before the universe can say what we're all thinking, which is "That's Fucking Moronic", because it IS moronic and a cop-out and solves none of the inherent issues that this movie has FUCKING rammed down our throats - ie. power, ie. responsibility, ie. jurisdiction, ie. by whose rights is power exercised and judgement rendered, Goyer and Whatsisface are high-fiving and downing shots because they've figured it out. They don't have to fight... because their Moms have the same first name.

"If your mother's name had been Gladys, you'd be dead right now. Remember that."

"If your mother's name had been Gladys, you'd be dead right now. Remember that."

Drop the mike. Go home, bar. You're drunk.

Holy. FUCK.

I'm going to lie down a bit before I continue

 

.... all right I'm back.

But hey, imagine you didn't mind the story. What about the movie, technically speaking? Yes, the story is awful, but unlike Man of Steel this movie is actually badly made.

For one thing, the editing and sense of time and space and location was literally absent at times. The sequencing of events in the movie is disjointed - it never builds to anything because the next scene takes to you somewhere else entirely. Conversations go on far too long while tension is meant to build, the movie sacrifices broad-scale simplicity for needless detail (the Wayne Enterprises employee and the wheelchair) and, what... Batman stands in the rain checking facebook while waiting for Superman to show up? People stand in a building while an alien attack takes place, not being evacuated because they need Bruce Wayne to call some dude to tell everyone to leave the building because in case you haven't looked out the window there's a F**KING ALIEN WAR ON!!??

Well-made movies tend to follow a structure of "this happens, and because of that THIS happens, and because of that THIS happens...." while shitty kids movies tend to be more like "This happens and then this happens and then this happens and then this happens". This movie isn't merely a kids movie in that regard, it interleaves multiple strands of plot almost deliberately in such a way as to be nonsensical, and the 'because'es are part of a plot so convoluted that the word "because" has a considerably different aspect to it.

And after all this, with the "Dawn of Justice" monniker and the unsubtle-as-a-brick revelation of more charactrs, this movie is effectively an invite to watch more movies, and the invite is badly written, badly edited, contrived, messy and (need it even be said) inelegant.

"Your hair looks amazing. Didn't you just break the sound barrier getting here?"

"Your hair looks amazing. Didn't you just break the sound barrier getting here?"

And did I mention the movie was UGLY? The colour palette was ugly to the point of distraction. It's dull, it's dark, it's green and blue and nighttime except when it's brown. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Superman get his energy from the sun? When is it daytime in this world? But hey, no problem, he's been BURIED at the end of it. No problem.

And the sound design? Although the dialogue was certainly up to the *cough* usual standard of David S Goyer, this time much of it was literally illegible due to a horrendous sound mix in use. I caught maybe one out of every four things Alfred growled at Batman, and caught maybe one of every two things Batman growled in reply. I don't now what Lex was saying half the time. Is that incompetence in the editing booth, bad sound equipment by the cinema, or was it a last heroic effort by an editor trying to spare us horrific exposure to awful dialogue by making it illegible instead? Point is - garbled dialogue. Not even technically capable of being understood.

 

"Master Wayne, I've taken the liberty of turning the speakers on to the maximum settings so you can be deafened while you fight...."

"Master Wayne, I've taken the liberty of turning the speakers on to the maximum settings so you can be deafened while you fight...."

It already doesn’t help that the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL has all the nuance of a sledgehammer to drive away even the smallest possibility of something being intelligent. I'll actually concede that the score in isolation is actually good, but what hurts here is that Zimmer/Holkenborg seem to have either been infected or ADDED to the infection of insanity of this whole production. Instead of seeing the cinematic bludgeoning audiences might be subjected to and providing a score that might offset or contextualise the mayhem, Zimmer and XL seem to have surveyed everything at 11, and upped their contribution to raise it to 12. That puts insanity on top of insanity.

Is there anything I liked in this movie? Although it's not entirely true, I'm going to say no. When somebody dumps entree, main, dessert, and late night drunken kebab into a blender, and finds some brown gooey stuff on the kitchen floor, shrugs, and throws that in as well, don't expect me to compliment the choice of ice-cream from the dessert.

In summary, it’s awful. The plot is awful, the acting is awful, the pacing is awful, and the end fight takes everything that was excessive in its relentlessly inane length, and takes away human stakesand adds more fakeness, and I just didn't care any more. Not about this film, and certainly not about whatever these guys have planned next.

Everyone involved should be ashamed of this.
And that includes you and me.