Guest Review: Batman vs. Superman – Dawn of Justice

It was a dark and stormy knight….

Seriously, and literally, it is a dark and stormy night here in Texas, where I’m sitting at 12:11 a.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2016.  The thunderstorm warning/hail has finally passed us for now, which is good as I don’t really have the financial wherewithal to support my laptop- and my person- being struck by lightning and short-circuiting as I write this review for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Say whaaaaaaa?  How can she be writing a review for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice on Thursday March 24 2016 at 12:11 a.m. if Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice doesn’t come out until this evening?!

I’m a mega-nerd.  I saw an advanced showing.  By the way, there’s nothing at the end of the credits; I checked.  You’re welcome.

Some facts about me: I am not Danielle (aka Regina), normal queen of this blog.  My name is Mary.  Did I knock Danielle out and stuff her in a closet in order to take over her blog?  Yes, but that’s not the point.  No, fool!  I was invited!  I’m one of Danielle’s good friends from college, and since I’ve already seen BvS, she asked me to guest appear on her blog.  I’m sure she will extend her most fervent apologies soon.

Some of my biases- some of which will become very relevant- follow.

I’m a devout Roman Catholic.

I majored in Theatre, where my Honors Thesis was in directing.  Oh, so you’re a professional movie critic?  No, I’m a substitute teacher/bartender.  Not at the same time.  Still not a professional movie critic.

I less than three Batman with a big chunk of my less than three.  However, I do not pretend to know absolutely everything about the character, so there are counterpoints that could be made to most of the points I’ll make.  My Superman love and knowledge is much less.

I’m human, and I make mistakes.  I’ve only seen the movie once, and if I don’t remember something, then please chalk it up to my humanity, rather than willful deception.

*Spoilers below*

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Photo credit: suncardecors.com

 

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Photo credit: carmodguide.com

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Photo credit: wooddashkitsblog.com

Sorry, that’s just one of my favorite dad jokes and I couldn’t resist.  Seriously, though.  Spoilers for BvS follow.  If you’re like some people (what up, Dr. Kelly?!) and don’t care about spoilers for this particular movie, that’s all good, but know that I won’t attempt to describe what actually happens in the movie; I’m going with the assumption you’ve seen it.  Those of you who haven’t- you’ve been warned.

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Photo credit: Dr Who BBC

OK, so what follows is about ¼ page of stuff I liked about the movie, followed by about infinity pages of vitriol.

I liked Alfred.  Jeremy Irons, in my opinion, nails the character as he’s written.  This Alfred has a wonderful amount of sardonic wit, and is frustrated with Bruce in a way that I could see Alfred becoming as the years wear on.  I liked the little touches that the costume department put in- Alfred did not always wear his signature tuxedo, but sometimes sported wear more appropriate for working on the Batmobile, for example.  He also functioned in a way that Oracle does sometimes; he provides essential help and advice to Batman rather than only serving him tea and crumpets when he gets back to the cave, and I always appreciate an Alfred with skills.

I liked Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, as far as the acting goes.  She did just fine, and made me curious to see more, though I have no idea why she’s in this movie in the first place.  More on that later.

I loved the Batmobile!  I thought the chase scene was very reminiscent of my driving in Arkham Knight in that a lot of walls got run over and it was cool-looking.

I liked Batman’s hand-to-hand fighting style.  Again, it reminded me of the Arkham games… when he broke that guy’s arm/shoulder I was all, “B+Y COMBO FOR DAYS!!!”

But… and, OK, kids, this is where it gets messy:

WHAT DID THEY DO TO MY BELOVED CAPED CRUSADER?!

Ben Affleck did OK.  He played the character that was written.  The problem is that I very much dislike what they wrote.

I absolutely HATE that they had Batman not only kill people, but kill them with guns.  Disclaimer: he used guns primarily during that weird dream sequence where they tried to capitalize on the aesthetic of Mad Max: Fury Road.  However, he was having this dream in his head as though he could one day see himself devolving into this distinct flavor of crazy, and the fact that it is in the movie means that the writers just wanted to see Bats with a gun.  He DOES kill people not in dream sequence.  Seriously, there’s literally “only one rule!”  ONLY ONE AND YOU BROKE IT!  Not using guns is somewhat of a corollary to that rule, but Judge Mary will allow it in extreme instances.  For example, Batman uses a gun as a last resort measure in the graphic novel Lovers and Madmen, but immediately has a thought bubble saying, “I hate guns.”  I do not pretend that I know everything about Batman, but I’ve always thought that a man whose hatred of crime lies in seeing his parents gunned down might have an aversion to guns, rather than one day seeing his hatred of Superman progress to the level of having to use them.

I have lain awake at night before wondering about what it is that draws me to the character of Batman.  The answer I came up with is that he’s basically a merciful sociopath, which is interesting.  He can break bones; he can torture people.  He can, without compunction, frighten them into doing his will.  But.  He is also the man who carts his enemies back to the asylum that he largely funds so that they can recover.  In fact, he’s seen on the board of Arkham in the BTAS in the episode Lockup, and in the Arkham Asylum video game he even funds a wing of the asylum:

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Photo credit: Arkham Asylum

Yes it does behoove him to try to keep them contained, but it’s called “The Bruce Wayne Foundation FOR the Criminally Insane.”  He can see that they are sick, and they often sicken him in turn, but he never* fails to fall back upon that mercy.  (*But Thomas Wayne’s Batman in Flashpoint and that time Batman was a vampire and yeah yeah yeah I’m talking about normal Batman gimme a break.)

Except for the fact that this movie just spat in the face of what that means.  Often the writers of Batman seem to somewhat shy away from the explanation that Batman doesn’t kill because he believes in the essential dignity of human life- they say that he doesn’t want to be just like the criminals he pursues, or that he is worried about the slippery slope (see the DC animated movie Under the Red Hood.)  But for whatever reason the writers pick, Batman has literally only one rule.  He often considers breaking it, but he doesn’t.  So you might understand why it’s 12:47 a.m. and I’m too worked up to go to bed until I’ve discharged just a bit of the anger that I feel when I see Batman shoot people, or run over their car in the Batmobile and drag them for like a mile.  I have a problem with him trying to kill Superman, especially because at the end of the movie, he suddenly does a complete 180 about the guy.  It’s capricious and stupid to think that someone so fixated upon committing premeditated murder would suddenly have a change of heart just because their mothers shared a first name (that, in and of itself, is kinda a nice touch, though.)  I guess this could all make sense if you look at it from the perspective of…

The fact that Batfleck is completely insane!  The man is having crazy, trippy dreams that are making me wonder about if Scarecrow escaped from Arkham again.

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Photo credit: Batman: The Animated Series

For one moment, I did entertain the wild hope that after the credits, we’d see a shot wherein:

Batman wakens with a start.  He’s tied to a chair! 

Scarecrow (off🙂 Feel your fear, and know that I, the Scarecrow-

Batman punches him, awakes from his fear trip, and the movie is saved!

But no.  We are forced to contend with a Batman who has a tenuous grasp on reality.  He has monomania on par with Captain Ahab’s.  Now our beloved (normal) Dark Knight is most certainly in need of therapy, but that type of insanity is a bit much.  (For further reading on Batman and psychology, I’d highly recommend reading Batman and Psychology by Professor Travis Langley.)  Speaking of tenuous grasps of reality…

Lex.  I’m not looking at you, Jesse Eisenberg.  Again, you played the character that was written.  The character that was written was, as my sister put it, much more like the Joker than Lex Luthor.  I liked the power he held over Superman, but at one point I found myself thinking, “This guy might literally have schizophrenia.”  His thinking was very flawed, for example.  Please forgive me, as I’ve only seen the movie once, but the nearest I can remember one of his quotes goes something like this: “God cannot be all good if he is all powerful.  God cannot be all powerful if God is all good.”  This sort of terrible logic reminded me in the moment of Yoda’s logic from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (oh, gross, she’s bringing up the Phantom Menace) when he says, “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”  Seriously, how did he get this far without being committed?

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Photo credit: Arkham City

I’ll lay aside the argument about the statement itself, because this would then become a paper about philosophy and religion, instead of a movie review.  The fact that the writers put the words into Lex’s mouth means that they don’t necessarily give them much credibility.  The problem is that Lex blatantly says and does things that are out of touch with solid logic and reason.  Clearly he’s mentally ill.  The “clearly” part is what makes these sentences coming out of Lex’s mouth so strange- this is the guy that, in the comics, supposedly got enough votes to become President of the United States.

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Photo credit: DC Comics

Unlike the Joker’s campaign for Gotham’s mayoral seat (pictured above), people genuinely vote for Lex, so his being clearly insane is an issue that puts him utterly out of character.  Instead of being a clean-cut businessman in search of power over a (Super)man, he has been transformed into a delusional schizophrenic.  If the writers wanted to take a crack at the Joker, they should have done just that.  Instead, they have lost the essence of Lex Luthor’s character.

As a side note, I’m a bit bummed out that he killed Mercy Graves.  I was hoping to see more from her character in her first live-action adaptation.

Superman was vanilla as usual, so I guess we’re par for the course there.  I’m going to borrow a phrase from my friend James when I say that Superman is completely average, except that he happens to be an alien.  If humans had the same powers he did, no one would want to hear stories about him.  That’s a flaw of Superman/Average Alien in general, and just to confirm he was just as boring while “brooding” as he usually is.  I do not like the existence of the character of Lois Lane.  Amy Adams, you’re fine.  Lois.  GET IT TOGETHER, GIRL.  I see that this movie tried to do more to give Lois power and agency, rather than only having her being a damsel in distress, but her subplot with the bullet makes no sense at all.

So Lex wants to frame Superman for killing all those soldiers in the desert, right?  “I think the first step should be for us to develop a unique type of bullet that can be traced back to LexCorp.  Then, when Lois goes out into the desert to interview that warlord, I think I’m going to have my people shoot all of his people and frame Superman for it because Superman uses guns all the time and they’ll be able to pin the murders on him just because his proximity and they won’t believe Lois’s or his eyewitness accounts that state that he didn’t do it because Superman uses bullets just like Batman apparently does.”  The fact that the inciting incident of the movie doesn’t make any sense is troubling, to say the least.  The whole plot with the Senate subcommittee was built upon the idea that Supes is framed for this murder.  Which was done with guns.  This brings us to another problem.

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Photo credit: Batman: The Animated Series

This movie was really weird.  Now, I can do weird.  Theatre major, remember?  I am not the biggest fan of absurdism, but I can wait for Godot.  You say that this giant plant is going to grant all my wishes if I feed it a dentist?  I’ll get the weed killer.  You say that this guy in a half-mask is going to seduce me with music and bring me to his lair underneath an opera house?  Lead me to the gondola.

But stylistically, this movie seemed very disjointed to me.  Between Bats dreaming of a guy (Firestorm?  Not AT ALL sure about what that was) warning him from the future, Supes having a conversation directly out of The Silence of the Lambs with his dearly departed dad, and Lex’s antics, the movie seemed like a documentary of the absurd.  It was somewhat nauseating to watch, and while that sort of movie has its place, it has to be done for a specific purpose, and I’m not sure what the writers had in mind for that.

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Photo credit: The Silence of the Lambs

The plot was a mess.  It was like they tried to squish about four movies into one: 1) Batman vs. Superman 2) Lex vs. Superman 3) freaking DOOMSDAY vs. Wonder Woman and 4) What’s Wonder Woman doing here?  When the movie starts- after we watch poor Thomas and Martha die yet again**- Bats is already mad enough to have it out with Superman.  He’s already there.  The 2 ½ hour buildup is unnecessary, and therefore the main (?) plot drags.  So with all of these different plots going on, you’d think the movie would be quick-paced, but it is not.  It drags on like a full 5 hour production of Hamlet.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just know that ignorance is bliss, my friend.  Lex vs. Superman is somewhat interesting-ish, except that it’s Joker-pretending-to-be-Lex vs. Superman, and that was annoying.  I also am not a big fan of Lex being able to manipulate Batman so easily.  And it was upsetting that they squished most of Doomsday into the end of the movie.  They were clearly trying to go for Superman as a Christ-figure- after all it is 1:52 a.m. on Holy Thursday- but having him die at the end, and us having to deal with it on top of the other three plots… This movie tried to do too much.  It is called “The Dawn of Justice,” but Justice only dawns in the last 10 minutes of the movie when Batman suddenly decides that these meta-humans are not going to destroy the planet after all.  In fact, we should gather them all into one place, because that always works out so well.

**I liked the touch with the pearls getting caught in the gun, and I liked the fact that both of his parents died actively fighting for their family’s lives.

OK, so the part with the spear.  Lois needs to justify her presence in the movie, right?  So she gets herself into a big mess wherein she drowns (that’s not how drowning and CPR work, but that’s a flaw of Hollywood in general and not of only this movie in particular) and then SUPERMAN of all people has to retrieve the Kryptonite weapon from the bottom of the pool of despair.  “Hey Bats?!  Could you come and dive for this spear?  Hey WW!  I’ll trade you- I’ll fight Doomsday for a while, while you go for a swim!  Then why don’t you wield this weapon?  Clearly you’re comfortable with this sort of implement, as you’re fighting with the sword so well.  Or even you, Bats!  It is, after all, your weapon, and I think you might’ve practiced with it!  How about anybody except Lois or me stabs him in the eyeball?”  Just sayin’.  It’s this type of logical flaw that annoys me and takes me out of the movie.

Also, that’s not how nuclear bombs work.  I was about to Google “how do nuclear bombs work?” but I’ve decided against putting Danielle’s blog on a watchlist.  If you’re that interested, you can Google it yourself, but suffice it to say that they are not detonated by impact.

I’m going to stop writing now because it’s 2:07 a.m. and Danielle’s going to kill me for making such a long post.  Concluding thoughts:

One of the problem with the weirdness of this movie FOR ME was that it jars very heavily with the world of comics in general.  If you want to make a movie whose central theme is a meditation on the different reactions and beliefs that humanity has concerning God (which, based on my first viewing, seemed like one of the core traits of BvS,) then perhaps using comic book characters as your medium was ill-advised.  The religious theme was hit too hard for a superhero movie, in my opinion.  Anyone catch the Pieta moment when Lois holds Supes?

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Photo credit: heinchon.com

This movie was remarkably serious for a piece called Batman vs. Superman.  To put it bluntly, this movie was absolutely zero fun.  Now, I’m not saying that all comic books have to be fun (what up, Watchmen?) but that was disappointing to me on a personal level.  It raised interesting questions that are worth debating, but I really wanted at least a little bit of whimsy.

On the whole, I didn’t like this movie, and I’m worried about other movies that will be set in this DC continuity in the future.

Also, supposing Supes stays dead this time (lol) would his body rot?  Could a body that can’t be dented by a mini-gun really be digested by worms?  Food for thought, maybe not food for worms.

Love you all.

– Mary, aka Batman, 2:50 a.m.

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