So we have all read the critics reviews, the bashing. Just like we’ve all seen the “Sad-Afleck” videos, gifs, and memes. However, I’ll be the first to say (it’s Q btw) that I truly enjoyed the movie. I thought the acting was fantastic ,even if I didn’t agree with the directors choices on particular characters…ehem, Lex Luthor. The movie was entertaining and a pretty decent kick off to the DC “rebirth” and upcoming phase of movies. Now, I’m not completely just fangirling and completely blind to certain issues that the movie had. But lets be honest. We can nitpick any movie to pieces if we really wanted to. I feel like that’s really what happened with BvS. Critics, fanboys, haters, marvel lovers, etc were all just waiting to pick this movie apart, and so they did.
Now this blog isn’t going to be a complete review of the movie. At least not from our (TTG cast) end. We recently recorded an entire episode where we discuss the movie at length including both the pros and cons of the movie. Make sure you have followed us on Facebook and subscribed to us on iTunes to catch the episode when it is released. Instead this post is to provide our listeners and readers with the thesis paper that was submitted to us by our previous guest and friend Josh Silverman. I would like to say that I don’t disagree with everything he said. Only about…80% of it lol. We are providing you with this material so that you have an idea of what we are talking about during our upcoming episode. We also want to give you an opportunity to comment and state whether you agree or disagree with Josh. If you’ve got some funny responses we may include it in our final edited episode.
So with all that said here is what Josh Silverman had to say about BvS: Dawn of Justice:
Batman V Superman was created to kick start DC Comics’ Cinematic Universe in order to compete with Marvel Comics’ Cinematic Universe. If this movie is any indication, though, maybe DC should just sell their characters’ movie rights to Marvel so that at least a halfway decent movie can be made with these characters. While this movie does have some bright spots, the writing and character development of the story leave this movie poorly paced, disjointed, and entirely misguid
ed. Let’s begin!
Part 1: The Characters
It would be safe to say that the superheroes themselves are the most important part of a superhero movie, especially a superhero movie that is the genesis for other linked superhero movies. But this movie gets its main protagonists and the main villain all wrong. I’ll go through them one at a time.
Superman: truth, justice, and the American way! Not in this movie. Henry Cavill, again, does a terrible job in portraying the Man of Steel. You could have replaced him with a cardboard cutout for all the acting chops he brought to the role. For those of you who disagree, I submit this test (courtesy of redlettermedia.com ‘s Mr. Plinkett): Describe the character without mentioning his powers, his profession in the movie, or what he looks like. In other words, describe these superheroes to someone who has never heard of superheroes before. Let’s do a few examples:
Iron Man is brilliant, cocky to the point of arrogant, and does not suffer fools gladly. He is the kind of guy who assumes a leadership role not because he would make a good leader, but because he thinks so little of the competence of his teammates that he would think that putting anyone else in charge would lead to catastrophic failure. Ultimately, he will do the right thing, but you’d have to convince him that he has something to gain from it first.
Captain America is tough, scrappy, and has supreme levels of perseverance. He always does the right thing, even if it would impractical for him to do so. He is strong-willed, and his desire to do good often leads him into conflict with the more political or practical-minded people he comes across.
Henry Cavill’s Superman
Superman is… stoic?
I understand that trying to put the Christopher Reeve Superman in a 2016 movie would be corny, but that doesn’t mean Superman needs to be a sociopath either. Superman himself caused much of the wanton destruction heaped onto Metropolis. He massacred thousands of innocent civilians, which is completely against the supposed to be good-natured Superman we know and love. But what do you expect out of a character whose chief moral influences tell him things like: “You shouldn’t have saved that bus full of drowning children, because you’d expose your secret identity.” And “You don’t owe this world anything.” Yeah, “you do you” is fine advice for a divorcee going through a mid-life crisis and takes a sabbatical to India to Eat, Pray, Love. It is not appropriate advice for a being who can punch the universe. “Superman, why did blow up the entire state of Alabama?” “I just got to be me!”
Even when Superman does heroic things, the tone and framing is all wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a less joyful heroic montage of Superman glumly rescuing children from a burning building, dragging a capsized ship across the ice, or securing the command module of an exploding rocket. You might as well have had Patrick Bateman do those good things for all the mirth they brought.
Ben Affleck as Batman is the easily the best part of this movie. It was nice to finally see the world’s greatest detective do actual detective stuff. He was angry, justifiably so, and his anger leads him to abuse booze and pills.
However, one of the fundamental aspects of the Batman character is that he does not kill people. Yet this version of Batman has no problems killing henchmen as if he’s Gotham’s own John Rambo. In fact, he plans his murder in advance, such as the part when he drags a broken car around during a chase scene so he can launch it at a group of bad guys. The real Batman would get the car to fall just in front of the bad guys, stopping them from pursuing him further. Murderman drops the car on the bad guys, crushing them to death.
This leads to the first fundamental flaw of the movie: there is no contrast between the characters. Superman versus Batman is supposed to be “day versus night”, but the battle between Super Hypocrite and Murderman is more twilight versus dusk. It’s a difference of scope, not character. They have essentially the same moral outlook, so we as an audience can’t decide who we like. And considering how brutal their methods are, I don’t particularly like either one. This is not a good sign for a superhero movie.
- Jesse Eisenberg
I thought Jesse Eisenberg did a really good job playing the Joker. I liked Heath Ledger’s Joker better, but Jesse Eisenberg really gave homage to his fallen actor’s… wait… that wasn’t the Joker? He was playing Lex Luthor? Oh, never mind. He was an awful Lex Luthor. That doesn’t make sense at all, because the movie does such a poor job setting up his…
Part 2: What’s My Motivation?
In a movie in which two “good guys” are supposed to fight each other, it is imperative that the motivations for the two fighters and the bad guy be crystal clear. Only Batman, however, has any real reason to want to fight. The movie did a good job ret-conning the end of Man of Steel from Bruce Wayne’s perspective, and showing us how he could believe that Superman is a menace. The rest of the hour-and-a-half long introduction sets a tone to make us alternate between seeing Superman as a hero and as a threat. The testimony from the African woman describing how the government slaughtered her village after Superman came was a nice touch, allowing Superman to be heroic while also making him the victim of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Superman wants to do good, but can’t understand why evil follows in his wake. Batman, already predisposed to hate him, only sees the bad he did and hates him even more! Great! The scene with the Flash traveling back in time to warn Batman was a clever touch. Having the Flash hint at the future (and future movies) would have been a creative way of foreshadowing later events. Unfortunately, this is wasted when it is presented as a dream sequence (a power the Flash does not have). Both of Batman’s dream sequences could have been condensed into one larger scene. Have the Flash visit from the future, give the warning, and then give Bruce Wayne a flash drive (GET IT!?!) with video footage of the dystopian future with Superman as supreme dictator. If you really want to drive the point home, have an error message pop up on Bruce Wayne’s computer saying the file is from a future date.
The problem with the larger setup is that the movie sends mixed signals to the audience as to how we should feel about Superman. The cheerless, creepy heroism montage doesn’t exactly endear us to him, but the protesters are a mixed bag. Some, like the aforementioned African woman, make us want to dislike Superman, but others make us feel as though we’re racist (species-ist?) if we do. Pay close attention to the protest signs in front of the Capitol building. Notice how some of those signs appear familiar. From the colors to the font to the spacing of the letters, those signs look like they’re straight out of the Westboro Baptist Church. Anyone the WBC protests must be awesome, so we must like Superman again. Then Congress blows up, and Superman just stands like a block of wood, and we don’t know what to feel anymore.
Superman has no reason to fight Batman at all. We know that Superman thinks he’s a vigilante and must be stopped in abstract. But this conclusion rests on three premises, none of which hold up to greater scrutiny.
- Batman must be stopped because he kills people.
The mark of the bat is said to be a death sentence in prison. But the news only presents one occasion when this happened, and it happened to a child molester. Everyone knows chomoes are the princes of the prison yard! There can’t be any other explanation for why a kiddie diddler was murdered in prison, nope, none at all. Besides, given Superman’s body count, judging Batman for his methods is more than a little hypocritical. As Josef Stalin said, you kill one person, it’s a tragedy; you kill one million people, it’s a statistic. See, Batman is a murderer! Superman is just a statistician.
- Batman operates outside the law.
Last I checked, Superman doesn’t exactly ask local authorities for permission to intervene. He even travels to foreign countries to meddle in their affairs. Does Superman check his passport at the border? Do Kryptonians even have passports? Does Donald Trump know of this? Hey Donnie, that border wall is going to have to be a wee bit taller!
- Superman has to fight Batman or his mother will die.
Superman can circle the globe in an instant and has superior senses. He can hear Lois Lane feebly slapping concrete underwater in the middle of pitched battle, but he can’t hear his mother’s voice in a warehouse in the much quieter greater Metropolis metropolitan area? He even had a whole hour to find her! Superman could have searched every apartment in every building in both Metropolis and Gotham, find his mother, dispatch Lex’s goons, fly her back home, tuck her in to bed for the night, return to LexCorp and still have a half-hour left to spare. He doesn’t even attempt to find her! I guess he doesn’t try so that he can have a fight scene with Batman.
Lex Luthor has even less of a motivation to kill Superman. There is nothing Superman represents to him other than a vague threat. If anything, Lex Luthor should be happy to have Superman around. It was LexCorp that was seen doing the heavy lifting cleaning up Metropolis after Man of Steel. All those contracts must really be nice for the balance sheet. Even if Luthor himself doesn’t like Superman, his shareholders sure do. Bring the rest of our alien friends, Supes, our quarterly profits will soar!
If Lex Luthor truly believes that metas must be stopped, then his decision to create Doomsday at the end of the movie is truly baffling. In order to stop a god made flesh, he’ll make his own murder-god to fight him. While it’s nice to see the Cave Troll from the Lord of the Rings getting more work, what if Doomsday had won? Who then would be around to stop Doomsday from ravaging the planet? There is nothing to suggest that Lex Luthor can control Doomsday, so what now? He traded a meta who could destroy the world for a meta who will destroy the world. This is fine if Jesse Eisenberg was playing the impulsive Joker who just wants to see the world burn, but not for the far-sighted mastermind that is Lex Luthor.
With 2 of the 3 main characters having no real reason to have Batman and Superman fight, then the fight shouldn’t have happened at all. But that would be a real let-down for a movie called Batman v. Superman, so I guess they’re contractually obligated to do so.
Part 3: Stop Wasting My Screen Time!
With a run-time of two-and-a-half hours, and a wait time of about one-and-a-half hours before Batman and Superman actually fight, there is a lot of fat that can be cut. An entire CIA subplot is introduced and then dropped. Is the CIA trying to frame Superman? For what purpose? Does Lex Luthor know about this? He must not, since he petitions the Senate for access to Kryptonite, but when he is turned down, where is the CIA? If the CIA knows about Lex’s intentions, why don’t they secretly give LexCorp the Kryptonite? The government is already cool with giving Lex Luthor access to the Kryptonian ship and General Zod’s body, so what’s the problem? This entire plotline could have been cut to make for a shorter and more streamlined movie.
It doesn’t matter that Lex Luthor’s request is turned down, because Congress blew up, and Lex Luthor was going to smuggle the Kryptonite in under cover of night anyway. Batman finds out about this and shoots a tracking dart on the truck, then gets into a bloody, pointless chase scene, which ultimately results in Batman failing to acquire the Kryptonite. Then, we are taken inside LexCorp to find dead bodies, guns, and shell casings littering the floor. The Kryptonite is gone with a Batarang in its place. The action filled scene of Batman chasing and failing to get the Kryptonite is in, but the action-filled scene of Batman breaking into LexCorp and stealing the Kryptonite is left out. I guess Zach Snyder really needed to show off a chase scene. Having Batman acquire the Kryptonite before it gets to LexCorp would at least somewhat justify Lex Luthor freaking out and resorting to drastic measures aboard General Zod’s ship. But once he sees that Batman has the Kryptonite, wouldn’t he be glad? The person with the best chance to stop Superman now has the means to do so. Mission accomplished! If anything, the two should be actively working together to bring down Superman. But if they did that, there’d be no Doomsday, and no need for Wonder Woman to appear and have her Girl Power moment, I guess.
Speaking of Wonder Woman, how riveting was that scene with her and Bruce Wayne trading emails and watching grainy video footage, especially during an otherwise thrilling fight scene! Did DC think showing goofy footage of Aquaman stabbing a submarine would get people excited to see the later Aquaman movie? Introducing the Wonder Woman character is fine in the movie, but seeing her fight already spoiled her for her own feature film. Her exploits should have been hinted at, so as to get us excited for the Wonder Woman movie. By having her in the Big Dumb Ending, we’ve already seen much of her abilities. What is left for the Wonder Woman movie to do besides explain her origin story? Having her go from fighting Doomsday in the modern day to fighting not Doomsday during WWI times will be a real let down.
Part 4: Big Dumb Ending
Batman finally fights Superman, and, for the most part, it’s a good fight. Zach Snyder, for all his excesses, can direct a high-octane fight scene in an enclosed space. Never mind that a gas attack would not affect a creature who doesn’t need to breathe, Batman’s willingness to drag out the fight, while schlocky, did make a lot of sense. Batman wants to toy with Superman and make him feel as helpless as human beings do around him. Of course, Snyder does go overboard at times (such as the time Batman bashes Superman’s head with a bathroom sink), but eventually, Batman pins Superman down and is about to stab him with a Kryptonite spear, and… Superman says the name Martha, causing Batman to freak out. Lois Lane shows up to explain “that’s his mother’s name”, and the fight is called off. You didn’t think you’d be laughing at the end of the fight, did you, giggling like a schoolgirl at a Snyder-esque montage of Batman’s parents getting gunned down again, but here we are. The duel is called off. Superman is still a threat to the stability of the world, but both our mama’s are named Martha, so I guess he’s cool.
This is the part when, if we must have Doomsday, Doomsday needed to show up. No crying for each other’s mommies, have a greater threat show up fight both of them. Only by teaming up can the monster be destroyed. Superman and Batman have to team up, and in the process they begrudgingly respect each other’s abilities. Without Superman’s powers, Batman would be squashed, and without Batman’s ingenuity and foresight, Superman would have no way of defeating Doomsday. Afterwards, the two would gain a newfound respect for one another, while Batman learns that Superman can be beat and would relax a bit. Instead, Superman and Wonder Woman fight Doomsday, while Batman mostly cowers in the corner. He doesn’t even get to wield the Kryptonite spear, Superman kills Doomsday with it and is in turn killed by Doomsday. Batman and Wonder Woman just kind of stand there and look awkward while Lois Lane cries over his dead body.
But wait, Superman is not really dead, thus robbing the moment of the pathos from Superman’s noble sacrifice. We are then treated to a confusing series of scenes where Superman has a real funeral in Kansas and a fake funeral in Metropolis, complete with full military honors. I suppose the military felt really bad about nuking him in outer space. Snyder’s slow motion shots of the cannons firing really tries to pour on the melodrama, but instead makes it comical. Wonder Woman tells Batman that now that Superman is dead, the other metas will come together. Why? The threat is gone! Oh! Not so! Batman breaks into Lex Luthor’s prison to engage in yet more expository dialogue about “things from elsewhere” that now have an interest to us. The audience is not told who this is or why we should care about it (AND BEFORE YOU PENCIL-NECKED DORKS SQUEAL AT ME, I KNOW IT’S DARKSEID! HOWEVER, THE MARVEL MOVIES MADE IT CLEAR THAT VILLAINS SUCH AS LOKI OR RONAN WERE MERELY LIEUTENANTS TO THANOS, AND THAT HE’D PERSONALLY COME TO FINISH THE JOB. DARKSEID HAS NO SETUP WHATSOEVER, TURNING THE DC MOVIES INTO LESS OF A CINEMATIC UNIVERSE WITH AN OVERALL UNIFYING PLOT AND MORE OF A TV SHOW ON STEROIDS! TUNE IN NEXT WEEK, KIDS, TO SEE WHO THE VILLAIN-DU-JOUR IS THIS TIME!).
There are other minor faults in the movie. I could list them all, but I’d be here for another hour, but it’s the major failings: the confusing plotting, poor characterization, and fuzzy motives that ultimately doom this film. And since Zach Snyder will be directing the first Justice League movie with (presumably) the same screen-writing team, I have no faith that these errors will be remedied. I’ll save my $12 for the next Mad Max film, instead. – Josh Silverman