Class 5 Spoiler Warning!! Seriously…I don’t want to hear one complaint!!
Alright, just to be completely upfront from the beginning so as not to be accused of blatant bias…I am a Superman fan!
That is not news to anybody who knows me at least socially and I was hoping, praying and willing this movie to be good! Man of Steel was alright but it had its’ flaws, it didn’t really give me what I was expecting from a Superman movie, that is of course my fault, but it is gone beyond a joke at this stage that nobody can make a Superman film that can be deemed universally good, not to mention superb!!
I went in to BvS:DOJ (even the abbreviation does not bode well) with my usual quiet excitement which men of my age must present but at the same wanting this to be good, to be great, to be a platform to kick start the DC universe and make the Justice League movies, solo movies and everything in between just fall into place. To make a long story short…it didn’t but let’s talk about that and why the phrase “it wasn’t all bad” is not the tag line Warner Bros. should be going for and why it is all they seem to be able to do.
To get the obvious out of the way first, the second trailer….what the actual fuck WB?? Is it that you were afraid nobody would go see the movie or that everybody would lose their minds by revealing Doomsday in the fucking trailer! Two things happened by doing that…No.1 there was no shock moment in the movie only that we realised the balls you were making of things and No.2 you exhausted, and outright wasted, a spectacular plot by doing a half-arsed attempt in cramming that into the first collaboration movie. Everyone who would have known who that creature was in the trailer knows what his presence means and what is coming! So the only purpose Doomsday served to the fans was spoiling the movie and to those who didn’t know who that was, confused the hell out of them and was only there as a plot device to get Batman and Superman to team up which was…again…spoiled in the trailer! Jesus, you actually made the title of your own movie redundant in the trailer!
Trailer rant out of the way, let’s go back to the four words I want to focus on here “it’s not all bad”. It’s not and there are some genuinely good moments in the film so I’m going to talk about them first. Anyone who showed apprehension about Ben Affleck as Batman should hang their head in shame, Batfleck was one of the good things to come out of this and both Bruce Wayne and Batman were given the respect the character has earned. We don’t honestly need to do an origin story for every new Batman and if you don’t know why Bruce Wayne became Batman at this stage you should just be barred from cinemas. I will consent that seeing Thomas & Martha bite the bullet (Sorry!!) is an effective plot device later on, it’s little more than unnecessary filler at this point. Secondly, Jeremy Irons is perfect as Alfred. A welcome change to the character going from a tuxedo sporting butler to casual clothed engineer/mechanic and the only family Bruce has left so there’s a good rapport between the two and I think it’s conceded at this point that the Batman of this universe has been through the mill and seen some stuff so both of them have only each other to talk to about the nitty-gritty of vigilantism. We can see this from the Batsuit on display in the Batcave, graffiti courtesy of what we presume to be the Joker, and the quip about freaks dressed as clowns. Alfred is there to assist Bruce in the lab and in the field. Batman actually seems to be doing some detective work here and not just dressing up as a 6ft bat to scare the bejesus out of Gotham’s criminals. The Batmobile, Batwing, Batsuit and gadgets are all well executed, believable, working technology and Ben Affleck is built like a brick shit-house for the role. You do not want to run into this Batman on a night of drug fuelled carnage as the “bat brand” is tantamount to a death sentence in prison. This brings me along to a point that I’m going to put in the good column and that is Batman’s propensity to kill. I’ll come to Superman in a minute but while I’m here I may as well discuss. Batman straight up kills people in this movie. Intentionally. It’s not a question of “I don’t have to save you”, it’s “I am going to kill you to death!!”. Whether it is the bat brand, physical beatings, guns, stabbing, driving or explosions there is a complete disregard for life from Bruce Wayne, albeit criminals yes, but the age old conundrum of Batman not being able to kill and criminals like the Joker pushing him to the edge of that limit was the source of many a good Batman story but in this movie, there is very little contemplation. I do find it a positive change to the character and not something that bothered me at all when I saw the extent of it. He has been around for a while, he has lost friends, family, etc and you can kind of tell that his heart really isn’t in rehabilitation more so debilitation and it makes this guy bad ass! I cannot wait for a Batman solo movie where no universe has to established and we can just see Batfleck go up against an Arkham escapee sans the moral compass that restrains him and may god help whoever that guy is…Jared Leto perhaps…we shall see. In relation to Superman, you cannot tell me that the poor s.o.b who was holding Lois hostage was not killed instantly upon impact with that brick wall at that speed. The acceleration alone would make frappé of one’s internal organs. So, yes, I’m going to say Superman killed again in this movie!! Discuss?
Next positive being Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s score, two names you wouldn’t think to see get joint billing, but here we are. The music is fantastic and particularly Wonder Woman’s entrance, which we all knew was coming, but still got a bit of a chill purely because of those drums. The theme from Man of Steel makes a couple of appearances and seems to have stuck as Superman’s new theme and that is a problem I have (I’m a John Williams man at heart) but it works and I obviously wasn’t expecting it to appear in that film as this Superman seems to be going down the darker route that everyone seems obsessed with. You don’t have to go full seventies/eighties cheese but don’t be afraid of a bit of colour, a bit of light,, a bit of fucking hope! Superman is not a depressed loner with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he is a saviour, a symbol of hope and progress, that people can strive to be more than they are and that it is possible for somebody to be good without motive or agenda. Of course, that apparently doesn’t fly with a committee or test audience who think that symbol is an “S” and instead think everything should be dark, brooding, tense and fearful. The music is a strong indication of what the director thinks we should be feeling at a particular moment. When Richard Donner first heard John William’s iconic theme, he ran into the studio and ruined the take because it summed up perfectly what his Superman embodied. Again, I’m not saying Superman should be completely cartoon-ish in his representation of good, but he doesn’t have to be circling the airport of evil either and this movie gives a strong indication that that is where they are going with him. Honestly, not only was I not expecting John William’s theme for this Superman but it would not fit this character, he is not the symbol of hope that Jor-El wished him to be, at least not yet but two films in, we should start seeing Superman being Superman by now! I may be so bold to say that we do not need another allegory for terrorism and scare mongering with aliens and immigrant references, we need, at least a glimmer, of light and I think that is where The Force Awakens succeeded admirably, there was a clearly defined good side and evil side and people need to see the good in the world. Who else embodies that good more prominently in popular culture than Superman?
Ok, so we’ve talked about Batman and the music. What else was good about this? Honestly, as I sit here and write this I’m struggling to think of things and not just go straight to ripping it a new one for crushing my hopes like butter in a vice but as Roger Ebert used to say, you have to assume that the reader will want to see this and I am first and foremost a fan of this universe and movies as a whole. Visually, the film is impressive, there are parts where you are taken out of the illusion due to the sheer ridiculousness of what they are showing you and Richard Donner’s motto of “verisimilitude” should be tattooed on every director’s forehead. He made us believe a man could fly…in 1978!! I’m referring in particular here to the Doomsday fight, the Capital Hill scene and the nuke in Space scene where Superman is reduced to a pale skeleton by a nuclear weapon, even though his weaknesses are kryptonite and magic but I digress, you are just taken out of the moment by the sheer jarring shift in tone and visuals that have been building up to this point but overall, the movie is very good looking and if nothing else beautifully photographed.
Now, it absolutely pains me to poke holes in a movie that I had such high hopes for but they made it far too easy to rip this film apart in places where it is weakest and at that I am going to try to weave some positivism in here as we go.
Gripe the first, the title and I can think of at least two things wrong with it. There is no believable, real or fluid motivation for these two to go head to head. It is like somebody said “I’m naming the movie Batman V Superman and it’s someone else’s job to make that happen”. Initially, yes, Bruce Wayne is severely pissed at Superman for the destruction of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel but surely it can be seen that Superman was trying to save it and actually wound up killing General Zod and sending the Krytonians back to the Phantom Zone. It has been eighteen months and Superman has not thought to release a statement, tweet, Instagram picture or even a memo to say he considers Earth his home and do everything he can to help. For christ sake, I thought that is where we left things with Man of Steel! That at least, to me, seems to be what the general point of Man of Steel was, he is scary to the military because they can’t control him but there is the beginnings of trust that he is there to do good. Batman just seems to have an issue with him for no other reason than to let them but a “V” in the title. Superman is literally forced to fight him under pain of death for Ma Kent and even that was unnecessary. They could have just left Batman have an issue with Superman thanks to the Metropolis incident, the desert and Capital Hill bombings which we find out were orchestrated by none other than Lex Luthor Junior to smear Superman’s image and his silence only serves to strenghten the public’s mistrust of him. Actually, one of the major moments in the trailer was the Senate hearings and I was looking forward to seeing what they could do with that but it was completely wasted. Was the public supposed to think Superman caused the explosion? That certainly seems to fit with Lex’s motiviation and the jar of Granny’s Peach Tea on Senator Finch’s (Holly Hunter’s) desk but no, it’s just an explosion and there is a lazy, throw-away comment from a reporter that states the bombing was caused by Wally Keeffe (Scoot McNairy) therefore absolving Superman of any blame and I was left sitting there thinking what the whole point of that sequence was. It could have been fleshed out more, it was a key scene but if you took it completely out, would it have had any bearing on the rest of the movie…no!
I could go on and on about every random thought I had during this movie and this is starting to get as disjointed as the film itself so I’m going to try and narrow down my major issues with it, and if you’ve seen it you should be able to match up the scenes with the problem.
I said about I had two issues with the title, the second being the “Dawn of Justice” part where again there is no real need for them to come together. Wonder Woman even asks Bruce at the end why and he can’t even think of a strong reason and it sounds like he’s about to say “because it’s in the script”. Wonder Woman was no surprise, she was all over the marketing, spoiled in the trailer and in perhaps the laziest piece of story writing that has come to my mind in a very long time, the Justice League are introduced as video attachments to a fucking email. A fucking email. I mean, come on! There are a lot of problems in this movie that could have been solved by somebody having the balls to stand up and say “Hang on a minute, this is stupid, we can do much better”. Can you imagine if Tony Stark opened an email with the Hulk, Capt. America and Thor as video clips, I could not see that being allowed even in a brain storming session let alone written, filmed and committed to screen, yet, here we are. Indulge me for a moment, and presume that the only reason this movie exists is to catch up with Marvel. Therefore, the rationale behind that is we need to get Batman and Superman to fight and resolve their issues, introduce the members and find concrete reasoning for them to come together, create a worthy opponent for them to fight and then we have free reign to run with the Justice League franchise. You simply cannot do that in one movie. I’m still seething at the email attachment scene. Can you imagine the first Avengers movie with Tony Stark getting an email from Nick Fury with the symbols and convenient video clips just attached. You could wave goodbye to Captain America: The First Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor franchises, etc because if those movies didn’t work the The Avengers movie wasn’t going to, and it did. Here I have no vested interest in Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg or any other character that is coming down the pipe because this movie is at least three solo movies early and if they work then by all means, introduce Doomsday and kill Superman and I might have at lease then be surprised by it, excited that the book was going to be given justice in movie form and perhaps, drawn the tiniest semblance of a tear. Somebody should have just said whoa, let’s slow down, let’s do another Superman solo, Batman solo, Wonder Woman solo, maybe with a few cameo’s thrown in, flesh out the characters a bit more and then, if and only if it’s working, do a Justice League movie. But Noooooo, it was all about getting as much as possible in to this movie to set up the Justice League and it was all completely, and inexcusably, at the expense of good film making, story-telling and to be perfectly honest, common fucking sense.
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, even Alexander Luthor as it turns out, comes across as annoying and in no way threatenng to either Batman or Superman. Jesus Christ! In fact, more lazy writing ensues when the Kryptonian ship just asks Lex does he want to take command and he says yes. Even free antivirus software has better security protocols than that!! Complex inter-species gene splicing is undertaken with a simple knife cut to the hand and any ethical issues are thrown away with the old chestnut of “there’s nobody watching so just go right ahead”!! Unforgivable!
Now, this movie may have made the money to justify a sequel but do we need it, do we want it and would it be better to just stop now and reboot it before it’s taken any further. Now, personally, i’m willing to wait for he next one to see what they’re doing but in my opinion they have completely wasted two of the best plots that could be brought to the big screen, being Doomsday and the emotional impact of Superman’s death. Doomsday is a fearsome creature that leaves destruction in his wake, not the mutant love child of Zod and Lex Luthor. He is a rampaging monster with no morality and goes through the Justice League like butter and it takes everything Superman has to put him down and ultimately costs him his life. But again…no!, he’s used here as just something for our trio to put their (now non-existent) differences aside and team up thereby wasting Doomsday and the death of Superman in a rushed and disjointed mess. They cannot use those plots again…ever…in this series no matter if the next movie is fucking amazing and all sins of this movie are forgiven and it overtakes Marvel in popularity, they cannot do this story the proper justice (oh the irony!!) that it deserves!
To conclude, this movie is worth a watch, despite everything I just said and I will watch it again as a fan that is my cross to bear, but it is not the franchise juggernaut that it should be or WB needed it to be. Where should the blame be placed? In m opinion at every single person that saw it and said nothing when there was clearly a problem, or if they did, to the person that ignored them and said yeah, Wonder Woman looking at email attachments is the absolute perfect way for the Justice League to make their big screen debut. If not at them then the writers, who should know better, if they had any respect, or not even respect but awareness of the source material, and what this absolute goldmine of a franchise could do if it was done properly and what it means to people. But…alas…No!, they were far more interested in making deadlines, catching up with Marvel, getting the movie out and apparently pissing off every single fan that is supposed to embrace these characters and want to see more. Instead, we get a rushed, lazy, disjointed and ultimately wasted, and tragically wasted at that, attempt at a DC franchise and it will take some effort to recover from this and get the hype machine going again.
(EDIT: I have just seen the Suicide Squad trailer and there may be a glimmer of hope but it ain’t coming from the Fortress of Solitude!)
Why can they not make a good Superman film, am I asking too much of life? Ben Affleck was the best thing about this movie, Superman not so much and didn’t really do anything Superman-y for most of it other than wrestle with a question he already knows the answer to and if he would just say it to the public then an entire plot of this movie would be washed away. Yes, people distrust what they don’t know or what they don’t understand. This is Lex Luthor’s entire motivation, at least it was, and even that is not given enough effort in this film to be anything other than he dislikes Superman BECAUSE he is Lex Luthor, or at least related to him!
VERDICT: Go and see it for yourself, which you should have already done, and decide for yourself. It’s not all bad but it could have so much easily been better.They could have held back on this and released one or two more solo movies and I’m willing to give them another chance to make it right but the saddest thing, as a fan, is that I am not in any particular rush to see them destroy my favorite superhero again. The only hope that this Superman gives, and in no way is it a mark against Henry Cavill on the contrary I think he is an excellent Superman (his Clark Kent could use some work though), is that I will probably still be able to get in at least one, if not two, more reboots to see if they can make a Superman that makes kids put towels on their backs and fly around the garden like Chris Reeve did for me when I was smaller. For all the damage they did to that franchise, it remains the bench mark by which Superman is measured and is, for now at least, perfectly safe from being overtaken.