Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, and Gal Gadot
SPOILERS LIKE A MOFO
Well, the cat’s out of the bag. WB/DC’s start of a shared cinematic universe is here, which also doubles as a sequel to the divisive Man of Steel. And since I’m a little late to the review party, the cat is out of the bag with how harsh the movie is being reviewed. If the critical consensus was to be believed, this movie gang raped your mother and then proceeded to put you so deep into debt you essentially are put into indentured servitude while also taking a giant dump down your pee hole. It’s somehow the worst comic book movie of the last ten years, despite the fact that Fantastic Four came out 6 months ago. Zack Snyder somehow managed to conjure up some deep, dark magic that brought Hitler back from the dead and conjured him up as a digital file hidden in the seams of this movie. Hearing all this heinous shit about the in the days leading up to my seeing it, I fell into a deep funk. A movie I waited 3 years for with excitement was gonna be a garbage fire. A director whose work I’ve enjoyed thus far will finally let me down with the one movie I wish he didn’t. So I went into the movie with such a knot in my stomach, nervous as all hell to see how the movie was gonna be such a disemboweling of beloved characters. Maybe it was the fact that I came into it with such low expectations, but I ended up enjoying this movie. So, I don’t know what the hell is going on. But I will say, I can see the flaws in the movie. But for me, there’s more good than bad. And it isn’t the poison pill that people wanna claim it to be.
For as much as this is supposed to be a kicking off point for the DC universe and the formation of the Justice League (that thing that is dawning), this is very much a direct sequel to Man of Steel. So much so that it starts off at the end of that movie, with Superman having to stop Zod from continuing his destruction of Earth. But this time out, we see it from a street level perspective. That of Bruce Wayne aka Batman, as played by a perfectly steely and worn Ben Affleck. Seeing the context free destruction laid to Metropolis that extends to his WayneTech building, Bruce gets angry. This big alien comes to Earth and has to power to wipe it all out. That can’t stand. So Bruce looks for anyway to take Supes down. And 18 months later, that chance comes to him. That chance is a giant hunk of kryptonite being imported into the country by Lex Luthor (a maniacally irritating Jesse Eisenberg). All the while, Superman is dealing with a crisis of public image. The destruction in Metropolis has split the world, with some seeing him as a hero and others as a destructive menace. All Superman wants to do is save people and go about his day. But the never ending questioning of his loyalties is wearing him down. He’s losing his faith in Earth. But his attention is taken by Batman, whose crime fighting has taken a more brutal turn. People are being left to die, all because of Batmans new methods. So Superman can’t have that. So Superman has his eyes set on Batman, while Batman has his eyes set on Superman, all the while Lex is playing the two of them against each other. Lex is making up the situations that cause the recent public relations problems for Supes and is dangling the kryptonite for Bats to come after.
This is all very complicated business. In and of itself, it isn’t too outlandish a scenario for a comic book movie. But the way the movie is presented, it’s all very clunky and graceless and confusing. The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it has the feeling of being edited without any tact. There are obviously huge sections of this movie just ripped out for god knows what reason, and it delivers an oddly formless experience. Huge sections of what feels like Supermans section of the movie. Cause Lex feels complete in his story, aside from some minor moments regarding Doomsday and a major one regarding his last scene. Bruce gets a complete arc and steals the show. But Superman feels left out. Thanks to this graceless editing, he’s a supporting player in his own movie. Of all the biggest problems in the movie, this is maybe the biggest issue. That and the comically clunky and stupid resolution to Batman and Supermans beef. It’s unbelievable that they felt that pointing out both men have mothers named Martha should be what brings them together. What the hell were they thinking?
Now, the movie may be clunky as fuck, but the actual meat in the movie doesn’t actually bother me. The critics that say this is a movie that betrays the heart of the characters and hates Superman are kinda ridiculous to me. This is yet another case of just completely fabricating things in the movie to crap on it, the same way they bullshitted Superman causing the destruction at the end of Man of Steel. Because they are really wringing some absolute horseshit out of this movie regarding Superman being an asshole and a dick. He absolutely is not. Saying that he helps people with a grimace is just wrong. He absolutely helps out of the need to save people, and he never complains about it. Even when he’s told that people think he’s a menace due to a rescue of Lois in the beginning, he says he doesn’t care because he did the right thing. But there comes a point when he realizes that the constant negativity is getting to him. After a bombing is kinda tied to him, he loses faith. He just can’t do it anymore. The world is breaking him. And in a scene that sticks out like such a sorely placed thumb, he dreams of Pa Kent giving him advice about only needing the love of your love to make the harsh realities of the world bearable, because you won’t be able to save everyone. The haunting loss of life won’t ever go away. For as clunkily placed as it is, what it’s going for works for me. Even if they retcon Pa Kent from the doomsayer he was in Man of Steel to a more positive force, cementing his relationship with Lois as his reason overlook the bad is a good move. So when the time comes to stop Doomsday, he chooses to sacrifice himself to save his world. All of which would really work if they didn’t fucking cut his story to ribbons. But because I can see what they’re going for and that stuff is missing, I can live with it.
Batman’s story is one that really works the best, even if there is one chink in the armor. Even if Supermans stuff was inserted back in (we will see in the 3 hour cut being released in July), Batmans is the anchor of the movie. Bruce is what Superman would be if he didn’t have Lois. There was no anchor for him, only anger and a mission to fight. We start with him older and broken, with the mission to simply fight crime in Gotham unable to sate him anymore. He’s branding criminals now and getting more brutal in his beatings. So his new mission he jumps head first into is taking down Superman. He can’t imagine Supes being a good guy. After decades of being beaten down and heartbroken at the harsh ways of the world, he can’t trust him at all. So he has to be taken down. Even if Alfred (a fantastic Jeremy Irons) tries to convince him otherwise. Now, his turning point on Superman is absolutely phony and hackneyed, but he does turn. And seeing that this God isn’t the heartless killing machine he thinks he is, something changes. There’s a glimmer of hope. So when Superman is cut down in a final (?) act of heroism, Batman won’t let his death be in vain. He’s going to recruit others to fight, to instill hope back into the world and prepare for a possible incoming threat. Bruce is essentially the Tony Stark of this DC Universe, the hero that brings the world together. The only real flaw for Bruce is that they have him essentially kill a guy. Sure, they could make it that the guy survived but was supremely fucked up, but it’s filmed as a kill. Very frustrating when the rest of the Bat stuff is so pitch perfect to the comics.
Lex is such a frustrating character, because the actual character is pretty well written and threatening. A legitimately good villain. But Eisenberg is way too god damn irritating in the role. All twitches and mannerisms that are trying to make him seem like a barely controlled maniac in a dweebs body. There’s moments where he works, but it just feels too actorly. Which is a shame, because Lex is the closest we’ve gotten to the comics, at least motivation wise. Gone is the shyster played by Hackman and Spacey. This is a tech genius who has no use for Superman. An outright distrust of Gods and anything more powerful than man, his presence just boils his blood. So he sets into motion a plot to break Supermans spirit and aim Batman at him with the proper weaponry. Doing so, he kills alot of innocent people. He puts the people Superman loves in immediate danger. He has a double edged plan to destroy Superman. One of soul and one of body. The one of body is getting Batman kryptonite so he can kill him for Lex without even realizing it. The one of soul is to force Superman into killing by giving him a Sophie’s Choice. Kill Batman and become the monster some think he is, or Ma Kent gets it. The man is so determined to wipe out Superman (and other powered folk he has files on) that his backup plan is to turn General Zods corpse into a genetic mutation, thereby creating the unstoppable Doomsday. With no real way to stop him, he unleashes pure destruction into the world. But by doing so, by overreaching in his schemes, he creates the scenario that brings these heroes together and unites the world finally in loving Superman and by setting into motion the creation the Justice League. The only real false writing note is the weird final scene where he seems to possessed by Darkseid or a minion or some such shit. It’s a weird note to end on.
Now, one of the other problems with the movie being as clunky and formless is the need to set up the Universe. Now, Wonder Woman is great in this movie. But she’s also not really in it. Her main reason for being in this is to set up the world and to help fight Doomsday. Her inclusion is also one to cement the change in the world. She’s been broken too, disappearing into the world in anonymity. But by seeing these two men fighting Doomsday, she wakes up too. It also doesn’t hurt that they make her the only one not a whiny little bitch about fighting (I like their characterizations, but Bats and Supes are whiny little shits about fighting). She enjoys the big brawl. It’s a nice shift to show some lightness. Yet narratively she could have been taken out. The only beats they really give her is a momentum stopping tease of the future movies, by having her look at the video footage Lex has on The Flash and Cyborg and Aquaman. Just absolutely momentum killing, and easily could have been placed as a mid/post credits scene. Same with a dream sequence/vision that Bruce has, that really is only about the future movies and hinting at Darkseid. A post apocalyptic vision that sees Superman become a killer because of Lois’ death, Bruce also gets a visit from a time displaced Flash to warn him about Lois’ importance to the fate of the world. It isn’t very clear, but it isn’t supposed to be. What I take from it is that Darkseid is coming, and if Lois dies, Superman won’t fight for Earth. Again, it could have been a mid/post credit scene. But like the video file stuff, I didn’t actually hate it. Just added to the clunkiness of the thing. Whittle out Wonder Woman and the set up stuff, this coulda been a little more streamlined. The only thing they really need as setup is the really good idea of having Supermans death be the reason for the formation of the Justice League. Something apocalyptic is coming, something worse than Doomsday. If that fucking thing could kill Superman, what are they gonna do against the evil coming if they aren’t working together? Do that, have some post credit shit, and bam you got a set up movie.
Many critiques of the movie is that it’s misleading in it’s titling and marketing. Well, I’m sorry but who cares? So Bats and Supes only fight once and it’s not 45 minutes? It’s a good fight with a shit ending. The movie not meeting the expectations of a title is not something I give a fuck about. If we go by that, Age of Ultron sucked because the length of the Age in his name is roughly 3 days. So I don’t outright dislike the inclusion of Doomsday as the main event of the movie. Its typical comic book stuff that the hero fight is only the undercard for a bigger threat lurking. The problem with Doomsday is how fucking horrible his design is. It’s just absolute pandemonium. Cause for the most part, Doomsday is the perfect villain to have as muscle. Because he isn’t a god damn character. He’s only remembered for killing Superman in the 90s, and exactly nothing since then despite coming back now and then. And he’s the right kind of powerhouse to be a threat but not as deadly as the big bad in the wings. I also liked how it showed Lex’s blinding insanity to take down the big blue God. It also manages to give a destructive villain that they can show Superman and Batman try to minimize collateral human damage (Superman flies the fuck into space, where the Army shoots him with a fucking nuke, and gives the absolute haunting image of a withered Superman floating unconscious in space). Which is also another nonsense complaint, that they mention that there’s no civilians around. For all the handwringing over the end of Man of Steel, now they’ll go the other way. Yet the destruction itself is fairly minimal for the most part, giving us the idea of how bad it can become without going overboard. The actual fight is well done and visually appealing, feeling very comic booky. It even goes out of the way to show that Superman is not a killer and cares about collateral damage this time out. They have him stop Doomsday from clobbering Lex, something the maniacal Superman the critics want you to believe he is wouldn’t actually do. They also have Superman fly Doomsday the fuck into space, away from civilians and as a means to get rid of him, only to be stopped because the Army nukes the fuck out of the both of them, which doesn’t stop Doomsday at all but causes Superman to become withered to almost nothing in a haunting image. So, I don’t really have too much to complain other than it does stick out in such a chopped up, horrendously edited movie.
This movie is 100 Percent a reaction to the ending of Man of Steel by dealing with the fallout of all that destruction, but it’s also is about the critiques of Man of Steel. Superman is constantly being called a bad guy because of lies spread about him when he’s just trying to save people. Batman himself is a loon who misreads the ending of Man of Steel and decides he needs to murder Superman. The world is so distrustful and apathetic to the all powerful Superman that they break his spirit with the constant negativity. For all the people that say that the only times Superman kills in the comics he has exiled or killed himself, they legitimately have him willingly die to kill Doomsday. It’s a world where, very much like ours, can’t accept Superman until he’s gone because of how cynical it’s become. So for everyone saying that Snyder hates Superman, I find that quite wrong. I think he feels bad for Superman. A character that just wants to do good because he has to, and not for some damaged pathology to do so, is constantly beaten down. So he makes a movie where all of this is apart of the story. So while I have some issues with the movie, I think there’s some serious misreading going on with Superman’s portrayal (purposeful or not).
This movie is far from perfect. I know it may seem like I’m going on a rant to say that this is some perfect masterpiece, but I’m not. All the stuff I’m saying is in the movie, but is lost in the noise and the maniacally bad editing. Somehow, the movie is way too long but also feels like it’s missing scenes. The movie manages to be breathless in a way that doesn’t feel like 2 1/2 hours, but also has some serious fat on the bones. Isolated scenes that could have been edited better to enhance what’s onscreen (much like Spectre). A really misguided performance by Eisenberg. A laborious need to set up the Justice League movie. But there is stuff underneath all the gristle to entertain me. This is a movie that feels like there’s too many cooks in the kitchen, with Snyder being under WB’s heel to compete with Marvel. So while there is some Snyder stuff in here, ie gorgeous visuals and breakneck action and a super comic book sensibility, it also feels the most by committee. So while I may like the movie and have a subjective desire to watch it a bunch (especially the directors cut), this is by far his weakest movie (I’m a defender of Sucker Punch, again in directors cut form). I can see why people dislike it, because it’s so disjointed and confusing. So many of you will dislike it and be confused by it. Others may see it as a betrayal of some characters. And I can’t really say you’re wrong. I’ll just say come back to it in July when the directors cut (I refuse to say R rated cut, as it’s such a blatant promotional ploy) and see if things are cleared up, either by the new cut or just by having the thing in your head now.