Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - A True Knightmare

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Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio

If you are looking at this piece for purchasing information, I will be blunt. DO NOT BUY A TICKET TO SEE THIS MOVIE. It’s not good on multiple fundamental levels but in order to explain that, I basically have to spoil the darn thing. So read on if you want to know my feelings of why this film is such an utter complete failure of a movie. If not well my caps should make it clear how I feel.

Directed by Zack Snyder Produced by Charles Roven Deborah Snyder Written by Chris Terrio David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder Produced by Charles Roven Deborah Snyder Written by Chris Terrio David S. Goyer

Batman v Superman does not work on a fundamental level of structure, ruining everything else in an endless cascade of suck. A sound structure for a movie so preoccupied with telling the audience (in one scene, literally) about the cost of heroism and cause and effect would’ve made this more watchable. A vast majority of scenes are assembled one after the other without any thematic flow. At one point Perry White wonders if the oft disappearing Clark Kent simply clicks his heels together three times and goes back to Kansas, a beat later we cut to the next scene. Does it involve Clark Kent or Superman? No. It’s Lois Lane investigating a magic bullet, which is followed by scenes involving Batman and Lex Luthor, before finally getting to see Superman. Scenes are assembled in a strict chronological order as to not undo plot continuity, but even that creates a mess. The opening hour follows three threads: Luthor’s plot to ruin Superman, Lois investigating a conspiracy to ruin Superman, and Batman looking into human trafficking. None of these threads cohere or tie together very well and that’s mostly due to their construction overall on macro (overall transitions and structure) and micro (moment to moment) levels. Besides the awkward transitions none of these scenes are given time to breathe and built do something meaningful, they conclude with a thud. This lack of structure and scene vitality, strips everything to a surface plot level. Somehow everyone involved (no single person deserves the blame for this catastrophic failure) managed to complicate what should be an easy plot of manipulation and fear mongering into whatever this movie is. Even with its overwrought nature, if any of these scenes had shown the audience the emotional ‘Why’ of it all this movie wouldn’t be so bad.

If two characters ‘drive the plot’ it would be Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams). The latter character is seemingly omniscient in his scheme to discredit Superman…and make Batman fight him? Luthor’s motivations make no sense (besides the extra textual Luthor always hates Superman); first it’s he doesn’t like Superman, but then it’s complicated by his view on God and his abusive Father. If any of that felt like it cohered into something meaningful I wouldn’t mind. All of this is built on a manic, constantly shifting from scene to scene performance by Eisenberg, until the tech giant is babbling on about Darkseid coming (or if you’re my Father, Thanos). The only thing that makes sense is Dessad, or G. Gordon Godfrey, somehow psychically corrupting him over the course of this movie, but there is no room for that.

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Lois Lane was my favorite thing in Man of Steel. She was a competent reporter who was often ahead of things. This movie has no idea what to do with her, having her slowly run parallel to Luthor’s broad machinations until she figures it out and is promptly damseled for it because she’s Lois Lane. She exists as nothing more than projection for Superman and plot necessity. At one point she nearly drowns trying to retrieve Batman’s kryptonite spear, sound heroic? Nope. Because she through it in the water five minutes earlier for no apparent reason other than the movies need for her to nearly drown. Amy Adam (and every actor in this movie) deserves better. There is one sweet and tender scene she shares with Cavill that sells their relationship beautifully. This level of care and empathy is otherwise lacking in this juvenile product.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a stupid name but it’s obvious what the film should dramatically be about. In the opening credits and prologue Snyder revistis key sights of trauma in this universe, the murder of Martha and Thomas Wayne and the Battle of Metroplis from Man of Steel. This restaging of 9/11 from Bruce Wayen’s street level view reconfigures the destruction porn of the previous film and finally gives us the missing human element. A Wayne Enterprise building is destroyed in the conflict. You’d think that would be enough to turn a bitter burnt out Batman in the wrathful xenophobe seen in the trailers. Except for the first hour or so where Batman couldn’t really care about Superman and his supposed threat.

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Until the Mad Max inspired Knightmare sequence. The film somehow complicates what should be an easy metaphoric trip into Wayne’s tortured psyche (it’s the third dream sequence in this movie). It might not be a dream but really a psychic vision of the future brought on by The Flash, who appears out of a time portal (perhaps a boom tube) warning him through garbled audio that he was right and that Lois is the Key. It’s only then that Batman suddenly become the Dick Cheny 1% doctrine spewing xenophobe of the marketing material, because he has to fight Superman in 30 minutes.

I feel sorry for Ben Affleck; he is a good thing in an otherwise terrible movie. He brings a world weariness and age to Bruce Wayne that we haven’t really seen before. He fights like he’s out of the Arkham games for better and worse. He attacks problems with the ease of the world’s greatest detective, who can’t figure out he’s being conned. With Snyder’s deconstructionist and ‘serious’ sensibilities, you’d think the Dark night would be a character he understood. Until the moment comes when it is evident he understands nothing. Batman kills people, not just in the Knightmare sequence but in reality. Dragging and smashing cars with at least 2-4 people in them, shooting other cars up with his vehicles various machine guns in a truncated chase sequence. There’s that time he straight up stabs a dude in the chest. Oh yeah, he also SHOOTS SOMEONE WITH A GUN IN HIS HAND. But these moments of intentional murder pale in comparison to the ritualistic branding he subjects some of his victims to (often sex traffickers/criminals) so that the people in prison will kill them for him! Starting Batman in a darker place makes a lot of sense, this was inspired by The Dark Knight Returns after all. In having him fall so far, the movie robs his vigilance of any semblance of moral superiority and righteousness in comparison to Superman. Until all the killing the idea of a Ben Affleck directed Batman feature sounded like a no brainer, but now I don’t think I want that. His ending moment of rejuvenation that “Men are still good” falls flat, like everything else in this movie.

With Man of Steel (a film that looks amazing in comparison) you could argue that director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer misunderstood the essence of Superman. The character is an aspirational boy scout, which can work on film just look at Captain America. Batman v Superman was a chance to right that wrong and let Superman be Superman. Instead, it is clear that Zack Snyder very likely hates Superman. For as much as this film is a supposed response to Man of Steel’s critics Snyder misses the point of the criticism with his treatment of the titular character. At one point, Superman agrees to appear before Senator Finch’s (Holly Hunter) committee on Superman. A chance to literally talk out the ending of Man of Steel and Superman’s actions in the world of the past 18 months. Superman doesn’t even get to utter a word before Luthor’s bomb goes off, the film is more interested in setting up a joke involving Lex Luthor’s urine. Superman is profoundly robbed of agency and voice, reduced to a moping put upon hero who is never certain of his actions. He is disconnected from humanity, only afforded meaningful interaction with Lois, Ma Kent, and Ghost Dad. This isn’t a Superman of the people; this isn’t even Superman when the world mourns his sacrifice. No one involved understands the character and this film is ruined because of it. It’s a shame how poorly utilized Henry Cavill is, he is a charming presence and clearly understands the character going off his press interactions.

And then there is the fight, a conflict with no dramatic setup beyond Luthor telling us that it’s time for “fight night”. As a sequence, it’s actually quite good with Snyder’s staging of a duel between two masculinities (though much of that must be brought to the film extra textually). Every move is with purpose and it quickly reveals the juvenile root of wondering if Batman and Superman ever fought, who would win. Even the ludacris revelation that both “heroes” share mothers named Martha kind of works, just for the sheer amount of Freud I can bring to that moment, and some slick editing. However, like everything in this movie it feels like an attempt to be clever by restaging a bit of comics ephemera and it fails. When it is inevitably posted to YouTube, check it out.

The utter lack of sexual tension between them is sad
The utter lack of sexual tension between them is sad

Do not watch the fight with Doomsday. It is a weightless series of CGI tracking shots of the CGI trinity battling a CGI monster that looks like a Lord of the Rings reject. If the titular fight had purposeful movement this has no purpose and feels quickly cobbled together in order to show us the Trinity (because Dawn of Justice). This series of shots is meant to evoke the bombastic double page spreads in comic books and fails. For better examples see the opening of Age of Ultron or the second episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Amazingly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman may come out of this the best. There was an audible cheer when she burst on to screen in full hero gear. It’s not that the movie does anything of interest with the character, she just has nice chemistry with Affleck and people remember her from the Fast and Furious franchise.

Zack Snyder’s view of heroism is antithetical to their nature as mass media objects. He views heroism as an absolute burden with nothing good ever coming from it, only pain and destruction for everyone involved. Batman and Superman are bother murders! I have no doubt in my mind that the members of the Suicide Squad will be more heroic this August than these two.

When Marvel/Disney created their superhero-industrial-complex with their connected series of films, the idea that they are too big to fail has come up time and again. To their credit, none of their movies, besides the inconsequential The Incredible Hulk have really failed financially or critically. Other studios have tried to build their own infrastructure most have failed, FOX and the X-Men have lasted the longest. Now in an act of retroactive continuity, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice acts as Warner Bros. first foray into their own complex announcing 5 years’ worth of films and already producing two of them (Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman). That 5-year plan is going to be put to the test with Dawn of Justice,a confusingly structured, dramatically weightless, verging on incompetent, film.

In an interview with the LA Times, star Ben Affleck laid a preemptive defense with the promise that the infrastructure is too big to fail “They're going to make all these movies regardless. Will every DC movie be great and be successful? No. Would it be good if "BvS" works for them? Yes, obviously. But if any one of the movies doesn't work, it doesn't mean it all goes away.” Coming out of Dawn of Justice that doesn’t seem like a capitalist promise of scale, so much as a threat of more Zack Snyder’s bastardized visions of these great characters.

In the lead up to Batman v Superman the worst people would say is that it’d be Iron Man 2-esque, a movie commonly derided for being saddled with “set-up” duties. Only Iron Man 2 shortcomings was not its setup, which was minor at best, it failed because it could not decide which conflicting bit of Tony Stark related drama to go with. No a more apt comparison to make with this movie is The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a film the collective conscious has rightly forgotten. In both cases each, film shoehorned in world building on top of an already incomprehensible plot with no dramatic stakes despite solid turns from its lead actors. Amazing Spider-Man 2 killed the universe it was supposed to create. With two films finishing production, whatever meager box office returns Dawn of Justice gets hopefully won’t affect those movies too much. But it’s clear that major changes are in order for Justice League and the films spinning out of it.

I am Michael Mazzacane you can follow me on Twitter and at ComicWeek.org

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#1 Edited by GC8 (2900 posts) - - Show Bio

Skipped the spoilers, but I trust you. I will not pay to see it - wait until I can see it free.

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#2 Posted by Jgames (8208 posts) - - Show Bio

I be frank BUY THE TICKET TO SEE THE MOVIE. That just me.

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#3 Posted by Rubear (4651 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh, you're funny. So much of rage.

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#4 Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio

@rubear: that's not rage, it's profound disappointment at how wasted every potentially good thing in this movie is and how hollow and inqonsequential it all is. This is a poorly constructed movie how could this get made.

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#5 Edited by batsymyplaything (314 posts) - - Show Bio

@etragedy: The movie is already out in the world of world wide web, lol. I just saw the whole movie.

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#6 Posted by GC8 (2900 posts) - - Show Bio
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#7 Posted by SamJackson (2191 posts) - - Show Bio

@etragedy: Probably because you said something about seeing it for free...

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#8 Posted by Farkam (12057 posts) - - Show Bio

11/10

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#9 Edited by GC8 (2900 posts) - - Show Bio

@samjackson: Ah... I have friends at the local theater, so I see free on the big screen - but usually not until after the movie's been out for awhile. Don't really like watching these kind of movies on a little screen.

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#11 Posted by WastelandMan (8817 posts) - - Show Bio

I like how someone with a differing opinion is automatically "salty" or "full of rage".

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#12 Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio

@wastelandman: I just wish someone would tell me what they liked about it or where our opinions diverge. None of my friends like this movie and sure we're media studies majors but that dosen't mean we aren't prone to liking compotent spectacle (Transformers 1 is solid).

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#13 Posted by Farkam (12057 posts) - - Show Bio

I like how someone with a differing opinion is automatically "salty" or "full of rage".

DCCU fans on Comicvine are unable to take the slightest bit of scrutiny without feeling persecuted. They don't care if their movies are vastly inferior, only that they beat the MCU (and other "rivals") in the box office. They don't care that their beloved characters are being warped into vile and unrecognizable figures, only that their characters are more popular and powerful than others. Most of their defenders are intellectually dishonest and pretend that the films are the pinnacle of achievement in cinema, obsessively and doggedly defending the movies as if their very lives depended upon it.

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#14 Posted by FuzzyLittleRodent (2087 posts) - - Show Bio

You lost me at DO NOT BUY A TICKET TO SEE THIS MOVIE.

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#15 Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio
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#16 Posted by FuzzyLittleRodent (2087 posts) - - Show Bio

@mrmazz: Maybe don't start your essay with the phrase DO NOT BUY A TICKET TO SEE THIS MOVIE and acknowledge the fact that not everyone is going to share your opinion? Hm?

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#17 Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio

@fuzzylittlerodent: It seems you missed the first sentence "If you are looking at this piece for purchasing information, I will be blunt." followed by the point that in order to point out this film is a failure on many levels I need to get spoilery so I bluntly encapsulated my overall thoughts in that bold all capped sentence. Why should I point out a spectrum of opinion in my own editorial?

If you liked the movie, what did you like about it?

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#18 Posted by FuzzyLittleRodent (2087 posts) - - Show Bio

@mrmazz: Going to see it tomorrow. Probably will watch it 3 times. Will be happy to give my hard earned shekels to WB.

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#19 Posted by WF_Mxyzptlk (6794 posts) - - Show Bio

This was far, far better than Age of Ultron, not that that's saying an awful lot.

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#20 Edited by Usha (3698 posts) - - Show Bio

Don't tell me how to live my life.

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#21 Posted by MrMazz (2002 posts) - - Show Bio

@wf_mxyzptlk: I don't get that comparison, sure Age of Ultron is stuffed to the gills and better on rewatch but it has an understanding of dramatic structure (the scenes have beginning middles and ends unlike BvS which felt like watch middles of scenes and then hard cuts to the next scene because movie) these characters and heroisim that BvS just lacks. I saw it again last night with another friend and it just dosen't hold up against any sort of intelectuall rigor. Things just happen because otherwise they won't have a movie in the next moment.

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#22 Posted by ZariusII (5866 posts) - - Show Bio

@mrmazz: Going to see it tomorrow. Probably will watch it 3 times. Will be happy to give my hard earned shekels to WB.

Sheep

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#23 Posted by Arinya (509 posts) - - Show Bio

It was enjoyable. A lot of it didn't make sense but it was beautiful and had some moving scenes. Worth watching if you are a fan of the genre.

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#24 Posted by rukus4ever (123 posts) - - Show Bio

If anyone else is checking this thread for info, then I'll say this: I'm not saying don't go see it in the theater if you want to. I get it. The first time Trinity is on the screen and Superman and Batman have a slugfest. I get it. It's history. These are the only reasons BvS will make cash at the box office. If you do go see it in the theaters, then don't worry about paying for 3D and go see a matinee if the theaters in your city still do that.

DCCU is officially struggling. Thanks to WB and Snyder they will likely not catch up to MCU in popularity and overall sales unless they make major changes to the way they produce these films by the time they get to making the first Justice League movie.

And this is coming from a DC fan.

Happy viewing.

Peace

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#25 Posted by cloudzackvincent (1197 posts) - - Show Bio

Its not the best movie but it doesnt deserve to be called the worst superhero movie since condorman. Personally i liked it

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#26 Posted by AkshSarpanch (3573 posts) - - Show Bio

#hatersgonnahate

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