When Superheroes Need Therapy: A Batman vs. Superman Review
Holy plot hole Batman!
Seriously, if you haven’t heard by now, the much-anticipated Batman vs. Superman Dawn of Justice opened a few days ago to blazing hot opening weekend sales but only tepid reviews.
This honestly should surprise no one.
Personally, I hadn’t had high hopes for the film since they announced Ben Affleck would be playing Batman. And ironically enough, Affleck’s performance, particularly as Bruce Wayne (I’d always maintained that I could totally see Affleck playing a good Bruce Wayne, but that it was Batman I was worried about him portraying) was one of the more enjoyable parts of the film.
That’s saying something.
I knew better than to hope for the epic battle scenes and masterful storytelling that was Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. But I did hope for more than…well, this.
Some spoilers ahead.
Hey Superman! You're Not Invited To My Birthday!
So much of the film had a brooding Ben Affleck playing a game of one-upmanship (as opposed to actually fighting) with an equally brooding Henry Cavill. It was as if neither man’s mother, both coincidentally named Martha, had ever hugged him; they were so desperate for approval.
Who has the better jawline (complete with chin cleft)? Sorry Affleck. While your jawline is formidable, Cavill clearly wins here. His jaw could cut glass.
Who has the better mean mug? Affleck is the clear winner here. Cavill needs to practice his angry face a little more.
Who’s more ripped? Nice try Ben, but Henry wins again.
Who’s more self-righteous? Tie!
Who’s more emo? While both are equally emo, Affleck does it with a bit more style.
And finally, who has the hotter girlfriend? This is a trick question, of course. Only Superman has a girlfriend. But still, Batman wins this one because this particular portrayal of Lois must certainly make a man prefer being single.
How To Turn A 90 Minute Film Into A Two and a Half Hour Nap
The film was doomed from the very beginning. The opening sequence hinted at the lazy storytelling and lack of substance. We open with the night Batman becomes Batman. Why do we need to start the film with this? Who doesn’t know that Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot, leaving him an orphan? Who hasn’t seen him fall into that hole and get attacked by bats at least a million times by now? Even the uninitiated know this. It was a waste of a good fifteen minutes that would have been better served establishing the current stakes.
When the initial sequence is over, the film cuts to Bruce Wayne and how he’s experiencing Superman’s devastating fight with Zod at the end of Man of Steel. This, while still very thin on providing a plausible motivation for Batman to go after Superman, would have made a much better opening scene.
Then there were all the dream sequences. Why? Did they add anything of value to the narrative? We get it. Both superheroes are tortured souls. We don’t need trippy hallucinations to drive that point home. Especially when they just feel out of place in a film that was already awkwardly trying to do too much.
Who's Role Is It Anyway?
Perhaps the most egregious offense by this film is the blatant mischaracterization. Listen, I firmly believe that when you attempt to tackle an adaptation like this, especially when dealing with icons people grew up on and people’s childhood heroes, the absolute least you can do is respect the source material. That said, I also firmly believe that a director can and should get creative with it, and not necessarily have to produce a shot-by-shot recreation of the comic book’s panels (because frankly, I’ve already read the book). It’s a delicate balance to strike, and Snyder fails miserably at it. He seemed to recycle already iconic portrayals of these characters by just slapping a different character and actor on them.
Exhibit A: Joker disguised as Lex Luthor — Hands down, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex was one of the things that was hardest to watch about this film. Even watching the snippets from the trailers left a terrible taste in my mouth. His manic interpretation of Lex was, um, different, and not in a good way. He wasn’t the cool, power-hungry villain we all know and love as much as he was some emo teenager throwing a tantrum because his parents took his toys away. I was even more insulted when I realized that Jesse was really playing the Joker (or alternately, the Riddler) and just calling him Lex Luthor. No bueno.
Ditto Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot, while certainly a sight for sore eyes in this film, seemed to be channeling Catwoman (particularly Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman) instead of playing an authentic Wonder Woman.
Superman And The Social Media Generation
One of the most interesting parts of the film was the handling of Superman’s character. While I did find his overly emo self-doubt a bit annoying at times, I thought it was, at least, thought provoking. This more modern interpretation of Superman is undoubtedly influenced by the social media generation. We saw more than a few shots of Clark glued to his TV, visibly very worried about what the pundits were saying about him. I half expected him to check his Twitter DM’s and Facebook feed too, and start blocking people. There was a subtle shot, which you may have missed if you blinked, where there was an effigy of Superman burning on the Capitol Building steps. This was interesting and, to me, symbolized a public lynching of Superman that we see happen pretty much every day on the internet. Superman can’t simply save cats from trees anymore. He has to worry about how it’s going to look because anything he does will show up on Instagram, YouTube and even Pinterest. And the internet will weigh in with its millions of opinions and the trolls will come out. This affects Clark deeply (to the point where he feels he has to sacrifice himself in the name of good PR), and while this level of insecurity is wildly uncharacteristic of a traditional Superman, it at least makes Cavill’s otherwise stoic portrayal of him a tad more interesting.
And Now For Some Burning Questions...
Why is everyone violating Zod’s dead, naked body? Seriously? He may be Kryptonian, but dammit, he has rights too.
What is Lex’s motivation? Really. did we ever get a straight answer to this?
Why was Lois Lane even in this film?
So apparently, people can go from being bitter enemies to the best of friends, just because their mothers happen to have the same name? OK.
I wouldn’t say the film was bad. But it wasn’t not good. It’s just there. It’s entertaining, but only marginally so. The actors do their best, but can’t seem to rise above the shoddy material they’d been given.
Let’s hope DC can redeem their cinematic efforts in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Though, I won’t be holding my breath.