Drunk Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Made Me Sterile
WARNING: This review is rife with spoilers!
As I walked into the theater with a flask of Fireball stuffed in my pocket, I honestly had no expectations. I was not a fan of Man of Steel, so I was expecting very little of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As long as everyone did a halfway competent job and I got a good fight between the two titular characters, all would be well.
I am here to tell you all is not fucking well.
BvS starts with Bruce Wayne, played by Ben Affleck set to maximum sullen, landing in a helicopter in Metropolis during the final battle of Man of Steel. By the time Wayne runs into a wall of CG dust and comes out with only a light dusting, I realized Gotham City had been right across the bay from Metropolis all along; Bruce Wayne was going to flail around in a city under siege for no reason other than he’s just so heroic you guys; and Snyder was co-opting 9/11 imagery for the year’s dumbest action movie. I emptied my flask into my Coke but there wasn’t enough alcohol in the county to blot out this movie’s problems.
A few years later, Metropolis is absolutely no worse for wear despite its estimated $750 million of damage, and Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor both want to fight Superman. They putter around getting ready to fight Superman…and then they do. The movie pretends it’s deeper than this, but any pretensions of nuance are skin-deep. There is almost nothing to justify the 2-1/2 hour runtime in the first half. Maybe the editor didn’t like watching this footage anymore than I did.
Talking heads sometimes pop up to slather Superman in heavy pundit-talk, but none of it leads anywere. A terrorist leader briefly brings up drone strikes but the hamfisted Superman-as-America metaphor never has enough life breathed into it. Even the allusions to The Dark Knight Returns fall utterly flat, with lines ripped straight from those pages so decoupled from their original context as to be meaningless. One actually gets the sense Snyder holds these characters and their stories in contempt.
In fact, it was about the time that Superman tore the door off the Batmobile and he and the Dark Knight have their first glowering staredown that I realized I could give a fat guano about either “hero.” Henry Cavill has become even more one-note than in MoS, his whole character just a perpetual frown wearing a cape. BvS seems bored of him, so it focuses almost exclusively on Batman, which (and this is a sentence I never thought I’d write) is a mistake. Affleck gives a torturously stilted performance. His expression of sullen agitation is a stiffer mask than his rubber cowl. With the exception of Wayne’s rescue of a little girl during the Metropolis scene, neither man can be bothered to lend a hand to the common citizenry whose opinion the movie is supposedly so consumed by. They’re lifeless, unlikable narcissists. Our only consolation is one of these actors seems to feel the full weight of the movie’s failure.
Nearly every character suffers from an almost total lack of emotion and personality. I thought Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White had personality, but then I realized he’s just loud. Kevin Costner as Clark’s father just had to come back to ruin another scene. Lois Lane investigates a conspiracy with a blank stare and ultimately seems to lose interest (my friend claims Lois’s investigation leads to Lex’s arrest, despite getting no one to talk on the record and practically no attention paid to her subplot in the last hour. But maybe he’s right; I was pretty in my cups in that last hour).
There are only two characters who are fun to watch at all. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor has attributes the other characters can only dream of – a few lines of backstory, a unique mode of speech, and some half-formed but serviceable ideological motivations. But beyond being another mouthpiece for why Superman is bad, the movie can’t much be bothered with Luthor. I know he’s a genius in the comics, so I assume this guy is a genius as well, although nothing in the movie states this. We have no idea what he’s invented or how he’s otherwise added to the wealth he inherited from his father, giving him really no greater depth than Hackman’s version. “I hate Superman,” he seems to say, “but in a deep way.” Sure.
Gal Gadot, on the other hand, is a vision. As Diana, she manages to bring a density and purpose to her scenes that actually made me feel that I was being entertained, despite her lines being no better written than any of the movie’s other dreck. As Wonder Woman, her scenes were the only instance in the film that gave me chills. And that’s really all there is to write about her, because that’s all Gadot’s 20 minutes of filmtime give me.
The movie’s third act is almost unwatchable. The plot can’t account for the many weaknesses it’s accrued and tumbles down like any building in Metropolis (I’m starting to suspect these things aren’t constructed to code). Batman’s opinion of Superman does a complete 180 when he discovers that both of their mothers are named Martha. Luthor dribbles his blood on General Zod’s body and incubates him in a bath on the Kryptonian ship, and this makes Doomsday. Superman returns from self-imposed exile (he was in exile? I didn’t realize; he was no more or less sour during that particular exit than at any other point in the movie). The movie’s “twist” ending is only surprising in how rote its execution is. Unforgivably, the action isn’t even fun. Cartoonish, unintelligable CGI shapes flash across the screen. It’s a cacophony of noise and exploding rubble without a single clever moment. In other words, it’s millions and millions of dollars of special effects, and it’s still dull.
Look, I don’t have enough space or time to list everything wrong with this movie, and I have a hangover from trying to drink it pretty, so let me sum it up: Insultingly bad. Even in IMAX, and in 3D, and at an evening showing in the first week when energy was supposed to be high (it was not), the movie was just a chore to sit through and I would have walked out if I hadn’t already committed to my Geek Melee co-stars to writing this review. If DC doesn’t take these characters away from Snyder before Justice League, not even an entire bottle of Jim Beam is going to get me back into that theater.
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