I just got back from seeing Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice with my comic book nerd family. I had my little sister on my left, squeezing my hand for nearly 3 hours, and my dad on my right giving me knucks whenever we caught a subtle comic nod. Or, y’know, when Wonder Woman and Aquaman made their on-screen debuts.
It’s always a lot of fun going to the comic movies with my dad since he’s the one who hand-picked issues for me when I was a kid to introduce me to the various characters without exposing me to the weird sexual thing the industry is plagued with. My siblings didn’t have the same exposure to comics I did, seeing as they didn’t read the print books. Also, they don’t borrow (with what is essentially a be-careful-with-that-or-you’re-grounded-for-the-rest-of-eternity contract signed in blood) his compilation books. My favorite is Kingdom Come, because holy shit, that art. Also, Batman.
So all of the reviews I read were not particularly favorable. And as a person that grew up with these characters and not a film critic, I wanted to throw my two cents out into the internet and kinda work through my feelings regarding it. Because I don’t think it was as bad as all those critics thought, but there is something about it I didn’t care for and I can’t put my finger on it just yet.
Spoilers after the cut.
Sooooooooo……. Okay, first things first.
The costuming was gorgeous. Look at that promo pic up there. They look so good. And that armor is believable to me. I was watching them beat the snot out of each other and I was thinking, “Yeah. That’d protect him from that. Sure.” And I’ve seen some comic films with armor/costumes that looked like they were going to fall apart if the character moved weirdly while wearing it.
Also, check out Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare!Batman:
My sister and I talk a lot during movies because she has questions and I have millions of comments (usually, “This is not the appropriate time for cuddles, Supes; you have a thing to take care of. She’s fine.”) and I remember telling her that, yes, I approve of Post-Apocalypse Batman even though I had no idea what, exactly, was happening right that second. Seriously, the sequence made no sense at first.
Since I’ve been told I can’t just drool over Batman the whole post, have some Superman:
And Wonder Woman:
And then more Batman because he wore, like, five different suits:
The Flash and Cyborg also had cameo appearances in Luthor’s files to help with the set up of the Justice League film, but they weren’t in costume and Cyborg hadn’t been “completed” yet, for want of a better term for it. More on that later, if I remember.
Okie-doke, moving on.
So…. Casting? Yeah, let’s talk about casting.
To be totally honest, the only casting decision I didn’t agree with was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Or Alexander Luthor because apparently it was his dad who put the “Lex” in LexCorp.
I reeeeeeeeeeeeeally hated Eisenberg’s Luthor. So much. There was so much hatred happening that I felt like I was on fire.
And mom commented that I’m always saying that if I hate a character, then obviously the actor did their job. But that’s not the case here. Eisenberg just has an incredibly punchable face and whenever I see him, I just want to punch him in the face. With a brick. Or a truck.
He is never likable in any role I’ve ever seen him in. Ever. And he’s done characters that were supposed to be likable. Lex Luthor is one of those. You’re supposed to hate Luthor so much that you love him because he’s so insane that his plans to destroy Superman and everything happy and good in the world that they’re incredibly entertaining and he’s just so evil that you can’t help to love hating him. Kevin Spacey’s Luthor in Superman Returns is that sort of Luthor.
And I know they were going for this:
Is not this:
Are we clear on that?
Luthor is meant to be a charismatic megalomaniacal villain. Spacey? Can do that. Eisenberg? Cannot. There’s nothing charismatic about Eisenberg. If anyone else with just a speck of charisma had been cast as Luthor, the character would have come off as the bouncy, energetic, Hollywood-psychotic the writing had intended. With Eisenberg, he came off as a petulant, whiney brat. Which is not what I look for in my supervillains.
I was down the post a bit writing about Affleck when I got the following from Kait about Eisenberg re: Luthor:
He’s not enough of an intimidating asshole to play Lex. He’s got too much of the weasely conniving thing going on vs. Lex’s just, like, pure physical and intellectual prowess.
Even when she’s on the verge of totally falling asleep for nap-times, she’s better at the analysis thing.
I’m not going to discus how Amy Adams or Henry Cavill did as Lois Lane and Superman/Clark Kent because they already proved their worth in Man of Steel. You either like them or you don’t. I personally find them good in the roles and I like their chemistry.
Gal Gadot was brilliant as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Though she spent more time as Diana than as Wonder Woman, I was really happy with her performance. Her interactions with Affleck’s Bruce Wayne were reminiscent of how I remember the characters’ relationship in the comics and the Justice League cartoon.
They’re kinda flirty, but they’re also very respectful of each other’s abilities, talents, and positions.
Oh, and then she shows up as Wonder Woman to help them fight Doomsday and it was like the heavens opened and the goddess she was descended upon the earth to bless us poor mortals with her presence.
That is a woman who thoroughly enjoys what she does as a warrior. Seriously, there’s this one point in which Doomsday backhands her and she goes flying, losing her shield and sword when she lands and her reaction was to pick herself up and just grin. It was a total I-haven’t-had-such-a-great-challenge-in-a-century sort of smile. I nearly cheered for her.
And there’s Jeremy Irons’ Alfred. Oh, Alfred. You long-suffering inventor/mechanic/tailor/butler/caretaker/father figure. Alfred is a fan favorite and has been for decades and there’s been different interpretations of his character and personality. I’ve really enjoyed all the different versions of Alfred that I’ve come across, but Irons’ performance is almost identical to the Alfred in my head, which is a blend of canon and headcanon.
In BvS, Alfred is everything audiences expect him to be. He cleans up after Bruce, helps him from the Batcave while Batman’s out on patrol, works on the Batmobile, the Batwing, the new Batsuits. There’s a fun scene in which he’s working on the microphone on the Batsuit armor (or Hulkbuster Batman because that’s what it looks like to me) and I can’t remember what he said, but it was totally innocuous but still menacing because it was said in Bat-voice.
He’s totally sarcastic, too. He worries about Bruce because he raised him and after a Batman patrol comments, “You’re too old now to die young.” And after Bruce had an evening of indulgence with a pretty lady (who we never actually see; she’s just some yummy curves under a sheet that’s never in focus), Alfred looks at an empty wine bottle and comments, “I do hope the next generation of Waynes doesn’t inherit an empty wine cellar.” And adds under his breath, “Not that there will be a next generation.”
In general, Alfred was written really well this time around. He wasn’t just a fountain of sage advice like he has often been reduced to in the past. Honestly, if there’s one character in BvS that could be considered a Mary Sue/Gary Stu, it’d probably be Alfred. Dude can do anything. And I don’t hate him for his perfectness. I want to sit down and have tea with him and talk about anything under the sun.
Finally, casting-wise, let’s talk about Ben Affleck.
Okay, in interest of fairness, I will forever be a Batman girl (and someday, I may have to write a post on exactly why), so that may have influenced my reaction to Affleck’s performance. BUT, I have other evidence to support my opinion as well. I do my homework.
So Affleck was the only one to actually make me feel things other than unadulterated pride in this movie (Eisenberg aside because I hate him). After a brief (and mostly unnecessary) Batman origin reminder, we were given a “Previously, in the DC Cinematic Universe…” with a mash up of what Bruce was doing during Superman’s fight with Zod in Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel.
He rushed across the bay to Metropolis to help evacuate his Wayne skyscraper and he runs to pry a steel I-beam off the legs of one of his employees, and then he saves a little girl from getting crushed by falling building and then when he tells her he’ll get her to her mom and she tells him mom was in a decimated building, he goes all Batdad on me and comforts her.
This is all in the first five minutes after the Bat-Origin.
I was waaaaaaaay more invested in watching Bruce solve the puzzle and prepare to open a can of whupass on Superman than I was in watching Superman deal with his bad press and whatever Lois was up to and definitely more than Luthor’s shenanigans.
The Batman was were given in BvS was a continuation on the darker, gritty themes we had with the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Affleck was able to infuse his Bruce/Batman with a good balance of darkness, ptsd (or the Hollywood equivalent), and philanthropic emotion that worked really well with his character arc. He wasn’t angry all the time, he wasn’t brooding all the time (just a lot of it when it was just him and Alfred), he wasn’t charming playboy all the time.
Plus, and this could just be me and my love of the older gent, he made Bruce sexy again. I haven’t considered Bruce sexy since Clooney wore the cowl and cape. I mean, yeah, Christian Bale is gorgeous, but in a pretty way and I was in no way attracted to that version of the character. That’s not to say I didn’t like his portrayal because I did.
But the montage of Bruce physically prepping for his confrontation with Superman? Woof. I wanted to rub my face on his tummy. And I don’t care if that sounds creepy.
Before I get too, too creepy regarding Bruce/Batman, let’s move on to the story. Hold on to something; this is where I’ll probably get a little mean.
THERE IS WAY TOO MUCH GOING ON IN THIS SCRIPT, YOU GUYS, HOLY SHIT.
As I said earlier, it started with a mini Bat-Origin, then it recapped the third act of Man of Steel, and THEN it finally started the actual story. Which was so full of various main plots and subplots that it was actually kind of difficult to figure out what in hell was happening.
There was the Superman dealing with the bad press and legal repercussions about his battle with Zod and consequent acts of heroism in which people died, including one in which he save Lois from vague, stereotypical desert-dwelling terrorists and everyone except Lois ended up dying. And then a hearing at Capitol Hill in which he’s targeted in an explode-y act of terrorism. And he’s got to deal with Luthor’s stupid-ass plan and Batman’s plan to remove his spleen in a painful and probably permanent manner. Meanwhile, Clark Kent is dealing with his editor, Perry White, insisting he write sports articles when he wants to write about the brutality Batman is utilizing in his vigilantism in Gotham because the Bat is branding criminals like sex traffickers or child molesters with the bat sigil and that turns into a death sentence in the prison once the other inmates get their hands on the branded.
There was Bruce/Batman working on figuring out what in hell the White Portuguese is. Is it a person? Is it a thing? Turns out, it’s a ship and he totally could have just Googled that shit. Instead, he infiltrated Luthor’s property and copied his company’s (maybe? It didn’t seem like it was a personal one) hard drive, computer brains, and dealing with Diana stealing his copy device. And THEN he decides to steal the Kryptonite Luthor smuggled into the country and spent most of the second act prepping to fight Superman by working out (resulting in the aforementioned desire to rub my face on his tummy) and figuring out how to weaponize the Kryptonite. Plus, he’s having all these awful dreams that are super fucking weird and horrible. One was about a bat-demon bursting out of his mother’s grave, which is horrible. And the other was the Post-Apocalypse Batman in which Superman straight up MURDERS PEOPLE WITH HIS HEAT VISION. And he has to deal with one of his former employees who was injured during the Zod Fight and had to have his legs amputated (the employee, not Bruce) and the employee sending his relief checks back to Wayne Enterprises with horrible things written across them.
Lois is off doing some random investigative reporting after she pries an unsmashed bullet out of her notebook after Supes saves her from the generic desert terrorists. She’s bugging everyone she can think of to figure out where this bullet originated and then she finds out it was LexCorp. And there’s some fluff with Supes at inappropriate times. LIKE WHEN DOOMSDAY IS DESTROYING GOTHAM–STOP CANOODLING AND HELP BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN; OH MY GOD. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE.
Diana is preoccupied with trying to get her photo back from Luthor because he apparently has no right to have a copy of a photo from 1918, which looks like it had been run in a newspaper and it’s in the public domain by now, probably. So she’s not exactly helping anyone with their problems until she sees Doomsday destroying Metropolis and she’s like, “Well, shit. Bruce knows my secret because he emailed me a copy of Luthor’s Meta Humans files and I know he’s probably in the thick of things there and I should probably do him a solid. Also, it’s been a century since I’ve had a good fight. Gettin’ off the plane now.”
There’s the Meta Human subplot in which we see videos of Aquaman (so cool), the Flash (kinda fun), and Cyborg (horrific; if his movie is an origin story, I’m going to be cringing the whole time, I s2g).
There’s the Senator Finch plot in which she’s trying to figure out what needs to happen in response to all the destruction Superman’s work brings about. Honestly, this part felt a little like DC was trying to be like, “Oh, Marvel’s dealing with how their heroes routinely destroy cities and the consequences of those disasters the heroes need to face. We should probably get on that, too.” I honestly don’t remember if this was ever an issue in the comics, but it was a weak attempt at holding Superman responsible for the Man of Steel fallout from a governmental standpoint, especially when there’s Batman gunning to do the EXACT SAME THING. Double plotline is unnecessary. And then the plot explodes Sen. Finch, which is totally out of line because what did Holly Hunter ever do to deserve that end to her actually really great character?
And then there’s fucking Lex Luthor’s main evil plot. Holy shit, this thing is convoluted and ridiculous. First, he frames Supes for the generic desert terrorist deaths. Then he continues to plant evidence that Supes needs to be reigned in, pushing Bats to create his anti-Superman-contingency-plan before the JLA has been formed. And then he continues to manipulate Superman into saving the day, and then showing up at the hearing that Lex blows up USING A VICTIM OF THE ZOD FIGHT’S (BRUCE’S FORMER EMPLOYEE) WHEELCHAIR AS THE BOMB. And THEN, when he FINALLY has Superman’s attention by throwing Lois off the roof of a skyscraper, he tells Supes that Martha Kent (Superman’s adoptive mommy) has been kidnapped and she’ll be set on fire and killed unless Superman returns to Luthor in an hour, holding Batman’s head. After Superman and Batman duke it out and come to terms with each other (I’ll discuss it in a bit; it’s actually really super fucking interesting), Superman finds Luthor in the wrecked Zod ship where his other weird science experiment plans are coming to fruition. Basically, he experimented with removing Zod’s fingerprints to wear them like fingertip gloves (super gross) and accessing the ship’s Genesis Arc-like (Star Trek reference and I don’t care because I can’t remember what it’s called) incubator machine thing. Then he put Zod’s body in Genesis, with several CC’s of Luthor’s own blood and then incubated it and created Doomsday. Doomsday is an actually interesting plotline in the comics (and those are issues I distinctly remember reading when they were released) and while he’s different in the movie, he’s almost as interesting. And then in the end, Luthor’s arrested, his head is shaved, and then Batman terrorizes him in his cell for a hot minute, which was SO satisfying.
Look at all of that plot, you guys. I just described the main plots and subplots of the 2.5 hour movie in 1,019 words. Dude. That’s way too much plot. Seriously.
Okay, before I get into the fight between Bats and Supes, let me give you this still of an Easter egg that made me laugh because I’m a horrible, horrible person:
I’m a horrible, horrible person.
All righty, the fight between Batman and Superman. It was so cool, you guys. It really showcased (as much as you can in the second half of the second act of a movie with way too much plot happening) how Bruce thinks and prepares. Like, if you’re a Batman fan, you know he’s got plans to take out every member of the Justice League just in case they randomly become evil and start killing civilians. What we got to see in BvS is his contingency plan for evil!Superman.
First, he obtains a ridiculously huge piece of Kryptonite by stealing it from Luthor. Then he takes some of it and plays with it and modifies it until he’s produced a gaseous form of it, which he fills small tear gas canisters with. And with the rest of the glowing green rock, he makes a spearhead.
Then, before he even attempts to get Superman’s attention, he prepares the rooftop where the showdown will happen. He set pressure plates down, attached to sonic cannons on either side of the roof, aimed toward the center, right at the pressure plates. Beyond that, he sets a tripwire to set off four automatic gatling guns, two on either side, all aimed to the center of the tripwire.
All that? Just to make Superman angry. And it works.
When Superman arrives at the rooftop, he tries to explain Luthor’s demand that he kill Batman or his mother dies, but he doesn’t get very far because Batman keeps backing away from him in order to set off the pressure plates and tripwire, which interrupts Superman. And frustrates him. Once Superman is good and angry, and a little unfocused, Batman shot one of his Kryptonite smoke grenades in his face. Which of course makes Superman weaker.
So then they beat the crap out of each other, sending the other through walls and through floors and ceilings until they end up on the ground floor. There, Batman had prepped the Kryptonite spear and after shoving more Kryptonite smoke into Superman’s face, Batman’s got his boot on Superman’s throat and he’s about to plunge that spear in when Superman screams, “You’re letting him kill Martha!”
Now, if you’ll recall, Martha was Bruce’s mother’s name. And they made a big deal about her name during all of Bruce’s flashbacks and nightmares about her dream. Such a big deal about her name that I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember his father’s name.
“You’re letting him kill Martha!”
Such an odd way of putting it, but effective. Because it freaks Batman out and he doesn’t make stabby-stabby times with the spear. He demands to know why Superman said that name. Superman is having trouble communicating because of Kryptonite and the gigantor boot on his throat. All he’s able to really say is, “He’s going to kill Martha!” “We have to save her!” etc. All the while Batman is royally freaking out because he doesn’t know that Martha is Clark’s mother’s name, too.
(My sister asked why they both were named Martha and my response was, “Well. They’re minor characters in the overall plots for each comic, so they probably just grabbed a name out of a hat or something. I really don’t know.” But it’s super convenient to this plot.)
Luckily for Martha–and Superman, really–Lois comes running in and explains that Clark’s mother is also called Martha. And Batman backs away immediately. Because he knows that both he and Superman had been manipulated by, probably Luthor, and when Lois says there’s something weird happening at the Zod ship, Batman promises to go save Martha while Superman deals with the Zod ship thing.
And when Batman is done dealing with Luthor’s cronies keeping watch over Martha, he introduces himself in my favorite exchange in the movie:
Batman: I’m a friend of your son’s.
Martha: I figured. Cape.
She was totally cool with the weirdness. It was really cute.
One last thing: Doomsday.
I read the two-part issue, The Death of Superman, in which he fights Doomsday, they destroy most of Metropolis, and they end up killing each other. Firstly, in the comic, Doomsday looks like this:
And in the movie, he looks like this:
I don’t have a preference because both work.
What I liked about how they handled Doomsday was that he fed off energy. The more force and kenetic energy in the weaponry used against him, the more powerful he became and the more bone-spikes he grew. Which was cool and gross at the same time. Eventually, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were able to lead Doomsday back to Gotham so they could use the Kryptonite spear on him, gassed him with the last Kryptonite smoke bomb, and Superman made stabby-stabby with the spear. But Doomsday had a bone knife for a right hand by that point and he stabbed right through Supes’ chest and they killed each other just like in the comic.
It was handled a lot more epically than I just described. It was a messy fight, which made it kinda difficult to see what was happening, but it was entertaining.
There’s a small funeral for Clark Kent who, according to the Daily Planet, died while investigating the Doomsday fight, in his hometown, and a massive public funeral (empty casket) for Superman in Washington, D.C. At Clark’s funeral, Diana and Bruce have a chat at the end of the burial and they talk about how they should probably start looking for the other Meta Humans just in case they need to join together and fight as a team, neatly leading into the Justice League films.
And the last shot of the movie was of the handful of dirt Lois dropped on Clark’s casket, with a few little clumps beginning to float up toward the sky because Superman comes back, duh.
Anyway, aside from the issues I had, which I talked about previously, I enjoyed the film. It was hard for me to care about what Lois was doing or about Superman’s legal trouble, and I hated Luthor so I pretty much only paid attention to his scenes just to understand the gazillions of plots happening. I personally don’t feel it was as bad as the critics made it out to be. It wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it wasn’t awful.
As I told my friends a few weeks ago,
“The acting is going to be really solid and the costuming looks great in the trailers. If anything is going to fail, it’s the writing and I’m used to bad writing now. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I can only accept that Hollywood’s full of hacks.”
I was right.