April 3, 2016

by Derek Defoe

At long last, here it is: a textbook example of the angsty superhero movie. We could safely point to one area or another in different movies like this but none a some of all these parts until now. Two miserable caped vigilantes with brooding mugs and pent-up aggression let out their insecurities in a head-to-head brawl. The fight between Batman and Superman takes place near the end, which I guess is a smart enough move, but we're not sure if this intimate clobbering is going to end with one of them dead or the both of them kissing. There's already talk of a 3-hour R-Rated version that will be released on Blu-ray so I'm still left to wonder.

Part of me is tempted to think that I'm just too old, and that I've missed the boat. The 8-year-old me would have loved this movie, wouldn't he have? I don't know. Maybe I have to say it's just for kids. But that doesn't seem to be the target audience here. It's pretty damn bleak to be considered "Family Friendly," and even in the silliest of Batman and Superman movies prior, at least our heroes didn't resort to using the "S" word or blaspheming. I mean, that shit is goddamn ridiculous. When we see a movie like this, based on a comic book, with a lousy, mess of a plot, with uninspired, mindless action, it's easy to say "but hey, kids will enjoy it." I think that's an insult to kids. Kids are smart. Kids appreciate a good plot when they see one. Kids can recognize innovative action scenes. When Quentin Tarantino tenaciously encouraged younger audiences to sneak into screenings of Kill Bill, he wasn't trying to be cute.

The movie opens with Batman's origin just in case you haven't seen it or heard about it in comics or cartoons or any of the half dozen Batman movies that were released in the last 20 years or if you have no idea who Batman is and couldn't be bothered to check Wikipedia before seeing this movie. His parents are killed at gunpoint, he finds a cave full of bats, he hates crime, and fights it, dressed up as a bat. Makes sense enough to me. Oh yeah, and his mother's name is Martha. Remember that for later. It's sort of important for the emotional (non-homoerotic) climax. You know what, never mind, you're probably a fucking idiot, so the movie will flash back to it when needed so don't even bother remembering. You're welcome.

Bruce Wayne thinks Superman is a threat and needs to be dealt with while Clark Kent thinks Batman is a vigilante bully who picks on criminals indiscriminately. They do not get along. This clash of ideals probably isn't enough to inspire the brawl, or maybe the screenwriters were working on the assumption that Superman could way too easily kill the fuck out of Batman by shooting his laser beam eyes into Batman's mouth, so for good measure Lex Luthor kidnaps Superman's mom-- MUWHAHAHA! Batman has no restraint and really just wants to kill Superman because he doesn't like him, so he really comes off as a dick here. On the whole he exhibits many startling signs of Roid Rage. I did not catch any scenes of him juicing in his little Rocky montage before the fight, but again, there's still that 3-hour, R-Rated cut to answer these burning questions.

Batman gathers all the weaponry he can in order to fight Superman, including beating him with the kitchen sink. After throwing in Wonder Woman, Doomsday, and several other quick cameos and allusions to other DC characters for movies to come, the kitchen sink feels right at home.

That's really what it's all about though, isn't it? DC wanted to catch up to the whole Marvel phenomenon and make an Avengers-style event blockbuster. We know they rushed into the idea, we know they didn't "earn" it in the same way Marvel did by gracefully leading up to it and delivering a highly satisfying, and record-breaking crossover, but that hardly seems worth complaining about.

Henry Cavill seems very bored in the Superman role and the lack of energy he gives to the performance is alarming in contrast to Amy Adams, who, gosh darnit, is trying to make it work. Ben Affleck is an adequate Bruce Wayne but in the Batsuit he looks a little goofy, and you can make fun of Christian Bale all you want, but at least when he did his own Batman voice, it was his raspy vocals in all their glory, and not an obvious digitization. Gal Gadot seems mid-yawn in every scene.

Jesse Eisenberg, I want to high-five you. His deliciously hammy performance was more entertaining and interesting than any of the action scenes. He clearly gives no fucks and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.

Zack Snyder has brought together two worlds without a sense of balance. Neither of these worlds feel real, and its generic, one-noted premises and moral dilemmas run thin. A good movie can take goofy things and make the audience take it seriously by delicate translation. A bad movie takes goofy things seriously and expects us to trust its attitude. There's a crucial difference. Snyder does not understand this. I was left grasping at minutia, like thinking about how odd it was that the entire staff of the Daily Planet seems to do nothing but watch the news and then report on the news that they're watching, and wondering if we'll get a closer glimpse of Amy Adams in the bathtub in that 3-hour, R-Rated cut.

Directed by
Zack Snyder

Produced by
Charles Roven
Deborah Snyder

Screenplay by
Chris Terrio
David S. Goyer

Ben Affleck
Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Jesse Eisenberg
Diane Lane
Laurence Fishburne
Jeremy Irons
Holly Hunter
Gal Gadot

Music by
Hans Zimmer
Junkie XL

Larry Fong

Edited by
David Brenner