It’s been billed as the Clash of the Titans, DC’s answer to the almost relentless onslaught of Marvel domination, the prelude to the Justice League, the set up for the entire DC cinematic universe. Batman Vs. Superman. Millions of nerds wet themselves when this picture was announced a few years back. And it was supposed that, finally, DC would show Marvel a thing or two about exactly who had the most marketable properties.
Well, if Marvel had ever been worried, and I seriously doubt that, it can relax. Batman Vs. Superman was one of the worst superhero movies since X-Men: Last Stand. Yes, that bad.
Truth in advertising: As anyone who’s read my work knows, my childhood was fueled by equal parts NASA and comic books. And, for me at least, there was only one brand of comic books: Marvel. I never got into DC books or characters. They seemed…well, antiquated and silly. Marvel, though, seemed more, I dunno, real in a way. More character driven, with the heroes portrayed as real people.
But I have to say I went into Batman Vs. Superman wanting to like it. I think Henry Cavill’s Superman is spot on, even though Man of Steel was an entirely problematic movie (more on that later). I was interested to see Ben Affleck’s take on Batman as more jaded, tired, worn out.
But I had a two-word concern: Zack. Snyder. Not that much of a fan of this director’s work. Watchmen was nearly unwatchable, 300 was intensely stupid, and Man of Steel had so many missteps, so many bad story and directorial decisions that it came close to forcing DC to shelve Superman as a movie property for another decade. Instead, though, with all of the film’s flaws, with all of the critical savaging the film received, DC turned over the reins to its entire future to Zach Snyder.
Last night, it became apparent that might have been a huge mistake. OK, it was a huge mistake.
Batman Vs. Superman is, by turns, boring, long-winded, meaninglessly pretentious and endlessly digressive. It’s as if Snyder decided he didn’t want to make an entertaining comic book movie ala (sneer) Marvel. He wanted to make a FILM.
The first half of the movie is basically a long-winded extension of/argument for Snyder’s Man of Steel; basically an additional hour of Man of Steel. Really? By the time you’ve waded through all of that, the amount of time Batman and Superman actually spend on screen together is laughably small. And Wonder Woman? Hah. 10 minutes total, tops. And cameos by other Justice Leaguers–The Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman–also laughably handled.
In fact, in the crowd at our showing–markedly smaller than the crowd we saw Deadpool with–laughed at three or four scenes that weren’t meant to be funny, but were handled so awkwardly, so falsely that they came off as humorous. And believe me, this movie was relentlessly dark, relentlessly humorless, relentlessly downbeat. Snyder wants you to take this movie and these characters way too seriously, with not a jot of humor thrown in to leaven things a bit, and that’s a colossal mistake.
More mistakes? Deus ex machina all over the place. Jesse Eisenberg’s weirdly committed take on Lex Luthor. Characters doing inexplicable things because, well, they have to in order to advance the story. And like Man of Steel, the carnage is over the top. I mean buildings toppling, things exploding hugely and casualties on an unimaginable scale. And no one seems to be too concerned about it. Say what you will about the Marvel films, there was some carnage in them, too, but at least those films showed the Marvel characters actually trying to rescue people, to mitigate casualties. Not so here, no one seems to give a shit. This was a No. 1 criticism of Man of Steel, and Snyder seems to be flipping those critics the bird as he doubles down on the carnage.
One more thing…without spoilers…the ending is hopelessly horrible. The last quarter of the film lifts one of the best known Superman villains and plots and utterly wastes it. Utterly.
What’s good about the film? Cavill’s Superman. Affleck’s Batman. Ummm…that’s about it. Otherwise a boring, pretentious muddle of a film that probably won’t make enough to cover its nut. But since Warner pushed all its chips in on this film, we’ll almost certainly have to sit through Snyder’s Justice League movies. Ugh.
I’m waiting for the real comic book movie of the year, Captain America: Civil War. Yay, Marvel!