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Batman V Superman Review, With Spoilers

We saw it. I’d seen a number of reviews floating around the internet, so I walked into the theater with pretty low expectations. That helped a lot.

Ultimately, it felt like a movie that needed at least one more rewrite, or maybe one fewer. It was better than I expected it to be…but that doesn’t make it a good movie.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Superman and Batman

There was a lot on this movie’s To Do List.

  • Deal with the consequences of all that destruction at the end of Man of Steel.
  • Introduce Batman and give him a reason to hate Superman.
  • Introduce Lex Luthor and his machinations to destroy Superman.
  • Bring in kryptonite.
  • Lay the groundwork for the Justice League movie, including showing Wonder Woman and the other heroes, and dropping hints about Darkseid.
  • Show Batman and Superman beating the crap out of each other.
  • Throw Doomsday into the mix.

To be fair, the movie checked off every one of those boxes.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do so very well.

Probably the strongest item on the list was acknowledging and dealing with the awfulness at the end of the last movie. A lot of fans were upset at the massive death and destruction during the closing act of Man of Steel, and this movie builds pretty well on that. We see the collapse of one of Bruce Wayne’s towers, which kills one of Bruce’s friends/colleagues. We see one of the survivors of that disaster. There are congressional hearings. And you get hints that Superman himself continues to struggle with what happened, though I think there could have been more on that front.

Batman…okay, I was surprised at how much I appreciated Ben Affleck’s Batman as a character. I loved the chemistry and interactions between him and Jeremy Iron’s Alfred. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any real character development. The movie tells us this Batman is older and bitter and burnt out and mentally unstable, but it doesn’t give us enough to earn that. Instead of weird nightmares and yet another retelling of the Batman origin story, show us more of the toll this job has taken on him. Show us his guilt and his fear. Show us how he started to cross those ethical lines, and how he reached the point where he was determined to kill Superman. This storyline could have been wonderful and powerful. Instead, it was just…there.

Wonder Woman was a good character, and I loved seeing her. That said, did she need to be in this movie at all? Did she add anything to the story? If you’re going to bring in Wonder Woman, give her more to do. (So, when does the Wonder Woman movie come out???)

Lex Luthor. I’m torn about Jesse Eisenberg’s performance. I appreciate that he was trying something new, but the awkward manipulative supergenius thing never really gelled, nor did his motivations.

Doomsday. Why? That’s another example of taking a long, complex storyline and cramming it into about 15 minutes, and it just doesn’t work.

Batman Riding Superman

Specific Frustrations:

  • Let’s introduce Jimmy Olsen and kill him, just for fun? No.
  • Mercy too, for that matter.
  • Perry White is…pretty much a jerk.
  • Both Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne just happen to know Superman’s identity? I could buy into this if the movie gave us any hint as to how they figured it out.
  • Also, did I interpret correctly that Lex was behind those letters to Bruce Wayne? So he knows Batman’s identity too? What, was there a public Facebook page or something?
  • Random time-traveling nightmare dude. WTF?
  • Lois Lane was pretty much just Damsel In Distress for this movie, except that she did investigate that one bullet…an investigation which had zero impact on the plot.
  • Holy crap, Doomsday is an Uruk Hai!
  • Weird skull-faced Superman in space, post nuke. (Fixed by 7 seconds of sunlight.)
  • Lex Luthor wanders into the Kryptonian ship with Zod’s fingerprints, and the ship invites him to take command of everything? My thumb drive has better security.

Batman, Deadpool, and Superman

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that it could have been a good movie. If they’d worked on developing the characters instead of overstuffing every frame with fights and explosions and Justice League hints and so on.

Make us care about Bruce and Clark. Help us sympathize with both of them. Help us like these characters. A few more moments of humor would have done so much to make us care. Show us more of Alfred worrying about Bruce and actually trying to do something about it. Show us Bruce’s fears — a few random nightmares don’t cut it. You don’t try to kill someone because you had bad dreams. Show us more of these people’s grief over their mistakes, and how their determination to avoid further mistakes leads them down the wrong paths.

Give Lex Luthor a coherent scheme, and show him being brilliant and oily and manipulative and clever beyond a bomb in a wheelchair and some letters to Bruce Wayne.

Give us more of Lois Lane and Clark Kent being in love and being happy, so there’s a cost to losing one another.

Give us a real redemption arc for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Show us realizing what he’s done and how he ended up here, and make him work to do what’s right.

From all the reviews I’d seen, I expected this movie to be bad. What I didn’t expect was to see the potential, the movie that might have been. I wish I’d had the chance to see that movie.

Batman - Owned

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
batwrangler
Mar. 27th, 2016 03:15 am (UTC)
The slugfest with concomitant property damage at the end of Man of Steel (along with the dark blue/zombie gray color temperature of the film overall) basically killed my desire to see this film. I find as I get older that I am less and less tolerant of wanton destruction in my entertainment....
temporus
Mar. 27th, 2016 05:49 am (UTC)
The first problem with this movie, is that it had to follow up Man of Steel and be set in the same universe. I mean, they did a HORRIBLE job of introducing Superman to begin with.

The second problem is, trying to cram in both an homage to Dark Knight Returns, as well as Death of Superman. As well as introduce all these characters, and set up the founding of the Justice league. Oh, and hey, we'll toss in Batman's RIDICULOUSLY OVERDONE origin story, and references to The Killing Joke....It's ridiculous.

Batfleck was good, surprisingly so. Better than Cavail as Superman has been. But Gal Gadot...I can't wait. There's this tiny little moment in the middle of the big battle where she takes a hit, and then she suddenly grins before picking up her sword and diving back in, where I was like: THAT'S WONDER WOMAN. It was a joy to battle moment, where she just knew she could throw everything she had into the fight and not care. Totally won me over. Can't wait for her movie.

Lex was original, but, in my opinion the worst Lex I've seen. My favorite is still Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville. But we weren't ever going to get to see him step into the role in the movies, alas.

And Mercy? Poor Mercy. That was a waste. Lex couldn't do his deed without killing off one of his best employees, really? Feh.

In the end, the biggest issue is a rush to get to Justice League. If they'd planned a Batman movie so we could have already gotten to know and like Ben as Batman. If they could have done a better job with a FIRST Superman movie, getting us to know and LIKE Cavail as Superman, and then put in Man of Steel with Zod and all that nonsense as the SECOND Superman movie....then SvB would have made so much more sense. But we start off in a world where Superman isn't really loved from the start. He shows up only because people from his own world are here to kill us all. Bleh. I really, really, really hope the can Snyder. He's just making a mess of everything.
gonzo21
Mar. 27th, 2016 11:39 am (UTC)
Difficult for them to can Snyder at this point, he's already started working on the next Justice League movie. It would mean a lot of senior people at the studio having to very publicly admit they've made a series of huge mistakes.

But with a Rotten Tomato score that has now plummeted to... 29% today. Geez, it's lower every time I look at it. And the audience appreciation scores are only so high because, like, 100k newly registered accounts appeared to give the movie 10/10 before it even opened, then... yeah, it seems like the studio really need to do something major to get the franchise back on track.

Still, I expect it will make hundreds of millions of dollars anyway.
thewayne
Mar. 27th, 2016 02:57 pm (UTC)
It's possible they made their costs on pre-release ticket sales, I heard they were pretty high. Certainly on the digital media release.

Myself, I think I'll wait until I can find a bargain copy for $5. Sounds like a complete train wreck. The review on Huff Po was the most hilarious torching of a movie that I've ever read, especially the 'rob the fruit stand' bit.
gonzo21
Mar. 27th, 2016 03:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, i think it very likely this could be the most heavily front-loaded movie in history when it all shakes out.

Also I'm not convinced WB aren't putting out false information either. I've heard from a few people now that supposedly 'sold out' theatres were only half full. And given they had 100,000 10/10 reviews on IMDB before the movie was even released, I think it fair to say there's a lot of spin-control going on.
thewayne
Mar. 27th, 2016 05:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I started reading the reviews on IMDB and saw so many 10s that failed to address anything criticized in the more reputable review sources, such as the murky CGI, poor plotting, etc., and came to the conclusion that they were probably straw accounts.

At least with Yelp you can see reviewers that have published only one review and discount what they say if you want to.

WB definitely might be fudging their numbers. It's in their best interest to in order to try to preserve some interest in the JLA series and to ensure that their stock doesn't take a hit. What they need to do is (A) get rid of Zack and (B) hire the clone of Joss Wheden since it would unlikely be bound to be contractually locked to the Marvel franchise.
gonzo21
Mar. 27th, 2016 06:09 pm (UTC)
Apparently the going rate is $20 a day for somebody to sit and make thousands of accounts to submit user reviews for products. Outsourced to India most of it.

At least, when they don't just get unpaid interns at the office to do it.

Needs to be addressed I think, online user reviews used to be quite useful things before the system started getting gamed en masse.
gonzo21
Mar. 27th, 2016 11:34 am (UTC)
It's almost criminal that so many people could spend so much time making a movie that completely throws away everything that should have been good about it.
deborahblakehps
Mar. 27th, 2016 11:34 am (UTC)
All I can say is SIGH. And where is my Wonder Woman movie?
northernwalker
Mar. 28th, 2016 05:20 am (UTC)
From your lips to the studios ear!
l_o_lostshadows
Mar. 27th, 2016 12:40 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the movie, but given the lack of mask, I'm more surprised when people haven't figured out his secret identity.
thewayne
Mar. 27th, 2016 02:59 pm (UTC)
Jim, thank you for sacrificing a few neurons in such a noble cause. I was slightly eager to see it, mainly for Wonder Woman and to see how Batfleck does, but after reading the Huff Po review and what you've written, my money, time, and the need to bleach my eyes and brain are saved.
jimhines
Mar. 27th, 2016 06:30 pm (UTC)
I was happy with what we got of Wonder Woman, and I was impressed with Affleck's Batman -- his acting was great; the writing, not so much.
safva
Mar. 27th, 2016 04:04 pm (UTC)
Haven't watched this as yet myself, but I have to agree with you on that point about creating characters that make the viewers actually care. More often than not, superhero movies lately (which have lately become a dime a dozen, ugh) tend to just slap initial concepts into the movie as a whole and there's no real build or improvement on what's basically presented. I can't even begin to describe how frustrating this is for avid readers or writers themselves. So much potential and yet all we're left with is a measly cut-out of the character.
The mention of these 'nightmares'... oh no. I have a feeling that's an incredibly easy way out in terms of trying to describe a character as 'disturbed' or 'unstable'. Sort of disappointing they didn't include some variation there to substantiate this considering Batman is - after all - a character that a lot of interesting things can be constructed with.
On the Wonder Woman point, I had my doubts since discovering she featured in this film. I suppose I'll just have to watch it and hope I don't end up with a ton of speculations myself, hah.

Interesting read, mate!

Edited at 2016-03-27 04:07 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Mar. 27th, 2016 06:30 pm (UTC)
The nightmares felt very much like a shortcut, and one that doesn't work. Both because they're confusing, and because it doesn't create believable motivation for everything Batman does during the film.
swan_tower
Mar. 27th, 2016 11:00 pm (UTC)
Wonder Woman is basically my only motivation to see this movie. And since we FINALLY have a feature film for her in the works, I think I can pass. I'll go see that one three times instead.
vvalkyri
Mar. 28th, 2016 03:44 am (UTC)
My big problem was that so many things simply made no sense. I didn't see man of steel, and I'm not hugely familiar with the comics, so I'm not coming from a loyalty. I'm coming from 'wait, what? Why does the employee you saved from under a girder hate you and return your checks?" "What stroke of logic makes you think you not only have to have a way to kill superman but have to kill him?" "Superman, couldn't you maybe yell?" "Batman, couldn't you maybe find out what in hell he has to say?" "Why has Luther gone so round the bend?"

I saw Eye in the Sky only a couple days before and had a lot of thoughts about collateral damage. Particularlu when superman drops everything (and hence doesn't know what's up with batman) to fly to Mexico City over one kid on the tv.
missflyer
Mar. 28th, 2016 10:50 pm (UTC)
I went to see this with my sister and her boyfriend. He loved the movie, and in brief said it was really a movie for the comic book fans, what with its nods to comic canon and the understanding that the viewer follows the comics regularly. My sister and I, however, did not like it much at all, and looked at each other in confusion rather often throughout the movie. She had seen Man of Steel (I had not), but her and I both are familiar with the Batman and Superman tv series of the 90s, as well as the Dark Knight trilogy. I had read some other Superman comics (i.e. the Red Son sequence), and watched some of Teen Titans (Cyborg), and knew tidbits of extra Justice League-related information - enough to get the jokes about 1938 (Superman's first appearance) and 1982 (the appearance of Cyborg), as well as Perry White calling Clark "Smallville".

Her and I did not think the movie was very good - I would describe it as we saw the shadow of the connections between why things happened as they did (the whole BvS plot), but we never saw the physical connections. Bruce spent so much time brooding and silently thinking, that I had to pull all I know of Bruce/Batman to piece together what must be happening in his head, and how it was leading him to the conclusion that he has to destroy Superman.

This movie really could have been good, like you say, if more time was spent actually fleshing out the plot and giving it depth. Instead it relied on basically gratuitous fight scenes, scarce plot, and that you knew how to read every character's mind. I did not and could not believe what the movie wanted me to believe of Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. The fact that the movie could not make me believe in what was happening was a big downfall. I have to believe the story/plot/characters to have any investment whatsoever in what happens to them and why they are fighting. And I just didn't, not nearly enough to justify all of the time spent on fight sequences.

Speaking of Lex -- for what the character WAS, it was a good acting job, but it seemed much more like he was taking on the characteristics of the JOKER and not being Lex Luthor. He has more psycho than brillance in his actions.

Oh, according to the boyfriend, that time traveling dude is the Flash from the alternate nightmare future that Bruce dreamed about. He said that there was a thunderbolt image on his chest, and his suit was all armored to reflect the more war-like future he comes from. The other connection to figure out who he is (that I noticed) is he has that bit of a beard/facial hair, and in the clip we see Wonder Woman watching of the superheros Batman sends her, we see that the one guy (also with a lightning bolt logo for his image) has the same style of facial hair.

I also agree that the moment when Wonder Woman is fighting Doomsday and grinning before diving back into the fight was pure awesome. She did great filling a role (um, being a kick-butt fighter woman, I guess is all she was), but yes, she didn't really serve much purpose to the movie. Except to help set us up for her upcoming movie and the Justice League movie which is apparently coming out too.

Edited at 2016-03-30 06:13 pm (UTC)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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